JBL is a more than 60 year-old firm whose slogan, “Pro Sound Comes Home,” is a reference to the company’s reputation as a maker of high-performance studio monitors and sound reinforcement systems. While the idea of enjoying professional-grade sound at home holds a certain appeal, the fact is that some monitoring speakers use exaggerated mids and highs to expose even the smallest flaws in recordings, meaning they might not be enjoyable for day-to-day listening at home. Happily, JBL’s affordable Cinema Sound system offers an interpretation of “Pro Sound” that combines reasonable clarity with a smooth, warm, relaxing presentation.
The Cinema Sound system lists for $1915 and consists of two CST55 floorstanding speakers, one CSC55 center channel, a pair of CSB5 surrounds, and a CSS10 powered subwoofer. Interestingly, both the CSC55 and CB5s can be wall-mounted, and come with brackets for that purpose. To assure evenness and consistency of voicing all Cinema Sound models use the same .75-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeters and 5-inch “PolyPlas” mid-bass drivers. The 150-watt CSS10 subwoofer, in turn, features a downward-firing 10-inch woofer housed in a large, reflex-ported enclosure. Before we discuss the Cinema Sound system’s performance, I’d like to take a moment to consider its appearance.
Sleek and Classy
From a purely visual standpoint, JBL’s Cinema Sound speakers are stunning. While many speaker systems use variations on black or silver color schemes, JBL applies both those familiar colors in a fresh new way, giving its Cinema Sound models a striking two-tone design motif. The silver enclosures contrast beautifully with the glass-smooth, jet-black front baffle plates, which are adorned with gleaming silver JBL logos. The overall look is sleek and classy, creating the impression that the system costs a lot more than it does.
Sonically, the two words that best describe the sound of this system are “smoothness” and “warmth.” There is nothing edgy or abrasive about its sound. In fact, you may discover that these speakers can soften rough edges just enough to make gritty recordings more palatable. I put on the decidedly raw-sounding “There Goes The Neighborhood” from Sheryl Crow’s [A&M, SACD] and was pleasantly surprised to find that the JBL rig toned down the grinding, distorted sound of the electric guitars and softened the glare in Crow’s voice.