The Cinema Sound system also imparts a measure of warmth to music and movie soundtracks, I think because its overall tonal balance exhibits solid though not overblown bass, a trace of midrange forwardness, and slightly subdued highs. The rolled-off highs tend to be a double-edged sword, though. On one hand, they minimize rough edges in the treble region, which helps make the speakers “disappear” (rather than drawing unwanted attention to themselves), allowing the listener to become immersed in the sound field. They also lend the system a relaxing quality that many listeners will appreciate.
On the other hand, the recessed highs drain some of the life out of good recordings by smoothing over harmonics and treble detail that make instruments and voices sound more vivid and realistic.
When I listened to the Kodály Quartet’s performance of Schubert’s “Death And The Maiden” [Naxos], for example, I found it difficult to distinguish the viola from the cello and to pinpoint where the musicians were located on stage—details that are easy to hear and appreciate on systems with extended highs.
On movie soundtracks, many of which feature overly “hot” (treble enriched) mixes, the balance of the JBL system proved effective, with its slight touch of midrange forwardness helping to improve dialog intelligibility. The system’s dynamic capabilities were also very good even when it was pushed hard.
In the scene from V for Vendetta where Parliament and Big Ben are blown up, the system maintained its composure, showing only minor signs of strain. And the subwoofer, though not the last word in lowfrequency extension, delivered bass that was well balanced with above average definition and control.
On the whole, JBL’s Cinema Sound system is lovely to look at and presents a warm, spacious, and smooth sound that will help listeners de-compress after a hard day at work. Some systems in this price range offer more detail and greater realism, but for sheer relaxation the JBL system could be just what the doctor ordered.