One of the first recognised 5.1-channel surround sound sub/sat speaker packages happened to be largely JBL. Back in the early days of Pro Logic surround, JBL and British subwoofer guru REL teamed up, combining five legendary JBL Control 1 monitors with a REL Tornado active sub, and the result was one of the best sub/sat systems available at the time.
Design and features
One very important lesson was learned all those years ago: to maintain an even surround sound tonality and spread, it's a good idea to keep all of the surround satellites the same. That's precisely what JBL's doing in 2011 with its new Cinema 500 system. The four sats are actually voice-matched to the centre speaker, and all are equipped with dual 75mm midrange drivers and the same 25mm dome tweeter to ensure tonal accuracy. Down low, the Sub 140P active subwoofer takes over where the satellites can't reach, delivering usable bass courtesy of a downward-firing 200mm woofer powered by 150 watts of on-board amplification.
JBL's creative people have given the Cinema 500 system a kind of "twirly" design; it calls it a "dynamic, one-of-kind" look, and that it is. The satellites are partly high-gloss black in finish, but thankfully the subwoofer is not, meaning that it isn't prone to fingerprints and dust; the inevitable blight that plagues all black and shiny electronics. Mounting options are varied from stands (tabletop or pole), plus built-in keyholes allow direct on-wall placement. We were a little disappointed to see spring clip speaker terminals, but some thin speaker cables are supplied, so this makes sense. The subwoofer controls are typical — volume, crossover and phase inversion, plus auto-power-on sensing. It hooks up to your A/V amp or receiver via line-level.