The JBL SCS145.5S is one of the most compact Surround Cinema Speaker (SCS) packages we've seen from the company. The system's silver plastic sats stand a mere 4.5 inches tall and don't look all that different from the sort we find with entry-level home-theater-in-a-box systems. However, they sound considerably better--the little guys can rock. The JBL SCS145.5S system owes its muscle to a 100-watt, 8-inch subwoofer. The six-piece system carries a $400 list price, but it's widely available for under $300 (and a lot less) online. For a complete JBL 5.1 system, that's an awfully good deal--especially if you don't have the space or budget for a more upscale system. The JBL SCS145.5S's satellite speakers are among the smallest we've seen. They weigh a little more than one pound each, and they're just 4.5 inches high, 3.25 wide, and 3.75 deep. Each speaker comes with its own metal wall-mount bracket; alternately, the sats can be placed on a shelf or paired with optional JBL's FS1000 floor stands.
The center speaker is a little bigger; it's 3.25 inches high, 7.6 wide, and 3.75 deep, and it tips the scales at almost two pounds. JBL doesn't include a bracket because the company recommends placing the center speaker either directly above or below a TV. When we removed the satellites' grilles, we noticed a thin plastic sheet had been inserted to protect the drivers during shipping. The owner's manual doesn't mention this, but we strongly recommend removing the plastic to make sure you're hearing the sound as intended.
The subwoofer is an unadorned compact cube measuring 13 by 15 by 14 inches. Its solidly constructed medium-density fiberboard (MDF) cabinet is cleanly finished in a muted silver/gray vinyl wrap. The 30-pound baby boomer sits on large, well-designed feet.
The subwoofer doesn't have a crossover control, and we found the JBL SCS145.5S sounds best when we set our receiver's bass management/crossover between 120Hz and 150Hz. Many receivers' crossovers are fixed at either 80Hz or 100Hz, which might leave a small hole in the SCS145.5S's midbass response. If you're not sure whether your receiver's bass management offers selectable crossover frequency control, read the owner's manual.Considering the JBL SCS145.5S's wee dimensions, we were surprised to note the satellites are two-way designs, with a 0.5-inch titanium dome tweeter and a 3-inch woofer. The center speaker uses the same drivers, configured in the classic woofer/tweeter/woofer array. The speakers are fitted with spring-clip connectors designed to accept stripped, bare wire ends with the supplied set of two 20-foot and three 40-foot wires.
The subwoofer's down-firing 8-inch woofer also supplies bass from its front-mounted port. The built-in 100-watt amplifier has a machined metal heat sink for cooling. Connectivity options run to stereo speaker-level inputs and outputs, plus stereo line-level inputs and a LFE (low-frequency effects) input. If your A/V receiver is less than seven or eight years old, use the LFE input.