- Powerful sound
- Stylish design
- Great price
- Build quality reflects price tag
- Springclips on surround speakers
- Emphasis on power over finesse
- Review Price: £558.95
- Floorstanding front speakers
- Dual 140mm woofers and a 25mm Waveguide tweeter
- 48Hz-20kHz frequency range
- Black Ash, White Ash or Wenge finish
- Optional 260W subwoofer
Jamo’s knack for delivering knockout sound quality at wallet-friendly prices was recently underlined by the A101 HCS 5 system, which produced astonishingly clear and powerful sound from five compact satellites and an innovative wall-mountable 200W sub – all for under £300. But if you’re looking for bigger and bolder home cinema sonics, Jamo’s 14-strong range also includes a few systems that use larger floorstanding speakers, such as the S426 HCS 3.
Despite the obvious difference in size, amazingly this package doesn’t cost a great deal more than the A101 HCS 5. Unlike the smaller system, the S426 HCS 3 isn’t supplied with a subwoofer as standard – the SUB 260 we were supplied with comes as an optional extra (which costs more than the rest of the system put together!) But with a combined price of just over £500, it still looks like incredible value for money – or at least it will be if Jamo can pull off the same sound quality that made the A101 system so special.
Naturally at this sort of price Jamo can’t match the upmarket build quality of a Monitor Audio or Acoustic Energy system, but it’s not a million miles away. Jamo has done a great job with the S426 floorstanders – the enclosures look tastefully modern in their Black Ash finish (also available in White Ash or Wenge), while the curved corners, industrial-looking panels under the removable oval-shaped grilles and little feet at the bottom are all nice touches. They’re also less imposing than you might expect, standing just under a metre tall.
What gives the game away price-wise is how light they are and the hollow sound when you tap the sides – but when you’re getting this much speaker at this price it’s churlish to complain.
The S426 fronts are joined in the box by a pair of S420 SUR bookshelf-style rear channels and an S420 CEN centre speaker (neither of which are sold individually), all of which share the same wood effect finish and curves, making this the sort of system you’ll be proud to show off in your living room.
You can easily wall mount them thanks to the holes on the back. On the downside the S420 SUR speakers feature springclip terminals as opposed to the superior binding posts found on the S426s and S420 CEN.
Jamo has a thing for unusual looking subs – after the A101’s wall-mountable/under-sofa design we now get the SUB260, which looks like someone stretched out a regular sub on a rack. But aside from any installation issues this may cause, its remarkably long cabinet (469mm to be precise) is nicely designed, sharing the same finish and curved corners as the other speakers.
The S426s use a two-way bass-reflex enclosure, with dual 140mm woofers and a 25mm low-resonance Waveguide tweeter. They’re capable of resolving frequencies from 48Hz up to 20kHz.
Both the S420 SUR rears and S420 CEN use a two-way closed design with two slightly smaller woofers (89mm) and a 25mm tweeter. They cover a slightly narrower frequency range too (90Hz – 20kHz). Unusually the S420 SUR’s tweeter is positioned below the woofer.
The SUB 260 is an active sub, equipped with a typically powerful 260W amplifier (hence the name) and a 203mm woofer. Its 30Hz-200Hz frequency range should deliver deep bass response, as well as crossing over seamlessly with the other speakers.
On the rear panel you’ll find all the usual controls, including dials to adjust the level, crossover frequency (40Hz – 200Hz) and phase (0°-180°). Alongside those you’ll find stereo line-level input and output.
Incredibly, Jamo has once again come up with a system that punches well above its weight in sound quality. It takes everything we loved about the A101 HCS 5 and cranks it up a few notches, producing the sort of thunderous sound that you might not have thought possible at this price.
From the off the S426 HCS 3 smacks you round the chops with immense power, beefed up in no small part by the stentorian SUB 260. You don’t have to ramp its volume up very high before it starts to make an impact, gelling the whole sound together with fluid, forthright bass notes. The crossover with the S426s is nigh-on imperceptible.
But turn it off and you’ll soon discover that the S426’s own bass extension is pretty impressive, meaning that you could, if you really wanted to, use them without a subwoofer and still get an enjoyably balanced and bassy sound.
This excellent bass performance is backed up by a robust midrange and clear high frequencies. During Hellboy II’s riotous action scenes, the cacophony of smashing glass, crunching metal, gunshots and screeching creatures sounds aggressive but is rendered with admirable control. So you can push it as loud as you like without the system getting horrendously bright and shouty, although one or two effects pushed it slightly over the edge.
Detail levels are decent too. Although the system doesn’t dig out the very finest minutiae in the same way more expensive speakers do, it delivers a crisp and open sound, while dialogue sounds clear and surround effects are suitably absorbing.
Next we fed the system some music on CD – in this case The Lapdancer by Soulpersona – and the ultra-funky, super-soulful grooves sounded absolutely gorgeous through these speakers. There’s incredible solidity and punch in the drums and lower frequencies that gets your foot tapping, while the shuffling hi-hats simmer along crisply at the other end of the spectrum. Some listeners may hanker for even greater finesse and transparency – after all, this is a system designed with movies in mind – but it’s still a reasonably musical system.
Jamo continues its unbelievable hot streak with another home cinema system that delivers scintillating sonics at an affordable price. The sound is bigger and more potent than the A101 HCS 5 thanks to the talents of the S426 fronts, and if you invest in the SUB 260 you’ll be treated to some of the deepest, tightest bass available at this price point.
It’s not perfect – some areas of its design reflect the low price tag, and it goes for high-octane excitement over finesse, which might not be what you’re looking for from a speaker system. But most movie lovers will be blown away by what this great-value system can do.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9