- Page 1 JBL Cinema 510
- Page 2 Performance and Verdict
JBL Cinema 510: Performance
The satellites use a single 75mm driver that covers a frequency range of 150Hz to 20kHz, with the subwoofer handling anything below 150Hz. They’re very much designed to be used together, as the sats lack the bass depth to satisfy when used in isolation. The subwoofer is equipped with a 60W amplifier that drives a 165mm woofer inside a bass reflex enclosure. Its frequency response ranges from 46Hz up to 250Hz.
To whet our appetite for the second Hobbit film released this week, we played An Unexpected Journey on Blu-ray through our trusty Onkyo TX-NR818 and were pleasantly surprised by the Cinema 510’s slick performance. There are a few limitations, which are perhaps inevitable at this price, but if it’s your first step into home cinema then we think you’ll like what the Cinema 510 has to offer.
The movie’s electrifying prologue, showing Smaug’s destruction of Dale and invasion of Erebor, is handled with satisfying energy and attack, conveying a sense of scale more effectively than you might expect from compact speakers. Smaug rips up trees and incinerates the village with fierce but well controlled blasts of midrange and treble, and as he crashes into buildings the fiery explosions are backed up by deep, rumbling bass.
The subwoofer’s involvement is absolutely vital here. It lends punch to the dragon’s roars and thumping footsteps as he breaks through Erebor’s gate, and gives authority to Bilbo’s voice over. Without it, the sound is thin and nasal. It could be a little more disciplined during the most action-packed moments and the volume dial requires careful tweaking to avoid overpowering the soundstage, but for the money it’s terrific.
The use of five identical satellites is also crucial. It means that all of the speakers are tonally matched, so when Smaug swoops around the soundstage it sounds cohesive, with no incongruous shifts in tone to pull you out of the moment.
Our biggest criticism is that the single-driver satellites don’t tease out enough high-frequency detail, resulting in a more contained sound than many compact speakers. Subtler scenes lack the atmospheric detail and audio minutiae that pricier two-way designs would dig out. Those who prefer a more open, crisper sound are better off looking elsewhere or investigating the step-up Cinema 610.
There were always going to be compromises at this price, but the impressive build quality, compact design and sheer energy of its performance still make it a tempting proposition.
Should I buy the JBL Cinema 510?
If you’re on a limited budget and want something more substantial than a soundbar, then JBL’s affordable speaker system is a decent choice. The satellites are attractive and well-made for the money, plus they offer a performance that makes up for in energy and volume what they lack in finesse and detail.
Despite its sonic shortcomings, JBL’s budget compact speaker system offers terrific value for money
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7