JBL has been around since 1946 and it is not unlikely you´ll find their professional products in your local movie theater and concert hall. They also use their pro audio expertise to make product for the home, and in this review we specifically take a look at JBL's Cinema Base - a soundbase priced at $349.95 (MSRP).
The Cinema Base is 23.6" (600mm) x 15.8" (401.6mm) x 4" (102mm) (W x D x H) with curved edges and a non-removable metal grille on the front. Like many speakers from the U.S, it looks beefy and powerful. It can handle TVs with a weight up to 150lbs (68kg) as long as the TV stand fits the 23" x 13.5" (585 x 342mm) top surface, although JBL recommend sizes up to 60". The speaker only comes in black and is mainly made of high quality plastic, giving it an overall solid impression.
With a HDMI (ARC), optical digital and analog minijack inputs, and an output for an external subwoofer, the Cinema Base cover the most common connectivity options, although it would be nice to see some additional HDMI inputs. JBL is however nice enough to include cables (except USB) for all the different input types.
Speaking of USB, there´s an USB port on the right side of the speaker. It is unfortunately only for charging USB devices, not for signal transfer, but it complements the other connectivity options nicely. If you want to play audio from your computer, tablet or smartphone, you can do so by streaming it via Bluetooth. Add to the above a Dolby Digital decoder, volume and bass level controls, and various audio features like Harman Display Surround (surround sound processing), Harman Volume (helps you keep your sound levels consistent and reduce extreme volume transitions), and of course regular Stereo.
The Cinema Base has a learning function, meaning that you can use the remote for your TV to control things like power, mute and volume of the speaker. The included remote control for the JBL is of the credit card type with most of the functions and features available, but we accidentally pressed the wrong buttons as we found the buttons to be a bit too close to each other for our fat thumbs.
Unfortunately JBL omitted any display or indication of volume or subwoofer level, and if you like to slouch in the couch it´s hard to see the LEDs on top of the speaker and thus you won´t get any visual feedback when you press the remote buttons.
Unpolished But Powerful Sound
JBL has placed the 3.5" (65mm) subwoofers next to the 2.5" (90mm) full range drivers on the front of the Cinema Base. Most of the sound bases/plates we´ve tested have the subwoofer placed at the bottom, but JBL's approach have some benefits when it comes to precision as it´s easier to get a correct phase/timing when the drivers are placed more closely together. The frequency response and efficiency of the woofers is further improved by reflex ports on both sides of the cabinet, and the Cinema Base reaches a respectable 45 hertz - which is quite impressive considering the size of the speaker.
Rated at 240 watts, the Cinema Base have no problems giving the monster in ‘Cloverfield‘ a good sense of weight and power as it runs amok in the streets of New York, and the thundering footsteps sounds a bit louder and more forceful compared to some of JBL’s competitors. There is however a slight bump in the upper bass that bothered us occasionally, and people with very deep voices, like Sir Christopher Lee as Saruman in ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ for example, sounded a bit muddled and less intelligible. This can be somewhat fixed by reducing the subwoofer level, or by re-tuning the bass reflex ports using foam rings. Or socks. Once we reduced the bass level, speach and dialogue became much clearer, but still not as clear as on Denon’s DHT-T110 or Yamaha’s SRT-1000.
The slightly recessed midrange and the somewhat emphasized bass and treble gives music a nicely rounded loudness curve. While not being completely neutral and flat, it still manages to sound fairly balanced, mainly thanks to the full range drivers - what it lacks in accuracy, it compensates with power and energy.
Turning the Harman Display Surround processing on will widen the sound stage and gives movies and music an increased sense of space. You will however not hear sound effects coming from behind you like in a proper multichannel system, but that is of course not expected. Compared to the Stereo mode, speech intelligibility and detail resolution will suffer, and it comes down to if you want a big sound experience or a more focused and detailed one.
JBL's Cinema Base has a fairly balanced and above all powerful sound, and it definitely deserves attention if you´re looking for an all-in-one sound solution for your TV. It may not be the prettiest or the easiest to use, but it will keep you entertained nonetheless.
- IN ThE bOX
JBL Cinema Base includes left and right 65mm (2.5") full range drivers and dual 90mm (3.5") subwoofers
Total Cinema Base amplifier power: 240W
Harman Display Surround mode creates a complete virtual surround sound experience without any extra speakers or wires
Two-channel stereo mode for traditional stereo playback
Dolby® Digital Decoding
Harman Volume helps you maintain the same volume level, no matter what you’re watching – be it a film, TV show or TV commercial
One HDMI® output with Audio Return Channel (ARC)
One stereo analog-audio input
One optical digital input
One USB port for mobile device charging and software update
Ease of use
An included IR remote allows you to conveniently control all JBL Cinema Base functionality
Program the JBL Cinema Base to obey your TV remote's volume and power commands, so a single remote can control your whole home theater system
Independent subwoofer level control from the remote control
Audio feedback allowing direct audio confirmation for some operations of the Cinema Base, like Harman Volume
Compact all-in-one footprint designed to support most existing television stands on the market up to 60"
Soundbase (L x W x H): 23.6" x 15.8" x 4" (600mm x 401.6mm x 102mm) Weight: 17.6lb (8kg)
Packaging (L x W x H): 27.3" x 7.2" x 20.7" (694mm x 183mm x 526mm) Gross Weight: 22.5lbs (10.22kg)
Soundbase Audio Specifications
System frequency response: 45Hz–20kHz
Maximum SPL: 100dB
Power output: >240W
Maximum TV Weight
Weight: Up to 150lbs (68kg)
Maximum TV Stand Size
L x W: 23" x 13.5" (585mm x 342mm)
- 1 Safety Sheet
- 1 Cinema Base Soundbase
- 1 Remote Control
- 1 Analog 3.5mm Audio Cable
- 1 HDMI Cable
- 1 Power Cable
- 1 Optical Cable
- 1 Quick-start Guide