Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Perhaps the question most commonly put to those of us in this home entertainment reviewing business is from those seeking a budget entry into surround sound.
The problem is that there aren’t many truly budget surround sound speakers that we would be willing to recommend. However, the Jamo A 102 HCS 5 surround speaker package is an exception.
What this package provides is four satellite speakers and an active (ie. self-powered) subwoofer. Satellite speakers are tiny ones, not intended to produce any significant bass. The subwoofer is used for that.
And these are tiny speakers. Each is roughly a cube, 90 mm on a side, with a swivelling wall mounting bracket attached to the rear. The centre channel is a little wider.
All are magnetically shielded, and each of the five has not one, but two speaker drivers within. There is a 76 mm for midrange and upper bass, and a 19 mm tweeter for high frequencies. I couldn’t remove the cloth grille over the front, so it wasn’t obvious how Jamo managed to fit both into such a small space.
At the back are spring terminals for connecting the speaker wires.
The subwoofer is also small, but solidly constructed. It has a 203 mm driver mounted on the bottom, which fires downwards. Next to it is a bass reflex port, tuned to strengthen the deeper bass. Feet hold the bottom of the subwoofer about 30 mm up from the floor. There is an amplifier capable of delivering up to 200 watts of peak power.
There are level and frequency controls on the back, along with a continuously variable phase control. This last allows you to tune how the subwoofer matches with the satellites (you turn it to the point where bass is maximised). A bright blue light on the front shows when the automatic power-up circuit has woken up the subwoofer.
As with most small satellite speakers, these were of quite low sensitivity: Jamo says 86dB. The higher this number, the higher the volume that speakers deliver for a given amount of power.
What makes these different from other small satellites, though, is that they can take a fair whack of power. I used a system which could deliver up to a couple of hundred watts from each channel. Without going anywhere near that far, I was able to get the system to pump out high volumes of clean, pure sound. As I advanced the volume, I was expecting things to get messy, but even with the sound peaking over a hundred decibels, it all stayed coherent.
In fact, in combination, the whole system sounded like a decent high fidelity speaker system. Except that the speakers (aside from the sub) need consume no space at all in your room. Just screw them to walls.
The subwoofer was strong, too, able to keep up with the satellites easily, although it didn?t provide the very deepest floor-shaking octaves.
I would have reported favourably on the Jamo A 102 HCS 5 had it a selling price of $1,499. Given that the real price is just $799, this has got to be your first stop if you are after an entry-level system, and maybe even one that you will keep using for years.