When you’re out shopping for a high-end home theatre system, things can get confusing as you look for more and more expensive hardware. A good home theatre system is a mix of a bunch of components – the amplifier that powers all of the satellite speakers, a separate subwoofer unit and sometimes rear- satellite speakers. As if that wasn’t bad enough, you need compatible components that play well with each other. Now, each component has its own characteristic sound and it’s not as simple as going out and buying any random set of speakers and putting them together as a home theatre system. JBL has a few pre-configured home-theater configurations, out of which we’ll be looking at the Studio One today.
At the heart of the JBL Studio One, is the Harman Kardon AVR 134 receiver, which powers the two Studio 180 floorstanders, a Studio 120C centre channel speaker, a Studio 140P woofer and two smaller Control One rear-satellites. The floorstanders are rated at 90W each, the centre channel speaker at 60W and the rear Control One satellites at 50W each. The Studio 140P woofer comes with a phase switch and the standard crossover dial and a volume control.
The AVR 134 packs a decent punch – it can drive five channels, each at 100 Ohms, if required. The receiver supports Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS 5.1 stream processing. There are three HDMI connects and one HDMI output.
Studio Ones rear satellites don't match the look of the rest
There’s also a USB slot at the front for users to be able to connect storage devices to play media from. The only inputs at the front are the composite connect, along with two RCA connects for the audio. The controls for which are present on the remote.
The remote control too, is stylish and large. The source selection buttons make up for a third of all the controls on the top of the remote. Then, come the directional buttons and volume controls, followed by presets and finally, the media controls that we just talked about.
The biggest drawback of the receiver is the lack of audio over HDMI. This means you have to use one of the other digital inputs to route high quality audio. Lack of other standards such as Dolby TruHD might also bother some. There’s an optical input and two coaxial connectors for digital audio inputs, which can be configured to be used with the video inputs including HDMI.
One of the missing features on the AVR 134 has to be the lack of an OSD display projected on the TV, like you find on other high-end amplifiers. This means you have to depend on the LED display at the front of the amplifier while setting it up. Fortunately, once you setup and calibrate the speakers to your liking, there’s little need to play around with the settings. The manual details the menu structure on the receiver.
Large, very modern looking floorstanders
There’s no automated calibration system. This means you need to manually enter the distance between each of the satellites. However, this is simple and it takes no more than five minutes to set it up.
The AVR 134 amplifier isn’t the sleekest or the coolest looking amplifier receiver we’ve seen. It’s somewhat small in size, especially when you compare it to the kind of speakers it drives. The front panel has a hard power-on button, after which you can choose to power it on using the remote control or the button adjoining it. This is but a minor inconvenience. There’s a large LED display that shows all of the status and control messages. The primary volume control dial on the right has a light blue light within it. All of this does make the AVR 134 stand out and it’s by far prettier than most mainstream home theatre systems.
Supported by stands
The controls at the rear are of the clip-on type, so if you’re using thick cables, it’s a little bit of pain to set up. Setting up the AVR 134 with the speakers is relatively simple. The quality of the buttons at the front of the receiver is of decent quality, but we would’ve liked a more solid metal or a heavier volume dial. Of course, the remote control is all you’ll ever need while using this setup.
The Studio 180 floorstanders speakers, in comparison to the AVR 134 are monstrous. While some of the brands and products from them are designed classy and warm with their mahogany wood, the JBL Studio 180 floorstanders aren’t. They are made of wood, but they look more futuristic. The design front of speakers look like as if they were influenced by the design of a stealth jet. The forward panels at the front don’t come off, so you don’t see a clear view of the drivers on the floorstanders. The speakers are sturdy and they are raised from the ground by small feet. Moving them is easier than it is with some other floorstanders. They can also be a little wobbly, so some padding may be required to stabilize them.
Massive centre channel that works especially well in movies
The Studio 140P woofer seems to follow the same principal by the look of things. While almost all of the woofer is wooden, the top has a plastic top, with a design similar to that on the front panel of the floorstanders. The woofer too is raised from the ground by slightly larger feet. These also seem to have the wobbling problem we found in the floorstanders. The wobbling isn’t much, but if you put some pressure on them, you notice the slight movement. The build quality of the remote control is good. The buttons are backlit and the layout makes it easy to use.
The JBL Studio One have a slightly different tone to themselves. When you first hear them, they do sound crisp and clear, and sound just right for metal and rock genres. There’s hardly any jarring audible at higher volumes. There is some amount of coloration in the sound, and the speakers tend to emphasise the upper-mids heavy. The bundled woofer is massive in size and is equally impressive in terms of quality and power output. It does manage to shake up quite a few things in its surrounding. Correct setting up of the crossover settings is required, though. Once done right, the woofer has a lot to offer – smooth flowing bass, as well as the punchy bass drum sound.
The very massive and mighty Studio 140P woofer
Isolation of instruments in tracks by bands such as Dire Straits is excellent. With metal tracks, there tends to be some mixing that takes place at volumes above 70 percent or so. In movies too, the woofer performance helps deliver the punch you need for action flicks. The rear speakers are a little underpowered, as compared to the massive floorstanders and the centre channel. However, the amplifier allows you to boost volumes quite a bit, so it helps balance things out.
The emphasis on the higher range of the spectrum gives one the impression of precision and detail. In some songs, however, this same characteristic makes it a tad annoying. All these coloration issues however are nowhere close to some of the PC speaker manufacturers, so you are in fact getting a whole lot of performance for the price being asked.
The JBL Studio One is priced at Rs.72,500 in India. While this sounds like a lot, you also get a lot for the money. Setup is simple and all of the components come together well. It’s one of the cheaper hi-end home theatre solutions around.
A somewhat affordable HT for first time buyers
Although the amplifier lacks a few features, keeping in mind its performance while playing music and movie viewing, it’s pretty impressive for the performance it offers. If you have a bigger budget, we would recommend you look for the same speaker setup, but with a better amplifier.
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