JBL ESC-550 Mini Systems

JBL ESC-550 Mini Systems 


Dolby Surround set


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[Jul 27, 1999]
Kyle Woolsey
an Audio Enthusiast

The ESC550 is a very attractive compact home theater system that really is a breeze to set up and operate. It is very comparable in size if not sound to the Bose Lifestyle systems. JBL has put a lot of effort into making the system easy on the user without compromising its ability to be a solid performer. The system consists of a CD Player/Receiver called "The Source" (I liken it to a poor man's B&O Beosound console). It's wedge shape design and motorized cd door give it style and purpose, and it is quite a sexy piece of equipment to have displayed in your living room. The Source features an AM/FM radio, CD, and Dolby Pro Logic processing with a couple of surround field options. It has very limited capabilites beyond this - in keeping with its simplistic design.
The rest of the system is standard compact home theater fare with four satelite speakers reminiscent of good computer speakers, and a powered subwoofer. The satelites are nothing spectacular but the sub is definitely an impressive piece of equipment. The amplifier that lies inside it powers the entire system, and the bass that comes from unit is incredible. Other notable features include a credit card thin remote that performs basic operations. I predict it will challenge your ability to keep up with it - and you think losing a regular sized remote in sofa is frustrating.

Overall the sound is excellent, with a sound much larger than the system size would suggest. The satelites deliver a lot more sound than I would have suspected, however they just don't have the range and clarity of a decent sized bookshelf speaker can deliver (this is most noteable when playing CD's or the radio using only the left and right speakers and the sub). Put a movie in, however and the difference the center channel makes becomes clear, reminding you that this was designed to be a home theater system first.

A note to audiophiles: Enthusiasts may quickly grow tired of the lack of sonic realism compared to higher end component syustems as well as the limitations of what can be connected to it. The lack of any Dolby Digital capability also makes this system unsuitable for DVD's.

I would recommend this system to anyone with a TV and HI-FI VCR who wants a simple to use, attractive (art gallery suitable?) system that out of the box, does an excellent job of recreating the cinema experience at home.

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