Surround Sound Speaker Systems

JBL LS 80 Floor-Standing Speakers, LS Center, LS 40 Rear Surround Speakers, and LS 120P Subwoofer

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

"Moon" is a very entertaining science fiction movie about a moon base and its sole human inhabitant/worker, Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell). Sam's only companion is a computer named GERTY which is voiced by Kevin Spacey. The base is owned and operated by Lunar Industries to extract Helium-3 from the lunar soil. I missed this movie in theaters partly because I thought it may be a possible uninspired reimagining of 2001: A Space Odyssey. To my chagrin, this movie turned out to be fantastic, original sci-fi.

JBL LS 80 speaker system for Audiophiles

Over the JBL LS 80 speaker system, the movie was rendered with an almost holographic soundscape. This movie has lots of really cool environmental sounds which seemed to originate from infinitely diverse locations around my theater. I also loved the super tweeters right off the bat, especially with high resolution sources. There was great auditory and tactile impact in the rover crash scene: the sub had usable in-room extension down to 22Hz in my theater. These speakers have good start and stop capabilities with a nicely transparent leading edge.

Since these large, efficient speakers were so dynamic and had such great abilities in conveying complex passages, I decided to pull out the Blu-Ray of "Red Cliff", a 2008 John Woo film about early Third Century AD Chinese war lords. Of course this is an epic movie with massive battle scenes and a solid musical score. I watched it in the original Mandarin with English subtitles; I just can't get into overdubbed soundtracks. And this movie is loads of fun, all the way up to its "yeah, right" conclusion.

JBL LS 80 speaker system for Audiophiles

This is another film which features great drum sounds in the score. These drums were well fleshed out over the LS speaker system. All the fundamentals came through naturally. I was impressed with the great air of this system thanks to the super tweeters. Check out the zither duet scene. The sound here was extremely heady the way Zhuge and Zhou play it all haphazard and everything. The greatest thing with these speakers is that they accurately portrayed all the complex battle scenes. There is nothing like hearing the great battle scene with the sounds of all the burning ships or simultaneous sound of a thousand individual arrows in flight.

The "Time Traveler's Wife" is about a librarian from Chicago who gets sporadically transported through time when he is under stress. Although the movie is wrought with practical and philosophical questions that go largely unanswered, this movie still works on a certain level. Although this film tries really hard, it only elicits about 2/3 of the emotional response that I got when watching "AI: Artificial Intelligence". I felt that the JBL LS 80's could sound a little forward at times on this film. The bass response was nicely portrayed and very full when called on.

JBL LS 80 speaker system for Audiophiles

One common impression I had of the LS 80 speakers was of a lucid transparency. Well designed horns can be transparent in a way that is similar to the sound of electrostatic speakers. I also rated these speakers very high in their ability to render human voices. They only sounded chesty with poor source material.

I must admit that I have a new appreciation for the late Michael Jackson's talent (and genius) after watching the Blu-Ray of "This is It". The film is primarily a compilation of footage that was shot during rehearsals for his major concert/tour series that never premiered due to his untimely death. "This is It" feels more like a concert video than a documentary, but there are some interesting parts in the film where you can witness the exchanges between Michael Jackson and the show's director, Kenny Ortega. Let's just say that Ortega must have a strong sensitivity as to who his meal ticket was. The film involves both High Definition and Standard Definition footage. The audio is amazingly well presented throughout in DTS HD Master 5.1.

JBL LS 80 speaker system for Audiophiles

My initial impression was that the bass from the LS 120P sub was much cleaner than I was expecting. I also like subs that roll off at 22 Hz or higher to avoid exciting a natural resonance mode in my theater. I found myself cranking this movie up to live concert levels and enjoyed the high sensitivity of the JBL LS 80 system. I also enjoyed the amazing transient response from the system. Although I found the highs to be a little hard-edged at times, I had no listening fatigue, even after a 111 minute high-energy onslaught. It really was a special kind of experience. I liked the JBL's ability to render the arena space (although some of the ambience may well have been synthesized in the mix).

JBL LS 80 speaker system for Audiophiles

I really enjoyed "Crazy Heart" and couldn't wait to run out and get the sound track on CD as quick as I could. I listened to this CD in stereo over the LS 80's driven by a TL Audio FatMan i452 tube integrated amp. The i452 is a tube amp with 2-6L6 output tubes per side. This amp generates a rated output of 45 watts per channel. I experienced a very expansive sound field on both Somebody Else and Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way. On Joy, there was a lot of mid range and mid bass drive. The LS 80's had good, apparent bass extension into the upper 30 Hz range on Fallin' & Flyin'. I also felt that the system handled complex passages very well on tracks such as Gone, Gone, Gone. Since some of these tracks have been around a while, I was disappointed that the presentation didn't always give me that live sense of the performers in the room.

JBL LS 80 speaker system for Audiophiles

Next up was Melody Gardot's "My One and Only" CD also in stereo and being driven by the FatMan i452. This is Melody's second album in two years. She is a very talented and popular jazz singer. Since all these songs are recent performances that were recorded and produced using modern equipment, most of my concerns over the live sounding nature of the system melted away as I got into this CD. The imaging was almost holographic at various times, despite that I had the main speakers separated maybe a little more than would be optimal for my seating distance. There was a very sweet top end and the strings and horns were naturally balanced. Once again, I felt that the LS 80's had a degree of transparency that was reminiscent of electrostatic speakers. The bass was not as clean as I would have gotten with a top notch sub, but the bass distortion did not detract from the overall listening experience to any appreciable degree. There was excellent timing and pace on this CD. Over the Rainbow was simply awesome!

I generally used the sub output from the FatMan amp, feeding the LS 120P, which made this a 2.1 system. For my tastes, the LS 80's need a good sub to fill in the bottom octave. I think anybody in the market for these speakers should make the additional investment in a sub. It's an important part of the equation in trying to eke out the best that these speakers have to offer.