JBL ES900 Cinepack

Stunning sound quality from an impressive 5.1 speaker package

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JBL ES900 Cinepack
  • JBL ES900 Cinepack
  • JBL ES900 Cinepack
  • JBL ES900 Cinepack
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5


  • Incredible sound quality, ability to adjust subwoofer


  • Audiophile price tag

Bottom Line

JBL's ES900 Cinepack offers amazing quality and depth of sound, even if it's at a price not many can afford.

Would you buy this?

The ES900 Cinepack, which joins the ES800 and ES1000 in JBL's new line of home theatre surround sound packages, delivers great sound. Its only flaw is the audiophile-grade price.

The ES900 Cinepack, comprising two floorstanding speakers, two bookshelf speakers, a centre speaker and a subwoofer, is a very large and imposing setup. Delivered in five separate boxes, it's not light — weighing almost 83 kilograms in total. This weight is justified though: the units have an impressive build quality and are finished in a black ash veneer. JBL has not bundled a surround sound receiver or amplifier with the system. This might be a failing for a cheaper unit, but the market for the ES900 Cinepack is audio enthusiasts who already have dedicated amplifiers and sources.

The package's focus is understandably on the two floor-standing speakers, which serve the front left and right stereo channels. (They are available separately as JBL's ES90 speakers.) They are quadruple driver speakers: they have individual elements dedicated to different ranges (bass, treble, and mid-range). This allows for a better and more unified balance of sounds. The centre speaker and the two surround bookshelf speakers play a secondary role. The centre speaker is more than capable for movies, with a focus on mid-range, which means it is well suited to vocals and movie dialogue. The surround speakers are equally capable and do a good job of adding separation to positional audio.

The five speakers of the system are complemented by JBL's ES150 subwoofer. It's a 10in driver. This may seem small by home theatre standards, but it has a massive amount of power. It runs off its own built-in amplifier, which allows for the volume and frequency cut-off of the subwoofer to be set manually. We found this useful when setting the ES900 Cinepack up: it allows you to adjust the subwoofer to the room size. The subwoofer can handle incredibly loud volumes without any evident distortion. Bass was consistently punchy at all volumes, with a reasonably quick decay.

Even without the subwoofer turned on, the front speakers do a fantastic job for stereo music. Bass is well covered by the dual 8in woofers. The high-quality tweeters used in the floorstanders give a beautifully sharp edge to high-range notes, without sounding harsh or fatiguing.

The system is wonderfully balanced. In either stereo or surround mode there is no obvious focus on any part of the aural spectrum; the speakers perform excellently for any musical style.

It is when used for surround sound that the ES900 Cinepack really excels. We connected the speakers to a dedicated Onkyo receiver and DVD player and threw on The Matrix. During the well-known lobby scene, we were blown away by the sound quality. Individual gunshots, footsteps and other noises could be clearly distinguished without any confusion; positional audio was exceptionally good. We then switched to a Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player and The Fifth Element. The speakers performed flawlessly, with a deep, rich musical sound accentuated by crisp, clean highs.

Whether you're listening to stereo music or surround sound movies, the ES900 Cinepack from JBL is a package that is exceptionally capable. If you're not put off by the price, this system is a great choice.

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