JBL Cinema Sound CS6100 Speaker System and Integra DTR-7.7 A/V Receiver Page 2

If your equipment rack is heavily populated, you may spend a lot of time with your fingers on the volume keys. Integra minimizes that annoyance with IntelliVolume, which enables you to apply a volume boost or cut for each input, plus or minus 12 decibels, with increments of 1 dB. You can also specify a muting volume, either killing the sound entirely or lowering it by a preset amount. The power-up volume level, as is the case with most receivers, defaults to the last setting you used, but you can also set a fixed level. If you're worried about how loud your teenagers play the system when you're not home, set a maximum volume level. You can adjust those last two features separately for the main and second zones.

Lots of receivers throw in a few extra jacks and call themselves multizone products. Like many of them, this one can route its rear surround channels to the second zone, leaving 5.1 channels for the main room. But it is both multizone and multisource, so it can handle two sources at once. The second zone can receive a variable or fixed line-level signal; it supplements its two channels with a subwoofer channel and boasts independent controls for bass, treble, balance, maximum volume, and power-on volume. For the price, this is a brilliant features set.

707JBL.6.jpgI couldn't help noticing that the DTR-7.7's concave metal faceplate harmonized with that of my reference signal source, an Integra DPS-10.5 disc player. I rely on the quality of the latter's analog outputs to test the mettle of every surround receiver that passes through my listening room.

Using two Integras at once enabled me to do business with one remote—one for which I've developed a healthy respect over many years of use. The receiver's remote is similar to that of the disc player. It's well sculpted, especially along the bottom where my fingers grasp it. The joystick responds to a gentle nudge and navigates menus much faster than separate navigation buttons. The play and volume keys are nearly an inch wide. And the control layout is logical. It'll never torture you by hiding, say, the setup-menu key—it's right under the joystick, with the return key next to it. Other manufacturers should study this remote.

Pour Me a Personal One
Personal Favorites by Fred Hersch gave me another chance to contemplate life without the center channel. That's how Chesky likes their SACD surround mixes. They designed this recording with plenty of depth, and the system delivered it ably. With Hersch's piano close-miked, I enjoyed the intimacy of the performance and didn't feel I was missing anything. More distant miking placed the rhythm section noticeably farther back. Without the center, the image was less localizable, but JBL's titanium-laminate tweeters keep it from turning to mush. None of this detracted from Hersch's skillful navigation of varied terrain, including songbook classics, compositions by the likes of Monk and Shorter, and his own material.

Blessid Union of Souls' search for love and belief mirrors my own search for a pop band that speaks to me. I didn't quite find it in Perception, but the JBLs gave lead singer Eliot Sloan a presence to match his emotiveness. "Closer" started out interestingly with a stuttering drum riff that provided an intriguing feeling of uncertainty until the song kicked into higher gear. As on other songs and rock albums, I wished for a stronger drum sound to punch through the digital glaze.

A Musical Offering is one of my favorite works of Bach. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of the Kuijken Ensemble DVD crackled right from the opening smattering of applause. The opening harpsichord solo, a stern test of any system's high-frequency response, was less lush and airy than I've heard from my (more costly) reference system. But, when the violin, viola da gamba, and especially the transverse flute entered, I was captivated by the spatial feast of the period instruments bouncing off the hard walls of Leipzig's Old Town Hall. With matched speakers in all channels, the soundfield had no weak spots. If more people had a chance to hear surround systems with and without identical speakers, I suspect there would be far fewer horizontal centers (and possibly dipole surrounds) cluttering up the market.

Blood Cocktail
Starting with the curses screamed over the opening titles, Saw III was a surround feast. True, the highly artificial effects didn't resemble anything found in nature and therefore didn't indicate how the CS6100's output corresponded to reality. But the aggressively synthesized soundscape was an active and gratifying one, with steroid-fueled noises bouncing from channel to channel in unpredictable patterns. It almost made up for the nonstop sadism that is devoid of the humor that enlivens the best slasher pics.

The Departed went to the other extreme, barely using the surround channels at all. Vocal realism was the system's main contribution, with the Integra's clean and detailed signal getting the best out of the speakers' gauzy midrange. With gritty performances from Nicholson, Damon, DiCaprio, and Wahlberg, that was enough to make the movie compelling. Still, the fleeting use of the surrounds bugged me during action scenes. Even "Gimme Shelter," the Rolling Stones masterpiece, was mainly limited to the front channels, a waste of its phasey, tremolo-drenched ear-candy potential.

A composite portrait of the system emerged from my listening. The midrange was on target, although it was a little colored, perhaps by the plastic speaker enclosures. Bass was on the lean side, even after I buttressed the bass-light satellites by upping the crossover to 120 Hz and increasing the sub volume to two-thirds. The system worked well for chamber music and soft-pedaled aggressive rock and action soundtracks. Where it excelled was in the evenness and consistency of its soundfield. I enjoyed it from pretty much everywhere in the room without any element going out of focus.

Some people just look at a speaker and buy it. JBL makes a strong move into this market with the CS6100. And I'm quite amazed at the features set that the Integra DTR-7.7 receiver offers—it should make the company many new friends. Should I go for one more bottle joke? Better not.

JBL Cinema Sound CS6100 Speaker System:
• With stands, sats take on unique and cool inverted-bottle shape
• Downward-firing sub with front port

Integra DTR-7.7 A/V Receiver:
• Definitive set of custom-install features
• Surprising degree of user adjustability
• All this and reliable THX-certified sound