Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/22/review_jamo_s426_hcs_3_home_cinema_speaker_system/

Jamo S 426 HCS 3 home cinema speakers

Standing room only

By Ian Calcutt

Posted in Hardware, 22nd November 2011 07:00 GMT

Review There is no shortage of home cinema speaker packages priced at around the £300 mark. It is less common to find one incorporating a large floorstanding pair but that’s exactly what long-established Danish brand Jamo is offering with this bundle. It seems too good to be true, yet somehow it is.

Jamo S426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

Tower of power: Jamo's S 426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

Those all-important floorstanders are called the S 426. Considering the price, their look and feel is better than you might expect. The wooden enclosure houses two 140mm woofers and a 25mm tweeter. The cables fit into screw terminals or alternatively binding post connectors but there's no bi-wiring facility, so you can't power the low and high-frequency drivers separately.

The compact centre speaker uses the same kind of connections but its drivers are smaller (2 x 89mm and 1 x 19mm) and it shares more of its characteristics with the little rear speaker counterparts rather than the floorstanders. The website has the tweeters down as 25mm on the both the centre (CEN 420) and surround (SUR 420) speakers, but they're definitely 19mm.

Jamo S426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

The two surround satellite speakers suit wall-mounting

The satellite S 420 SUR speakers are the usual bookshelf types, with a footprint of only 118 x 125mm, and they are easily wall mountable. Unlike the front speakers, the only option is to wire them up using small spring clips. If you have chunky cables, they may not fit. The five speakers are available in black ash, white ash or wenge, a dark tropical hardwood.

The floorstanders are powerful enough for a medium sized room but for larger spaces, Jamo has a matching subwoofer – the SUB 260 – to bolster the deeper bass levels. It does this very well, although it doubles the cost of the system. If you’re on a budget or have fussy neighbours, you’ll need to think carefully about whether adding that extra ‘.1’ to the 5.0 package is essential.

Jamo S426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

Adding the SUB260 to the array doubles the price and more than doubles the oomph

I tried the system with and without the sub, in a reasonably large room, and powered by the impressive Onkyo TX-NR609 AV receiver. The Tron Legacy Blu-ray disc has a highly active soundtrack, especially the signature lightcycle battle (Chapter 7), and the speakers handle the rumbling bass, punchy effects and pounding score to great effect.

Jamo S426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

If I were to single out any drawbacks it would be that the rear speakers don’t draw a huge amount of attention to themselves, and the centre speaker could do with more vigour in the lower mid-range. Voices, while remaining clear, are slightly thin.

Jamo S426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

To bring out the best in dialogue tracks the centre speaker might benefit from some equalisation

Although the system expertly delivers the ominous spooky rumblings, crackling forest fires and the plaintive score of The Road, Viggo Mortensen’s voiceover can get rather lost. However, optimising the set-up of the AV receiver you'll need to power these speakers can squeeze more vocal definition from the centre.

Also, using the SUB 260 in extremely busy and low-frequency-effects-heavy films like Inception may swamp the dialogue unless you rein in the sub. The system works very efficiently without it, but for deeper impact during movie viewing, it’s definitely worth having, providing you tweak your system’s sound levels.

Jamo S426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

The SUB260 certainly makes an impact

For both stereo and 5.1 music, vocals zing with crispness and hold their own in the mix. Its overall musical performance is pleasantly warm rather than overly brash. Using just the two S 426s for two-channel music shows how good the floorstanders are, particularly with an evocative song such as Running on Fumes by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins.

Jamo S426 HCS 3 home cinema speaker system

The S 426 floor standers are an impressive inclusion at this price

Verdict

A good match for the increasing number of affordable but decent quality AV receivers now being made, the Jamo S 426 HCS 3 is extraordinary value for money. Although a few economies have been made, notably with the centre and surrounds, it’s a skilfully engineered package overall. Compared to the compact sub-satellite combinations that dominate the market at this price – and that make a subwoofer do all the heavy work – the Jamo system is a fully rounded proposition, if you have the floorspace. ®

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