The center speaker is a little bigger; it's 3.25 inches high, 7.6 wide, and 3.75 deep, and it tips the scales at almost two pounds. JBL doesn't include a bracket because the company recommends placing the center speaker either directly above or below a TV. When we removed the satellites' grilles, we noticed a thin plastic sheet had been inserted to protect the drivers during shipping. The owner's manual doesn't mention this, but we strongly recommend removing the plastic to make sure you're hearing the sound as intended.
The subwoofer is an unadorned compact cube measuring 13 by 15 by 14 inches. Its solidly constructed medium-density fiberboard (MDF) cabinet is cleanly finished in a muted silver/gray vinyl wrap. The 30-pound baby boomer sits on large, well-designed feet.
The subwoofer doesn't have a crossover control, and we found the JBL SCS145.5S sounds best when we set our receiver's bass management/crossover between 120Hz and 150Hz. Many receivers' crossovers are fixed at either 80Hz or 100Hz, which might leave a small hole in the SCS145.5S's midbass response. If you're not sure whether your receiver's bass management offers selectable crossover frequency control, read the owner's manual.Considering the JBL SCS145.5S's wee dimensions, we were surprised to note the satellites are two-way designs, with a 0.5-inch titanium dome tweeter and a 3-inch woofer. The center speaker uses the same drivers, configured in the classic woofer/tweeter/woofer array. The speakers are fitted with spring-clip connectors designed to accept stripped, bare wire ends with the supplied set of two 20-foot and three 40-foot wires.
The subwoofer's down-firing 8-inch woofer also supplies bass from its front-mounted port. The built-in 100-watt amplifier has a machined metal heat sink for cooling. Connectivity options run to stereo speaker-level inputs and outputs, plus stereo line-level inputs and a LFE (low-frequency effects) input. If your A/V receiver is less than seven or eight years old, use the LFE input.The JBL SCS145.5S's tiny speakers have the fullness we associate with larger speakers. Stand-up acoustic bass, for example, usually sounds anemic on smaller sat/sub systems, but the SCS145.5S perfectly nailed the instrument's sound on clarinetist Don Byron's Bug Music CD. Bass was full, without shortchanging definition, a feat not always within the grasp of minisubs. The CD's piano and horns were beautifully handled by the SCS145.5S; again, we'd be hard-pressed to name another similarly sized and priced sat that sounded as nice as these little guys.
Aerosmith's Honkin' on Bobo CD wasn't as solid--we were more aware of the sub and sats working hard, which made the satellites' size limitations more apparent. That said, as long was we didn't push the volume too hard, the SCS145.5S sounded decent on rock music.
We started our home-theater auditions with the A History of Violence DVD. The movie's tense atmosphere and throbbing score were well served by the SCS145.5S, and when gunfire eventually erupted, it was loud enough to make us jump. Our one quibble was with the center speaker, which made male voices sound slightly hollow and thin.
Next up: the Flight of the Phoenix DVD. We've used the DVD's desert crash scene to test the stamina of many a speaker system, and the JBL SCS145.5S was moderately successful. We noted the subwoofer's moderate distress/distortion when it reproduced the massive impact of the doomed plane, but the sats ably communicated the sound of the plane's shuddering metal fuselage. The system's limitations were apparent; it will suffice in small rooms of less than 300 square feet, but if you watch a lot of effects-heavy movies, you'd be wise to consider one of JBL's larger systems such as the SCS300.7.