With the awkwardly named A101 HCS5, Jamo has produced a sub/sat speaker system that appears to be head-scratchingly good value. For little more than 200 of your pound coins, you get five identical (and moderately stylish) satellite speakers and one easy to accommodate subwoofer. Just the ticket for home cinema fans on a tight budget.
The A101 HCS5 is available now, priced at £230.
Danish brand Jamo is no stranger to mass-market noise makers. It’s been churning out similar, diminutive speakers for years. Value for money has long been a speciality of the brand, although it’s not short of credibility at the higher-end of the market too.
The curvaceous satellites have a cloth cover and are tastefully finished in gloss black. Engagingly small, and rather light, they can be wall-mounted (they’re just 51mm deep) or perched on little metal pedestals (three are supplied in the box). While wall-hanging isn’t difficult (they’ll hang on a screw), you’ll need to channel cabling into the wall to keep things tidy.
As befits a budget speaker, these satellites sport small spring-clip terminals, so at least that means you’ll only have bell-wire to deal with.
Accommodating a traditional subwoofer in a small room can be tricky. Jamo’s solution is to make it wall-mountable. We’ve seen a variation on this theme from fellow budget speaker supplier Q Acoustics. You don’t have to hang the 101 SUB though; it can simply be sidled up against the wall. The cabinet is 160mm deep.
Should you have the space, it’s worth experimenting with the sub positioned away from the wall, as this will lessen room boom. The sub automatically powers up when it receives a signal via a line level input, then returns to sleep when the movie or music is over.
Each satellite features a single 76mm driver. These are a shallow pool when it comes to sonic depth, as they can’t deliver anything below 200Hz. Consequently, getting them to blend with the subwoofer is essential. Without help, they have a telephonic shrillness which isn’t fun to listen to.
The sub features a pair of eight-inch drivers and an amplifier rated, perhaps a tad optimistically, at 200W. It can thwump it out with the best of them but doesn’t reach down much beyond 50Hz. When the two are integrated, however, this 5.1 system becomes pleasingly cohesive.
Remember to set the crossover frequency in your AV receiver’s setup menu appropriately high to match.
The 101 SUB is directional, but that’s difficult to avoid given that it’s reaching up for that high crossover frequency. This is one good reason why it should be positioned at the front of the room, in close proximity to the three main speakers.
The small shape of the satellites themselves has an impact on their dispersion characteristics. For the most involving soundstage, position them to create the shape of an ‘X’, with the front left effectively facing the rear right, and so on.
This system is at its best with movies and TV. The enclosures are not particularly musical, and without multichannel hubbub, the limitations of the main stereo pair quickly become apparent.
Tron: Legacy, which has a beautifully engineered multichannel soundtrack on Blu-ray, gives this set plenty to do. The result is huge amount of fun. Select the Light Cycle battle and the pulsating bass of the Daft Punk soundtrack quickly sets the Jamo sub purring. When the crowd roars, you’ll find yourself seated squarely in the centre of the digital Colosseum -- and it’s a treat to hear the Lightcycles zooming from front to rear.
Of course, this package doesn’t begin to have the articulation of a large speaker system, and it’s silly to pretend it does; but budget and inconvenience may well preclude that option anyway. Those with partners who refuse to see the joy in having large speaker boxes dotted around the living room will have nothing to complain about here.
The A101 HCS5 is an easy to set up multi-channel speaker system that won’t break the bank. It’s consistently entertaining and AV fans will appreciate the smoothness of the surround soundstage. To think you can partner this with a £300 AV receiver and a budget Blu-ray player to create a 5.1 home cinema for £600 and still have change to spare is little short of astonishing.