Chorus 715 speakers
Price: $850 USD per pair
Dimensions: 36.5"H x 8"W x 10.5"D
Weight: 31.5 pounds each
Model: Chorus CC 700 center-channel
Price: $350 USD
Dimensions: 7"H x 19.7"W x 11"D
Weight: 17.5 pounds
Model: Chorus SR 700 surround speakers
Price: $500 USD per pair
Dimensions: 12.5"H x 12"W x 5"D
Weight: 11 pounds each
Model: Chorus SW 700 subwoofer
Price: $650 USD
Dimensions: 16"H x 13"W x 20"D
Weight: 44 pounds
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- 6-1/2" Polyglass cone mid-bass with 1" voice coil
(715, CC 700, SR 700)
- 1" treated titanium inverted dome tweeter (715, CC 700,
- 11" Polyglass woofer (SW 700)
- Bi-wireable (715)
- Gold-plated binding posts (715, CC 700, SR 700)
- Magnetically shielded (CC 700)
- 125W built-in amplifier (SW 700)
- Black Ash, Cherry or Calvados vinyl finish (all), White
available on SR 700
JMlab may not be one of the biggest names in
speakers in the US, but it is in Europe where the company is headquartered. Here in
the States were more likely to recognize the PolyKevlar drivers JMlabs sister
company, Focal, produces and which are used in any number of high-end designs.
Before receiving the Chorus system for review, Id
never heard anything from JMlab, although I had heard good things about their most
expensive line, the Utopia. In this case I would be getting a surround system from their
least expensive line, the Chorus, with the three-driver 715 towers as the anchor. I
wasnt sure quite what to expect, but to be perfectly honest, Ive heard so many
inexpensive towers over the years that sacrificed bass quality in return for quantity
that I didnt have the highest of hopes.
The complete system as delivered consists of two Chorus 715
speakers for the left and right channels, the CC 700 center-channel speaker, a pair of SR
700 surrounds, and a single SW 700 subwoofer. All of the main speakers in the system use
the same 6.5" Polyglass midbass and 1" titanium inverted-dome tweeter. The 715s
and CC 700 each use two midbass drivers in a 2.5-way configuration, while the SR 700 makes
do with one midbass driver each. The SW 700 subwoofer uses a single 11" Polyglass
woofer in a sealed box with a 125W internal amp. The total system price is $2350.
I was immediately concerned, as none of the boxes seemed to
weigh very much, especially in comparison to a very small pair of monitors here that
weighed in at 11 pounds each. Now I was moving around three-foot towers that barely weigh
over 30 pounds each. Rap your knuckles against the side and youre greeted with a
hollow clap in return; not exactly the kind of thing that inspires confidence. On the
other hand, I have a pair of speakers in the house that go for five times the price of the
JMlabs and dont fare a whole lot better on the knuckle-rap test, yet they sound
absolutely wonderful. You cant judge a speaker by cabinet construction alone. The
boxes themselves are finished in an attractive black, cherry or calvados vinyl covering.
The surrounds, which are designed for wall mounting, are also available in white.
I dont have a lot of options for setup in my home
theater, so placement either works in the standard locations or it doesnt. The 715s
ended up in the normal space to the left and right of the entertainment center, just
slightly in front of the plane of the TV, toed-in toward the center listening position.
The center-channel speaker sits atop the TV and angled down slightly to keep the drivers
on-axis, and the sub sits off to the right front of the room about five feet out from the
corner. I dont have a good way to wall-mount surrounds in my theater, so the SR 700s
ended up on four-foot-tall stands to either side of the main listening position. I let the
speakers all run full range and crossed the subwoofer over at about 50Hz, which seemed to
work out just fine. Ill let the cat out of the bag and say right now that my
placement limitations didnt seem to have any tangible impact on sound quality.
Straight out of the box the 715s were exceptionally bright.
Rather than make a rash early judgment, I decided to let them break-in for a couple of
weeks before I did any critical listening, and this proved fruitful. When I finally sat
down to do some serious listening, the initial brightness I heard seemed to have greatly
diminished. Just to make sure I hadnt gotten used to the sound, I pulled out my own
Energy C2s and plugged them back into the system for comparison, and they were now very
close in overall brightness. Now, the C2s are a touch on the bright side as well, so I
would still have to characterize the Chorus 715 as slightly bright, but not objectionably
so. I found that by using the supplied spikes to tip the speakers back a bit and toeing
them in slightly past center, I was able to eliminate some of the additional brightness
and create a very neutral sound while still maintaining good soundstage and imaging.
After seeing the relatively small size and power output of
the sub, my immediate plan of attack was to go straight for the throat and put it through
its paces first. Not being one to waste time on idle pleasantries, I went straight for the
definitive torture test, Telarcs 1812 Overture [Telarc 80041] complete with
real cannon shots. Sure, the lowest bass is missing in action -- this sub is only
rated to down to 35Hz -- but transient attack of both the sub and the 715s was excellent
for their respective prices. I ended up listening to the oft-ignored "Cossack Dance
From Mezeppa" off of the same disc. Here the bass sounded deep and tight and blended
perfectly, while the 715s displayed particular finesse with the strings. There was even a
hint of depth to the soundstage with the speakers setup for casual listening, something
that normally requires pulling the mains out into the room a couple of extra feet.
For another bass test, I queued up "Hotel
California" off The Eagles' DVD Hell Freezes Over. The 715s displayed nice
clarity on the opening guitar, and the kick drum was tight and had good weight without
being boomy or over the top. I followed up with "New York Minute," where once
again the story was the clarity of the chimes, though there may have been a touch of
brightness here. But what turned out to be the most important bit of news was that there
was no hint of the overt fullness in the lower-midrange/upper-bass region or overdone
warmth on male vocals that I have heard from so many inexpensive towers.
One of my favorite discs is The Holly Cole Trios
Temptation [Alert Music Z2-81026]. Here I heard a nice layering of vocals on
the title track, with the second voice just behind and to one side of Holly Coles.
On my Energy C2s, the vocals on this track come through as a blended harmony rather than
the distinct separation of voice and placement I heard on the JMlabs. There was also
outstanding clarity to both the vocals and piano, with a natural tonal balance not
commonly found in budget towers. Once again, the subwoofer acquitted itself well on one of
my favorite tracks, "Jersey Girl." Where many budget subs would get boomy and
detract from the overall presentation of the piece, the SW 700 never did. It provided just
the right amount of additional weight and authority without adding more than was required.
Nice, very nice indeed.
Now that I was satisfied the JMlab system could more than
hold its own on music, it was high time to try it out with a few movies. First up was my
newest torture test, U-571. If a system can hack the dynamics and bass in the
attack sequences and still deliver the clarity required to resolve all the subtle detail
of the sub creaking in the background, then theres likely very little to worry
about. The JMlabs Chorus system gave me no reason for concern and showed no sign of strain
at listening levels that drove the rest of the family and the dog out of the room.
Dynamics with the 715s are nothing short of excellent, and the speakers' relatively high
efficiency should allow them to be driven to high levels with the smaller amps found in
many budget and mid-priced home-theater receivers. The 70Wpc provided by my little Rotel
amp was more than enough power in my average-sized 2700-cubic-foot family room. Here the
sub was slightly less prominent than others Ive run through this same test, but it
countered this with far better control than most others. Surround envelopment was
excellent and pans were smooth from side to side, though there is a slight difference in
the tonal balance of the surrounds that caused front-to-back pans to be slightly less
convincing than with the best integrated systems Ive heard. Mind you, it was only
slight, and I was unable to wall-mount the SR 700s in my listening space, which would
likely impact this somewhat. Still, if I were going to permanently setup the JMlab system
in my own home, I would probably look at using one of their small monitors from the Chorus
line as surrounds instead.
Next came an old standard, The Fifth Element. There
was terrific clarity in the Divas voice that I havent heard from other
speakers in this price range, and that includes my own C2s. This time the sub always seemed as though it were up to the task, and it never
called undue attention to itself. In this instance, the JMlab system produced a
wonderfully believable sense of space and depth. One thing I discovered during this movie
that took me by surprise was that dialogue intelligibility was extremely good, even at
lower volume levels when there were high levels of background noise.
Ive owned a pair of Energy C2s for a few years now
and have found little in their relative price range that I would consider significantly
better. The JMlab 715s better them with slightly more stable imaging, a bit more
soundstage depth and dramatically improved dynamics. Tonal balance is very similar between
the two speakers, but the 715s are slightly ahead of the C2s with improved clarity and
delineation of vocals. The 715s were clear and articulate with music, but handled the
dynamic demands of movies with ease. The relatively high overall efficiency of the
individual speakers means they should be easy to drive with most any entry-level or
midrange surround receivers theyre likely to be teamed up with. On video material,
the JMlab speakers displayed an ability to play loudly and without strain. Dynamics were
excellent, and surround envelopment was convincingly realistic. Whats not to like
But I think I was most impressed with the center-channel
speaker. I have a PSB Stratus C5 in my own system and I have to admit that I like the less
expensive CC 700 better. The PSB has a little added fullness to the bottom end that can
manifest itself as a slight chestiness on some vocals, where the CC 700 is a model of
clarity on dialogue. Dont get me wrong -- the C5 is a good center-channel. But at
moderately low listening levels, I never felt the urge to crank up the volume of the JMlab
center like with the PSB. This can be particularly important if you do a great deal of
late-night viewing like I do and dont want to disturb the rest of the household.
I didnt believe a small sealed subwoofer with a 125W
amp could cut it in my home theater, but I was pleasantly surprised. The SW 700 sub
compares well with my own DIY design based on ACIs 12" SV-12 woofer and PSA-1
amp. Both are sealed designs that give up a little in ultimate extension and output but
present a very clean and controlled low-end response and do nothing to intrude on the
music. Its a compromise that I thought served the JMlab system well, particularly in
light of the unusual articulation of the 715s. Sure, it wont go as low as some other
subs on the market and it wont play as loud either. On the other hand, it never gets
boomy or draws unwanted attention to itself on music, which is a common problem with so
many budget subs.
Lets face facts: budget speakers are all about
compromise, and JMlab has chosen the path less traveled with the Chorus system. Instead of
building a speaker that will impress in the showroom with prodigious bass output and a
full bottom end, theyve chosen accuracy, clarity and dynamics as the bedrock for
their design. This system doesnt sacrifice musical finesse or home-theater dynamics.
It is equally adept at both, which is a feat at the price. For the music lover who
requires speakers that can perform double duty in a home theater and music system,
this is one system that will impress long after it has left the showroom.
|Amplifier - Rotel RB-976
- Sherwood Newcastle R-925 (only used as a processor)
|Source - Sony DVP-S300 DVD
player, Adcom GCD-600 CD player
- Straight Wire, Monster Cable
|Monitor - Proscan 35"