Jamo Torsten 360 Series Soundbar

The Jamo Torsten 360 series Soundbar provides very good audio performance, plus support for Bluetooth, but at a rather high price.


7.6
CNET Rating


The Jamo Torsten 360 series soundbar and subwoofer consists of a nicely slim soundbar and a substantial subwoofer. The soundbar has a couple of 19mm tweeters at the extreme left and right of its 1093mm width (it's only 77mm deep and 115mm tall). Between those are four 76mm midrange drivers. The enclosure is sealed.

Jamo doesn't say how much power is available for the soundbar drivers, nor for the subwoofer. Just the total system power is specified: 250 watts under unspecified criteria.

The subwoofer has a slotted rear port and an impressive 254mm driver mounted on one of the sides. This seemed rather reminiscent of a certain Klipsch subwoofer found with the Icon SB 1 system. As did the 250 watts of system power. And the remote control looked rather familiar too. It turns out that Klipsch's parent company bought Jamo about seven years ago, so presumably there is some technology sharing going on. Having said that, I should note that while the remote and subwoofer driver and, possibly, power amps may be the same, the Jamo system is more capable in other respects.

One of those is that in addition to the optical digital audio input and the stereo RCA analogue inputs, it supports Bluetooth and, perhaps uniquely, Near Field Communication (NFC) for pairing.

The subwoofer connects wirelessly (and is factory paired with the soundbar) so setup is straight forward.

In Use

Oh, I do hate so-called owners manuals that are designed on the assumption that everything you need to know can be conveyed in seven languages with almost no text and lots of diagrams. I had a problem and the manual was quite useless in helping me sort it out. Using the same Blu-ray player with the same optical digital output as I've used with all these soundbar tests over the last month or so, I popped in a CD and there was no sound. Ah, thought I. Wrong input selection! But there were three front LED colours to indicate input selection. Blue was (of course) for Bluetooth. But there was also green and amber. Was it green for optical? Or amber? The manual didn't help at all.

It turned out to be green, as I discovered when I switched over to a CD deck with optical output, and the music instantly started flowing. I went back to the Blu-ray player and fiddled with settings. It turned out that the soundbar would produce sound from a CD if I had the output of the Blu-ray player set to LPCM, but not if it was set to Bitstream. That was a new one on me since with CDs bitstream is in fact LPCM. When I popped in a Dolby Digital disc, it worked fine set to Bitstream. Likewise a DVD with 96kHz, 24 bit LPCM worked fine on Bitstream.

To be fair, you'll typically be running all audio through your TV, and indeed that eliminated the problem when I used a conventional configuration (Blu-ray player via HDMI to TV, TV via optical to Jamo soundbar). That also, with my system, eliminated another problem. Even with the CD player, when the player was plugged directly into the soundbar, it lost sync on the digital audio when there was a break between tracks (but not when one ran on from the previous one). It took most of the first bar of the next song to re-establish it, so you'd always miss the first few notes.

(Credit: Jamo)

All that's an unfortunate introduction to much better news. Overall, at least with stereo music, the Jamo Torsten system sounds rather like a high quality stereo. The music is presented wide in frequency range, with little apparent dynamic compression and with excellent tonal balance. The bass is balanced by means of a physical knob on the subwoofer's back, which means a little toing and froing while you're getting things set up, but the range is plenty for getting the balance pretty much perfect (unlike so many other soundbar/subwoofers which have the latter running far too hot).

I do love a good subwoofer, and the ten incher provided with the Jamo Torsten is better than good. It was tight, tuneful, powerful and clean. And it went deep. If it's placed such that it cannot be seen then your visitors are going to be quite confused about how a slim soundbar can produce such a big performance. The kick drums were delivered with authority, and the bass guitar (I used a number of Primus tracks) were delivered with a full accounting of the bottom string on the bass guitar.

At my listening couch, the bass started to roll off at about 43 hertz, but was still producing some output at 30. But closely measuring at the subwoofer to reduce room effects had the unit running strongly to that 30 hertz, with the response dropping off a cliff below that. As always, precisely how it performs will depend on your room.

The Bluetooth feature worked as it should. An unusual aspect of this feature is that it supports 'Near Field Communication'. This is a means by which devices can transfer material to each other by, essentially, coming into physical contact. In this case, it means that a Bluetooth pairing and connection can be established in a similar way.

If, that is, you have a device that supports NFC. The iPod Touch doesn't, not the iPad Mini, nor the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. But the LG Optimus G phone did. I switched NFC on on the phone and started tapping the soundbar. It took a couple of minutes and a re-read of the instructions. I had to put it within 4cm of the control panel on the top. I'm not sure that it was any easier than the usual Bluetooth pairing procedure. Still, NFC is in its early days.

As for Bluetooth, the unit supports multiple pairings (not that the manual tells you this). Just switch Bluetooth off on the device currently connected and then you're ready to reconnect with another previously paired device.

Conclusion

Aside from losing sync with the digital sound, this Jamo Torsten soundbar, subwoofer combo is a very good performer. However the price does put into direct competition with some equally impressive alternatives. For example, a pair of nice bookshelf speakers, an equivalently good subwoofer and an entry-level network capable home theatre receiver can be obtained for similar pricing, and will perform even better.

But probably won't look as pretty.



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