JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module


Many people would love to install a home theater (yes, there are still legions of people out there who don’t have one), but face a very real obstacle: how do they get the wires from the A/V receiver to the surround speakers if they can’t route the speaker wires through the walls or ceiling or under the floor?

Additional Resources
• See a host of subwoofers that you can use the JBL WEM-1 on from Revel, JBL and others.
• Learn about JBL’s rich brand history here.

A number of manufacturers offer a solution: wireless speakers, which eliminate the need for speaker cables running from the main system to the speakers. However, wireless speakers have long suffered a reputation – often deserved – of having substandard if not downright poor sound quality.

The JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module offers a solution. It’s a package that adds wireless capability to any speaker. The WEM-1 includes a transmitter that connects to an A/V receiver or other audio source (such as a laptop or iPod), a receiver/50-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier unit that connects to a pair of speakers, a remote control, various mounting accessories and cables.

Yes, cables. The WEM-1 provides wireless capability between the signal source and the receiver/amplifier. However, it’s not battery-powered or completely wire-free. You still have to plug the transmitter and receiver/amplifier into an AC outlet, connect a signal source to the transmitter and connect the receiver/amplifier to a pair of speakers. However, by eliminating the wires that would go to the surround speakers, the WEM-1 enables the use of surround speakers in situations where installation would otherwise be impossible, or at least difficult. The WEM-1 also enables music listening anywhere in the home, with a stated transmission range of up to 70 feet using the 2.4GHz frequency range. Four operating channels are provided to avoid interference.

The WEM-1’s transmitter measures six inches wide by one-and-one-eighth inches high by three-and-seven-eighths inches deep and features RCA audio input jacks; a 3.5mm Y-adapter is included for connecting an iPod or the 3.5mm output from a computer. The transmitter also has speaker-level inputs, which can be convenient when using it with an A/V or stereo receiver.

The receiver/amplifier incorporates a 50-watt-per-channel Class D amplifier, enabling its compact size (six and three-sixteenths by one-and-one-eighth by four-and-five-eighths inches). The unit also has an audio input and a subwoofer output (for use as part of a 2.1-channel satellite/subwoofer audio system), in addition to five selectable EQ curves for use with various JBL speakers (the EQ can be bypassed). The amplifier’s volume can be adjusted using the WEM-1’s remote control.

So how does it sound? It’s surprisingly loud for such a small unit, able to provide medium-to-loud listening levels, even in larger rooms. The sound leans more toward the cool and analytical, as opposed to the sweetness and richness of a high-end tube amplifier, yet it isn’t harsh or strident.

Read The High Points, The Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2


High Points
• The JBL WEM-1 eliminates the need to run speaker wires from the main audio system to the surround speakers.
• The system’s compact components are easy to place and install.
• The WEM-1 comes with a Y-adapter for use with an iPod or computer, a number of 120- and 230-volt power adapters, a wall-mount bracket for the transmitter, a stand for vertically mounting the receiver/amplifier, and other accessories.
• Though small, the built-in amplifier is surprisingly powerful.

Low Points
• The WEM-1 isn’t completely wireless or connection-free – you still have to connect the transmitter and receiver/amplifier to AC outlets and connect them to a signal source and speakers.
• The stated 70-foot transmission range might be less, depending on the construction of the walls, floors and ceilings in the home.
• The sound quality is good, but not audiophile-amplifier good.

The JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module is a clever product that eliminates the need to run wires between an A/V receiver and surround speakers in a home entertainment system. For many people, it’s simply not possible, or a major pain in the neck, to run wires through walls or ceilings or under the floor, and the WEM-1 solves this problem while enabling users to enjoy whatever surround speakers they choose. Be aware that you still need to make a number of connections to the transmitter and receiver/amplifier. The compact 50-watt-per-channel amplifier is surprisingly powerful and clean, although it’s not going to give owners of Krell, Mark Levinson, Pass Labs amplifiers, et al, any buyer’s remorse.

Additional Resources
• See a host of subwoofers that you can use the JBL WEM-1 on from Revel, JBL and others.
• Learn about JBL’s rich brand history here.