Tech

JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar review: Epic upgrade to your TV sound

It will never cease to amaze me how technology advances so much year on year, and that might be seen in the folding smartphones, or the thermal imaging cameras, but it’s also seen in the way audio engineers are able to completely re-think sound system design.

15 years ago if you wanted a 5.1 channel surround sound system for your TV entertainment unit, you needed a whole bunch of cables, and speakers in every part of the room.

Today, as is demonstrated by the brand new JBL Bar 5.1 – it’s so much simpler.

Soundbars are there to make your viewing experience better.

Now, leaving aside the fact you can use this as your music system – just on Bluetooth pairing along it’s one hell of a speaker to enjoy your music on – this system is all about enhancing your viewing.

Getting the wife to agree to having two speakers sitting in the corners of the room behind the lounge – difficult. So, go with simplicity, and that is a single soundbar that offers 5.1 surround sound.

How it does it? That’s those advances in technology I talked about. How does JBL pack 5 speakers into one soundbar.

Ok so that’s easy really, just put them side by side. But no, that’s just a bluetooth speaker with more power.

These speakers are pointed (firing) in specific directions. The “five” in the 5.1 are:

  • Center
  • Left Front
  • Right Front
  • Left Rear
  • Right Rear

The point one in the 5.1 is the sub-woofer, for bass.

JBL’s sound engineers have created a single bar which fires soundwaves around your room to emulate the precise location of the 5 speakers in a five channel surround system.

Your average lounge room is a box. So the theory requires sound to essentially bounce of walls to come back at your from the direction intended.

I know this because where I’ve got our TV setup in the EFTM office there is a wall to the left of me when watching TV front on but not to the right – or anywhere close.

For this reason I was able to hear the sounds from behind to the left but not from the rear behind me. This is actually a perfect test of this virtual surround concept.

Critically, the device has a self-calibration mode – press and hold HDMI on the remote and it begins this process. A strange sound is sent out and the unit works out how to adjust – this REALLY matters and enhances the whole sound profile enormously.

For 99% of lounge rooms this will work so well you will be looking behind you to try and spot the speaker.

I pumped the volume to MAX and felt I might have wanted it louder – I’ve definitely had systems louder, however what I realised was I was getting a more true experience from the movie.

With a sub-woofer stepped off to the side, just requiring power, the Bass is ever present.

You have three settings, Low, Mid or High, and in my office the High was shaking prints of the wall – epic bass.

Around the back there is only one HDMI input, so if you’re looking at your soundbar as a way to extend your input possibilities – this might not be the one for you.

But, what matters here most is the sound.

I watched three movies and plenty of re-runs of Drive to Survive. This JBL Bar 5.1 was delivering me an outstanding surround sound experience – from just that one soundbar under the TV. Amazing.

You’ve also got Chromecast built in, as well as AirPlay2 for audio streaming at high quality.

At $795 this is one hell of a proposition on a bang for your buck level.

Pickup is free at Harvey Norman, or delivery will set you back around $20 depending on where you live.

With more time at home, more shows to watch, it’s time you started to really enjoy your TV – and sound is going to bring you that enjoyment.

Web: Harvey Norman

JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar review: Epic upgrade to your TV sound
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