This week JBL celebrate their 75th birthday. They creeped into the frame for me as one of my favourite audio brands. I still use the JBL Club One headphones regularly along with a few other bits and pieces that will be reviewed soon. The German audio specialists sent me over the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam Soundbar to review so I’ve swapped it into my setup and put it through its paces. It’s brilliant!
Here’s everything you need to know.
JBL Bar 5.0 Design
I’m going to start with one of the more underwhelming parts of this soundbar. The design. Now, this new soundbar replaces is the Harman Kardon Citation 700 in my setup and these two companies are related because Harman is JBL’s parent company. The two soundbars play in similar price brackets but are worlds apart. The Citation 700 is beautifully designed with grey fabric and a fancy touchscreen. The JBL Bar 5.0 is a much more functional, plain black design. It’s a hybrid approach of metal, metal grilles and plastic.
Just to look at, there’s nothing all that special about it. It’s not head-turning, but it doesn’t look out of place.
It is weighty enough, which plenty will say is a sign of quality when it comes to audio equipment. I’ll never make big conclusions based on weight since I bought a microphone years ago that was full of concrete.
But the speaker’s design is solid. It actually fits by home setup better given I have a dark TV unit. In case the measurements matter for you, they are 5.8 x 71 x 10cm while weighing in at 2.8kg. I’d wager that most entertainment setups are focused more on audio than looks and I’m glad to say the JBL Bar 5.0 delivers where it matters most.
JBL Bar 5.0 Sound
JBL uses a technology called Multibeam which reduces the need to have multiple speakers dotted around your room to create a surround sound experience. Speaking at their recent anniversary gig, one of JBL’s lead engineers said he believes sound direction is the next big thing in personal and home audio. I found that moving the soundbar around a bit allowed the sound to reach around the room so don’t be afraid to play with position to get a more immersive sound experience. While I didn’t need to do this, there are brackets in the kit to help you fix the soundbar to the wall too if needed.
Combined with JBL’s proprietary smarts, this soundbar also packs in Dolby Atmos technology. I’ve been watching Euro 2020, streaming the latest Netflix series and testing out some new Playstation 5 games with my audio hooked up to the JBL Bar 5.0 and have been both literally and figuratively blown away by it.
What’s surprised me most is that there really is no need for a secondary speaker, specifically a subwoofer, to give base boost. The soundbar alone, while slim and discreet, packs a real punch. There’s enough sound immersion here for cinephiles or gaming addicts.
As this would be a reasonably significant investment for any home, there is some good news in the additional features section here to justify the outlay.
For example, the soundbar doubles as a speaker. Let me expand on that before you think it’s a really silly statement. The soundbar has Chromecast and AirPlay built in. This means streaming your favourite playlists to your entertainment centre during dinner or when reading with the TV off is super simple.
It’s important to note that this is just Chromecast audio. While there are a plethora of HDMI ports on the rear of the soundbar, you cannot cast video via the Bar 5.0.
This particular soundbar also support HDMI eARC. I used to believe that optical offered the best audio experience, but I found the Citation 700 disappointing and buggy while watching spoken word shows like Last Week Tonight. I’ve had no problems at all now that I’m using the JBL soundbar routed with HDMI. In fact, the sound is, to me at least, better and I have increased control over the entertainment centre through a single remote.
Sure, this could have been something I’ve set up incorrectly in the past, but the important thing to note here is that I plugged everything in, nice and straight forward, and everything just worked. Well done JBL. As simple as it sounds, lots of companies fall down here, leaving customers to use products with imperfect settings.
JBL Bar 5.0 Soundbar: The Verdict
Over the past few years, I’ve gone through a few soundbars. They were all either underwhelming or overly complicated. It’s really hard for me to review things like that because I could be recommending something people simply won’t like. To top it off, audio enjoyment is so subjective.
But I’m here, reviewing the JBL Bar 5.0 because it’s just so solid. I can’t really find fault with it and am fairly confident this will improve just about anyone’s home entertainment setup.