JBL 5.1 Soundbar Review, Price and Specification

A JBL 5.1 Soundbar that appeals to movie buffs, the JBL 5.1 Sound Bar offers a fantastically attractive prospect of complete wireless surround sound from a sound bar.

JBL 5.1 Soundbar Review, Price and Specification

JBL 5.1 Soundbar Price

The JBL 5.1 Soundbar dropped for $699 (about £500, AU$850) in 2017, and prices have dropped slightly since then. We recommend keeping an eye out for it during big sales events like Cyber Monday and Black Friday when price drops are possible.

JBL 5.1 Soundbar Review

The JBL 5.1 Soundbar is a few years old now, but in the world of audio devices a few years is merely a drop in the bucket. Often you can find the soundbar on sale, so it’s still worth considering if you’re in the market for a simple JBL 5.1 soundbar system.

So how does it work? The soundbar has two speakers that attach magnetically to either end of a bar, meaning you can have a single unit, or you can disconnect the speakers and place them behind your bed to create a truly wireless JBL 5.1 Soundbar surround sound system.

It’s also similar to a subwoofer found in more traditional ‘wireless’ setups, as it’s wired to a power supply but connects wirelessly to the soundbar. Each satellite speaker has a battery life of about 10 hours and charges when plugged into the soundbar.It’s an interesting proposition.

It certainly sets the JBL 5.1 Soundbar apart. The real question is, by halving the system between a sound bar and a surround sound system, do you get the best of both worlds, or a device that really isn’t?

Build and Body

The JBL 5.1 Soundbar looks surprisingly cheap for its outrageous price tag. It’s mostly plastic in its design, and while it feels solid, the buttons and screen aren’t as slick as you’ll find on competitors like the Bose SoundTouch 300.

The core of the sound bar is wrapped in a perforated mesh, and disguises a small display that sits below it, just to the right of a small JBL logo.

On the top side are 4 manual buttons for power switch, input and volume source. Around the back are various inputs, three HDMI ports, one USB, one AUX, and one optical.

The satellite speakers plug into the edge of the sound bar very easily, creating a strong magnetic connection and follow the same design language as the rest of the unit. They look convincingly like traditional sound bars when plugged into the whole unit.

The soundbar is 58mm tall, meaning it will fit comfortably in front of most TVs, although it’s clearly designed to be attached to a wall below a screen. The box includes everything you need to mount the JBL Bar 5.1 to the wall.

There are even brackets for attaching the satellite speakers to the wall, but as these are removable, the main selling point of the unit, we can’t imagine why you’d want to. When connected as a unit, the JBL 5.1 soundbar sits at 1148mm, which is wide for a sound bar, so if you’re thinking of buying one, it’s definitely worth making sure you’ve got room for it.


Without a doubt, the JBL 5.1’s biggest selling point is its wireless surround sound capabilities. Setting up the system is remarkably easy: you unplug the satellite speakers, place them in your room where they’re going to sit, plug a small black microphone into the main sound bar, and then run auto-calibration, which will fill your room with a brief burst of loud and unpleasant white noise. with short bursts.

We tested its ability to put a surround sound system through its paces with famous films – Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and John Wick. With Mad Max, you will hear with perfect clarity the various whispering voices and soundtrack elements that are supposed to draw you into Max’s madness.

The balance was very satisfying, and immediately immersive, just as a good surround sound system should be. The sound quality supports trebles and bass (and we’ll get to that in more detail later) which meant the echo chamber of Rey’s revelations in Star Wars felt wide.

For the typical movie and TV viewing experience, the soundstage is optimized to bring out voices clearly, and it’s welcome in big action sequences where you can clearly hear heavy scoring and even gunfight dialogue in the case of John Wick.

The JBL 5.1 Soundbar can be paired with a device via Bluetooth to play music wirelessly, allowing it to double as a Bluetooth speaker. A button on the remote lets you easily switch back and forth between a wired and Bluetooth connection.

For us, this feature proved somewhat redundant, and the bar’s ‘intelligent’ switching whenever we used our phone during a movie meant that the sound often cut out in favor of the phone, even when nothing was playing on the phone.

Audio Performance

The JBL 5.1 Soundbar is clearly designed for a specific audience of movie fans. Bass power and sharp treble mean you get both satisfying room-rattling sound and crystal-clear dialogue.

This strength is also a weakness though, as it means it has weak mids, and the gap between mids and bass on some systems is very noticeable when you’re trying to listen to music on a sound bar.

This ultimately means you get loud, clear, bassy musical reproduction that lacks warmth. We found that the bar was more than capable of dealing with bass-heavy alt-pop like Maggie Rogers’ Alaska, but fell short on tracks that relied on warm mids.

If audio quality is important to you, you’re probably better off going for a system like the Samsung HW-MS650. It doesn’t have the surround sound features of Bar 5.1, but has an impressive dynamic range.

However, if you’re looking for an alternative to a wired-in surround sound system because you’re short on space, or you have the flexibility of not always having satellite speakers behind you, the JBL 5.1 Soundbar many helpful options.

Reasons We Like

Setting up the JBL 5.1 Soundbar is incredibly easy. It’s as easy as plug in and go, which certainly can’t be said for most surround sound systems.

Wireless speakers (both sub and satellite) synced seamlessly with the main sound bar, and calibrating the system was as easy as pressing a single button.

The speakers are capable of producing room-shaking volume without ever losing clarity, and the dedicated driver for voice means that dialogue is never muffled, something of a holy grail when it comes to TV audio.

Undoubtedly, the best thing about the JBL 5.1 Soundbar is the ability to immerse yourself in the audio world of a movie by popping a few rechargeable speakers behind your couch.

Reasons We Dislike

The range of musical reproduction is underwhelming, with weak mids and an obvious ‘still’ between what mids there are and the bass being produced by the subwoofer. But it’s also not the most attractive design, looking significantly cheaper than you’d expect for the price tag.


The JBL 5.1 Soundbar is a tough device to give a definite verdict on. We hate to recommend a device that handles music the way it does, but at the same time we’re so impressed with the ease of turning a sound bar into a fully wireless surround sound system that we have to recommend it.

If you’re the kind of person who wants to immerse yourself in the world of a movie with minimal cable and set-up, the JBL 5.1 soundbar is just what you’re looking for. It does a great job of conveying dialogue and throughout every film we tried.

We were deeply impressed with the surround sound capabilities. However, if you are someone who is going to use your sound bar as the main sound system in your living room, this is not the device for you.

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