JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos (Review)

The JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam soundbar tells it refreshingly like it is – virtual Dolby Atmos effects, not a Jurassic Park dinosaur stomping through the living room or other marketing hype.

It is for those with Dolby Atmos TV (or not) that simply want to improve that crappy TV sound and take advantage of the PCM or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound that comes with most streaming video.

In essence, it is a $599, 5 x 50W (250W), 5.0 soundbar with some advanced features like HDMI eARC (out), separate HDMI in, Sound calibration, Wi-Fi/Ethernet, Bluetooth/Chromecast, AirPlay2, multi-room capability, and a JBL Smart mode that adjusts the EQ to video and audio content.

Design-wise there are three forward-facing 48mm x 80mm racetrack drivers (speakers) – Left/Right/Centre and two Left/Right side-firing (ditto). It has four 75mmm passive bass radiators that fire up and down via the end grills on the top and underside.

The result is some punchy mid-bass from 50Hz (not room shaking – you need a separate sub-woofer for that), excellent left/right separation, clear vocals from the dedicated centre channel (good for hearing impaired), and surround sound, the effectiveness of which really depends on your room size.

JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos Model JBLBAR50MBBLKAS

Websitehere
Price$599.95
FromJBL online and major CE retailers
Warranty1-year ACL
Country of ManufactureChina
CompanyJBL (Est. the mid-40s) is short for James B Lansing (Yes, he was the Lansing in Altec Lansing.) Now it’s part of the Harman group of companies owned by Samsung.
MoreCyberShack JBL news and reviews and soundbar reviews

Consumer advice

I want to hark back to the outrageous claims made by many soundbar makers. Dolby Atmos (DA) is a much used and abused term – even a single speaker toaster claims DA! If you want to know more, read our How to buy a soundbar that meets your needs? (guide) and Five tips for better TV sound – Dolby Atmos for beginners (guide)

All single all-in-one DA soundbars use psychoacoustic trickery to hack our ears into thinking that sound has come from overhead, beside or behind. In reality, it only works (to a degree) in the right kind of room. One with standard height ceilings and nearby left and right walls that create a little sound bubble over where you sit.

First impression – Exceed

Nice grey metallic finish. It is 709x 58x 101mm x 2.8kg, and it packs a lot of punch. It can be wall-mounted (brackets supplied). It also has a basic remote control, and you can use most TV remotes too. The manual is comprehensive. 

Setup – Exceed – no app required but you will need the remote control

  • Plugin the power
  • Connect the 1.2 metre, HDMI 2.1 cable supplied (or use your existing one if it is 2.0b or 2.1 standard) from HDMI OUT/eARC/ARC to the TV HDMI eARC/ARC port. You can also use the older Optical style cable.
  • The TV should recognise the soundbar and let it take over. If not, you adjust the TV settings to use external audio instead of the TV speakers.

You connect to Wi-Fi 5 (Use Google Home, Alexa or Siri) or use the Ethernet port (easiest) to enable multi-room and Airplay2. There is no option to add Wi-Fi via a WPS switch manually.

Room Calibration – Pass

Finally, press the remote-control calibration button to tune it to the room. Again, JBL makes it clear that the left/right walls need to be <4m apart and a viewing distance of 2.5-3.0m for the best surround. If you are outside that bubble, you get a good 3.0 effect.

DA – does it succeed? – Pass

Yes and no. JBL doesn’t try to fool you like so many soundbar makers.

The DA decoder downmixes its metadata to the 5 channels. If you have the right room, it does a creditable job converting DA to 2D spatial surround and some 3D height focusing on ‘bathing’ you in sound.

It also has a switch to turn off DA and focus on PCM/Dolby Digital (no DTS). It really produces excellent surround sound.

You will not get better sound at this price, and it does a great job enhancing the TV sound, especially in the wide-open spaces of many Aussie lounge rooms.

How does it sound? Exceed

Mid-bass kicks in at 50Hz, building solidly to 64Hz, and then it is flat up to 8kHz. It then dips to avoid harshness and then recovers and slowly declines to 20khz.

It covers the critical mid-bass, where you get all the musically important bass. It covers mid where the action is, especially the human voice (1-4khz). And it has low/middle/high treble to define the sound character and give directionality.

This is a JBL neutral sound signature; the audiophile standard is a flat (good) response that neither adds nor subtracts from the original music! The only issue here is garbage-in, garbage out – the better the music quality, the better it sounds.

You can read more about sound signatures and our tests: How to tell if you have good music (a sound signature is the key – guide).

The maximum volume without noticeable harmonic distortion is 80dB, but you can push it to over 90dB (1% THD) with good quality content. The sound stage is wide, courtesy of the side-firing speakers.

CyberShack’s view JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos is a real step up from TV sound.

JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam is what you should buy to get faux Dolby Atmos on a budget (if you have a DA TV). It is also what you should buy if you have a non-DA TV, as it adds so much to typical crappy speakers.

If money is tight, then the $279.95 JBL Bar 2.0 will make said TV sound much better (not recommended for the hearing impaired as it does not have the centre 3.0 channel). And if you have more budget, the $999 JBL Bar 5.1 with discrete rear speakers is superb as it does not use psychoacoustics.

You can see the range here, and you may like to consider one with a subwoofer. Add to that it is multi-voice assistant capable, Chromecast, AirPlay2 and more, and you have great speakers to stream music to.

Competition

There is some generic 3.1 competition, but the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is the closest competitor at $699.

JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos JBLBAR50MBBLKAS

$599.95
8.5

Features

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Performance

8.5/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

8.5/10

Pros

  • Room calibration makes a real difference to the out-of-the-box sound
  • Gets loud
  • Has a centre speaker for clear voice no dialogue enhancement
  • It is virtual Dolby Atmos – not immersive DA
  • HDMI In, Chromecast, Bluetooth, AirPlay2 and Wi-Fi multi-room music

Cons

  • Virtual DA is fine for most until you experience real 5.1.2 or greater Dolby Atmos


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