JBL Bar 5.1 Surround Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Oct 29, 2020 at 08:23 am
JBL Bar 5.1 Surround Picture
7.1
Mixed Usage
7.7
Dialogue/TV Shows
7.2
Music
6.6
Movies
Channels
5.1

The JBL Bar 5.1 Surround is a 5.1 setup that uses 'Multibeam' technology to improve its surround performance without having to use rear satellites. Its sound profile delivers a punchy and boomy bass suitable for action flicks and EDM music. It also has room correction and you can even stream music to the bar using a variety of wireless options. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos and it has limited EQ options. 

Our Verdict

7.1 Mixed Usage

The JBL Bar 5.1 is alright for mixed use. This soundbar delivers a punchy and boomy sound suitable for bass-heavy music and action-packed movies. However, it only has two EQ presets and it doesn't support Atmos. While it can also get loud enough for a large or crowded room, there's also thumping and compression artifacts at max volume. On the upside, you can use this bar as a hub between your TV and other devices. It also has room correction to help improve its sound.

Pros
  • Outstanding wireless connectivity options.
  • Room correction available.
Cons
  • Only two EQ presets.
  • No Atmos support.
  • Thumping and compression artifacts present at max volume.
7.7 Dialogue/TV Shows

The JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar is okay for dialogue and TV shows. It can produce fairly clear and accurate dialogue. However, it lacks a dialogue enhancement feature to further improve vocal clarity. On the upside, it has an auto-volume mode available. You can also stream your favorite podcasts or audiobooks to the bar with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast built-in, and Apple AirPlay.

Pros
  • Outstanding wireless connectivity options.
  • Room correction available.
Cons
  • Only two EQ presets.
  • No dialogue enhancement feature.
7.2 Music

The JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar is fair for music. It has a boomy sound suitable for your favorite EDM songs. However, its treble is a bit dark and veiled, and there's only two EQ presets, so there's not a lot of customization available. It has room correction though, which can help improve its sound depending on your room. You can also stream albums using a variety of different wireless connectivity options. While it can get loud enough for a large or crowded room, there are thumping and compression artifacts at max volume.

Pros
  • Outstanding wireless connectivity options.
  • Room correction available.
Cons
  • Only two EQ presets.
  • Thumping and compression artifacts present at max volume.
6.6 Movies

The JBL Bar 5.1 is okay for movies. Although this soundbar doesn't support Atmos, it has a punchy and boomy sound profile suitable for action flicks. It also comes with one EQ preset designed to further bring out sound effects.

Pros
  • Outstanding wireless connectivity options.
  • Room correction available.
Cons
  • Only two EQ presets.
  • No Atmos support.
  • Thumping and compression artifacts present at max volume.
  • 7.1 Mixed Usage
  • 7.7 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 7.2 Music
  • 6.6 Movies
  1. Updated Feb 18, 2021: Updated Surround score to reflect that the bar has phantom surround.
  2. Updated Feb 09, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.0.
  3. Updated Jan 13, 2021: Due to a change in our methodology, we updated DTS support via ARC to 'No'.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The JBL Bar 5.1 Surround is a 5.1 setup from this manufacturer's 2019 lineup. Unlike the JBL Bar 5.1 and other JBL soundbars released that year, the 5.1 Surround uses 'Multibeam' technology to improve its surround performance without the need for satellites. It competes with Samsung HW-Q60T, the JBL Bar 3.1, and the Samsung HW-Q70R.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar is a sleek soundbar with a matte black finish. Its front and sides are covered by a fine metal grille.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The subwoofer of this soundbar sits on four plastic pegs as the speaker is located underneath. This subwoofer is made from black melamine which makes it look sleek.

Design
Style - Satellites

This soundbar doesn't have satellites.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width 40.0" (101.6 cm)
Height 2.3" (5.8 cm)
Depth 3.9" (9.8 cm)

This soundbar most likely won't fit between the legs of a 55" TV. However, it's not very tall so it shouldn't block the bottom of your TV screen unless it sits flush to the table.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Width 12.0" (30.5 cm)
Height 17.3" (44.0 cm)
Depth 12.0" (30.5 cm)

The subwoofer is a bit tall since it has small legs to elevate it from the ground. However, it's about as large as a standard desktop PC.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A

There are no satellites in this setup.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting
Universal (holes on underside)

The back of this bar has one opening for its power cable as well as its inputs. There are also universal holes on its underside so that you can wall-mount it.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

The back of the subwoofer is pretty plain. It has a port on the top of its back and the power cable is located below it.

Design
Back - Satellites
Mounting
No

There are no satellites in this setup.

8.0
Design
Build Quality

The JBL Bar 5.1 has a great build quality. It has a sturdy plastic body with a fine metal grille to protect its front and sides. In comparison, the subwoofer's body is made of melamine and has four legs to raise the sub since the speaker is located underneath it.

Design
In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
1.2 m (3.9 ft)
Digital Optical Cable Length
N/A

  • Remote with 2x AAA batteries
  • HDMI cable
  • 2x Power cables
  • Mounting brackets and screws
  • Mounting template
  • Manuals

Sound
7.8
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Standard
Slope
-0.89
Std. Err.
3.56 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
33.6 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
17.7 kHz

This soundbar's stereo frequency response is decent. It can produce a punchy, boomy bass suitable for action flicks or EDM music. Although its treble is a bit dark and veiled in comparison, it should still be suitable for most audio content. That said, if you want to tweak its sound, there's a 'Smart Mode' EQ available.

7.8
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Standard
Suggested Bass Setting
3
Suggested Treble Setting
N/A
Slope
-0.89
Std. Err.
3.56 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
33.6 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
17.7 kHz
6.5
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
2.92 dB

The JBL Bar 5.1's stereo soundstage is alright. It's a little bit wider than the bar but the bar doesn't do any tricks to make it sound any wider. The soundstage doesn't seem very focused either and objects seem to be coming from a general area rather than coming from precise pinpoint locations.

7.1
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
94.9 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
3.44 dB

The JBL Bar 5.1 has decent stereo dynamics. While it can get loud enough to fill a large or crowded room, if you push this bar to its max volume, there's pumping and compression artifacts, especially in the bass range.

8.2
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.26
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.18

The JBL Bar 5.1 has a great THD performance. It has a low amount of THD at a normal listening volume. While there's a small jump in THD if you push this bar to its max volume, it's quite little. Most people may not even hear any harmonic distortion with their real-life content.

8.1
Sound
Center
Localization
Discrete
Slope
-0.44
Std. Err.
3.76 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
92.0 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.32
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.98

The JBL Bar 5.1 has an excellently-performing center channel. Since it has a dedicated center channel, it can reproduce clear and accurate dialogue.

6.0
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Phantom (Front Firing, Bar)
Slope
-0.92
Std. Err.
3.54 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
94.5 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.24
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.16
7.1 Rears
No

Update 02/18/2021: We updated the results to reflect that this soundbar has phantom front-firing speakers.

The JBL Bar 5.1 has a mediocre surround performance. It uses phantom front-firing speakers to simulate a surround object in the soundstage, but this doesn't sound as real as discrete surround speakers.

0
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Not Supported
Slope
N/A
Std. Err.
N/A
SPL @ Max Volume
N/A
Weighted THD @ 80dB
N/A
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
N/A

This soundbar doesn't have height channels and doesn't support Atmos.

6.0
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
Yes
Dialogue Enhancement
No
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Yes
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
Yes
Bass Adjustment
No
Treble Adjustment
No
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
No
Rear Level Adjustment
No
Height Level Adjustment
No
Virtual Surround
Yes

The JBL Bar 5.1 has okay sound enhancement features. It has only two EQ presets: 'Smart Mode', which helps improve sound effects, and 'Standard', which turns Smart Mode off. There's also room correction as well as night mode. While there's no dialogue enhancement feature available, the manufacturer recommends using 'Standard' mode for vocal-centric content to reduce sound effects. Consider the Monoprice SB-600 or the Samsung HW-Q65T if you want a bar with more sound enhancement features.

Night mode isn't mentioned anywhere in the manual. However, it can be triggered by pressing 'Mute' on the remote for two seconds followed by pressing the volume down button to toggle this feature on and off.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Physical Inputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
1
HDMI ARC
1 (shared)
HDMI Out
1 (shared)
Full HDMI In
1
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
No
RCA In
No
USB for Files
No
Ethernet
1

This soundbar has a wide array of physical inputs. You can even use the bar as a hub for multiple devices like your TV and gaming console. USB playback is only available via the US version of this soundbar. Other regional variants can only use this USB port for updating the soundbar's firmware.

6.6
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
No
DTS:X (eARC only)
No
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
No
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
No
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
No

Update 01/13/2021: We re-evaluated our methodology for ARC support and concluded that DTS and Dolby Digital+ support should be reported the same over an ARC connection as over an HDMI IN and Optical connection, so we updated our results for DTS support from "Yes" to "No". Some TVs, like the one we initially used for testing, may convert this content, but other TV brands may not. Ultimately, your experience may vary depending on your TV.

This soundbar has good audio format support via its HDMI ARC port. While it doesn't support eARC or Dolby Atmos, it can play content like Dolby Digital content, which is commonly found on Blu-ray discs.

6.9
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
No
DTS:X
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
No
Dolby TrueHD
No
DTS-HD MA
No
5.1 PCM
No

The JBL Bar 5.1 has fair audio format support via its Full HDMI In port. It can play Dolby Digital content, which is commonly found on Blu-ray discs. However, for this bar to play Dolby Digital Plus content, it has to encode and downmix it into DD 2.0.

6.0
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Optical
Dolby Digital
Yes
DTS
No

This soundbar only supports Dolby Digital content via its Optical In port. This format is found on many streaming platforms as well as Blu-ray discs.

7.2
Connectivity
Latency
ARC
121 ms
Optical
98 ms
Full HDMI In
-14 ms
10
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
Yes
Chromecast built-in
Yes
Apple AirPlay
Yes

This bar has fantastic wireless playback options. This soundbar supports all common wireless playback options without a problem, so you can stream your favorite tracks or albums to the bar wirelessly.

Connectivity
Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
Yes
HDR10 Passthrough
Yes

The JBL Bar 5.1 can passthrough the highest bandwidth signals when connected between your PC and TV. The result is text that looks crisp and clear on your TV.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The subwoofer wirelessly connects to the bar but you still need to connect it to a power source.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
No

There are no satellites in this setup.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Yes

The interface is located on the right side of the bar, behind the metal grille. It displays your volume level, inputs, and subwoofer level. It also lets you know when you're on standby mode.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

This bar has controls on its top side. You can turn the bar on/off, adjust volume, and switch inputs.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The JBL Bar 5.1 has a simple remote that controls all of the bar's functions. However, it doesn't have play/pause or track skipping.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
No
Google Assistant
No
Apple Siri
No
Additional Features
App
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
Acts As A Remote
No
Controls Soundbar's Settings
No
Casts Device Files
No

This soundbar doesn't have a companion app.

Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
Standby
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Yes

The JBL Bar 5.1 goes into standby mode after 10 minutes of inactivity. Since it also supports HDMI CEC, you can use your TV remote to control the bar's basic functions.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The JBL Bar 5.1 Surround comes in one color variant: Black. You can see its label here. Note that JBL also manufactures another soundbar called the JBL Bar 5.1 which comes with two detachable wireless satellites. However, we have not tested this variant and we expect it to perform differently than our test unit. 

If you come across a variant of this soundbar that's different from our test unit, please let us know and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The JBL Bar 5.1 Surround is a 5.1 setup from this manufacturer's 2020 lineup. Compared to the JBL Bar 5.1, this soundbar doesn't use any satellite speakers and instead, uses 'Multibeam' technology alongside discrete speakers in the bar itself to improve the bar's surround performance without satellites. However, unlike many other 5.1 setups, it doesn't support Atmos. It also has limited sound enhancement features. Check out our recommendations for the best soundbars for music, the best soundbars 5.1, and the best soundbars with subwoofer.

JBL Bar 9.1

The JBL Bar 9.1 is a better performing soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Bar 9.1 is a 5.1.4 setup with detachable wireless satellites and a more neutral and balanced sound profile. Its center and surround performances are much better too, and it supports Atmos as well as eARC. It also supports a wider array of audio formats over its physical inputs.

Samsung HW-Q800A

The Samsung HW-Q800A is a better soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Samsung is a 3.1.2 setup with a better soundstage performance that gets louder with less compression at max volume. Unlike the JBL, it supports Dolby Atmos content, and it comes with a graphic EQ and built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant support. However, the 5.1 JBL has a better surrounds performance, and it comes with a room correction feature and more wireless playback options.

Sonos Arc

The Sonos Arc is a better soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Sonos offers better soundstage and Atmos performances. It can also be upgraded to the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers for better performance. However, the JBL's dedicated sub reproduces a more extended low-bass, and it comes with EQ presets and a Full HDMI In port.

Samsung HW-Q800T

The Samsung HW-Q800T is a better soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Samsung is a 3.1.2 setup that supports Atmos content and comes with a graphic EQ. It has a more neutral sound profile out-of-the-box and a better soundstage performance. It also gets louder with less compression at max volume. That said, the 5.1 JBL has a better surrounds performance and comes with a room correction feature and more wireless playback support.

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround or the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam. The 5.1 Surround comes with a dedicated subwoofer, so it can reproduce a much more extended low-bass. The 5.0 MultiBeam has a more compact design, as well as better soundstage and Atmos performances.

Samsung HW-Q600A

The Samsung HW-Q600A is a better overall soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Samsung supports Dolby Atmos content, and it offers a better soundstage performance. It also comes with more sound enhancement features, including a graphic EQ, a dialogue enhancement feature, and bass and treble adjustments. However, the JBL offers a better surround performance and supports more wireless playback options. It also comes with a room correction feature, unlike the Samsung.

Samsung HW-Q70T

The Samsung HW-Q70T is a better overall performing soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Samsung is a 3.1.2 setup with a better-balanced sound profile. It can get louder with fewer compression artifacts, and it supports Atmos as well as eARC. It also has a graphic EQ and a companion app. However, the JBL is a 5.1 with a room correction feature and an Ethernet port.

Sony HT-G700

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the Sony HT-G700 or the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The JBL is a 5.1 setup that's better built and supports more wireless playback options. It reproduces a more extended low-bass and offers a better surround performance. Also, it comes with a room correction feature, unlike the Sony. However, the 3.1 Sony supports Dolby Atmos content, making it a better choice for some movie fans.

Samsung HW-Q60T

The Samsung HW-Q60T and the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround are both 5.1 setups, but you may prefer one over the other. The Samsung offers a graphic EQ plus presets and supports more audio formats via its Optical In port. However, the JBL has a more balanced default sound profile. It also has room correction, and it supports more wireless playback options.

Sony HT-Z9F

The Sony HT-Z9F is a better overall soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Sony is a 3.1 setup that supports Atmos and offers a full array of physical inputs that support common audio formats. However, the JBL is a 5.1 setup with room correction. You can also stream audio to it using Apple AirPlay.

LG SN9YG

The LG SN9YG is a better soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The LG is a 5.1.2 setup that supports Atmos and has a better-balanced sound profile. It offers more sound enhancement features and supports more audio formats across its physical inputs. The JBL, on the other hand, has a better center channel performance. You can also wirelessly stream audio to it using Apple AirPlay.

Sonos Beam

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the Sonos Beam or the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Sonos is a 3.0 setup that offers a better soundstage performance. It also comes with a dialogue enhancement feature and built-in voice assistant support, unlike the JBL. However, the 5.1 JBL comes with a dedicated subwoofer, so it reproduces a more extended low-bass. It also offers a better surround performance and comes with EQ presets, a Full HDMI In port that supports high-quality passthrough, and more wireless playback options.

Samsung HW-Q70R

The Samsung HW-Q70R is a better overall soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Samsung is a 3.1.2 setup that has a better-balanced sound profile, supports Atmos as well as eARC, and has a graphic EQ. It can support all common audio formats over its HDMI In and Optical In ports. However, you can wirelessly stream to the JBL using Chromecast built-in or Apple AirPlay.

Samsung HW-Q65T

The Samsung HW-Q65T is a better soundbar than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The Samsung comes with discrete surround speakers that offer a better surrounds performance. It also has a better soundstage performance and more sound enhancement features, including a graphic EQ, bass and treble adjustments, and a dialogue enhancement mode. However, the JBL comes with a room correction feature and more wireless playback options.

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