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JBL Bar 500 Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.2
Reviewed Jul 10, 2023 at 08:36 am
Latest change: Writing modified Jul 10, 2023 at 08:36 am
JBL Bar 500 Picture

The JBL Bar 500 is a 5.1 setup released in 2023. It comes with the manufacturer's signature Smart Mode sound enhancement tool designed to bring a wider and more immersive feel to your audio content. It's turned on by default, so you hear it right out of the box, as well as any time you reboot the soundbar, which isn't ideal if you don't like the way it sounds. Still, you can always turn Smart Mode off if you prefer. As the bar's name suggests, though, it doesn't come with as many features as more premium models from the manufacturer, like the JBL Bar 1000 or the JBL Bar 1300X.

Our Verdict

N/A Mixed Usage

The JBL Bar 500 is very good for mixed usage. This versatile soundbar brings a clean, clear sound ideal for everything from dialogue-heavy sitcoms to bass-centric music like EDM. With a room correction tool on hand, its sound is optimized to the unique acoustic characteristics of your living room. It also supports most common audio formats, though it has to downmix height content like Dolby Atmos.

Pros
  • Extended low-bass.
  • Clear dialogue reproduction.
  • Room correction tool.
Cons
  • Downmixes Atmos content.
N/A Dialogue/TV Shows

The JBL Bar 500 is excellent for dialogue-centric podcasts and TV shows. With its discrete center channel, this soundbar can improve the overall vocal clarity in the mix. Its PureVoice dialogue enhancement feature ensures that you never miss a conversation on screen, either. You don't have to worry about lip-synching issues since the bar also offers low latency.

Pros
  • Clear dialogue reproduction.
  • Dialogue enhancement tool.
Cons
  • No bass and treble adjustments.
N/A Music

The JBL Bar 500 is very good for music. The even and balanced sound profile ensures that voices and lead instruments are reproduced with clarity and accuracy. The sub also brings the rumble in the bass, which is great for genres like EDM and hip-hop. You can use the room correction tool to automatically optimize its sound based on your room's unique acoustics or manually adjust its sound with its 3-band graphic EQ. Its soundstage isn't quite as wide as more premium models on the market, though, and turning on its Smart Mode feature with stereo content like music brings a fake and forced feel.

Pros
  • Extended low-bass.
  • Room correction tool.
Cons
  • No bass and treble adjustments.
N/A Movies

The JBL Bar 500 is good for movies. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, and the bar brings all the thump and rumble in action-packed scenes. With support for common audio formats like Dolby Digital, you can enjoy many movies on different streaming services and Blu-rays. However, it doesn't truly support Dolby Atmos content since it has to downmix it into stereo to play it back, which takes away from the overall immersive feel.

Pros
  • Extended low-bass.
  • Clear dialogue reproduction.
Cons
  • Downmixes Atmos content.
  • N/A Mixed Usage
  • N/A Dialogue/TV Shows
  • N/A Music
  • N/A Movies
  1. Updated Jul 10, 2023: Review published.
  2. Updated Jul 05, 2023: Early access published.
  3. Updated Jun 28, 2023: Our testers have started testing this product.
  4. Updated Jun 08, 2023: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  5. Updated May 23, 2023: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The JBL Bar 500 soundbar is available in Black. You can see the label for our tested model here.

That said, if you come across another version of this soundbar, don't hesitate to let us know in the forums so we can update this review.

Compared To Other Soundbars

This soundbar is a less-premium cousin to the JBL Bar 1000. This simple 5.1 setup lacks satellite speakers and doesn't have up-firing drivers for Dolby Atmos content. Still, it may be a good option for users who don't have room in their setup for satellites. It boasts the company's signature Smart Mode tool for a wider and more immersive sound, which you may or may not like, depending on your listening preferences.

You can also check out our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars for movies, and the best soundbars with a subwoofer.

JBL Bar 5.1 Surround

The JBL Bar 500 is better than the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. The 500 is a newer model that offers better sound quality, with a better stereo soundstage and better stereo dynamics. It can playback Dolby Atmos content, though it has to downmix it into stereo to do so. It offers more sound enhancement features as well.

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam

The JBL Bar 500 is better than the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam. The MultiBeam is a standalone soundbar that doesn't come with a dedicated subwoofer, and it can't reproduce as much bass as the 500. Plus, it doesn't have as many sound enhancement features, and it has some implementation issues with certain audio formats, like Dolby Digital, which takes away from the life-like experience intended by those who mix content in this format.

JBL Bar 1000

The JBL Bar 1000 is better than the JBL Bar 500. Both setups have similar features, such as the manufacturer's Smart Mode sound enhancement feature. However, the 1000 has satellite speakers, offering better surround sound. Plus, it has up-firing drivers for true Dolby Atmos support.

JBL Bar 1300X

The JBL Bar 1300X is a more premium setup than the JBL Bar 500. The 1300X comes with discrete satellite speakers that offer better surround sound. Since it comes with up-firing drivers, too, it offers true Dolby Atmos support, unlike the 500. That said, it does have some implementation issues with Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus content. Sound effects meant for the surround channels play from the bar simultaneously, reducing the overall life-like feel of this content.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style - Bar

The JBL Bar 500 is a simple soundbar with a sleek, all-black design. It's mostly made of plastic with a matte finish and has metal grilles covering the front and sides. The controls are on top, and the connection ports are in the back.

Design
Style - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Locked
Enclosure
Locked

The sub's design is similar to that of other JBL bars, like the JBL Bar 1000. It sits up on four plastic pegs. The speaker is located underneath, and the port is in the rear.

Design
Style - Satellites
Satellite Wireless
Locked
Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width Lock" (Lock cm)
Height Lock" (Lock cm)
Depth Lock" (Lock cm)

Since it's a wide bar, it doesn't fit between the legs of a 55-inch TV stand. Still, it's not very tall, so you don't have to worry about it blocking the bottom of your TV screen.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Width Lock" (Lock cm)
Height Lock" (Lock cm)
Depth Lock" (Lock cm)

The sub has a similar size to an average desktop computer. It's a little tall since it's elevated on four small pegs. You can move it around your room since it connects to the bar wirelessly.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A
Design
Mounting
Mountable Bar
Locked
Bar Brackets Included
Locked
Mountable Satellites
Locked
Satellite Brackets Included
Locked

You can also mount this soundbar to your wall using the included brackets.

N/A
Design
Build Quality

The JBL Bar 500 has a great build quality. The bar itself has a good-quality feel, with a solid and sturdy plastic exterior. The metal grilles help to protect the drivers inside, too. The sub also boasts a durable build.

Design
In The Box

  • Remote with 2x AAA batteries
  • HDMI cable (3.9 ft / 1.2m)
  • 2x Power cables (4.9 ft / 1.5m)
  • Mounting brackets and screws
  • Mounting template
  • Manuals

Sound
N/A
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
Channels
5.1
Low-Frequency Extension
Lock Hz
High-Frequency Extension
Lock kHz

The JBL Bar 500 has a great stereo frequency response. It offers a clean and clear sound that's suitable for listening to lots of different stereo audio. Music is detailed, accurately reproducing voices and lead instruments in the mids. It's a little boomy sometimes, but you enjoy a warm and punchy bass overall. That said, it does struggle a bit with more extended low-bass tracks, like the latter half of the song Stay from the Interstellar soundtrack.

This soundbar comes with JBL's Smart Mode feature, which is turned on by default every time you power up the bar. This tool is designed to bring a richer, fuller sound, and while you may enjoy it, we found that it brings a fake, forced quality to stereo sound. This is likely because it plays stereo sound through the left and right stereo channels as well as the left and right surround channels. This feature is more useful for watching movies since it's designed to enhance the listening experience by creating a wider and more immersive soundstage.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Locked
Suggested Bass Setting
Lock
Suggested Treble Setting
N/A
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
Low-Frequency Extension
Lock Hz
High-Frequency Extension
Lock kHz

The JBL Bar 500's subwoofer level is set to '3' by default. However, if you want a more neutral sound with stereo content, set it to '2'. The resulting sound profile is quite even and balanced, with a touch less boom in the bass.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
Lock dB

The stereo soundstage is decent. The soundstage seems like it's about the size of the bar itself when Smart Mode is off. If you turn Smart Mode on, the soundstage widens significantly, though it does sound a bit forced and fake with stereo content like music. On the upside, the focus is good, so instruments seem to come from pinpoint areas in the soundstage.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
Lock dB

The JBL Bar 500 gets loud enough to fill large, open spaces with sound. Audio reproduction remains clean and clear at max volume since there isn't a lot of compression present.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

Distortion falls within good limits when you listen at a normal volume. Audio reproduction is a little less clear when you push the bar to max volume, though, as there's a bit of distortion present. This is still pretty hard to hear with real-life content, though.

N/A
Sound
Center
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

This 5.1 setup has a discrete center channel to improve vocal clarity in the mix. Its frequency response is quite even and balanced, especially in the mids, where most dialogue is reproduced. As a result, it's easy to follow along with conversations on screen.

N/A
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock
7.1 Rears
Locked

The JBL Bar 500 doesn't come with discrete surround speakers. Instead, it uses front-firing drivers built into the bar itself to simulate a phantom surround by beaming sound effects into the space around you. The resulting sound isn't quite as clear or real. Still, sound effects are easy to hear, given the even and accurate frequency response on these channels.

N/A
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

The JBL Bar 500 has to downmix height content like Dolby Atmos into stereo to play it. Without dedicated height channels to beam sound effects throughout your living space, you don't get the same overall immersive feel, especially when Smart Mode is turned off. Effects are a bit boomy, too, due to the bass-heavy sound on these channels.

Subjectively, we found that this bar offers a better listening experience with height content when Smart Mode is turned on. Overall, you get a wider sense of the sound around you, and while it sounds exaggerated with some effects, it's quite pleasant. There's a good amount of rumble in the bass range, and the left and right sides are clearly delineated for a more life-like feel.

N/A
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
Locked
Dialogue Enhancement
Locked
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Locked
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
Locked
Bass Adjustment
Locked
Treble Adjustment
Locked
EQ
Locked
Surround Level Adjustment
Locked
Rear Level Adjustment
Locked
Height Level Adjustment
Locked
Virtual Surround
Locked

There's a decent selection of sound enhancement features. A room correction tool is on hand to automatically optimize the bar's sound to your room's unique acoustics. If you prefer to manually adjust its output, there's a 3-band graphic EQ in the JBL ONE app as well as a subwoofer level adjustment tool (it's listed on the remote as BASS, but since it only adjusts the subwoofer and not the bar, it's not considered a full bass adjustment tool).

Smart Mode is enabled by default, and so is the PureVoice dialogue enhancement tool when you play movies from the TV/HDMI In source. PureVoice is disabled if you stream music over Bluetooth, Chromecast built-in, or Apple AirPlay, though, so you'll have to manually turn it on to activate with that content.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Inputs/Outputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
Locked
HDMI Out
Locked
HDMI 2.1 Class Bandwidth
Locked
Full HDMI In
Locked
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
Locked
RCA In
Locked
USB for Files
Locked
Ethernet
Locked
Subwoofer Output
Locked

You can connect the JBL Bar 500 to your TV via HDMI or Optical. Its Full HDMI In port lets you passthrough video between sources like a TV and a PC. The US version of this soundbar also has a USB input for file playback.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: ARC/eARC
Dolby Atmos
Locked
Dolby Digital
Locked
Dolby Digital Plus
Locked
Dolby TrueHD
Locked
DTS
Locked
DTS:X
Locked
DTS-HD MA
Locked
PCM Channels
Locked

The bar supports many common audio formats via HDMI ARC. With Smart Mode Off, all content is implemented properly. However, when you turn Smart Mode On, it simultaneously activates both the left and right surrounds when listening to Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus content. For example, an effect meant to come from only the left channel plays on the right channel at the same time. This is common for JBL bars with this feature, and it means that sound effects aren't quite as accurate within the soundstage around you.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Locked
Dolby Digital
Locked
Dolby Digital Plus
Locked
Dolby TrueHD
Locked
DTS
Locked
DTS:X
Locked
DTS-HD MA
Locked
PCM Channels
Locked

The bar also supports many common audio formats found on streaming platforms via HDMI In. Again, if you turn Smart Mode on, you get incorrect implementation with Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus content. Effects meant for the left or the right surrounds alone play on both channels at the same time, so, for example, an object meant only for the right channel will play on the left channel at the same time. This reduces the life-like feel with surround sound when Smart Mode is on.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: Optical
Dolby Digital
Locked
DTS
Locked
PCM Channels
Locked

Dolby Digital is the most common surround sound format found on streaming services and Blu-rays, so it's great that the bar supports it over an Optical connection. The same implementation issue is present when you turn Smart Mode on, though, meaning that an effect meant for only the right or left channels plays on both at the same time. This takes away from the life-like quality of this content. If you don't want that, keep Smart Mode Off.

N/A
Connectivity
Latency
- SAMPLE -
Get Insider Access for videos & test results
JBL Bar 500 Latency Video Sample
ARC
Lock ms
Optical
Lock ms
Full HDMI In
Lock ms

The bar's latency performance is great. The audio you hear is in sync with the video on screen, and you don't have to worry about lip-synching issues. Some TVs and apps compensate for latency differently, though.

N/A
Connectivity
Video Passthrough To TV
1080p Max Refresh Rate
Locked
1080p @ 4:4:4 Max Refresh Rate
Locked
4k Max Refresh Rate
Locked
4k @ 120Hz @ 10-Bit
Locked
4k @ 4:4:4 Max Refresh Rate
Locked
8k Max Refresh Rate
Locked
HDR10 Passthrough
Locked
HDR10+ Passthrough
Locked
Dolby Vision Passthrough
Locked
HDMI Forum VRR Passthrough
Locked
FreeSync Passthrough
Locked
G-SYNC Passthrough
Locked
ALLM Passthrough
Locked

The JBL Bar 500 has a Full HDMI In port for video passthrough between your TV and other devices like a PC or a gaming console. It supports many common resolutions and refresh rates that you're likely to find on these platforms. It can even passthrough a 4k signal @ 120Hz @ 4:2:0, which is impressive. Some variable refresh rate technologies are supported, too, which you can use for a tear-free gaming experience.

N/A
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Locked
Wi-Fi Playback
Locked
Chromecast built-in
Locked
Apple AirPlay
Locked
Spotify Connect
Locked

Streaming audio from your mobile devices to the bar is easy since it supports many wireless connections.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Locked

A display in the front of the bar shows various settings as you adjust them, like the volume level, the input, and the subwoofer level.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

A few simple controls on top of the bar let you adjust its basic features, like the volume and the input.

Additional Features
Remote

The bar comes with a simple remote control to adjust its basic features. You can also download the JBL ONE app if you prefer to adjust it from your smartphone.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
Locked
Google Assistant
Locked
Apple Siri
Locked
Microphone Mute
Locked

The bar doesn't have built-in voice assistant capabilities. You can connect a third-party device with Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant support to control it with your voice.