JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Aug 10, 2020 at 08:42 am
JBL Bar 9.1 Picture
8.1
Mixed Usage
8.2
Dialogue/TV Shows
8.0
Music
8.2
Movies
Channels
5.1.4

Note 09/11/2020: Thanks to user input, we have verified the claim that this soundbar upmixes all content into 5.1.4 audio. If you're listening to a stereo file, it plays from the bar's front and top speakers as well as from the front and top of its satellites. Even files such as Dolby Digital play on all speakers, including its up-firing channels. That said, this verification doesn't impact our scoring.

The JBL Bar 9.1 is an impressive 5.1.4 setup. It has two detachable satellite speakers that can play your favorite audio wirelessly from anywhere in your room. Although we don't currently test for it, the satellites are advertised as having up to ten hours of continuous playback time and charge when reconnected to the bar or by micro-USB. There's also a subwoofer, which helps to give this bar a bit more thump and punch. The rest of the sound profile is very balanced, making it a good choice for any kind of content, from audiobooks to action flicks. It even has a full range of physical inputs so it supports Atmos and DTS, and there are several ways to connect to it wirelessly.

Our Verdict

8.1 Mixed Usage

The JBL Bar 9.1 is great for mixed use. It has a balanced sound profile right out-of-the-box with just a touch of extra bass, thanks to its subwoofer. Its detachable satellites also help to create a more immersive listening experience, whether you're listening to music or movies. While it can get loud enough for a large or crowded room, there's some compression at max volume. Still, it can reproduce dialogue clearly and accurately, and you can stream podcasts or audiobooks directly to the bar via a variety of wireless connections.

Pros
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
  • Can get loud.
  • Supports Atmos for an immersive experience.
  • Completely wireless subs can play audio while charging.
Cons
  • No graphic EQ and limited EQ presets.
8.2 Dialogue/TV Shows

The JBL Bar 9.1 is great for dialogue and TV shows. While it doesn't have a dialogue enhancement feature, it has a neutral sound profile capable of producing clear and accurate dialogue. It also has a lot of wireless connectivity options including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast built-in, and Apple AirPlay, so you can stream your favorite podcasts directly to the bar.

Pros
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
  • Full wireless connectivity options.
  • Completely wireless subs can play audio while charging.
Cons
  • No dialogue enhancement feature.
8.0 Music

The JBL Bar 9.1 is very good for music. It has a balanced sound profile that, thanks to its subwoofer, packs a bit of bass. While it has limited sound enhancement features and there's no specific music EQ preset, you can still adjust the bass levels. Still, this bar can get loud enough to fill a large room or a crowded environment like a house party, although there's some compression at max volume. There's also a room correction feature that can further improve audio reproduction to fit the room you're in.

Pros
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
  • Can get loud.
  • Completely wireless subs can play audio while charging.
Cons
  • No graphic EQ and limited EQ presets.
8.2 Movies

The JBL Bar 9.1 is impressive for movies. It has a well-balanced sound profile with a touch of bass, so you're able to better feel each explosion in an action movie, and it can get loud enough to fill a large room. Its satellites also help to create a more immersive experience, especially for Atmos content, and it has excellent surround performance as well. That being said, this soundbar doesn't have many sound enhancement features like a graphic EQ, which some users may find limiting. There's also some compression at max volume.

Pros
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
  • Can get loud.
  • Supports Atmos for an immersive experience.
  • Completely wireless subs can play audio while charging.
Cons
  • No graphic EQ and limited EQ presets.
  • 8.1 Mixed Usage
  • 8.2 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 8.0 Music
  • 8.2 Movies
  1. Update 9/21/2020: The Dynamics tests have been reconducted due to a value input bug.
  2. Update 9/11/2020: Verified audio upmixing claims made by a user.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The JBL Bar 9.1 True Wireless Surround with Dolby Atmos is a high-end 5.1.4 soundbar from JBL's 2020 lineup. This soundbar has a unique set of truly wireless satellites that use 4-pin connectors to connect into the bar's sides to charge, which isn't really like any of the bars we've tested so far. It also offers an immersive experience as it supports Atmos content. Its main competitors are the Samsung HW-Q90R, the Vizio SB4514-F6, and the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar is a sleek black bar with detachable satellite speakers. It has a metal top and front while its speakers are protected by a fine metal grill. Without the satellites attached, you can see their 4-pin connectors.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The subwoofer of this soundbar is elevated by four plastic peg legs as its speaker is located underneath. Its black melamine body helps to keep it sleek and minimal-looking.

Design
Style - Satellites

The JBL Bar 9.1 uses truly wireless satellite speakers that are made from hard plastic and metal. They can be attached to the bar or placed around the room. Their furthest edges are curved with a metal grill-like mesh to protect the speakers, which also helps to give it a sleek look.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width 34.8" (88.4 cm)
Bar Height 2.3" (5.8 cm)
Bar Depth 4.7" (11.9 cm)

The JBL Bar 9.1 can fit between the legs of a 55" TV, provided you don't have its two satellite speakers connected to it. It's not too tall, so it shouldn't block out the bottom of your TV screen unless it sits flush on the table.

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

While the footprint of the subwoofer is pretty average-sized and is about the same as a standard desktop PC, it's a bit taller than most other subwoofers as it has small legs.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Sat Width 6.8" (17.3 cm)
Sat Height 2.2" (5.6 cm)
Sat Depth 4.7" (12.0 cm)

The satellites are long instead of tall, but they still have a small footprint. They're also completely wireless, so they don't need to be wired to anything to work, as long as they have battery life left.

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

The back of the JBL Bar 9.1 has one opening for the power cable and inputs. There are also universal holes on its underside if you want to wall-mount it. Luckily, JBL includes wall-mounting supplies like brackets, screws, and a template in-the-box, which is nice.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

The back of the subwoofer is very plain. It has a port at the top of its back and the power cable is found below it.

Design
Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
Proprietary

The back of the JBL Bar 9.1's satellites have a small groove so you can add an adapter for attaching a bracket for wall-mounting them. The bracket, screws, and wall-mounting template are all included in-the-box.

8.0
Design
Build Quality

The JBL Bar 9.1 has a great build quality. Its top and front sides are made of metal, which helps to protect its speakers while giving it a sleek look. While the rear and bottom are made of plastic, it feels sturdy and durable. The subwoofer, in comparison, sits elevated on four plastic pegs, as the speaker is located on its underside. It's made from melamine, which feels durable. The satellites are made from the same material as the bar and have similar metal grill-type mesh on its top, front, and sides. Both satellites are truly wireless and you can easily charge them by connecting back to the sides of the bar, or by micro-USB. You can even use them while charging, which is a handy feature.

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

  • Remote with 2x AAA batteries
  • HDMI cable
  • Power cable for subwoofer
  • 2x L-shape wall-mount brackets (for the main bar)
  • 2x U-shape wall-mount brackets (for the satellites)
  • Mounting screws
  • Mounting template
  • Manuals

Sound
8.1
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
-0.29
ST Std. Err.
2.42 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
34.1 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
13.9 kHz

The JBL Bar 9.1's stereo frequency response is great. When set to 'Standard' mode and with room correction on, the bass is present and thumpy, which is well-suited for action movies or bass-heavy music. The rest of the response is very accurate and neutral. If you don't like the way it sounds, there's also a few EQ presets that you can use to find the best sound for your needs. There's also a room correction feature available, which can help improve audio reproduction to better fit your room.

Sound
Stereo Raw Frequency Response
8.0
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
3.22 dB

The JBL Bar 9.1's stereo soundstage is very good. It seems to be about as wide as the bar, but the bar doesn't do much to make it sound any wider. That being said, the soundstage's focus is good, so you can easily pinpoint where sound is coming from.

7.7
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
95.0 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
2.10 dB

Update 09/21/2020: We've discovered a value input bug that would cause the Dynamics box results to be slightly off. All soundbars reviewed since January 30th, 2020 have been updated.

The JBL Bar 9.1 has good stereo dynamics. It can get loud enough for a large room or a crowded environment like a house party. However, there's some thumping and compression artifacts present at max volume.

8.2
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
0.22
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.73

The JBL 9.1's THD performance is great. At a normal listening volume, there's a low amount of THD, resulting in clean and accurate sound. However, when pushed to max volume, there's a small jump in THD, particularly in the bass range. That being said, most people may not hear any harmonic distortion with real-life content.

9.1
Sound
Center
C Localization
Discrete
C Slope
-0.04
C Std. Err.
2.48 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
94.3 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
0.29
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.60

The JBL Bar 9.1 is a 5.1.4 setup with an outstanding center channel performance. Thanks to its dedicated center speaker, dialogue and vocals in your favorite content sound clear and accurate. It gets pretty loud, which is nice as well.

8.9
Sound
Surrounds
Sr Localization
Discrete
Rears
Yes
Sr Slope
-0.44
Sr Std. Err.
3.16 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
97.8 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
0.23
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.79

The JBL Bar 9.1 True Wireless Surround with Dolby Atmos' surround performance is amazing. Thanks to its 5.1.4 setup, it has dedicated surround speakers that produce an accurate localization of objects in its soundstage.

6.3
Sound
Height (Atmos)
H Localization
Phantom (Up Firing, Bar & Satellites)
H Slope
-1.12
H Std. Err.
5.35 dB
H SPL @ Max Volume
89.7 dB SPL
H Weighted THD @ 80
1.04
H Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.63

The JBL Bar 9.1's Atmos performance is passable. It plays sound from the bar's top speakers as well as its satellite speakers, which helps to bounce sound off the ceiling and reflect it back to the listener to create a more immersive experience. However, it doesn't sound as real as discrete up-firing speakers like those in a dedicated home theatre setup.

5.7
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
Yes
Dialogue Enhancement
No
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Yes
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
No
Bass Adjustment
Yes
Treble Adjustment
No
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
Yes
Rear Level Adjustment
Yes
Height Level Adjustment
Yes
Virtual Surround
Yes

The JBL Bar 9.1 has disappointing sound enhancement features. It has three EQ presets: 'Smart Mode' for rich sound effects, 'Standard', and 'Night Mode'. While it doesn't have a dialogue enhancement feature, the manufacturer recommends using the 'Standard' EQ to help reduce sound effects. There's also a room correction feature, which can further improve audio reproduction, but other than being able to tweak the bass as well as rear and height levels, that's about it for features.

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
USB for Files
No
Ethernet
1

The JBL Bar 9.1 has several physical inputs and you can even use it as a hub for multiple devices like a gaming system and your TV. However, while there's a USB port, USB playback is only available on the US version of this soundbar. All other regional versions can only use the USB for updating the soundbar's firmware.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
Yes
Dolby Atmos
Yes
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
DTS:X (eARC only)
Yes
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
Yes
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
Yes
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
Yes

Thanks to its HDMI ARC port, it can support all common formats. It also supports eARC, so it can play object-based surround signals and lossless formats.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Yes
DTS:X
Yes
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
Dolby TrueHD
Yes
DTS-HD MA
Yes
5.1 PCM
Yes

Thanks to its Full HDMI In port, you can use the JBL Bar 9.1 as a hub between external devices like a Blu-ray disc player and your TV. It supports all common audio formats including Dolby Atmos and DTS content too, which is great for movie lovers.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Optical
Dolby Digital
Yes
DTS
Yes

The JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar supports Dolby Digital and DTS content via its optical port. This content is usually found on streaming content as well as Blu-ray discs.

10
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
Yes
Chromecast built-in
Yes
Apple AirPlay
Yes

The JBL Bar 9.1 has incredible wireless playback options. No matter how you like to wirelessly stream content, you can cast it to the soundbar without a problem.

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 9.1 can be used as a hub between your TV and another source like your PC to play 4k content at 60Hz. Text looks crisp and clear on a 4k TV.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The subwoofer connects wirelessly to the bar but it still needs to be connected to a power source.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
Yes

The JBL Bar 9.1's satellites are completely wireless and don't require a power cable at all. They're advertised to last up to 10 hours before they need to be recharged, and they can be recharged by connecting them back to the bar or by micro-USB. They can also play audio while charging.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Yes

The JBL Bar 9.1's interface is located behind the metal mesh grill. It displays the volume level, as well as bass and rear levels. It can also tell you when pairing via Bluetooth, and it can alert you when the satellites are low on battery.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

The bar has controls on its top side. From here, you can turn the bar on/off, adjust volume, and switch inputs.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The JBL Bar 9.1 has a simple remote. You can use it to control most of the soundbar's functions including volume and power. However, you can't switch EQ presets and you won't be able to track skip or play/pause your audio.

Additional Features
App
App Name Google Home
iOS Yes
Android Yes
Acts as the Remote
Limited Support
Controls Soundbar's Settings
Some
Casts Device Files
Audio Files Only

The JBL Bar 9.1 can be partially controlled via the Google Home app. You can control the volume level as well as cast audio files from your mobile device. Unfortunately, that's about it.

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

If the JBL Bar 9.1 is inactive for more than 10 minutes, the bar and subwoofer switch into standby mode. Ten minutes later, the detachable speakers also go into standby mode and its status indicator turns off as it's no longer connected to the bar wirelessly. Thanks to its HDMI CEC support, you can also control basic functions of the soundbar with your TV remote too, which is nice.

Compared to other soundbars

The JBL Bar 9.1 is an impressive 5.1.4 channel setup. It has two unique detachable satellites that are also truly wireless, so you can remove them from the sides of the soundbar and place them anywhere in the room. It also has a very balanced and neutral sound profile making it well-suited for a variety of audio content, and its surround performance rivals that of the Samsung HW-Q90R or the Vizio SB46514-F6. If you're looking for more soundbars, check out our recommendations for the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, the best soundbars 5.1, and the best soundbars for movies.

Samsung HW-Q90R

The Samsung HW-Q90R and the JBL Bar 9.1 are both similarly impressive soundbars. The Samsung is a 7.1.4 setup that has a bit better balanced sound profile, it can get louder with fewer compression artifacts, and its height performance is better too. It also has a graphic EQ as well as EQ presets, which some users may prefer. However, the JBL is a 5.1.4 setup has a much better stereo soundstage, its surround performance is significantly better, and it has an ethernet port too. It also has more wireless playback options. That being said, they're both well-built soundbars with balanced sound profiles, making them great choices.

Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers

The Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers is a slightly better soundbar than the JBL Bar 9.1. The Sonos is better built, its height performance is better, and it has more sound enhancement features. However, the JBL has a significantly better center channel performance. It also has more physical inputs as well as wireless playback options.

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar

The JBL Bar 9.1 is a better 5.1.4 soundbar than the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. The JBL is better built, it's smaller, and its satellite speakers are completely wireless, which means they can be placed virtually anywhere you have room. It also sounds significantly more balanced and neutral, while its surround and height performances are better. You can even wirelessly stream to it using Apple AirPlay too. However, the Sennheiser has three Full HDMI In ports, a parametric EQ, and it can get louder. It also has a better companion app as you can control all the features of the soundbar from here. If you don't mind its bulky size, the Sennheiser is a good choice if you don't have the room for a full setup.

Vizio SB46514-F6

The JBL Bar 9.1 is a better 5.1.4 setup than the Vizio SB46514-F6. While both soundbars are well-built, the JBL is a bit more balanced. It also has a significantly better THD and surround performance. There are also more physical inputs so it supports more audio formats, and you can even stream music to it using Apple AirPlay. Some users may prefer the completely wireless satellite speakers too. However, the Vizio has a better height performance and its companion app can control all of the bar's features, which is nice.

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