Reviewed on Nov 19, 2019

JBL Link Bar SOUNDBAR REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.0
7.0
Mixed Usage
8.0
Dialogue/TV Shows
7.1
Music
6.3
Movies
Channels
:
2.0

The JBL Link Bar is a pretty straightforward 2.0 soundbar that offers a decent sound quality with stereo content. It lacks quite a bit of sub-bass as it doesn't have a dedicated subwoofer and doesn't perform well with surrounds or Atmos content either. On the upside, its sound profile is well-balanced and the bar can get pretty loud. Unfortunately, pushing the bar to its max volume isn't recommended as the bass will be compressed. Nevertheless, the Link Bar is a great option if you have plenty of devices to plug in like a Blu-Ray player and gaming consoles since it has many ports. It also acts as a Google Home speaker and an Android TV Box, which adds to its versatility, although we haven't tested them so we can't comment on how well these features work.

Test Results
Design 7.0
Sound 6.4
Connectivity 8.4
Pros
  • Decent audio reproduction.
  • Gets loud enough for most content.
  • Plenty of connection options.
  • Acts a Google Home speaker and Android TV Box.
Cons
  • Covered by fabric.
  • Lacks sub-bass.
  • Very poor surround performance.

Check Price

Market Context

The Link Bar is part of JBL's 2018 soundbar lineup. It's one of the simplest options from their soundbars with a 2.0 speaker configuration. It doesn't come with a dedicated subwoofer, but you can get a separate one or buy a bundled bar with a sub, like the JBL Bar 3.1 or even the JBL Bar 5.1 with surround speakers. The JBL Link Bar's main competitors are the Sonos Beam, the Bose Solo 5, and the Sony HT-S100F.

7.0

Design

Style - Bar

The JBL Link Bar looks nice and is entirely made out of plastic and surrounded by fabric, though it doesn't feel cheap. There's a port on each side of the bar. It's a fairly low-profile soundbar.

Style - Subwoofer

The JBL Link Bar setup doesn't come with a subwoofer.

Style - Satellites

The JBL Link Bar doesn't come with satellite speakers.

Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width : 40.1" (101.9 cm)
Bar Height : 2.4" (6.0 cm)
Bar Depth : 3.7" (9.4 cm)

The bar is rather long and might not fit between the legs of most TV stands. On the upside, it's not very high, so it won't block the bottom part of your screen unless it's sitting directly on the table.

Dimensions - Subwoofer
Sub Width : N/A
Sub Height : N/A
Sub Depth : N/A

There's no subwoofer.

Dimensions - Satellites
Sat Width : N/A
Sat Height : N/A
Sat Depth : N/A

There are no satellite speakers.

Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
:
Universal (holes on back)

The back of the bar is fairly sleek and straightforward. You have a long hole for all your inputs and two holes for mounting the bar to a wall. The soundbar comes with mounting brackets.

Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
:
N/A

There's no subwoofer.

Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
:
N/A

There are no satellite speakers.

7.0 Build Quality

The JBL Link Bar feels decently well-made. It's not as great as other models that are made out of solid plastic. The bar is covered by fabric that can easily be damaged or become dirty. On the upside, the plastic still feels somewhat durable. It's quite similar to Sony soundbars or the Klipsch Bar 48. It's also a 3-in-1 product: a soundbar, a Google Home Speaker, and an Android TV box.

In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
:
5.0 ft (1.5 m)
Digital Optical Cable Length
:
N/A

  • Remote
  • HDMI cable
  • Mounting brackets
  • Batteries
  • Manuals

6.4

Sound

7.2 Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
:
-0.39
ST Std. Err.
:
2.45 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
57.4 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
:
19.1 kHz

The Link Bar's stereo frequency response is decent. It doesn't have a very deep bass, due to the lack of a dedicated wireless subwoofer, which is disappointing. On the upside, the rest of the response is fairly neutral and well-balanced, which is great for music.

Stereo Raw Frequency Response
7.0 Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
:
2.91 dB

The JBL Link Bar's soundstage is decent. It sounds a little wider than the bar itself, but not by much and it won't be as natural as a home theater setup with dedicated tower speakers. On the upside, the sounds are accurate and come from a pinpoint location.

7.7 Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
:
94.3 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
:
2.05 dB

This soundbar can get pretty loud, more than enough for casual listening. However, when pushing the bar to its max volume, there's some noticeable compression, especially in the bass range.

7.9 Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
:
0.38
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
1.71

The JBL Link Bar's stereo THD performance is great. The THD is within good limits at a moderate volume, but does get a bit elevated at max volume. This can result in harsh and impure frequencies.

6.0 Center
C Localization
:
Phantom
C Slope
:
-1.32
C Std. Err.
:
4.28 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
:
94.6 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
:
0.45
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
1.77

The JBL Link Bar's center channel performance is mediocre. This is a 2.0 stereo setup, which means it doesn't have a dedicated center channel for voices and dialogue. The bar uses the left and right drivers to simulate a phantom center, which won't be as clear and detailed.

3.6 Surrounds
Sr Localization
:
Stereo (Downmix)
Rears
:
N/A
Sr Slope
:
-1.40
Sr Std. Err.
:
4.48 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
:
92.7 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
:
0.35
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
1.36

The JBL Link Bar's surrounds performance is pretty bad. Due to the 2.0 configuration, there are no speakers for surround content, meaning the bar can play the content but downmixes it to stereo. This greatly affects the general immersion of surround sounds.

0 Height (Atmos)
H Localization
:
N/A
H Slope
:
N/A
H Std. Err.
:
N/A
H SPL @ Max Volume
:
N/A
H Weighted THD @ 80
:
N/A
H Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
N/A

This soundbar doesn't have height channels and can't play Atmos content.

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

The JBL Link Bar doesn't have many sound enhancement features. You can enhance dialogue when using the EQ preset called 'Voice' and adjust the bass. Other than that, the bar is pretty straightforward and doesn't allow much customization.

8.4

Connectivity

Physical Inputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
:
1
HDMI ARC
:
1 (shared)
Full HDMI In
:
3
HDMI Out
:
1 (shared)
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
:
1
USB for Files
:
No
Ethernet
:
1

The JBL Link Bar has plenty of inputs, including three Full HDMI In, making it easy to use the bar as a hub for your different devices. There's also an AUX cable jack if you want to plug in a cell phone or MP3 player.

7.1 Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
:
No
ARC Dolby Atmos
:
No
ARC DTS:X
:
No
ARC Dolby Digital
:
Yes
ARC Dolby Digital Plus
:
No
ARC DTS
:
Yes
ARC Dolby TrueHD
:
No
ARC DTS-HD MA
:
No
ARC 5.1 PCM
:
No

Via the ARC port, you'll be able to play Dolby Digital and DTS content, which should cover most streaming services and Blu-ray disc content.

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

Just like via ARC, you can easily use one of the three Full HDMI In ports to play Dolby Digital or DTS content, on streaming platforms and Blu-ray discs.

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

Via optical, like most soundbars, both Dolby Digital and DTS are supported.

9.0 Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
:
Yes
Wi-Fi
:
Yes
Chromecast built-in
:
Yes
Apple AirPlay
:
No

This soundbar has amazing wireless playback capacities as you can easily cast content to the bar via Bluetooth, or even use your home network too. Additionally, the bar itself is a Google Home speaker and has Chromecast built-in.

Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
:
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
:
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
:
No
HDR10 Passthrough
:
Yes

Although it accepts the signal for 4:4:4, the result on TVs isn't very crisp and clear, and seems to be subsampling down to what looks like 4:2:2. On the upside, it can do 4k @ 60Hz and HDR10 passthrough, which can be useful for Xbox One users.

Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
:
N/A

There's no subwoofer.

Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
:
N/A

There are no satellite speakers.

Additional Features

Interface
Display
:
No

The JBL Link Bar's interface is quite simple as it's only four lights that are hidden behind the fabric. On the upside, the bar connects the TV via HDMI ARC, and since it's an Android TV Box, there's a visual display on the screen that tells you a lot more information than the lights do.

Bar Controls

The buttons are situated on the top of the bar and let you control the input you're on, the Bluetooth pairing, on top of having volume up and down buttons. There's also a switch that lets you mute the microphone if you don't want the soundbar to be constantly listening.

Remote
Universal Remote
:
Limited Support

The remote is small, sleek, and fits well in the hand. It lets you control pretty much every feature of the bar and you even have a quick access button for Netflix too. Strangely enough, via HDMI ARC, we were able to use that remote to power off the TV, but couldn't turn it back on.

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 Google Home app is pretty barebones and doesn't control the bar itself other than the volume output and a few settings. It also has a screen mirroring feature, but casting content from dedicated apps will result in better performance.

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

The JBL Link Bar can automatically enter a power-saving feature and it can be set in the settings. You can either completely turn it off or set it from 30 minutes to up to 6 hours. The bar also supports HDMI CEC, which means you'll also be able to control some aspects of the bar with the TV remote.

Compared to other Soundbars

The JBL Link Bar is a straightforward 2.0 soundbar that performs quite well when compared to other 2.0 soundbars we've reviewed. The JBL has a decent and well-balanced sound profile that's suitable for music and dialogue. However, it lacks a bit of sub-bass when compared to 2.1 systems that have a dedicated subwoofer. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best budget soundbars, and the best soundbars with subwoofer.

Sonos Beam
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sonos Beam is a better soundbar than the JBL Link Bar. It's easily upgradable, and its 3.0 configuration means it has a dedicated center speaker, which makes dialogue and voices even clearer. It also has way more features like room correction and a night mode. On the other hand, the Link Bar supports DTS and can play content via Bluetooth and has Chromecast built-in. It also acts an Android TV box and a Google Home Speaker.

Bose Soundbar 700
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Bose Soundbar 700 is a better soundbar than the JBL Link Bar. It's easily upgradable, but even the bar itself performs better. It has a dedicated center channel, has a better sound quality and offers more sound enhancement features like a room correct. Its soundstage is also very wide due to the speakers' positioning and reflects the sounds off the walls to the listeners. On the other hand, the JBL Lik Bar has a bit more ports and connectivity options. It has three full HDMI In ports and an audio jack for an AUX cable, which the Bose lacks. However, it isn't as well-built as the Bose 700.

Bose Solo 5
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The JBL Link is a better soundbar than the Bose Solo 5. The Solo 5 is rather straightforward, doesn't have many features, and is more of a plug-and-play type of soundbar. The JBL Link is also an Android TV Box and a Google Home speaker. Its stereo soundstage is also wider, and it has more inputs like full HDMI In ports and an HDMI ARC. It also supports wireless playback via Wi-Fi, on top of Bluetooth.

Sony HT-S100F
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The JBL Link Bar is a better 2.0 soundbar than the Sony HT-S100F. It has a noticeably better audio reproduction and has more bass. Its stereo soundstage is also noticeably wider, and it has more inputs for you to use it as a hub for your devices. It supports DTS content and can cast content wirelessly via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and it has Chromecast built-in. The JBL Link is also an Android TV Box and a Google Home speaker. On the other hand, the Sony compresses less at max volume and has a better phantom center performance for clearer voices and dialogue in movies.

7.0 Mixed Usage

Decent for mixed usage. It has a decent sound profile that's accurate and well-balanced but lacks a bit of bass. This won't be great for movies and bass-heavy music, but that's about it. If you're simply watching TV and listening to music from time to time, it's a decent option.

8.0 Dialogue/TV Shows

Very good for dialogue and TV shows. The sound profile is well-balanced and fairly neutral, which is great. There's also a 'Voice' EQ preset which makes dialogue and voices clearer and easier to understand. It'll also be easy to cast content like audiobooks or podcasts wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

7.1 Music

Decent for music. This soundbar has a decent audio reproduction but is a bit light on bass. It won't be the best option for bass-heavy music, but other than that, the well-balanced sound profile is fairly versatile for all types of music. It also gets loud enough for a large room and crowded environments, but you might get compression in the bass range if you push it to its max volume.

6.3 Movies

Mediocre for movies. Due to its speaker configuration, everything will be downmixed to stereo and the listening experience won't be as immersive as what other soundbars that support Atmos can offer.

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