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JBL Bar 500 Review: Mighty Sound, Massive Subwoofer

Pros

  • Powerful sound
  • External subwoofer
  • Comprehensive app
  • Additional HDMI output
  • Automatic calibration

Cons

  • Subwoofer is very large
  • Complete manual only available online
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This subwoofer is something special: In the Bar 500, JBL has externalised the bass, creating tremendous pressure. The review reveals what else this soundbar offers!

JBL unveils a bass colossus: In the Soundbar Bar 500, the American company places the bass in a true giant, ensuring robust boom in the room – provided you can find a good spot for it. JBL also offers a vast array of multimedia content.

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Eye-Catching Design

Like its smaller sibling, the JBL Bar 300, the Bar 500 adopts a rather conspicuous look. In fact, both models are visually identical, differing only in size. The sides are enveloped in a simple metal grille, behind which lies the LED display showing information. The top of the Bar 500 is plastic, with the middle section distinctively recessed from the rest. Next to the JBL logo, there are three control buttons. With a width of just over 1 meter and a height of about 5.6 centimeters, the soundbar fits in front of most TVs with a screen diagonal starting from 48 inches (121 centimeters).

Despite its unusual look and somewhat bulky dimensions, the accompanying subwoofer of the Bar 500 steals the show. Although very plain and appearing high-quality, it is a true giant at around 44 centimeters in height and over 30 centimeters in width and depth, easily doubling as a stool. Prospective buyers must find a suitable spot for it at home. A power cable is all that’s needed for connection; the link to the soundbar is wireless.

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Plenty of Connections

The connection between devices is not only wireless, but also between the smartphone and soundbar. In addition to Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast are available, and the streaming service Spotify can be controlled in the home network via Spotify Connect.

For connecting to the TV, JBL offers two options: an optical digital input and HDMI with eARC, or the enhanced Audio Return Channel. This enables the transmission of 3D surround sound in the form of Dolby Atmos. A special feature among the connections is the additional HDMI input, allowing devices like a game console or a Blu-ray player to be connected, with the image relayed through the soundbar to the TV. The advantage is that the Bar 500 doesn’t permanently occupy an HDMI slot on the TV, which might be needed for existing technology. In the United Kingdom, the USB port is used only for maintenance.

Control with a Unique

Twist In terms of remote control, JBL stays true to its style with the Bar 500, opting for an unusual design with a separated middle section. As a result, the control unit resembles a mini soundbar. This design alone doesn’t create immense excitement, but the buttons on it do. In addition to switches for audio sources, volume, and mute, the remote has a five-level bass control.

There’s also a button for Dolby Atmos, toggling virtual surround sound on and off. The “Calibr” button starts the automatic calibration – a great idea, even though it’s only needed once for adjusting the sound to the room after setup. The switch with a heart on it, named “Moment,” can be set in the JBL app with an audio favourite, like a favourite song, album, radio station, or Spotify playlist. Changes are displayed on the easily readable LED scrolling display.

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App as the Unsung Hero

The excellent “JBL One” app (for Android and iOS) brings even more to the party. It offers access to a wide range of audio sources, including internet radio stations and music streaming services like Amazon Music. The multi-room function allows playing content simultaneously on multiple JBL speakers in the same network.

The app also facilitates adjustments to the Bar 500, such as sound customisation via an equalizer and initiating audio calibration. It can also be used as a regular remote control, with buttons appearing as small areas on the touch display. An intentional delay between TV picture and sound can be set to compensate for any misalignment in older TV models.

Good Sound, Mighty Bass

Firstly, for the subwoofer on its highest setting, you’ll need either solid walls and ceilings, tolerant neighbours, or a detached house without nearby residents. At full throttle, depending on the film or series, the colossus not only rumbles but shakes the room. The basses are deep and dry. On the lowest setting, however, the bass is very shy – akin to a gentle giant. The middle setting is usually the best choice. The sound is overall powerful and extends well beyond the screen. While the surround sound with Dolby Atmos is enjoyable, one must pay attention to their seating position in front of the soundbar. At higher positions, the sound quickly becomes nasally distorted. This issue does not occur when sitting comfortably on the sofa.

Conclusion

JBL’s Bar 500 impresses with a strong combination of soundbar and subwoofer. The sound is good and spacious, the bass powerful and robust – though the bass box itself is quite a chunk. The connection options, including an HDMI output, are excellent, as is the multimedia variety and adjustability through the fantastic “JBL One” app.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Richard Garrett

Richard Garrett

As an expert on the latest techy stuff, the primary focus is PCs and laptops. Much of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, focusing on the latest devices.
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