JBL is no newcomer when it comes to audio equipment. For a long time they have manufactured PA systems and studio monitors, some of which are excellently reviewed.

The SoundBar 9.1 is the brand’s first foray into Atmos support, and it is a pretty impressive offering, with a very unique design. Oh, and it is loud. Really loud.

The SoundBar 9.1 Design

So, what makes this unique? 

At a glance, it looks like a simple soundbar with a subwoofer, but the Dolby Atmos system can be expanded to create a 5.1.4 setup that you can tailor specifically to your room. This is one of the most low-stress and simplistic ways to set up an immersive system, great for both music and for your home cinema room.

Sound

The immersive sound, as a result, is pretty great, with a genuine surround sound experience. The subwoofer means plenty of bass rumble, making your music collection a bit more “bass-forward” or giving you a movie-watching experience with more of the big, dramatic rumbles you associate with going to the cinema.

The sound is likely to be a big upgrade on most home audio systems. It is definitely loud, and the frequency response is not lacking. However, the system would benefit from more dynamic range, especially for movies. If you like the boom and rumble of an action movie twinned with quieter dialogue, you might be a little disappointed. The sound tends to all be pretty “in your face.”

Price

While the price isn’t particularly low, it does come in at a lower point than some of the competing seven and nine channel soundbar and surround sound systems including the Ambeo by Sennheiser and Sony’s HT-ST5000.

You pay a premium for the fact that this can convert into the 5.1.4 system. Not many soundbars give you this sort of level of flexibility, and you inevitably pay more for the detachable soundbar speakers.

Connectivity

JBL has created a soundbar with a simple setup and plenty of compatibility options. As well as onboard Wi-Fi, you can connect via eARCH HDMI, and HDMI input with 4K passthrough. There is an optical socket if you would prefer.

Compatibility with Bluetooth, Chromecast and Airplay makes it super simple to play your music from your device and stream in Atmos in seconds. Gone are the days of frustrating and complex setup.

The handy calibration feature can optimize the speakers to your room, and all of this can be done via the remote. No more climbing around the back of an audio receiver to fiddle with settings.

Summary

There are a couple of downsides. The satellite speakers need battery power, which means that it is possible you can be in the middle of your favorite album or a new film and the satellite speakers stop working.

If you like the unique design and you want the simplest way to create a real and immersive 5.1.4 system, the Soundbar 9 from JBL could be an excellent choice.

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About the Author
Ben is a writer and musician from the UK with a background in music technology. He writes about engineering and production, musicianship and music equipment for a number of publications including his site, Subreel.