Soundbars have been he the saviour of TV audio in recent years, with TVs getting thinner and thinner, fitting decent quality speakers in them is impossible. With the boom in the soundbar market, most people investing in a decent TV are also looking to upgrade their audio too. 5.1 systems will always be superior but they are a pain to implement and generally someone in the household moans about the wires and the number of speakers. So inevitably soundbars have come to dominate the market.
As with all TV or audio setups, prices range from bargain basement (around £50) all the way up to a wallet-busting £2k.
The JBL Bar 2.1 sits towards the crowded lower middle ground of this market, priced at an affordable £299. It is well specced for this price too, one of the main selling points is the included wireless subwoofer, which is absent in many competing models around this price. The 2 speakers give you a room-filling 300W of output. You also get an impressive number of connections too, there is 1 HDMI in, 1 HDMI out with ARC, one digital, analogue, Bluetooth and even USB.
Size wise, it is neither big nor large, with the bass handled by the subwoofer the speaker is quite compact compared to some with dimensions of 965 x 58 x 68mm. This makes it just a little wider than my test setup which uses a 40” Samsung LCD, so it should be less wide than most TVs larger than this.
The subwoofer is relatively petite in the world of subs with dimensions of 225 x 225 x 370mm. Thanks to it being wireless, you can tuck it away in the corner of a room, as long as it has enough space to perform. The wireless range seems to be more than adequete for even the largest of rooms.
Setting up the system is straightforward, you literally just plug everything you need in. Attaching the HDMI cables was a bit of a tight squeeze, but nothing major. Getting it out of the box was the hardest part, and I dread trying to get in when I return it. I should point out that you don’t get an HDMI cable in the box.
The subwoofer is wireless and it appears to sync straight away without any intervention.
Once set up you can control the unit via the buttons on top of the speaker, or via the included remote. The remote itself is a bit cheap feeling but it works well and it easy to understand.
Once set up I tried the system out using HDMI, Arc, Optical, and Bluetooth, from a variety of sources. All of these performed without any issues, and having ARC is a great feature as it allows you to pass your audio from your TV in its original format.
The overall sound quality is decent for the price and size of this system. I found that speech, mids and highs were a little harsh in comparison to more expensive systems such as the Bose SoundTouch, but I would say it performs well for its price range. One of the main advantages of this speaker over the SounTouch and many others is the included sub. I did have to turn the bass up for my liking but eventually, I got a decent level of bass for both movies, TV and music alike. It really makes a big difference in movies, and I sometimes regret my Bose SoundTouch purchase due to the lack of bass (I am too poor/tight-fisted to pay for the subwoofer just yet).
It doesn't have any fancy smart features like Spotify connect or app integration, but you do get Bluetooth and this works well, music sounds great and the range is good. For simplicity, I would take Bluetooth over Spotify connect any day, though having both is nice.
This is a huge improvement over TV audio, and investing in this, or any soundbar even, is always a good idea. The JBL Bar 2.1 itself is in a crowded market and I haven’t reviewed any other speakers at this price point, the overall audio is good and not great, I would definitely choose this over a similarly priced soundbar that does not include a subwoofer. The range of connections also helps it stand out from the crowd. Overall I think this is a well-priced and specced speaker that will be a huge improvement over TV audio and it would make a great investment.
Currently, availability seems a little sparse, but you can order it from the JBL website for £299 here.
JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar
Product Name: JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar
Offer price: 299
Features - 90%
Ease of use - 85%
Sound Quality - 75%
Price - 85%