JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, analysis and opinion



The sound of today's mid-and high-end TVs has improved considerably in recent years and many offer remarkable sound quality. But what about those users who changed their TVs a few years ago, should give up quality sound?

We analyzed the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, a solution for those users who do not want to give up a quality sound even if their TV already has a few years behind them. This new soundbar proposed by JBL follows the same compact line that we already saw with your 2.0 system and can be connected to any TV to get a powerful and immersive sound without filling the speaker room.

Will it be worth investing the 399.99 euros that this soundbar costs? We tell you in our analysis of the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam and give you our opinion after having tried it for a few weeks.



Compact, discreet, and designed to integrate with any TV

JBL has gone a step further along the way to improve the sound of your living room with a compact sound system that wants to bring the cinema experience closer to all TVs, even when they don't have the latest sound technology.

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is a soundbar that follows the master lines that JBL has already introduced with its 2.0 soundbar, but expands the range of speakers to complete a 5.0 system capable of emulating a virtual Dolby Atmos sound that improves the directionality of the sound.

In terms of design and aesthetics, we do not find great differences between the 2.0 bar and the new JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, except for the addition of the two grids at the top to accommodate the upper speaker system that emulates the sound coming from the ceiling.

It is a soundbar with a compact size showing an acoustically transparent grille that covers the entire front and sides under which the speakers are located. That is, even though the speakers are not visible from the front, this grille does not interfere in any way with the directionality and power delivered by the speakers.

The distinctive note is given by the two upper grilles located at both ends where the two speakers that project the sound to the ceiling are located for general a wider sound atmosphere.

The bar also has grids at the ends at the bottom to output the low frequencies and offer greater amplitude when bouncing off the base of the furniture.

The JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is 70.9 x 5.8 x 10.1 cm in size, similar to the length occupied by a 32" TV, and fits perfectly under the screen thanks to its low profile. Also, two brackets are included next to the bar to hang the wall bar and adapt it to the way you have your TV installed.

The bar can be controlled from the four buttons at the top: two for volume, one for changing the audio source, and the power button.

The only detail that indicates that we are facing a JBL soundbar is the logo of the brand located under this button. The basic information required for configuration and operation is displayed on a small LCD screen located at the far right of the front.

Lacking an external subwoofer, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam takes up no more space than the essential one, so it is a good solution to improve the sound of any TV without taking up a large space in the living room furniture, and even opens the doors to install it as a sound system for a computer and get a 5.0 sound rich in the bass for games without taking up too much space on the table or in the room.

On a much more technical internal plane, the bar consists of three speakers of 48 x 80 mm and 50 W each located in a central position that projects the sound directly towards the viewer.

Also, at both ends of the bar, we find two speakers of the same characteristics that are responsible for distributing the sound to the sides. The sound atmosphere is completed with 4 passive 3" radiators located under the side grilles to enrich the sound scene with low frequencies coming from the top and bottom.

With this combination of speakers, which delivers a total power of 250 W, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam can fill a room of about 25 m2 with sound.



Full connectivity to integrate into connected homes

Soundbar connectivity is one of the most important points for such devices, as it depends on its versatility to use it as a sound system to improve the TV's audio when watching TV shows and movies and even connect your smartphone to listen to favorite music or podcasts while doing other tasks.

JBL has opted for good connectivity on both physical ports, connection systems, and wireless protocols. We start with a review of the physical ports we found in the back of the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam.

In addition to the power connector, we find an Ethernet jack to connect the bar to the network using a network cable, as well as a USB that in the European version of this JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is only used for service tasks such as updating the firmware of the bar, although in the version that is distributed in the USA it does work as a source to play mp3 files.

If we get into the realm of image and audio transmission, the JBL bar comes with an optical connector and two HDMI ports, one input and one output with eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) support.

This point is very important as the bar allows you to stream 4K, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos content to the TV from an external player. That is, if you're using a BluRay player or console and play 4K, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos content, the bar lets you take it to the TV without interference.

Wireless connectivity is also covered as the bar supports dual-band 5 (802.11 ac) WiFi (2.4 and 5 GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2 to connect wirelessly to the TV itself or other devices. This makes it much easier to send audio content to the bar for playback from a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

If you use apple's ecosystem, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam has support for AirPlay 2, so you can send the content directly from your devices. It also has its own Chromecast and Alexa support, allowing you to connect the bar to Google Assistant and Amazon by integrating it into their ecosystems.

However, this connectivity is not direct as the soundbar does not have built-in attendees, but you will have to give the voice commands to a Google Home, an Echo speaker, or to the paths apps installed on your smartphone to take advantage of these features.

Expanding these connectivity options we find that JBL's 5.0 soundbar supports multi-room playback, so you can group with other speakers compatible with this technology distributed around your home and play audio from a single source on all of them so you can move around the house while still listening to the audio.

As we see, the JBL bar comes very complete in terms of connectivity protocols. But we can't say it's a particularly simple device to set up for having opted for somewhat convoluted options. We explain ourselves.

Next to the bar is a remote control that has the basic buttons to turn on the bar, switch between the different inputs (TV, Bluetooth, and HDMI), and turn Dolby Atmos sound mode on or off.



In the central part stands out the presence of an elongated volume key and, just below, a key to mute the device. These would be more than enough buttons if we had an app installed on the smartphone from which we can configure other sound settings of the bar such as bass level, balance, sound mode, etc.

However, we don't have any of that and JBL has chosen to create a series of button combinations from which to access those functions. For example, to change the bass level of the bar, you'll need to hold down the TV key for 3 seconds, then press the Volume - key, and then choose the bass level from 5 options possible by pressing the Volume + or Volume - buttons.

A similar operation will be necessary to turn Smart sound mode or Standard sound mode on or off – which we'll talk about in more detail a little later – or Night mode, with which you'll have to press and hold the Mute button for 3 seconds and then press the Volume + button.

It is striking that JBL has opted for such a complex configuration rather than simply adding two more buttons on a controller that stands out for its simplicity from which to control these settings.

Nor would it be any more than JBL considering making this bar compatible with any of the apps that it already has available on Google Play or Apple Store, and that we tried to use to set up the bar without any success.

The direct connection between the soundbar, TV, and TV set-top boxes or other devices is very simple. In our case, we have improved the native sound of a Samsung 6400 series TV from 2011.

The TV has seamlessly integrated the bar volume control from the TV controller as if it were the native volume thanks to the HDMI - CEC(Consumer Electronics Control)function built into this Samsung model.

If the TV to which it will be connected does not have this HDMI – CEC protocol, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam has a "learning" system in which the bar can pick up the infrared signal from the TV controller when the volume up or down and runs them acting on the volume of the bar.



The sound gets a lot better, but it doesn't get around you at all

As we mentioned at the beginning of this analysis of the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, this is a device that, by its features, is perfect to improve the sound of a TV without too many complications.

Our testing scenario has been precisely that, to improve the poor sound offered by a 46-inch LED TV with a decade behind it, but it still has a lot to offer. The improvement in the content viewing experience after connecting this JBL 5.0 soundbar has been remarkable.

The first thing that needs to be done is to calibrate the sound so that the MultiBeam system recognizes the distance from the walls or other elements that can alter the perception of the sound. To do this it is necessary to run a calibration test by pressing the HDMI button on the controller for 5 seconds.

The test consists of the emission of a series of sounds from the side and center speakers so that a microphone integrated into the bar detects the bounce of the waves as sonar and adjusts the balance of each channel to keep it centered on the viewer.



Once this setting is made, the bar is responsible for creating a much wider sound scene that allows you to appreciate the directionality of the explosions in the action scenes and separate the dialogue to deliver it clearly through the center channel.

Passive radiators do a good job of stretching low frequencies a little more to make them blunter, and while they don't do so until the levels that a dedicated subwoofer would allow, they do manage to separate the bass range so that they don't stun the other frequencies.

We must recognize that this was one of the fears that we had before trying this bar, that lacking a speaker dedicated to managing basses would reduce the dynamic range and all the sound will be packed. Luckily, JBL has fine-tuned this aspect and the sound experience is closer to 5.1 than to 5.0.

That said, we have the thorn that JBL has not considered the possibility that the user can add a dedicated subwoofer on their own so that the bar can scale and become a 5.1 system if the user wishes. Power is not lacking, of course.

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam offers different modes of operation to suit the type of content being viewed, varying with them the equalization and amplitude of the sound scene. There are basically three: Dolby Atmos, Smart Mode, and Night Mode.

The smart mode comes standard and allows you to expand the sound space of any TV content, series, etc. It is the simplest solution to achieve good results even with content that is not originally encoded to reproduce in an "enveloping" way.

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam offers different modes of operation to suit the type of content being viewed, varying with them the equalization and amplitude of the sound scene. There are basically three: Dolby Atmos, Smart Mode, and Night Mode.

The smart mode comes standard and allows you to expand the sound space of any TV content, series, etc. It is the simplest solution to achieve good results even with content that is not originally encoded to reproduce in an "enveloping" way.



Finally, we find Dolby Atmos mode that speaks for itself. We don't really appreciate too many differences between Smart mode and Dolby Atmos mode, except that in the contents compatible with this system they do use the vertical axes having a little more presence, as in the famous scene of the fight in Daniel Craig's Mexico DF helicopter in Spectre.

Playing content in Dolby Atmos expands the dynamic range and simply turns it on and off during the same scene to check the level of sharpness it brings. Dolby Atmos is a system based on sound objects moving in a 360-degree scene. However, with a front sound system, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam fails to break that third dimension to envelop the viewer.

That doesn't mean the experience is bad. Not at all. The 250 W of sound power manages to fill the room with nuances and audio details and achieving a good positioning of the effects. In that sense, little else can be asked of a device as compact and minimalist as this JBL soundbar.

At all times we have been talking about the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam as an integrated element in the living room. However, thanks to its compact size we have also been able to use it as a sound system for a computer.

In this scenario, she has become our best ally to make the workday more bearable enlivened with some quality music and sound, as well as a companion on the battlefield reproducing the special effects of games that are getting closer and closer to the cinematic experience.



A simple solution to having 5.0 audio in the living room

It's time for conclusions after a few weeks of testing the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam as one more element in the living room that has made the content viewing experience more enjoyable.

To be honest we have been surprised by the performance of this bar which, at first glance, does not seem like much. We couldn't be more wrong.

JBL engineers have done a good job compacting the 9 elements involved in reproducing the sound in a chassis that prevents vibrations and keeps each frequency in place, making sure that lows are enhanced by necessity by not including a dedicated subwoofer that can blur all the sound.

I'm used to being wary of "virtual surround sound systems." Experience has taught me that, on many occasions, that promising title is little more than a nice phrase coming out of the marketing department.

While it is true that we do not consider the sound of the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeamas a surround sound, we can say that it offers an excellent directionality of the sound scene that expands considerably filling the entire room with a crisp and blunt sound, even if it does not fully envelop the viewer.



Getting an experience similar to that offered by other soundbars with more elements from a single compact bar at the foot of a TV is a technical achievement and we are satisfied with the results in our tests.

I wish the engineers had put the same effort into developing the usability of the bar, without a doubt one of the weaknesses of this device. Something that would have only added a couple more buttons to the remote control, becomes a kind of Giancana by pressing buttons to change the sound modes or bass settings.

We would also have liked to have the support of a JBL app that doesn't rely on Amazon or Google assistant apps to set up the operation or connection of the bar.

Generally speaking, our experience with the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam has been very satisfying and we find it a very good option to significantly improve the sound of a TV with a few years or current low-end without getting too complicated filling the speaker room.

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