The JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass 2020 is a relatively low-cost $549, 2.1 (Left/Right/Sub) soundbar without the frills! It is all you need to add terrific loud and bassy sound to any standard, non-Dolby Atmos TV.
I wanted to review the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass 2020 because I tend to get the top-of-the-range soundbars and, well can lose track of what Joe and Jane Average want or need. BTW – don’t confuse this with the 2019 JBL Bar 2.1 – this is the 2020 Deep Bass model.
To be clear, it is for free-to-air TV viewing (that transmits in PCM 2.0 sound) and streaming/DVD where it will decode Dolby Digital (up to 5.1) and downmix to the 2.1 channels. It will downmix Dolby Atmos 3D sound to 2.1 as well.
Elevator Pitch: Add better sound and bass to any standard 1 or 4K TV
Country of Manufacture: China
JBL was originally a company established by James B Lansing in the late 1940s in the US. (Yes, he was the Lansing in Altec Lansing as well.) Now it’s part of the Harman group of companies, itself owned by Samsung.
We use FAIL, PASS and EXCEED against test paradigms suited to a soundbar of that style and price. We do not compare to more fully-featured products.
In the box – EXCEED
2 x 240V power cables
Remote control and battery
Wall mount bracket kit (supplied)
HDMI cable (also has an Optical Input)
Setup – EXCEED
It comes in a ‘chair’ style box that opens on one side to reveal the bar and sub-woofer. Keep the box just in case you need to get a warranty or move home.
Plug in the power cables (one each unit) and the HDMI1.4 ARC cable to the TV. Power on and it finds the sub-woofer and TV and configures so the TV remote can control on/off/volume. If you have another HDMI device like a set-top-box, DVD, games console etc., there is an HDMI-in in port.
It is relatively light at 2.16kg and small at 965 x 58 x 85mm. It should fit under most TVs or between the stand legs. There is no app.
What it will and won’t do – PASS
It is not a Dolby Vision/Atmos device. It will not pass through the 3D Dolby metadata from a connected 4K Blu-ray or 4K Games console. All sound is downmixed to 2.1
No inbuilt voice assistant although there is no reason you could not use a smart speaker to turn on a smart TV and the soundbar.
No Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Firmware updates are via the USB-A port.
BT 4.2 is Rx only – a smartphone or other sound source can connect and cast music to it – not vice versa.
Pre-set EQ – Standard, music, movie, voice or sports – no custom settings
Sub: Low, medium, or high settings
USB is for firmware update only – not playback
How does it sound? – EXCEED
Please remember that we are comparing it with other 2.1 devices. That is, we are looking for clear left and right channels (stereo separation) with a wide TV sound stage (about 130° or typical viewing angles).
Speakers: Bar – 4 x 2.25″ racetrack drivers and 2 x 1.25″ tweeters with two x 50W amps. Sub-woofer – 6.5”is 200W (240 x 240 x 379 (mm) x 5.67kg). Frequency response is 40Hz-20kHz. THD is 1%.
Volume: It reaches 83.4dB – exceedingly good for large room-filling sound. However, there is appreciable harshness from too much treble (you can adjust that). Back off from Max volume (32) to about 27, and it is under control again.
Bass: Superb with three levels. I started on max and backed off to mid for TV viewing. It is quite amazing what the sub-will produce.
Stereo separation: As it is a soundbar, you expect it to suit typical TV viewing areas. The sound stage is of at least 130° – possibly more. You can detect separate L/5 out to about 5 metres. After that, it is just a background sound source.
Sound Signature – and you will listen to music on this – EXCEED
Tested on standard settings. You can control the treble a little more
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – nil
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – climbing gently from 40Hz to 100Hz – nice hints
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – flat (good)
Low-mid: 200-400Hz – flat
Mid: 400-1000Hz – flat
High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat
Treble:4-6kHz – flat – flat
High Treble: 6-10kHz – slight dip to avoid harshness but it does not quite work as it peaks up again too fast
Dog whistle: 10-20kHz – flat and strong to 16kHz then drops off to 20khz
This warm and sweet sound signature (nirvana for movies and music) is quite unusual for a low-cost soundbar – more than enough for a large room.
There are dozens of brands that make 2.1 soundbars. JBL is in the same class as LG, Samsung, Sony and challenger brand Hisense.
Its real competition is a 3.1 or 5.1 soundbar that adds a centre channel for clearer voice.