Only sorry, don’t get excited as the JBL bar 9.1 is not Dolby 9.1 – it is Dolby 5.1.4. The 9.1 refers to the total number of audio channels, and JBLs naming regimen could be confusing.
The JBL Bar 9.1 is its first Dolby Atmos product, so why not go the whole way and throw in Google Assistant, Chromecast and AirPlay 2 for good measure. Oh, and a pair of detachable wireless, battery-operated rear speakers.
We have not reviewed the JBL Bar 9.1 yet, but here is what we know. And if the sound quality is as we expect it will be – it is a winner.
Manual here (it is a PDF – check downloads folder)
Elevator pitch: Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 (not 9.1) sound with physical rear speakers and other benefits at an affordable price
From Harvey Norman and JBL retailers from 4 August
Warranty: 12-months but there may be incentives for online registration
Country of Manufacture: unknown
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.
JBL Bar 9.1 base specs
Power 820W over:
300W 10” wireless subwoofer 300W – five levels of bass
400W Soundbar has left, right, centre (4×racetrack drivers and 3 x 20mm tweeters), left up, right up (full-range drivers)
2x60W detachable, up-firing full-range drivers and two 20cm tweeter for left and right surround (10-hour battery operated) – low, medium or high settings
Dolby Atmos and subsets
DTS:X 3D sound and subsets
PCM 1.0, 2.0 and multichannel
Theoretical 103dB volume
Google Assistant – it will act as part of a multi-room speaker set up.
Wi-Fi 5 AC dual-band and Ethernet
BT 4.2 SBC and AAC – A2DP/AVCRP TX/RX
HDMI 2.0 In
HDMI eARC 2.0 out
Dolby Vision 4K passthrough (and we presume HDR/10)
Chromecast and AirPlay 2
(Note the USB port is for service only)
Soundbar 884 x 62 x 120mm x 3.64kg
Detachable 173 x 60 x 120mm x.72kg (each)
Sub 305 x 440 x 305mm x 11.1kg
Wall mount brackets and remote control included
GadgetGuy caveats – things to watch out for
Now that we are clear about it being 5.1.4 (read our ‘Dolby and DTS guide – here – to see what this means) let’s just say that this is entry-level Dolby Atmos.
For most, it is all you need, and it will add 3D sound and handle the downmix of Dolby Atmos or DTS metadata to 9 channels plus the sub (that is really more cut-over frequency driven).
The Bar section handles Dolby channels Left, Right, Centre and Left up and Right up – that is 3.1.2 (.1 is the sub).
The two rear detachable (that you really want to leave at the rear permanently) have a forward-firing tweeter and an up-firing full range. They have a micro-USB port for charging as well. They convert the Bar’s 3.1.2 to 5.1.4, and it is up to JBL smarts to phase array these speakers.
The Bar itself is quite light at 3.64kg so it may not have the gravitas of larger soundbars weighing two or three times that. In fact, overseas reviews have said it is missing the richness and character of larger soundbars. But don’t let that put you off – it is probably the best ‘spatial fun’ you have ever had from a TV. But we stress – read our guide as spatial fun needs spatial content.
And the JBL Bar 9.1 does rely on ‘psychoacoustic trickery’ (as does ANY integrated soundbar)
It bounces sounds off ceilings and walls to hack your ears to think you hear a 3D sound. Ergo, it is not nearly as effective if you have vaulted ceilings or no sidewalls. We understand it has tone-firing auto-calibration and three manual adjustments for height adjustment that will work in most rooms.
Overall, it’s reasonably priced 5.1.4 soundbar with JBL quality, but we reserve our judgement until we review it.