Price (RRP): $599.95 and optional sub-woofer at $399.95
The JBL Link Bar adds Android TV to any HDMI equipped TV or even a dumb PC monitor. Oh and the sound is great too.
Why add Android to a TV? Well, the JBL Link Bar is really a 2.0 soundbar with an HDMI ARC connection to a TV or monitor. It adds the latest Android TV OS apps like Netflix, Stan, 7Plus, iView and SBS on demand.
GadgetGuy put the JBL Link Bar through its paces, and it performs very well for the right user.
JBL Link Bar
With Android TV, you can download apps (Australian list here). These include popular subscription streaming apps like Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime, Google Play and Foxtel Go as well as free-to-air TV – 10 Play, 7 Plus, ABC iView and SBS OnDemand. There are also specific apps for news, sport and music (Spotify and more).
But a caveat – not all Android TV apps appear to be available – we have reached out to JBL to ask why.
So, from a content perspective, Android TV blitzes the rest – in a very big way. And while the JBL Link Bar does not have a TV tuner you can stream live TV over the Internet (data charges do apply unless you have unlimited packages). Streaming 1080p content requires only 5Mbps so even the lowest NBN tier should suffice for movies and music. JBL, however, recommends at least the 25Mbps NBN tier.
Note: for all operations, the Link Bar stays on.
If your TV has an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) port and supports CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) you can control the sound and more from your TV remote.
What this means is when you turn on the free-to-air TV the sound will automatically come from the JBL Link Bar.
But in reverse – you want to display content from the Bar to the TV you have to select the HDMI port on the TV – no big deal as every external box like Roku, Telstra TV, other Android TV boxes etc., needs to do this.
It also supports 10-bit colour (if your TV does).
The 100W JBL Link Bar is 2.0 – meaning left and right. It has four x 44 x 80mm racetrack drivers and two x 20mm tweeters. There is an optional wireless $399.95, 300W 10-inch sub-woofer (frequency response 35-120Hz) for 2.1 sound.
Volume peaks at 85dB (very loud) with some harshness but is very good at up to 80dB.
JBL – a member of the Harman/Samsung group- has a wonderful warm and sweet sound signature that is perfect for movies and music. It supports Dolby Audio to downmix to 2.0/2.1.
- Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – none
- Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – starting and building nicely
- High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – flat (good)
- Low-mid: 200-400Hz – flat
- Mid: 400-1000Hz – building – flat
- High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
- Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat
- Treble:4-6kHz – flat
- High Treble: 6-10kHz – flat with a slight dip to remove harshness at this level
- Dog whistle: 10-20 – flat to 18Hz
This is remarkable sound from a $599.95 soundbar. It makes me wonder if it is necessary to get optional sub-woofer although to get room-shaking bass that would be good.
There are pre-set adjustments Standard (as tested), movie, music and voice which tweak the settings. Voice adds more upper mid for the hearing impaired.
You must have a Google (Gmail) account to sign in and download apps. By using this, you are subject to Google Privacy terms.
The remote has a push-button mic and mutable far-field microphones for OK Google. That also means it is a Chromecast device so you can show audio and video from your compatible smartphone.
It can do anything a Google Home speaker can – alarms, weather, questions and more. However, we detected a slight lag over a dedicated Google speaker.
It has BT 4.2 with AAC and SBC codecs meaning you can stream music from your smartphone or computer.
It is fairly diminutive at 1020 x 60 x 93mm x 2.5kg, so it is easy enough to move around. It comes with two wall mounting blocks.
It has Ethernet WAN, Wi-Fi AC (dual-band – 5GHz is best), 3 x HDMI 2.0 [email protected] ports, HDMI ARC [email protected] port, optical and 3.5mm aux-in ports. The HDMI ports make it an effect8iuve 4K switcher.
GadgetGuy’s take – JBL Link Bar is a great soundbar with the advantages of Android TV OS
If all you want to do is add Android TV, then there are plenty of options from $99 just to add an external box. Just make sure that it is Android TV 9.0 and that you have some confidence of receiving security patches and OS updates. That is something you don’t need to worry about with JBL.
If you are a bit of a sound snob and want Dolby Vision and Atmos 5.1.4 or 7.1.4, then this is not for you. Look at the top end LG or Samsung Soundbars – but they don’t add Android TV OS.
So, if you have an older TV it will open your eyes to the wonderful world of Android TV, adds HDMI switching, Chromecast, BT, and more. The 2.0 sound is good, great even but it more for an apartment or small home use.
One caveat – I suspect that the JBL Link Bar is V1.0 – a proof of concept that will see more Link bars later that may support Dolby Vision, HDR and Atmos etc. For that reason, it rates well but not as good as it should. Perhaps JBL will deliver more functionality via updates.