JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar Review: Bringing big movie sound to your home theater
Audio is half of the equation when it comes to enjoying your entertainment. A soundbar does more than just make your favorite TV shows and movies sound louder or add more bass. The larger speakers and dedicated subwoofer of a soundbar do far better job than any TV speakers ever could. The JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar looks to give you that movie theater feel without taking up much space or running wires for a surround sound system.
The JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar has a very slim profile to make it easy to place under your TV with a wrap around grill design. I really dig the wrap around grill look and despite how low profile was the infrared sensor on my TV is still placed too low. For this reason, I still had to place it behind the TV so the remote would continue functioning and couldn’t enjoy the design as much.
The Bar 2.1 Soundbar lacks an always on display. Instead, the display is hidden behind the grill and only lights up when you interact with it. The grill gives it a dot matrix look and offers a cool little retro feel. With the display hidden it gives the soundbar a very nice uniformed look. However, the downside is to see which input you are currently on or to check settings such as night mode you will have to trigger it with the remote.
There are plenty of connection options on the back including a 3.5 audio jack, optical port, and HDMI ARC. If you’re more of a wireless type of person. there is also Bluetooth connectivity for streaming all your favorite music from your phone. The wireless subwoofer provides a rather slim design making it not take up much area on the floor but it is quite tall. This will help you place it somewhere in the room without taking up much of your floor plan while still getting that rumbling bass you crave. Remember though, while it connects wirelessly you will still have to plug it into a power source.
With all the ways to connect the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar, the easiest and my favorite is using HDMI ARC. This not only gives you digital audio but also offers the convenience of controlling the soundbar with your TV remote.
Unfortunately, while JBL includes an optical cable and 3.5mm audio cable, they do not include an HDMI cable. Luckily, I already had a spare that was being used with my previous soundbar but make sure you already have your own HDMI cable if you go this route.
Setup is simple as well. After plugging in the power for the soundbar, wireless subwoofer, and connecting the HDMI cable, everything was ready to go. Once turned on, the JBL Bar 2.1 immediately paired up with the wireless subwoofer and I was able to control the volume with the Comcast cable box remote which is programmed for my TV.
The JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar comes with its own remote for more advanced functions such as subwoofer volume, different sound modes, audio sync, night mode, and more. Many of these aren’t essential for day to day usage, and you should be fine using your TV remote alone to control the volume or power it on or off with your TV.
For those times when you need manual control, the Bar 2.1 Soundbar includes a set of nice round buttons on the top for power, volume, and switching inputs.
One issue I ran into with the Bar 2.1 Soundbar was the sound cutting out for a second or two when using the cable box. This could happen two to four times a day while watching TV, but never when using any other source. I’m not sure what the issue was here, but it never happened with my previous soundbar.
Another issue I ran into was when using the remote, for whatever reason I had issues with a few buttons on it. When controlling the main features such as volume it worked perfectly but trying to toggle night mode or control the subwoofer volume proved to be more challenging.
I would have to press and hold or press these buttons repeatedly while moving the remote around until the soundbar responded. Pressing them in the exact same position that the volume controls did nothing most of the time. Fortunately, these are settings you don’t change very often and I used the cable box remote the majority of the time to control volume or power the soundbar on or off.
Something purely cosmetic was how when controlling the volume level the number on the TV and the number on the soundbar didn’t match. This in no way affected the performance but I’m sure could bother some people.
A tale two different soundbars kind of sums up my experience with the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar. While using it with a cable box I found the bass insufficient except for the largest of explosions. This forced me to turn the bass up to the max level to really get the boom sounds I was expecting from the subwoofer.
The sound was still clear and offered more volume and range than you can expect from your TV speakers, but the mids were a little lacking. I believe this contributed to the lack of bass I was hoping to hear.
However, when using the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar while watching movies featuring surround sound the bass was full and strong. I was able to turn down the bass considerably and still have the impact I love from my movies. This difference between watching television and movies was larger than I’ve experienced with previous soundbars and left me a little perplexed.
Even when watching movies with surround sound the midrange was still a little weak, but there was a nice V shaped sound signature with clear highs and low booming bass. The bass offered great impact when watching movies, resulting in the canons from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sounding more like canons, and less similar to pellet guns when compared to the TV speakers.
The highs, on the other hand, offered more clarity and made dialogue clear and crisp. Sound separation was also fantastic helping your ear pick up on sound effects you might have missed out previously on some of your favorite movies.
Using the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar also greatly improved the soundtrack. Hearing the score of a movie through tiny TV speakers does not do it justice. Similar to how hearing your favorite song on a high-quality pair of headphones or speakers makes it even better, the same is true for movies. It really helps you appreciate all the hard work the composer and musicians put in when you hear it with such quality.
Streaming music over Bluetooth offered the best experience with the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar. I found the bass was strongest when playing music and the crisp highs added wonderful clarity to music. This soundbar really excels when playing music, providing lots of volume and a wonderful signature sound. The Bluetooth range was great offering up to 30ft. through walls without issue and made it easy to hear music throughout the house.
Overall, I was a little torn because of the stark differences between different sources on the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar. It’s larger than I’ve experienced from other soundbars I’ve tried, but as long as you have the proper source it sounds pretty great. Without the proper source, the bass will be a little weak and that could turn some people off who were expecting more impact.
Good sound is about more than bass though and no matter what the source the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar delivers 300w of power for more volume, more range, and more quality than your TV speakers ever could. If you’d like to pick one up for your home the JBL Bar 2.1 Soundbar starts at $299.95 and can found using the links below from Amazon or JBL.Buy from Amazon Buy from JBL