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MultiBeam Steals the Present- Tech Advisor



Soundbars are all the trend proper now, providing an easier different to conventional encompass sound system setups with out an excessive amount of of a sacrifice to audio high quality. Nearly each tech producer has a soundbar or two, from Samsung to LG, and that’s not even together with devoted audio manufacturers like Sonos, Denon and JBL.

JBL’s Bar 5.1 Encompass has the potential to face out from the gang by utilising the identical patented MultiBeam know-how the corporate makes use of in cinema audio techniques world wide. The know-how gives spectacular audio recreation, throwing sounds across the room with ease to totally immerse you within the second. 

It’s costly at £549.99/$499.95, however is it value it? Hold studying to seek out out. 

Design: It’s a chonk

The JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass presents what I’d name a normal soundbar setup, compromised of a soundbar and an accompanying wirelessly-connected subwoofer that sits out of the best way close by. The soundbar itself will take up fairly a little bit of your TV unit – and even cling off the ends, because it does on mine –  measuring in at 1018 x 58 x 100mm, however with a complete of seven audio system constructed into the soundbar, it’s a essential sacrifice to make. I’d actually moderately a greater audio expertise at the price of a small footprint.  

That being stated, the soundbar sports activities curved pill-shaped corners of the soundbar that make it appear smaller than it truly is whereas additionally serving to it stand out from a sea of gray soundbar techniques accessible in 2020.

The design could be very minimal, and that extends to the on-soundbar controls. They’re discovered smack-bang in the midst of the soundbar for simple entry, with 4 buttons on provide: energy, quantity up, quantity down and supply. These are arguably probably the most used controls on a soundbar, however with out a button to regulate bass, that’s one thing you’ll have to make use of the bundled distant for. The buttons are additionally bodily and provide a tactile response, against some soundbar techniques that use a (moderately irritating) touch-based system. 

The distant, just like the soundbar, is refreshingly easy, providing a handful of clearly labelled, well-spaced buttons that’s simple to make use of by touch-only when you get used to the setup. And sure, in contrast to the Edifier S50DB, there’s a mute button on the distant – it’s a easy characteristic, however one {that a} rising variety of producers are ditching on soundbar remotes. 

There’s no noticeable show on the JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass – as an alternative, there’s a dot matrix-esque show constructed into the right-hand facet of the soundbar, behind the speaker grille. It’s a clear look, solely showing when adjusting quantity, altering sources or when initially turning the system on, disappearing again into obscurity when not wanted. That’s one much less distracting mild when making an attempt to get into a great movie, on the very least! 

Accompanying the soundbar is the wi-fi subwoofer, housing a 10in woofer that packs a severe punch, however extra on that later. The one actual grievance in regards to the soundbar is the dimensions of the factor – it’s an absolute unit. Measuring in at 305 x 440 x 305mm, it’s one of many greatest wi-fi subwoofers I’ve reviewed, and a few individuals would possibly wrestle to seek out someplace for it to sit down close by inconspicuously. In my case, the subwoofer is definitely taller than my TV unit.

Connectivity: Lacks the fundamentals, however makes up for it

The JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass is an odd prospect relating to connectivity: whereas it boasts a handful of premium choices, it’s lacking a couple of of the fundamentals. You see, you’ve bought the pretty commonplace Optical and HDMI (full with ARC help) inputs, but it surely’s lacking the Auxiliary and Coaxial inputs discovered on many different soundbar techniques, so that you’ll should ensure that your TV both has an Optical port or helps HDMI ARC earlier than heading to the store to purchase the Bar 5.1 Encompass.

You’ll additionally discover Bluetooth help, permitting you to attach your smartphone or pill to the soundbar once you’re listening to music or taking part in cellular video games, but it surely’s a characteristic I’ve solely used a few times. Why? As a result of the JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass presents each AirPlay 2 and Chromecast help, linked both by way of built-in 2.4GHz Wi-Fi or Ethernet. 

AirPlay 2 is a good characteristic of the soundbar for those who personal an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV, permitting you to wirelessly stream content material out of your Apple gadgets to the soundbar with out having to faff round with Bluetooth and doubtlessly compromise on sound high quality. AirPlay 2 additionally permits for multi-speaker output, so for those who’ve bought one other AirPlay 2-enabled speaker in the home, you may sync the 2 collectively. 

And, in fact, Chromecast is the right accomplice for Android customers. It’s not fairly as superior as AirPlay 2, with out the power to work as a part of a multi-speaker setup, but it surely’s nonetheless a a lot simpler manner to connect with the speaker in comparison with Bluetooth. Nonetheless, Bluetooth remains to be there for gadgets – like laptops – that won’t help Chromecast or AirPlay 2 playback. 

That’s primarily the place the smarts finish relating to the Bar 5.1 Encompass – there’s no companion app for iOS and Android to regulate the soundbar, and neither is there any sort of compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, and that’s a little bit of a disgrace contemplating the web connectivity is available.  

Audio: MultiBeam is the best way ahead

JBL is famed for its phenomenal audio efficiency, and that commonplace is upheld by the Bar 5.1 Encompass. That’s attainable because of the inclusion of 5 front-facing drivers and two side-firing tweeters, together with the sturdy, distinguished bass from the wi-fi 10in subwoofer, providing a mixed 550W of energy. 

That’s a robust setup, however that’s not the principle purpose why the Bar 5.1 Encompass sounds so nice. You see, JBL has been producing sound techniques for cinemas for over 75 years, utilising the corporate’s personal MultiBeam know-how to supply an extremely detailed and spacially-accurate audio expertise, and that very same know-how is discovered within the Bar 5.1 Encompass.

Whereas some claims of 3D audio are pure advertising schpiel, JBL delivers on the declare – and it’s mind-blowing at occasions. The way in which that the soundbar can throw sounds across the room, particularly to the far left and proper of the speaker system, is wonderful, creating an extremely immersive expertise when watching motion pictures and taking part in video games. The soundscape is nothing in need of spectacular, with unimaginable sound separation and simulated directional audio. 

That does rely on the content material you’re watching – Dolby Digital-supported content material will all the time produce a greater soundscape higher than commonplace stereo content material – however usually talking, most content material on Netflix, Amazon Prime and most different streaming companies provide Dolby Digital help. I’ve to level out that it doesn’t help Dolby Digital Plus or the high-end Dolby Atmos, nonetheless, and that’s a little bit of a disgrace contemplating the audio chops on provide from the soundbar system. 

No matter whether or not you’re watching a film or listening to music by way of AirPlay 2, the JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass delivers wealthy, detailed audio with clear, crisp vocals and really thumping bass, the latter of which could be independently adjusted by way of the distant management. The one barely odd omission is the shortage of EQ presets, enhancing playback relying on what you’re watching or listening to. 

Pricing

At £549.99/$499.95, the JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass isn’t precisely an entry-level soundbar system, however you do get your cash’s value – particularly with JBL’s MultiBeam know-how, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast on provide. It’s actually cheaper than the £799/$799 Sonos Arc, and Sonos’ possibility doesn’t embody a subwoofer. 

If the JBL Bar 5.1 has piqued your curiosity, it’s available for purchase straight from JBL, though these within the UK can head to Currys and decide it up for £100 cheaper at £449.  

Verdict

The JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass is a powerful little bit of package, nonetheless massive it may be. The soundbar seems to be smooth and minimalistic, and though it could lack commonplace connectivity choices like aux-in, it makes up for it with the inclusion of each AirPlay 2 and Chromecast alongside Optical In, HDMI and Bluetooth connectivity. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s within the audio division that the Bar 5.1 Encompass actually flexes its muscle tissues. Utilizing JBL’s personal cinema-level MultiBeam know-how, the soundbar can challenge audio across the room with spectacular element, creating an immersive viewing expertise. That’s backed up by the 10in subwoofer that delivers thunderous bass, adjustable by way of the bundled distant. 

Contemplating it’s accessible for £100 lower than its RRP at Currys within the UK, it presents each nice worth and nice efficiency. 

Specs
JBL Bar 5.1 Encompass: Specs

Soundbar: 58 x 1018 x 100 mm
Subwoofer: 440 x 305 x 305 mm
550W energy output
6 Ohms impedance
40-20,000Hz frequency response
5x drivers
2x side-firing tweeters
MultiBeam 5.1 Audio
Help for Dolby Digital
HDMI (ARC)
Optical In
AirPlay 2
Chromecast
Bluetooth
2.4GHz Wi-Fi

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