It was just last year that we got our first look at JBL’s first Dolby Atmos soundbar, so it’s little surprise the Harman-owned brand is taking at another, somewhat more sophisticated stab at one for 2021. Enter JBL’s new Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, a $400 soundbar that uses multiple angled speakers, beamforming and that virtual Atmos tech to produce what JBL claims is “immersive, 3D” audio.
For the unaware, virtual Dolby Atmos is already widely used in receivers and soundbars to simulate the effect of having dedicated height or ceiling speakers installed. (Whether the effect is actually all that convincing is really a matter of opinion.) Coupled with Harman’s Multibeam pseudo-surround-sound and a quartet of passive radiators meant to offer punchy bass without a dedicated subwoofer, and we’re looking at a relatively cheap, all-in-one soundbar that just might be able to punch above its weight.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that JBL gave this thing a slew of connectivity options, too. Once installed, the soundbar will play nice with audio streamed via Apple Airplay 2, Google Cast and Bluetooth, and can act as part of a multi-room speaker group when playing music through Amazon’s Alexa.
Not having heard the Bar 5.0 in action, we can’t yet judge how well JBL delivered on its claims of immersive audio — this is, after all, a $400 bit of kit. Consider us cautiously optimistic for now, but it’s worth noting that other companies have attempted to produce similarly spacious sound through all-in-one soundbars, to varying degrees of success. Still, there’s something to be said for JBL’s zeal for simplicity here — the Bar 5.0 may well be a great choice for people looking to experience their media through more than just their TV’s speakers when it launches in Spring 2021.