JBL Bar 9.1 Sound bar with subwoofer and dolby atmos

JBL
Bar 9.1 Soundbar Review

The perfect entry-point into great home-theater sound with Dolby Atmos.

PRICE


$999.95

THE HIGH NOTES


  • HDMI eARC
  • Musical & Thrilling JBL Sound
  • 4-Piece Bundled Kit

When you buy from Audio Advice, we’re also including an exclusive “Tips & Tricks - How to set up JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar" video, available only to Audio Advice customers. This video will give you some additional key tricks, including how to get the best sound for your room, and a few other tips.

The JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer & Surrounds is a Dolby Atmos system that includes a wireless subwoofer and a pair of wireless rear-surround speakers for an exhilarating 9.1 surround-sound experience that’s convenient to set up and easy to use.

Company & Product Overview

At Audio Advice, we were blown away the first time we experienced Dolby Atmos in 2014. We’ve been helping people achieve immersive sounding movies and music in their home theaters for over 40 years, so we were deeply impressed when the new surround sound format hit the residential home theater market. 

Today, Soundbars are one of the largest categories in the home electronics industry. There are more Dolby Atmos movies and TV shows coming out all the time, so clearly, this trend is here to stay. 

If you are looking at all the new Dolby Atmos soundbars on the market, but you’re looking for the most value and performance in one convenient package, then JBL has a solution that will let you enjoy exhilarating surround sound in your home without breaking the bank. 

JBL is known worldwide as a brand audio professionals count on. Used by famous DJs in the biggest nightclubs all over the world, JBL speakers are built to last, to be tough, and present epic sound quality that rocks dancefloors across the world.

Our latest review is on the JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar. This high-performance soundbar delivers everything you need to bring the experience of the movie theater home. 

With 9 channels of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D surround sound plus a single channel for sub-bass frequencies, you get a soundbar, a sub, plus rear surrounds for less than $1,000. The rear surrounds are optional add-ons in many other systems including Sonos Arc Surround Sound Set and Bowers & Wilkins Formation Series, so this really makes the JBL Bar 9.1 stand out in terms of the value you get. We think the Bar 9.1 represents the perfect entry-point into home theater sound in the Dolby Atmos format for a great price.

JBL Bar 9.1 Sound bar with subwoofer and dolby atmos

Design & Build Quality

The build quality is impressive. For a company that specializes in products for audio professionals, JBL delivers on the promise for the tough and reliable build-quality that we expect. 

The first thing you’ll notice is the smart design of this completely wireless surround system. As a package of 4 pieces all bundled together, you get a soundbar with two wireless rechargeable rear-speakers that magnetically snap into place and connect with the bar when they need to charge, plus a wireless subwoofer. 

Because rear surrounds and subwoofers are optional add-ons in many other soundbar systems, JBL Bar 9.1 represents the most value up-front for the money. All the included pieces have matching rounded edges and a pencil graphite finish that has just the right amount of sheen for a nice modern look. 

The soundbar by itself weighs about 8 pounds when the rear-surround speakers are not connected. When they’re not attached, the wireless rear-speakers weigh about 1 ½ pounds each.

JBL Bar 9.1 Sound bar on top of a table with the included remote control

The Bar 9.1 is designed to sit under your TV or it can be wall-mounted. Wall-mounting brackets and instructions are included in the box. You could mount this to your wall for a nice clean professional look, but, we think most people will probably position the soundbar under their TV on a piece of furniture, and place the rear-speakers on top of tables or even a pair of stands behind you. If you place this under your TV, we always recommend separating the bar from the TV to give the upward-firing drivers enough clearance to direct sound up to your ceiling. 

With the rears attached, the bar spans 47-inches wide. When you remove the detachable wireless rear-surrounds, the bar spans just shy of 35-inches long, about 2 ½ inches tall, and 4.7-inches deep. Visually, this will make the Bar 9.1 look great with TVs that are 43-inches or wider. 

The front panel of the Bar 9.1 features a simple but modern-looking perforated grill. Behind the grill is where you’ll also find the LED display that tells you the status of the system. We like how the LEDs only illuminate when there’s something important such as the selected inputs or the battery-levels of the wireless rear-speakers. This keeps the user-experience simple and helps eliminate distractions, keeping our attention focused on the storyline.

The back of the soundbar is where all the inputs and outputs are tucked away. From left to right they are — a power connection, a USB Type-A port that will accept a USB storage device, an optical Toslink input, an ethernet port, (1x) HDMI eARC output and (1x) HDMI input. We recommend connecting the soundbar directly to your router with an ethernet connection for the most stable wireless performance with your WIFI network.

top view of the JBL Bar 9.1 Dolby Atmos soundbar showing the push buttons on top of the unit

On top of the unit, four soft push-buttons let you power the soundbar system on or off, raise and lower the volume, and cycle through each of the source inputs. Overall, the buttons have a durable pro-level feel to them and we like the way JBL keeps everything simple with just four of them. The buttons are recessed into the top panel which should help prevent them from breaking. Buttons are always appreciated in case you misplace or lose the remote. Also, on top of the unit, there are two small ventilation ports for the calibration microphones built-inside that capture the unique acoustic properties of your room. 

While we like the smart and simple look of the JBL Bar 9.1, it's the size of the wireless sub that makes the biggest statement in this entire system. The sub stands a little over 17-inches tall, 12-inches wide, and 12-inches deep. It also weighs in at 24 ½ pounds. There’s a power button on the back of the unit, and a power connection that plugs into the wall, but other than this, the lack of inputs and outputs gives this wireless design a sleek look. 

The complete JBL Bar 9.1 package is packed with high-performance technology that will deliver big powerful bass and fill a room of almost any size with thrilling Dolby Atmos sound.

image of JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar showing the dolby atmos effect in a room

Features & Technology

JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar is a 9 channel surround sound system that comes with a single subwoofer — hence the numbers in the name “Bar 9.1.” 

We’ll break down what all these channels mean in just a moment and why this is cool. But first, let’s talk about the sub. It’s heavy because there’s a massive 10-inch down-firing transducer inside the unit that will deliver deep floor-shaking low-end. 

close up shot of the subwoofer that comes bundled with the JBL Bar 9.1 dolby atmos soundbar

JBL is famous for powering the biggest live events, clubs, concerts, and dancefloors all around the world. Presenting exhilarating bass with great low-end energy is a feature JBL subwoofers are known for, and the wireless sub that comes with the Bar 9.1 soundbar delivers a great home theater experience.  

Next, inside the soundbar there are (4x) oval-shaped racetrack drivers plus (2x) up-firing full-range drivers and (3x) 0.75-inch tweeters. Plus each surround speaker has (1x) up-firing full-range driver and a 0.75-inch tweeter giving you a total of 13 speakers that will completely immerse you in sound. 

image showing the internal design inside the JBL Bar 9.1 dolby atmos soundbar

To present sound across a full range of frequencies, JBL uses these 13 drivers to present sound from 34Hz to 20KHz with a maximum sound pressure level of 103dB. JBL does not provide a plus or minus point on the 34Hz, so we are not sure if the sub really gets that low, but it sure feels like it! This array of drivers coupled with 820 watts of total system power lets you enjoy both Oscar and Grammy-winning performances with crystal clear audio for dialogue and music in even the largest of spaces.

Three front-facing speakers direct sound horizontally to provide the left, center, and right channels with room-filling sound. Two up-firing speakers on top of the bar plus two more on top of the rear-speakers provide a total of four height-channels. These all combine forces to fire sound up to the ceiling for that top-to-bottom sense of vertical elevation in the sound field. 

And as though that wasn’t enough coverage, JBL went the extra mile by giving you two more surround sound channels. The rear-speakers detach from the bar so you can place them anywhere in your room for an immersive experience that completely envelops you in a 9 channel “bubble” of 3D Dolby Atmos sound.  We like how JBL marks which rear-surround speaker is the left or right channel on the sides of each unit.

The JBL Bar 9.1’s detachable rear-surrounds are also wireless and rechargeable. After about 10 hours of wireless playtime, a red light blinks on top of each unit to let you know it's time to recharge them. You just dock them into the Bar 9.1’s built-in magnets and in about 3 hours they’ll be fully charged. 

photo showing one of the removable speakers of JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar sitting on a table next to the included remote control

While all this great Dolby Atmos speaker technology brings the surround sound experience of the movie theater home for a great price, we also appreciated the cool features that JBL packed inside. The JBL Bar 9.1 supports the newer enhanced version of HDMI ARC called “eARC.” This is cool because eARC’s higher bandwidth allows true Dolby Atmos to be transmitted out to compatible devices. 

Another added benefit of the newer HDMI ARC connection-types is that both ARC and eARC will simplify the way you control your TV. With this, you can narrow down your remote control options to just one remote. 

The Bar 9.1 also supports Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth, so you can stream music from compatible phones, tablets, and computers directly to the bar and throw an epic house party or relax into an immersive musical sound sphere. There’s also a USB port on the back of the bar that will let you playback MP3 files stored on a USB thumb drive, and support for Ultra HD 4K pass-through with Dolby Vision which we think are all nice touches coming from a soundbar at this price-point.  

JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar with chromecast built-in
JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar with Apple Airplay
JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar with Bluetooth
JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar with Dolby Vision
JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar with dolby atmos

Performance

If you’re just getting started with Dolby Atmos, your favorite streaming service is probably the most convenient way to experience all the movies and TV shows encoded with this new surround-sound format. Usually, a quick google search is the best way to see a list of all the great Dolby Atmos content available. 

However, here's a pro tip: type “Dolby Atmos” into the search field on either Netflix or Amazon Prime, and you’ll see every movie and TV show encoded with the new surround sound format. Fans of Disney+ or iTunes will have to search google for a comprehensive list of Dolby Atmos content, but we were really impressed with the huge amount of Atmos content that’s already on Disney+.

Setting up the JBL Bar 9.1 was straightforward. After we plugged in the power supply and made the necessary connections with our TV, the soundbar began giving helpful instructions right from the LED display.

image showing the back of the JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar with all the connectivity options and ports

Next, we began the calibration process that tunes the Bar 9.1 to the specific acoustics of the room. At Audio Advice, we are big fans of room calibration and correction, so the Bar 9.1 scores major points for including this. 

First, we started the calibration process by placing the two detachable wireless rear-speakers behind us. When placing the rears around your room, we recommend positioning each one flat onto a tabletop or a speaker stand in the rear of the room so that the Atmos speakers can fire sound up towards the ceiling. Be sure nothing is in the way, such as a plant or a lampshade, that could obstruct the soundwaves from reaching the ceiling. It’s important to angle each speaker so that the charging dock is pointing directly away from you. This will ensure the rear-channel speakers are directing horizontal surround sound properly.

Using the remote control that JBL includes in the box, we held down the button labeled “HDMI” for 3 seconds. We liked the way the LED display on the front panel of the bar counted down the seconds for us. 

close up of the JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar setup screen on the LED display

The room we tested the Bar 9.1 in was a typical open-floor-plan living-room with a listening-space of about 12-feet wide, 16-feet deep, and 9-feet high ceilings. After the Bar 9.1 blasted out a few test tones directly from the soundbar and the rears, the internal microphones built inside the Bar 9.1 captured the acoustic properties of the living-space in less than a few minutes. After that, we were watching Dolby Atmos movies and streaming music from our phones using Bluetooth and Airplay. 

The first thing we knew we had to demo was music! We played a lot of different genres, and while everything we played immersed us in thrilling JBL sound, we noticed modern recordings really shined on this system. One of the tracks that stood out was “Good Thing,” released in 2019 by the Indie outfit Sure Sure for their second studio album, “What’s It Like?”

Immediately, the rhythm and pacing of the bassline captured our attention. The room-filling low-end made us all want to clap our hands with the beat just like we were at a live concert.

Even when we walked away from the optimal listening position, our living space was completely covered with great sound. For uptempo beats, the sub presented musical bottom-end weight that was room-filling enough to throw a great house party. We also really enjoyed kicking back and leaning into the immersive Atmos sound field during slower jams.

We would have liked to have seen more EQ features to shape the sound. However, while not the same as an EQ, the included remote does offer some solutions to customize the sound field. On the remote, there are tactile controls that will let you raise or lower the volume-levels coming out of the subwoofer (levels 1-4) and the rear surround speakers (low, mid, and high). The sub is so powerful, level-3 was perfect for our room, but it’s nice knowing you can impress your guests at your next neighborhood-friendly rager.

close up of the included remote control that comes with the JBL Bar 9.1 dolby atmos soundbar

There’s also a dedicated button that will let you raise or lower the entire Atmos effect in your room depending on how high your ceilings are. Settings for “low,” “mid,” and “high” change the vertical Atmos sense of elevation in the sound field for dramatic effect. “High” is best for ceilings higher than 10-feet. We decided “mid” was the perfect setting for our room with 9-foot ceilings.   

One of the first clips we tried out with true Dolby Atmos encoding was a classic scene from the Stars Wars franchise: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. At about 55 minutes into the movie, there’s a great race scene with the 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker at the helm of an Airspeeder. Before the race begins, the camera pans over a vast auditorium filled with spectators cheering the other racers on, and a Star Wars-themed symphony soundtrack plays in the background. The surround sound experience of the audience was so three-dimensional, we felt like we were on the ground with the other racers revving our engines with the characters. We could feel the impact of engines revving with deep chest-punching bottom-end weight from the subwoofer, which helped us to feel immersed in the storyline even more.

Next, we chose a scene from Marvel Studios’ The Avengers: Infinity War. At the beginning of the movie, there’s an epic fight scene between two superheroes. If you haven’t seen the movie, we won’t give away any spoilers, but we will tell you that fight scenes are presented with bone-crushing weight. Punches and kicks are very impactful and convincing. The sub delivered thrilling low-end energy that completely immerses you in the fight. 

In our testing, we were very impressed by the three-dimensional Atmos soundstage. Overall, the Atmos speakers surrounding us did an amazing job presenting soundtracks in the height channels so that it sounded like orchestras were playing directly above us. While music sounded really great, we wish EQ settings were included. There were a few movies where dialogue sounded slightly too far back in the mix, so it would have been nice to have more EQ controls to bring dialogue forward. However, when this happened, lowering the levels of the bass, the Atmos effect, and the volume of the rear speakers helped the dialogue to stand out clearer.

JBL Bar 9.1 dolby atmos soundbar with the detachable speakers detached

When you buy from Audio Advice, we’re also including an exclusive “Tips & Tricks - How to set up JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar" video, available only to Audio Advice customers. This video will give you some additional key tricks, including how to get the best sound for your room, and a few other tips.

Overall Recommendation

 

Soundbars have come a long way in recent years and we are impressed with the technology and the level of immersion that comes out of them. With wireless technology, they are more mobile and affordable than a full surround-sound installation and some of them can offer comparable sound. As television and movies start to prioritize Dolby Atmos and streaming, we can’t help but note this trend is the future.

For less than $1,000, JBL gives you the whole Atmos experience complete with soundbar, subwoofer, and rear speakers for 9 channels of 3D surround sound immersion. When you compare this with other systems, the JBL Bar 9.1 stands out as a total surround sound package for the money. Similar systems might include a sub, but the rears are usually optional add-ons and more expensive after you fully expand your system.

At this price point, we like that there are no extra wires or extra power connections needed. The battery-powered rear-surrounds are not only convenient, they add more to the immersive experience. They did a great job recreating the elevation in our soundstage, but it was the exhilarating bottom-end weight from the sub that over-delivered on performance in this deal.

While there are even better soundbars available, we think the JBL Bar 9.1 represents one of the most convenient solutions for a complete Dolby Atmos experience at a great price. We were very impressed with the performance during movies and especially when listening to music. If you have a large space that could use room-filling sound, we see the Bar 9.1 fitting in well for entertaining guests, throwing a dance party, or just relaxing in front of a great movie and an immersive soundtrack. For only $999.95, it's such a great value, who wouldn’t make room for this total package?

HIGH NOTES UNPACKED

JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar with HDMI eARC

HDMI eARC

eARC’s higher bandwidth gives true Dolby Atmos with compatible devices and simplifies the way you control your TV. With this, you can narrow down your remote control options to just one remote.

JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar showing the internal components inside the dolby atmos system

Musical & Thrilling JBL Sound

An array of 13 drivers coupled with 820 watts of total system power lets you enjoy Oscar and Grammy-winning performances with crystal clear audio from 34Hz to 20KHz for dialogue and music in even the largest of spaces.

JBL Bar 9.1 dolby atmos soundbar with subwoofer and rear spearkers and remote control

4-Piece Bundled Kit

As a package of 4 pieces bundled together, you get a soundbar with two wireless rechargeable rear-speakers plus a wireless subwoofer for an immersive experience that envelops you in 9 channels of 3D Dolby Atmos sound.

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