In August 2022, JBL announced a range of four new soundbars, from the small and cheap right up to a high-end 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos monster with battery powered rear speakers that magnetically attach to the end of the soundbar – so you can have all the power from the front, or go for a real surround experience. This model is the JBL Bar 1000, and I had the chance to try it out.
If the idea of the detachable speakers in a JBL soundbar sounds familiar, that’s because it was already done in the JBL Bar 9.1 – but now the new version has upgraded the package and brings some features to rival the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.
With JBL’s latest-gen ‘MultiBeam’ technology, it’s better at steering sound around the room for convincing surround (as we’ll come to in a minute), and it’s gunning to be one of the best soundbars for gamers thanks to its including of two HDMI 2.1 passthrough ports, with full support for 4K 120Hz images and VRR, as well as Dolby Vision.
That’s in addition to the HDMI eARC that goes to the TV, so if you bought a gaming TV like the Sony X90J that has a limited number of HDMI 2.1 ports, this soundbar actually adds to the number of HDMI 2.1 options you have available.
I don’t know of any soundbars that offer this for the official price of $1,149 / £999 / AU$1,690. All of JBL’s new soundbars are due for release during October 2022.
Of course, none of these specs matter if the JBL Bar 1000 doesn’t sound good. I only had a chance to try if briefly, but I’ll tell you one thing up front: JBL is swinging for the fences when it comes to the power and surround effects of this soundbar.
An assault on the senses
I watched the Batmobile’s introduction and chase scene from The Batman on the JBL Bar 1000, and the dirty, loud aggression of the muscle car’s engine feels like exactly what this soundbar wants to play. It takes a sound that’s already designed to jump down your throat and puts that into a wall of sound.
At only about half volume, it more than filled the personal cinema room we were in – this is with the rear speakers detached and firing from about four feet behind me, with the soundbar about six feet in front.
But the sound was so forward and punchy in this scene that it felt like I might as well have had the bar on my lap. The (notably large) 10-inch subwoofer was a factor in this as well – it’s downfiring, and you can feel its energy pumping into the floor as well as hearing the results in the guttural rumble of the Batmobile’s engine.
The thing that impressed me most was the surround effect from the sides – aided by the MultiBeam tech. There was plenty of width in the sound across the TV, as you’d expect, and effect from the rear speakers were also prominent. But there was also a really strong effect of noises coming from almost alongside me, where there was no speaker. It relied only on sound reflection to achieve that, and it felt stronger and more precise than most of the best soundbars can manage when pulling that same trick.
The JBL Bar 1000 has an easy calibration option for once it’s in a room, which had been done before I arrived, so that no doubt helped with the effectiveness. But as far as getting a convincing surround experience, the Bar 1000 definitely looks like one to watch.
I do have concerns I would keep my eye on (ear on?) in a full review, though. Despite JBL’s specific dialogue enhancement systems, the speech in The Batman was not easy to pick out from the carnage of the action. Now, I think the film’s mix is a major culprit here, so I won’t knock the Bar 1000 for that until I can try it with a broader range of stuff, but I’d be remiss not to mention it.
And I also felt like its audio presentation was so forward and aggressive that when things got to their most dense – when there are crashes and accelerating cars and dialogue and music all at the same time – it struggled to keep definition between the different elements. They started to blur together.
Again, I’d have to test more – perhaps at lower volumes it behaves differently, perhaps The Batman was just the peak of what kind of cacophony it can handle.
But even at this early stage, I think that the convenience (and general coolness) of being able to ‘snap’ a couple of rear speakers off the end of your soundbar for when you want an all-encompassing surround experience, and then popping them (with a satisfying pop) back on the end if you want to keep it compact, could win people people over. But it has tough competition from the Samsung HW-Q930B, so we’ll so what we think of the JBL in a full review.