JBL Bar 500 5.1 soundbar review: Is it a good choice?

There is no denying that the speakers in today’s televisions leave a lot to be desired when it comes to sound quality, so one easy way to improve the experience is to purchase a soundbar.

But with so many options on the market, from the cheapest to the most expensive, is there a middle ground for those who want good sound without spending a fortune? We tested the JBL Bar 500 to see if it lived up to expectations.

The soundbar features a 5.1 surround sound system with 590W of power and a 10-inch subwoofer. The JBL Bar 500 is an interesting choice because it combines the features of a soundbar and a surround sound system. However, its sound capabilities are more focused on movies than music, as we will see throughout the review.

If you want to know our impressions of the JBL Bar 500 soundbar, read on.

8
Price on Amazon
JBL Bar 500

Soundbar JBL Bar 500 review

POSITIVES
  • High power
  • Deep bass
  • Clarity of dialogues
  • Automatic calibration
  • Integrated Wi-Fi
  • HDMI with 4K signal pass-through
NEGATIVES
  • The feeling with Dolby Atmos is not very spectacular due to the lack of overhead speakers.
  • There are no preset sound modes to select on the bar, you have to download the app
  • The Smart Mode function is activated by default once the bar is restarted.
  • No night mode available
Main features Samsung HW-Q600C
  • 590W output power (290W bar and 300W subwoofer).
  • 5.1 channels
  • 4 (46×90) mm racetrack type units + 3 x 0.75 in. (20 mm) tweeters
  • 10-inch wireless subwoofer
  • Frequency response: 35 Hz – 20 kHz (-6 dB)
  • Dolby Atmos and MultiBeam surround sound.
  • PureVoice technology for dialog optimization
  • Sound calibration
  • Integrated Wifi
  • AirPlay
  • Alexa Multi-Room Music
  • Chromecast built-in
  • Bluetooth: 5.0
  • HDMI eARC with Dolby Vision 4k direct pass-through.
  • JBL One Application
  • Works with voice assistant enabled speakers.
  • Connections: 1 HDMI eARC output, 1 HDMI input, 1 optical input, 1 USB (service only)
  • Included accessories: HDMI cable, wall mount bracket
  • Soundbar dimensions (w x h x d): 1017 x 56 x 103.5 mm
  • Subwoofer dimensions (W x H x D): 305 x 440.4 x 305 mm (305 x 440.4 x 305 mm)

Design

The Bar 500 consists of a long soundbar and a separate 10-inch wireless subwoofer. The soundbar measures 10.35 cm x 1.02 meters x 5.60 cm (depth x width x height). This is a fairly long soundbar, but it always helps to separate the left and right speakers, which improves the stereo image. In contrast, smaller soundbars tend to have a more limited soundstage.

Although it can be paired with TVs of any size, it is initially intended for TVs 55″ or larger. It can be placed directly under most 55″ TVs if it has the typical two-legged stand on the sides.

JBL Bar 500 soundbar designDesign soundbar JBL Bar 500

The Bar 500 comes with a large subwoofer. In small rooms it can be difficult to find the ideal place for it. Its dimensions are 44 cm high, 30.5 cm wide and 30.5 cm deep.

JBL Bar 500 10-inch wireless subwoofer.JBL Bar 500 10-Inch Wireless Subwoofer

However, the bass frequencies are omni-directional, which means that you can place it just about anywhere in the room. It also connects wirelessly to the soundbar, eliminating the need to run wires around the room. The only thing you have to do is place it no more than 20 feet away from the soundbar. This way, you won’t have connection problems between the two.

The subwoofer base has four plastic feet that raise the unit 40mm off the floor, allowing the downward facing 10-inch subwoofer to function properly.

Powerful 300W subwoofer JBL Bar 500 soundbar.JBL Powerful 300W Subwoofer Bar 500 soundbar

Overall, in our opinion, the design of the JBL Bar 500 is quite simple and unobtrusive. The sides of the bar are covered by a simple metal grill that houses an LED display that shows relevant information about sources, volume, etc.

The top of the Bar 500 is made of plastic, with a slightly sunken middle section compared to the rest of the surface. In the middle is the JBL logo, flanked by two microphones. To the right are three control buttons and an LED indicator. This indicator can light up in different colors to signal when the Wi-Fi signal is weak. It also shows you when the bar is connected to the JBL One app, etc.

Top controls - JBL Bar 500 reviewTop controls – JBL Bar 500 review

You can either place it on the table or hang it on the wall, as the bracket is included in the box. Or you can use the one you already have if you already have it installed.

The appearance of the remote is also quite discreet and small in size. On this remote, you will find more options to adjust bass levels, enable or disable Dolby Atmos virtual sound effects. You can also find the button to automatically adjust sound calibration, and control playback while streaming music via the JBL One app, Chromecast, AirPlay, Alexa, or Bluetooth.

Remote control included with Bar 500 soundbar.Remote control included with Bar 500 soundbar.

Connectivity

The rear panel offers a variety of connections, including two HDMI ports, a USB port, an optical input, and an Ethernet port. It offers two TV connection options: an optical digital input and HDMI with eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel).

The HDMI connection is the best option because it enables Dolby Atmos sound. It also has an additional HDMI port for connecting consoles or Blu-ray players and sending the picture through the soundbar to the TV. This HDMI port supports 4K with HDR, which means the Bar 500 does not take up an additional HDMI port on the TV.

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If your TV does not support HDMI eARC, connect the digital device to the HDMI IN port on the soundbar instead of the TV. Otherwise, Dolby Atmos information cannot pass through the HDMI (ARC) connections from the TV to the soundbar.

The USB port is intended for service and software updates, not for the player. It is not intended for plugging in a USB device and listening to music. This port provides 5 volts of power, so it can be used to power low-power devices such as a Firestick.

So much for the physical connections, as for wireless connectivity, this JBL Bar 500 has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.

The JBL Bar 500 gives you access to over 300 streaming music services via AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music and built-in Chromecast. Enjoy your favorite content such as music, Internet radio and podcasts with the convenience of a Wi-Fi connection.

Built-in microphones for voice control.Integrated microphones for voice control

Moreover, the soundbar automatically updates, so you can always enjoy the latest features. It is also possible to add streaming services such as Tidal, TuneIn, Qobuz and Amazon Music through the app, although Apple Music cannot be added. However, this is not a big problem as you can still play music via AirPlay 2.

The JBL One app also lets you adjust the equalizer and control all your compatible speakers from one place.

If you have a voice-activated device, simply pair it with the JBL Bar 500. This way, you can ask Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri to play your favorite music on the soundbar with a simple voice command.

Sound

The JBL Bar 500 is a 5.1 channel system with a maximum power output of 590W. It houses four racetrack speakers and three tweeters. The four racetrack speakers are located in the front, along with a center channel tweeter. Two tweeters are integrated into the sides to extend the sound.

JBL Bar 500 soundbar internal components.JBL Bar 500 soundbar internal components

Deal
590W, MultiBeam and Dolby Atmos

The Bar 500 Series delivers good sound quality with dialog focused front and center and vocals crisp and natural. As expected, the bass in this Bar is powerful, seeing the large 10-inch subwoofer.

You have a direct button on the knob to make the bass adjustment ranging from level 1 to 5. At level 1, the bass is muted and has virtually no presence. If you turn it up to level 5, the bass and vibrations are already too noticeable. In our case, we found that level 4 is the most recommended setting when watching action movies. For general viewing, we prefer to keep the bass at 3, which is still surprisingly powerful.

The Pure Voice technology aims to improve the clarity of the dialog and we can say that it is heard with good definition. By default, Pure Voice is enabled and if you turn it off, it will automatically be enabled when you turn the soundbar back on.

Also enabled by default is Smart mode, which adapts the sound to the content and produces sound that spreads more throughout the room. This mode always works with Dolby Atmos content and must be enabled for Atmos output. With stereo content, however, you can turn it off or on as you wish.

In our opinion, it is better to turn it off for music, as it creates a more forced and less natural sound. For other stereo content, we also prefer to turn it off, as it produces a less enveloping sound, but a more natural one.

It virtually supports Dolby Atmos, and the soundbar’s Dolby Surround mixer can expand previous channel-based audio in the Dolby Digital format, including 5.1 and 7.1 content, to create a 3D Atmos surround experience. For a true surround sound experience, it is important to note that the Bar 500 does not have separate rear speakers or ceiling speakers.

It does have JBL’s proprietary MultiBeam feature, which attempts to simulate the effects of surround sound. To achieve it, bounces sound in certain directions, creating a more immersive soundstage than a standard soundbar that only plays stereo sound.

JBL Bar 500 with side tweeters for 5.1 sound.JBL Bar 500 with side tweeters for 5.1 sound

The truth is that you get a good stereo feel and sound quality. But despite the side speakers, you don’t get a great surround experience. With Dolby Atmos content, the experience is also not very differentiated, as it does not integrate top speakers to project the sound upwards.

If you want to improve this experience, we recommend upgrading to the top-of-the-line Bar 800, which already includes two full-range units with 2.75-inch tops and wireless detachable rear speakers.

Every room is unique, and the JBL Bar 500 is a perfect fit. With the Sound Calibration feature, the top-mounted microphones measure sound bounce to adjust the sound to the room conditions. It is highly recommended that you perform this calibration as you will notice a significant improvement.

JBL Bar 500 Dolby Atmos soundbar opinion

JBL Bar 500 with Dolby Atmos sound bar reviewJBL Bar 500 with Dolby Atmos soundbar review

The JBL Bar 500 is a soundbar that delivers clean, clear sound that is ideal for everything from dialogue-heavy movies to bass-heavy music, such as electronic music.

The JBL Bar 500 is also great for podcasts and dialogue-heavy TV shows. With its independent center channel, this soundbar can improve speech clarity. Its Pure Voice dialog enhancement feature ensures that you never miss a conversation.

The JBL Bar 500 is great for movies. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, and the Bar brings all the punch and rumble to action-packed scenes. With support for popular audio formats like Dolby Digital, you can enjoy many movies on various streaming services and Blu-rays.

However, it does not fully support Dolby Atmos content, as it has to be downmixed to play it since it has no overhead speakers, which detracts from the overall immersive experience.

The JBL 500 soundbar is good for listening to music. The balanced and consistent sound profile ensures that vocals and lead instruments are reproduced with clarity and precision. The subwoofer also provides deep bass, ideal for genres such as electronica and hip-hop. The Room Correction function automatically optimizes the sound according to the characteristics of the room.

However, its soundstage is not as wide as other higher-end models on the market, and when the Smart Mode function is activated with stereo content, such as music, it gives a false and forced feeling.

We miss a greater customization of the sound from the bar to choose between different preset modes as in most bars of this price and a separate setting for bass, mid and treble. You have the option to enable or disable the “Smart” and “Pure Voice” modes, but not with a shortcut, but by pressing and holding a combination of buttons for a few seconds. In addition, they are automatically reactivated each time you turn on the bar.

If you want to adjust the sound in more detail, you will need to download the app, which allows you to adjust by frequency band.

In conclusion, the JBL Bar 500 seems to be a good choice to improve the sound of your TV, as its powerful bass and clear dialogues will make you enjoy your home cinema.

However, you may be looking for something more complete at this price to get more immersive sound with Dolby Atmos. If you have a premium Netflix account or subscribe to other platforms like Disney Plus or Amazon Prime Video, or even a 4K Blu-ray player with Atmos, it may be worth looking at alternatives.

One such alternative is the Samsung HW-Q800C, which already includes superior speakers for better playback and also supports uncompressed Dolby Atmos via Dolby True HD. It also has the option of wirelessly streaming Dolby Atmos if you have a Samsung Neo QLED TV from 2023 or 2022. And just as importantly, the Q-Symphony feature combines the audio from the TV and the bar so that the TV speakers are not cut off.

View price JBL Bar 500 soundbar

JBL Bar 500 - 5.1-Channel soundbar

590W, MultiBeam and Dolby Atmos
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Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Bar 500 better than the previous model Bar 5.1?

The new JBL Bar 500 Series is better than the previous JBL Bar 5.1 Surround. It offers better sound quality with a better soundstage. Although it must be mixed in stereo, it can play Dolby Atmos content. In addition, it has more sound enhancement features.

How can I enjoy Dolby Atmos sound with the JBL Bar 500?

To enjoy Dolby Atmos sound, the content must be in this format. You also need to have the bar connected to your TV via HDMI. On the digital device, select “Bitstream” or “Raw Data” or similar in the audio output settings to get the best Dolby Atmos experience.

8 Total Score
JBL Bar 500 5.1 soundbar review

After putting it through its paces, we were impressed with the performance of the JBL Bar 500 and its comprehensive range of features. For anyone looking to expand the audio capabilities of their TV or gaming experience, it's a great choice. The soundbar's ability to reproduce powerful sound with deep bass and clear dialogue, along with its ease of use and broad compatibility with a wide range of devices, makes it an attractive option. Although it doesn't offer the same level of Dolby Atmos performance as other bars with upward-facing speakers, the virtual sound processing of the 500 Bar still produces a decent surround sound experience. A plus point is the extensive connectivity and integration with voice-controlled devices. The JBL Bar 500 is worth considering if you're looking for a full-featured mid-range soundbar that offers good sound performance, versatility and easy-to-use features.

PROS
  • High power
  • Deep bass
  • Clarity of dialogues
  • Automatic calibration
  • Integrated Wi-Fi
  • HDMI with 4K signal pass-through
CONS
  • The feeling with Dolby Atmos is not very spectacular due to the lack of overhead speakers.
  • There are no preset sound modes to select on the bar, you have to download the app
  • The Smart Mode function is activated by default once the bar is restarted.
  • No night mode available

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