JBL has announced a new 9.1 sound bar with detachable and truly wireless rear speakers.
This means that, instead of finding power outlets for the pair of rear speakers many sound bars come with, JBL's rear speakers charge up when connected to the sound bar, then operate wirelessly for up to 10 hours when it's movie night.
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The benefits here are numerous. For starters, there is no need to run speaker wire across a room, but because the speakers are battery powered, it also means there's no need to find a pair of wall outlets either.
Thirdly, it means the user gets a true surround sound experience, instead of relying on the sound bar to bounce sound around to create artificial surround sound. Instead, a pair of speaker units sit at the back of the room, each containing two speakers - one facing forwards into the room, and one facing upwards to bounce sound off the ceiling.
Called the JBL Bar 9.1, the sound bar itself includes speakers for the left, central and right channels, plus a pair firing upwards to bounce more sound off the ceiling. This creates a 3D surround sound, and means the system offers true Dolby Atmos - the first JBL sound bar to do so.
The sound bar also comes with a 10-inch subwooferGearBrain
The system also comes with a 10-inch subwoofer unit which connects to the sound bar wirelessly, but needs its own power socket. The Bar 9.1 features 4K HDR compatibility, so can offer you the best quality audio and video available today.
GearBrain was given a demonstration of the system at the CES technology show in Las Vegas, and we were impressed. While playing a Dolby Atmos demonstration, sound truly surrounded us, with birds flying laps of the room, and rain seemingly falling from the ceiling.
In short, we couldn't spot any compromises related to the system using compact and truly wireless rear speakers.
The compact rear speakers have a 10-hour battery lifeGearBrain
Of course, whether this system and its detachable speakers works for you will depend on the setup of your room. You will ideally need a pair of shelves or tables at the back of the room for the speakers to sit on. In which case you could argue the case for installing a permanent pair of wired speakers there. But for renters who might be put off from neatly installing speaker wires, or for anyone who doesn't want the mess of power cables draped across the floor, the JBL system makes a lot of sense.
We doubt many owners want Atoms-capable surround sound for all of their TV watching. So it makes sense to only detach the rear speakers when you want to watch a movie or play a video game. For these occasions, just detach the speakers, put them at the back of the room, and enjoy Dolby Atmos surround sound for up to 10 hours.
Transparent demo model shows how the speakers are arrangedGearBrain
Away from speaker technology, the system includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which opens the door to Spotify, Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2, making it easy to play just about any content through the sound bar.
Priced at $899, the system will be available from April. Other Atmos sound bars are cheaper, but what you are paying for here is convenience, and the knowledge that you are getting a true surround sound experience, with actual speakers at the back of the room, instead of artificial surround sound created by a bar on its own.