JBL’s new soundbar offers Dolby Atmos on the cheap

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam
(Image credit: JBL)

JBL has unveiled the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, an all-in-one soundbar that offers Dolby Atmos surround sound for $400.

Set for release this February, the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam adapts the same proprietary MultiBeam digital surround sound tech as the JBL Bar 5.1 to help create Atmos’ three-dimensional effect. More importantly, it promises to do so for a lot less cash than most Atmos-certified soundbars.

In fact, we only know of one Dolby Atmos soundbar that’s cheaper, the $199 Anker Soundcore Infini Pro. And the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam sounds a lot more sophisticated: in addition to Atmos, which is achieved through a combination of MultiBeam’s beamforming trickery and a set of both sideways and upward-firing drivers, JBL’s soundbar also covers the kind of wireless features we only occasionally see on premium soundbars.

That includes AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Alexa multi-room functionality, so casting music should be straightforward regardless of your preferred platform.

Being an all-in-one soundbar, there’s no subwoofer or included satellite speakers, though JBL says four passive radiators help keep the low end punchy. Presumably this approach is also part of what keeps the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam a full $100 cheaper than the Bar 5.1, despite the latter lacking Dolby Atmos support.

Since, like most products revealed during the all-digital CES 2021, we haven't had the chance to go hands-on, we can’t attest to how the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam sounds in practice. It could be that you get what you pay for, and remember that the Infini Pro's Atmos implementation left a lot to be desired.

But $400 for Dolby Atmos, a healthy mix of wireless connectivity options and a wide-ranging driver setup certainly sounds tempting enough to keep an ear out for. We’ll see whether the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is worthy of joining the very best soundbars when it goes on sale in February.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.