I've been fortunate enough to try out several new soundbars at home over the past few months. From the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Mini launched at IFA in September to the new Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar (full review coming soon), I've had some big nights in adventuring through my picks of the best Netflix action movies.
I've been impressed by the performance both standalone soundbar models deliver, but it's JBL's Bar 1300X packaged with a wireless subwoofer and detachable battery-powered rear speakers that impressed me the most and gave the explosive cinema experience these sorts of movies demand.
Although I haven't yet given a full Tom's Guide review to the JBL Bar 1300X (known as the Bar 1300 in the U.K.), it has been my main TV soundbar for the last few months, and has delivered a consistently rewarding experience with all kinds of TV content and movies.
The soundbar runs 54-inches wide beneath the TV screen (it can also be wall mounted), so you're going to want to partner it with one of the Best 65-inch TV screens (or larger). The unassuming plain styling on the outside gives little away as to the soundbar's impressive 11.1.4 Dolby Atmos surround capabilities, and despite the multiple speaker driver array and powerful amplifier hidden away internally, it's slender enough not to foul the bottom of the TV screen.
The JBL doesn't stand out in the same way that the blingy Devialet Dione Opéra de Paris soundbar does with its 22-carat gold accents, but the JBL's matte finish is more practical and the underwhelming finish and lack of light up controls avoids unnecessary reflections messing up the image on the screen.
As far as looks are concerned, the Bar 1300X feels rather unassuming for its $1,600 (£1,299 / AU$1,999) price tag. But in terms of its sound output, I'd go as far to say that the JBL Bar 1300 is one of the most versatile Dolby Atmos Soundbars I've heard, delivering big immersive, multi-channel soundtracks on movie night.
- Right now, the JBL Bar 1300X is just $999 for Black Friday
JBL Bar 1300X: A practical surround solution
The two detachable surround speakers are battery powered to enable them to be placed directly behind the listener's seating position. JBL claims that they can run wirelessly for up to 10 hours; in real world use, I managed to get about 3 days with them detached watching TV for several hours a night before the front display on the soundbar popped up to inform me that the charge on the rear speakers was getting low.
To top them up, you simply reconnect the speakers to the ends of the main soundbar. There’s also a USB-C power socket on each speaker to keep them topped should you want to keep them permanently installed as rear speakers, rather than having to regularly top them up from the main soundbar. You can also pair one of the detachable wireless speakers to any Bluetooth device to use as a standalone speaker, or pair them together for stereo sound.
The setup is Wi-Fi compatible, and has AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built-in. It integrates with popular music streaming platforms via a new JBL One app, and there are customizable EQ settings for a personalized listening experience. Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice-activated assistance are all on board.
The JBL Bar 1300X package comes with a 12-inch wireless subwoofer, but as I am in the U.K. the subwoofer partnered with my Bar 1300 had a 10-inch woofer.
JBL Bar 1300X: A Dolby Atmos powerhouse
While I found the Dolby Atmos detachable speaker worked best attached to the main soundbar when watching regular TV dramas and news broadcasts, they really came into their own at the back of the room with big movie soundtracks like Extraction 2. With 1,170W of power output on tap, the JBL delivered a spectacular performance with every grueling action sequence.
The rears with up-firing Dolby Atmos height speakers delivered one of the most cohesive surround sound performances I've experienced from a wireless speaker setup. Gunshots rang out throughout the movie's countless shootout sequences, and objects and explosions moved around the room tracking every camera angle over the 21-minute one-shot sequence, leaving me breathless from the carnage that unfolded on the screen.
The smaller subwoofer dimensions of the partnering subwoofer for the U.K. version didn't disappoint, and I can only imagine that the larger model partnered with the 1300X will make gut wrenching effects sound even more spectacular.
Even more impressively, as the effects panned to the rear speakers they didn't change their sonic character as they moved from one speaker to another. They remained entirely believable.
With a solid installation experience that includes a worthwhile calibration mode to tune the sound output to your room, strong connectivity and an easy to navigate control app, the JBL Bar 1300 is a strong contender for one of the Best Dolby Atmos soundbars and could easily rank among my best TV sound upgrades I've tested.
Look out for my full JBL Bar 1300 review coming soon.