If you’re looking to unleash Dolby Atmos’s immersive sound, but don’t want a lot of speakers or to fork over a bundle of cash, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam soundbar should be high on your wishlist. The all-in-one Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is compact, making it easy to fit into any setup, but still produces a big sound. And it has one feature that few affordable Atmos soundbars can boast: it performs auto calibration to set the driver distances and levels for the best surround sound effect in your room.
Like many of the best soundbars, JBL’s effort also produces impressive bass without the need for a subwoofer. But it lacks other features that are common on soundbars, such as sound modes. Its simplicity could be appealing, or you may find it frustrating; keep reading our JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review to find out which might apply to you.
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam: Price and Availability
- $349 from Amazon
- $349 from JBL
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review: Design
- Space-saving, all-in-one design
- Wi-Fi connectivity and HDMI ARC
- Simple onboard controls and remote control
The Bar 5.0 MultiBeam’s diminutive size belies the big sound it creates. Inside its 27.9 x 3.9 x 2.3-inch frame, JBL has crammed five drivers (three in the front, two on top for height channels) and four passive radiators. There no separate surrounds or a wireless subwoofer — it’s an all-in-one Atmos machine.
The Bar 5.0 MultiBeam’s minimalism extends to its controls. On top of the soundbar you’ll find buttons for power, volume up and down, and input. That’s it. On the front right there’s an LED display that comes on when you change something. If you change the volume, the level displays; if you switch the input, the input displays. This is how front displays on a soundbar should work — always-on displays distract you from what’s on the TV, especially in dark scenes.
The back of the unit has an HDMI ARC port to connect to your TV and one HDMI input. You can also connect to your TV via optical digital audio. There’s a USB port you can use to upgrade the firmware or play music files. The soundbar includes Wi-Fi, or you can go wired with an Ethernet cable. Through Wi-Fi, though, you can connect wirelessly using AirPlay, Chromecast or Alexa Multi-Room Music. You can also use Bluetooth.
The remote is almost as simple as the controls on the unit. It has buttons for power and volume, as well as discreet buttons for the TV input, HDMI in and Bluetooth. The Atmos button engages virtual Atmos when the signal is in a format other than Atmos, bringing height to any audio signal — another nice touch.
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review: Setup
- Wireless setup could be more streamlined
- Auto calibration very easy and useful
This is where the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam’s simplicity can work against it. Connecting it to your TV is easy — use an HDMI cable or optical digital cord — but the next steps require that you read the manual. Since there’s no app, nor any on-screen menus, you have to use combinations of the few buttons available.
There are three different methods you can use to set up Wi-Fi: the Google Home app on Android or iOS; AirPlay speaker set up on iOS; or the Alexa app. For a soundbar that seems to strive for simplicity, that’s a lot of choices.
One thing you will want to do is calibrate the speakers. To do this, hold the HDMI button for 5 seconds and follow the prompts on the front LED display. The speaker will send a series of sounds that allow it to measure where walls are in your room. It then figures out the best balance for the drivers. Few mid-priced Atmos soundbars include this, and for that reason, few mid-priced Atmos soundbars succeed in creating a sense of height in the mix.
Once you’ve calibrated the speaker, the only other thing you can do to adjust the sound is raise or lower the bass. There are no sound modes (other than switching virtual Atmos off), dialog boost or equalizer. While that makes using the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam dead simple, it also means that if the calibrated sound isn’t to your liking, this isn’t the soundbar for you.
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review: Sound quality
- Dolby Atmos is effective after calibration
- Could use more customization options
- Good music performance
The Bar 5.0 MultiBeam impresses with its wide sound and big bass, especially considering its size and lack of a subwoofer. Once calibrated, it handles Atmos (and virtual Atmos) better than most standalone soundbars — especially at this price. However, dialog can get buried in the mix when there’s a lot of action or music, which made me wish I could adjust the center channel level.
During Atmos demo videos, the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam showed its prowess with handling height sounds, as rain sounded like it was coming from the ceiling. Since it lacks surround speakers, movement of a leaf around the room wasn’t as immersive as it could have been, but I still got more of a sense of right-to-left motion than from a traditional soundbar.
In the opening scene of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, when Sam zips through a canyon, the sound moved with him as he crossed the screen. The unit’s low-end gave oomph to explosions in the sky, but it couldn’t rattle the floor like a subwoofer would. Using virtual Atmos, the pulsing soundtrack to Tenet filled the room, though the deep bass was at times too much for the little soundbar, causing it to distort. Discussions between John David Washington and Robert Patterson often got buried amid the ominous music.
In the less complex soundscape of Mare of Easttown, the Bar 5.0 MulitBeam’s bass helped add resonance to Kate Winslet’s New England accent and made it easy to understand.
The Bar 5.0 MultiBeam handles music well, too. Billie Eilish’s vocals on “Your Power” were clear and the strummed guitar sounded crisp and bright. The kick drum on the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” thumped resoundingly and his vocals were full.
This compact soundbar has plenty of power to fill a large room. It measured about 95 decibels at full volume. It didn’t distort much, though at that level the audio got too bright and sounded harsh.
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review: Verdict
The JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam has a lot going for it. It’s reasonably priced. Its all-in-one compact design means it will likely fit in your existing set up and it doesn’t dominate the room. And, most importantly, it sounds great and handles Dolby Atmos well, even without surrounds or a subwoofer.
But the lack of manual audio adjustments means if the calibrated sound doesn’t please your ears, then you’re essentially stuck. The biggest issue will likely be the center channel in the mix, where dialog comes from.
Other Atmos soundbars in the price range, such as the Vizio M-Series M51a-H6, offer more control but lack the upfiring speakers that are essential for Atmos height, and they come with more speakers. If you’re interested in an all-in-one Atmos soundbar, the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is definitely worth a listen — and it may be a great addition to your home theater.
- More: Prepare for summer with the best outdoor speakers