Review: JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam a strong audio option for those on a budget

It promises much for a small package, so can it hit the high notes necessary to be a must-have?
It promises much for a small package, so can it hit the high notes necessary to be a must-have? Photo credit: Newshub

Until relatively recently I was happy with the sound from my television. Sure, it didn't exactly fill the room but it was better than the old days when I had gigantic speakers and wires everywhere.

And then I tried out a soundbar for the first time

The impact was instant and massive. My partner made it clear to me going back to the bad old days was no longer an option - and if Thor's hammer didn't fly across the room with thunder in its wake then the surround sound wasn't good enough.

With that in mind, I've been using the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam for the last few weeks and here are my thoughts.

The good

The first noticeable thing about the soundbar was its compact size and overall styling - it's an impressive start.

It looks great and, without wanting to wall-mount it, I appreciated it didn't take up a huge amount of real estate in front of my television.

It took just a couple of minutes to get it set up and pumping out music from my Apple TV 4K and, although the sound was noticeably less full than my previous soundbar experience, it was still a massive improvement over the television alone.

The MultiBeam functionality is designed to reproduce a surround sound effect in the room without the need for additional speakers and it did achieve this, but not quite at the Thor thunder level.

JBL Soundbar
Photo credit: Newshub

But still, watching in high-definition with great quality audio is an enjoyable experience with the soundbar - in this case, Moana and the first season of Lupin were the viewing choices, bringing the sounds of the Pacific and Paris to my living room.

I also loved playing Assassin's Creed: Valhalla on the Playstation 5 with the sound pumping out. I sit relatively close to the television while playing to maximise the experience and the audio was enhanced by that closeness.

An added bonus was the ability to use Bluetooth to connect other gadgets to the soundbar. I connected both my iPhone and iPad to it easily allowing me the opportunity to inflict my eclectic musical tastes on others.

Iron Maiden's Live After Death album sounded great until I really ramped up the volume and Jimmy Buffett's Volcano had me lying on the floor with my eyes shut, transported to the Caribbean.

I wouldn't say I was blown away by the overall experience, but there was more than enough there to keep me happy.

JBL Soundbar
Photo credit: Newshub

The bad

The biggest issue I had with the soundbar was the bass. It promises "punchy bass without the need for a separate subwoofer" but it felt a bit more like a slap than a punch, to be honest.

To be fair, expecting a compact soundbar to come anywhere near what a separate subwoofer can provide is asking a lot, so perhaps I bought too much into the advertising hype - but I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed.

Also noticeable, especially at higher volume levels with Dolby Atmos switched on, I felt a real drop in the overall fidelity of the audio and maybe even verging on a little bit tinny.

Again, maybe I was just expecting too much of a single, affordable device compared to the more expensive multi-speaker options out there, so I don't want to judge too harshly.

The other faults, to me, were more trivial practicalities.

I don't particularly like the remote and so I was grateful that it integrated with my television and I was able to use the TV remote to control the volume. Well, most of the time.

JBL Soundbar
Photo credit: Newshub

Unfortunately when trying to select an input on the television, it would often defer to trying to select an input for the soundbar instead. There are pros and cons to having multiple inputs into the soundbar, I guess!

Cue head-scratching as I couldn't switch between having the Apple TV and the Playstation 5 on-screen, resolved by switching the soundbar off manually.

The lack of wall-mounting also meant the soundbar had the tendency to block the remote receptors at certain angles so pressing the volume buttons didn't always work when needed.

The verdict

If this had been the first soundbar I'd tested then I would probably like it a touch more than I did. That's not to say it's bad - it's clearly not. It just didn't quite hit my sweet spot.

The JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is a relatively low-cost option at around $600 which will elevate your television and movie-watching experience, no question.

And if you're taking your first foray into the likes of Ultra HD 4K pass-through, Dolby Atmos and MultiBeam then you're going to like what you hear, particularly if you don't have a huge amount of space.

JBL Soundbar
Photo credit: Newshub

But if you're seeking more depth to your sound and more oomph to your bass and you have the room? Then you're going to fork out a wee bit extra to really get the hairs on the back of your neck standing.

Me? I was impressed enough with JBL's tech and sound to invest in one of the company's 9.1 True Wireless Surround systems, knowing my review unit had to go back. And I wall-mounted it.

Using a soundbar has been a revelation and added new dimensions to our movie-watching experience. I can't recommend it enough.

The JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam may well be the one to do the same for you.

Newshub was supplied a JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam for this review.