New in the mid-range is the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam. This is a relatively affordable soundbar with a price tag of 399 euros. You get a lot in return for that. How about two HDMI ports, support for multi-room platforms and of course a soundbar that does not take up too much space. The most important thing about a soundbar is of course the sound quality. The JBL Bar 5.1 Surround was one of the best soundbars of 2019 in its price category; can JBL convince us once again in this part of the market?
JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam is compact
The JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam 5.0 is a fairly compact soundbar. It is not wide at all and therefore may not look good with every setup. With us it is on the TV cabinet, under a 55 inch OLED TV that hangs on the wall. That combination doesn’t look very nice or anything like that. Because it is a midrange soundbar, it fits best with a somewhat smaller television, with a midrange price. If you don’t find that sort of thing interesting, then there’s no need for the man. Because you always see the soundbar, we think it is an important element.
On top we find four buttons with which we control the volume and the source. There is also the on and off button. There are two HDMI ports on the back. One is intended for connection to the TV, while you connect another device to the second port. For example, a Google Chromecast (for example), the TV cabinet or something else. The USB port is used for updating the system; You can’t connect a hard drive to that. There is also an optical and Ethernet port, as alternatives for less modern households.
The JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam has three front drivers, two front drivers and four radiators. This should make it possible, among other things, to realize digital surround sound (Virtual Dolby Atmos). We’ll come back to that later. The soundbar also has wireless multi-room standards. Think of Apple Airplay 2 and Google Chromecast. If you already have several speakers at home with one of those standards, the soundbar can be part of that. Finally, there is Bluetooth available, so you can decide for yourself which music streaming service you listen to.
What is disappointing is the placement of the HDMI connections on the back. They are not at all deep in the soundbar, so that the cables protrude considerably. Other JBL bars have the connections a lot further in the soundbar, so that the cables can be concealed much better. Now they simply stick out too far, so you can never place it tight against the wall. In our case, it’s on a cupboard, a few centimeters from the wall. But we still encountered black stripes on the wall of the cables.
Installation and Setup
The JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam is just like many other soundbars when it comes to installation. That installation is so beep. You plug the supplied HDMI cable into your TV and the soundbar, turn on the Bar 5.0 Multibeam and both systems are linked to each other. Make sure that you have the HDMI cable in the TV in the HDMI arc connection. For example, you can also operate the soundbar with the remote of your television and you are therefore not obliged to use the soundbar’s remote control.
In addition, you can connect the wide speaker under the TV to the internet, so that you can listen to your favorite music at the touch of a button. You will then need a music streaming service with support for Apple Airplay 2 or Google Chromecast. How you add the speaker to your network depends on the system you have at home. But in both cases, it all happened like that, because Apple and Google really streamlined the installation process. We say it often, but a child can do the laundry.
You cannot really set the soundbar personally, except for a number of points. This way you can adjust the level of the bass layer. You do this with a button combination (can be found in the manual), because the remote does not have a separate button for this. In addition, you must calibrate the Multibeam technology (for virtual surround sound) in advance. In principle, the soundbar does this all by itself, but you also have to grab the manual for this. That makes such a system somewhat less accessible than desirable.
There is something to be said for a remote control with fewer buttons. This way you only present the most important functions. But other possibilities are snowed under as a result. Admittedly: you really don’t have to calibrate the Multibeam technology every week, but it would have been nice to be able to adjust the bass layer quickly. Do the remotes have to be as full as those from Sony, for example? That’s another extreme, but that’s more preferable than this streamlined approach.
We miss the bass layer
When you get a soundbar for less than 400 euros, you should not expect the lowest. At the same time, we still think 399 euros is a lot of money; money that not everyone is willing to pay for good sound. That’s why it must be good. The JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam presents a clear, spacious sound in stereo mode. The soundbar is especially good at displaying the tones in the middle. The higher and lower tones come out less well and that is a shame. We expected more.
It’s not that the speaker is completely lacking in bass. We also hear the higher tones. But in both cases, we also hear that it is quite measured. If you listen to metal or modern rap music, you will notice that the bass often makes a knocking sound. Like hitting the wall with a fist, that idea. The higher tones sound a bit better compared to the lower layers, but in some cases it still sounds shrill. And those are qualities that we do not want to hear with a soundbar from JBL (or of 400 euros).
Are you more into the movies and series, then we have the same message. The sound is good in principle, but you just notice that something is wrong. Voices often lack their lower layers, making them sound unnatural. And if you force the sound to be played in virtual sound, when there is no support for this, you will soon hear that voices sound far away and other elements are very close. There is then no balance in the whole and that is a shame, because the soundbar certainly has more to offer.
When content does support something from Dolby Atmos, you will hear what the system can do. For example, we’ve been playing the game Hitman 3 during the review period. We played a level that takes place in a nightclub where loud club music is played. That music sounds convincing and immense. Voices are not suppressed and other effects also come out nicely. The JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam can do it, you just have to look for it. But the lack of the subwoofer is great.
We also encountered another minor irritation point. In many cases the volume is either just a bit too soft or just a bit too loud. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a comfortable level to select. While level 13 is sometimes just too soft, level 14 is just too hard. When someone speaks somewhat softly, you hear them poorly at 13. But if suddenly there is a loud laugh and the level is at 14, then things soon sound shrill. This is also partly due to the content, but it is not noticeable with other soundbars.
JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam – conclusion
It might not be fair to compare the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam to the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround, but we’ll do it anyway. Although that soundbar has been on the market for almost a year and a half, in our opinion it is still a convincing midranger. At the time it cost 599 euros, but now you probably pay something like 460 euros for it. Compared to the new Multibeam, that saves a few tens. If you have those few tens left, we recommend going for the Surround. It’s simply superior.
If you are planning to buy the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam, know that you are not buying a bad product. It is only not worth the suggested retail price of 399 euros, because there is just too much missing. The sound doesn’t always sound like yours and the remote control is just too streamlined (just like with the Surround). The Multibeam can indeed present a good sound – even without a subwoofer – but not without the right content. That is why we recommend waiting a little longer with the purchase until the price has dropped. Then it gets interesting.
- Lots of options for little money
- Spacious, clear sound
- Simple installation
- Cables stick out far
- Lack of bass layer stands out
- Remote control