JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar Page 2

While bass and mid-range has real heft, and high-frequency details are impactful, the latter did sound almost too attacking when the bullets started to fly in Bad Boys For Life, meaning I felt it necessary to nudge the volume down from a (high) level that until that point I'd felt was spot on. And it transpires that, even after calibration has set speaker distances, managing the levels of this system

is something you'll need to do every now and then. For instance, the bass tool has only five settings, of which the maximum is too aggressive. With the Bad Boys movie's dynamic DTS:X mix, I found a setting of 1 or 2 about right. Yet other content benefitted from a subwoofer boost.

As for the system's immersive sound talents, the two discrete surround/Atmos enclosures are easy to place (you can wall-mount them with provided brackets, but I can't imagine anyone would) and, with the help of the level adjustment, easy to dial in.

Effects are nicely located within the JBL Bar 9.1's sonic bubble. With the road tunnel chase in Episode 1 of Bulletproof (Sky One, Dolby Atmos), car horns honk and tires squeal front and back; with the fine-touch sound design of Roma (Netflix), it shows it can do delicate too, creating a soundfield that's peppered with detail.


It's not a system designed for cavernous rooms, though: you'll want to keep front and surround channels near to each other to give panned effects a leg up. It's not quite a seamless soundstage, as evidenced by Dolby's Atmos trailers. When the bird circled the room in Amaze, its trajectory skewed a little as it reached the LCR stage.

As with the majority of Atmos soundbars, the sense of height achieved here is exactly that: a sense rather than an overt experience. What the Bar 9.1 does effectively is use its nine speaker channels to create a soundfield that expands in all directions. The rainstorm that closes the aforementioned Amaze short is a case in point. The intent of the sound design is apparent, even if the droplets don't seem to be bouncing of your noggin.

Dialogue delivery is generally perfectly fine for everyday TV material, but with premium content I wanted a bit more richness and body to the centre channel. It was always intelligible, but voices on occasion sounded thin compared to the bombast in the soundfield elsewhere – and there's no option to tweak the centre channel level. The surround speakers, if not connected to the 'bar, can be completely muted, and doing this sometimes proved beneficial with stereo content, such as sports broadcasts.

'This Is Thriller, Thriller Night'
JBL's Bar 9.1 offers a cinematic mix of aggressive bass, strong dynamics and wraparound immersion, but isn't without some operational and performance foibles.

Some might expect a few more feature tricks from a £1,000 system (another HDMI input, USB audio playback, voice control), or prefer a more measured, nuanced performance, and the decision to almost hide its Smart Mode and Auto Calibration features is baffling. Countering that is this 'bar's passion for energetic audio, and cost-effective 5.1.4 experience. Recommended for being routinely thrilling.

HCC Verdict

JBL Bar 9.1

Price: £900

We say: There are a few rough edges that could be smoothed, but otherwise this multichannel system is a crowd-pleaser, and offers big sound from a relatively small footprint.

Overall: 4/5


DRIVERS: 4 x race-track drivers; 3 x 0.75in tweeters; 2 x full-range upfirers; 2 x full-range upfirers (surrounds); 2 x 0.75in tweeters (surrounds) ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED): 820W (total, inc. subwoofer) CONNECTIONS: 1 x HDMI input; 1 x HDMI eARC output; optical digital audio input; USB (service); Ethernet DOLBY Atmos/DTS:X: Yes/Yes SEPARATE SUB: Yes. 10in woofer REMOTE CONTROL: Yes DIMENSIONS (soundbar): 884(w) x 62(h) x 120(d)mm WEIGHT (soundbar): 3.64kg

FEATURES: Wi-Fi; Chromecast; Bluetooth; Auto Calibration; Smart Mode EQ/processing; bass/rear/Atmos level adjustment; 5.1.4 soundstage; (rechargeable)wireless battery-powered surrounds; wall-mounting kit; wireless subwoofer