We mainly know JBL from wireless bluetooth speakers, but the American sound producer has also been a popular brand in the world of home audio for years. JBL has something for everyone in that segment. We got to work with the smallest soundbar in the range: the JBL Bar Studio.
JBL Bar StudioPrice
HDMI-ARC, optical-in, headphone-in, bluetooth
60Hz – 20kHz
61.4 x 5.8 x 8.6cm (W x H x D)
8 Score 80
- Great sound for size
- Lots of sound customization options
- Surround Mode
- Middle area not always detailed
The JBL Bar Studio is compact enough to fit almost any television, no matter how narrow your television furniture is. Due to the matte black finish and the lack of striking contrasts, the soundbar quickly blends into the interior. On the top we find four buttons with which you can turn the soundbar on and off, determine the volume and one to switch between the different audio sources.
For the latter, the JBL Bar Studio gives you a surprising amount of options. At the back of the soundbar are inputs for a USB stick, an optical input, an AUX headphone input and an HDMI port for an HDMI ARC connection to your television. In particular, the support for HDMI ARC is a big plus, since it allows you to control the volume of the soundbar with the remote control of your television. The soundbar is even so smart that you can also use the remote control of your television to adjust the volume when you play music on the soundbar via a Bluetooth connection with, for example, your smartphone.
You can also use the supplied remote control. The compact remote control is quite simply designed and gives you slightly more options than the buttons on the soundbar. For example, you can determine the amount of bass, activate a Sound Mode such as SPORT, VOICE or MUSIC, switch on the Surround Mode and switch on the Night Mode, which mutes loud sounds so as not to upset the neighbors.
Because the JBL Bar Studio does not have a screen, the soundbar communicates with the user using five LED lights on the left side of the speaker grill. For example, you can see from the color of the LEDs which audio source is being played and the amount of LEDs indicate which of the five Sound Modes is active. The volume and amount of bass is also indicated by the amount of LEDs that light up when you adjust this with the remote control. The lights will also turn off after the notification, so as not to distract the viewer from what is happening on the screen. This minimalist-looking soundbar has more functions on board than you might think.
The soundbar will turn itself off automatically after 10 minutes of inactivity, but will also turn itself on if it detects activity. The soundbar therefore switches on automatically when the television is turned on, so that the soundbar is immediately ready the moment something appears on the screen. The small soundbar produces a fairly centered sound, which is not surprising given the size. When you listen to the soundbar from an oblique angle, many details are quickly lost. If you do sit right in front of the television, the JBL Bar Studio has enough volume for the smaller living room, if you rarely turn the volume up loud, the soundbar is even loud enough for the medium-sized living room.
The emphasis of the sound is naturally mainly on the high and low range, which can be heard well at lower and normal volume levels. This makes certain scenes and music sound very energetic. At higher volumes, the midrange is somewhat snowed under. Then speech is sometimes drowned out more than desired by background noises such as a siren or a tension-building bass line. This is also noticeable in music because instruments such as guitar and piano are less present.
At normal volumes, the sound is fine and the bass is particularly good for such a small soundbar. Television viewers who aren't a fan of this will love the ability to adjust the amount of bass. You can also simply adjust the amount of bass with the different Sound Modes. The emphasis is still not exactly on the middle area, so that the sound image becomes very clear when the bass is reduced. If bass is an important feature for you, the JBL Bar Studio will not disappoint despite its compact size, provided you keep the volume limited.
When switching on the Surround Mode, the sound of the compact soundbar is noticeably larger. The soundbar was in front of the television, but when switching on this mode, it seemed as if two speakers were placed at the height of the television. It doesn't sound nearly like surround, but rather a wider 2.0 setup. It is still a clever trick, which unfortunately does affect the sound quality. This gives the middle and high range a big boost, so that the sound sometimes sounds a bit shrill. This does not have to be a disaster for talk shows, but movies and series with more action and especially music do not sound nice in this mode - especially at higher volume settings.
The JBL Bar Studio is a compact soundbar with enough sound for many living rooms. The number of connections and the presence of HDMI-ARC increases the user-friendliness and the soundbar is also surprisingly smart. The Surround Mode is nice, but not nice enough to justify the deterioration of the sound quality. Fortunately, the normal mode is absolutely no punishment to listen to thanks to the excellent speakers in the soundbar and the many options to adjust the sound. For lovers of an energetic sound image, the affordable JBL Bar Studio is a versatile friend to everyone and the soundbar gives the sound of your television a nice boost without taking up the entire television furniture.