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JBL’s colorful new wireless speakers brighten up any party or situation

This year’s IFA 2019 has already been a hotbed of new product announcements, and it’s still going strong. Now, JBL has debuted not one, but six new wireless speaker models: The JBL Pulse 4, the JBL Link Portable and Link Music, and three new soundbar models — the JBL Bar 2.0, JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, and the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround, all of which will be available later this fall. With that many products to talk about, let’s just get right into it.

JBL Pulse 4

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Clearly designed to be the heart of any party, whether indoors or outside, the $200 JBL Pulse 4 (in black or white) puts on a vivid, customizable LED light show in sync with the music as it fills virtually any space with 360-degree sound. Its Bluetooth connection lets you take that party anywhere you like, while its so-called PartyBoost technology gives it the ability to synchronize its playback with up to 100 other PartyBoost-compatible JBL speakers via the JBL Connect app. It’s got a decent, if not earth-shattering 12-hour battery life, and with an IPX7 rating, you can light up your pool party from within the pool itself if you choose.

JBL Link Portable and JBL Link Music

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The JBL Link Portable and Link Music are two variations on the same theme: Go-anywhere wireless speakers that combine the best of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in a single product. Both speakers can operate at home on a Wi-Fi network, where they’ll give you the ability to stream via AirPlay 2 or Chromecast (with multiroom and hi-res music support), as well as shout out your music commands and queries to the built-in Google Assistant. You can then take them on the road and stay connected using Bluetooth, which will keep your tunes playing even if you can’t talk to Google until you come home. Both offer immersive, 360-degree sound.

Which one you buy will depend on how you think you’ll use it. The $150 JBL Link Portable is IPX7 for a fully waterproof experience and has an 8-hour battery that recharges via USB-C or the included charging cradle. The $100 JBL Link Music is more of a homebody — don’t get it wet or take it too far from a power outlet. Both are expected to be available in six colors when they go on sale. Though JBL hasn’t said what these colors are yet, black is obviously one of them.

JBL Bar 2.0, JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, and JBL Bar 5.1 Surround

Image used with permission by copyright holder

While there’s been a lot of fuss recently over soundbars that integrate some kind of media streaming experience, like the Roku Smart Soundbar, the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar, and even JBL’s own Link Bar with Android TV, there’s still plenty of room and demand for standard soundbars that sound great and are easy to set up. That’s where JBL’s new Bar products fit in.

The $500 JBL Bar 5.1 Surround, as the name implies, manages to deliver the equivalent of a 5.1 home theater setup with just a single 40-inch soundbar and a 10-inch wireless subwoofer. JBL says this is due to the soundbar’s collection of five full-range drivers and two side-firing tweeters that have been arranged in a specific pattern to bounce panoramic surround sound around the room. It’s got HDMI-ARC and optical connections, plus your choice of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for streaming music. It will happily accept and pass-through 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision signals, but strangely, JBL says it only supports Dolby Digital audio — not Dolby Digital+. When in Wi-Fi mode, you can stream music via AirPlay 2, or Chromecast.

The $300 JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass’ name also leaves little to the imagination. It’s a classic 38-inch soundbar mated to a 6.5-inch wireless subwoofer to deliver a much bigger boom than the average soundbar can create on its own. Connect it to your TV via HDMI-ARC or optical, and stream as much music as you like via its Bluetooth connection.

The $180 JBL Bar 2.0 is a 24-inch soundbar designed to give smaller rooms with TVs much better audio than what you get from your TV’s speakers. With 80 watts of power and JBL’s surround sound design, it’s bound to be a big upgrade. Built-in Bluetooth means the soundbar can double as a wireless speaker for streaming audio from your phone or computer.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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