CES is the time for electronics brands to go big, and when it comes to the sheer number of offerings, few companies go bigger than Harman, which owns everything from Harman Kardon to JBL.
JBL, in particular, has some impressive offerings this year, and we’ve got the goods on the coolest gear from the brand straight from the Hard Rock in Vegas for CES 2020.
This 9.1-channel soundbar is an intriguing proposition on several fronts. First, the system is the first Dolby Atmos soundbar from JBL, meaning its “9.1” title is a bit of a misnomer, as four upfiring drivers actually make this a 5.1.4-channel system using traditional industry terminology — although, it’s still technically 9 channels with a 10-inch subwoofer for the “.1.”
But even more interesting is how the soundbar accomplishes its surround sound immersion, using detachable wireless speakers that can be placed wherever you’d like around the room. The speakers are battery-powered, so they can’t stay undocked from the bar permanently, offering a claimed 10 hours of playback per charge before they must be reconnected. We’ve seen this before from JBL’s 5.1 bar, so the Bar 9.1 is just the latest iteration of this unique design concept.
JBL says this is designed for those who want occasional Dolby Atmos immersion, but don’t want to run wires, including those that plug into a wall, for their satellite speakers. We’re still not sure if people will want to detach and reattach the speakers after their 10-hour batttery runtime calls for recharging, but it’s still a pretty cool design nonetheless.
A quick demo of the bar impressed, with solid Atmos immersion that was squeaky clean and remarkably clear from the detachable speakers, and thunderous bass from that 10-inch sub.
Other features for the bar include 4K passthrough with Dolby Vision support for connecting a streaming device or Blu-ray player directly, as well as both AirPlay 2 and Chromecast support for streaming high-resolution audio to the system.
JBL is rolling out two new pairs of fully wireless earbuds, both of which are priced to move. The company’s Live 300TWS will run you $150 (i.e., AirPods money) and offer a nice slice of features for the money.
Highlights include a solid 6 hours of playback time per charge (20 hours total with the charging case), ambient sound so you can hear the world around you while you jam out, and TalkThru mode, which lets you tap the side of the earbud to amplify voices. The earbuds also offer IPX5 water resistance and a quick-charge feature for an hour of playback time on 10 minutes charge.
Those on a tighter budget may want to check out this $100 pair of buds, which offer an AirPods-style design and ramp up the bass thanks to 12.5mm drivers. They’ve also got a metallic finish for some style points along with their golf-tee housings, and access to voice assistants via onboard controls.
One concern for these earbuds is battery life — JBL mentions “19 hours total” with the charging case, but we’re not sure how much the buds offer per charge without it as it’s not mentioned (which usually isn’t a great sign). Still, they’re affordable, and we’ll have to get a closer look to see if they’ve got other attributes or sound quality to make them stand above the crowd.
In addition, the company has a brand new lineup of headphones “inspired by touring musicians,” with the flagship Club One ($350) leading the way. Using graphene for light, high-performance drivers, the Club One are high-resolution certified.
They also offer plenty of other impressive features to take on noise cancelers like Sony’s popular WH-1000XM3, including active noise cancellation which JBL says utilizes a system that monitors your environment 50,000 times per second, and up to 23 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation and Bluetooth engaged.
We’ll be checking out all of Harman’s latest gear from JBL and its other brands at the show, so stay tuned for updates and our first impressions as CES 2020 gets underway.
Updated on January 7, 2020: An earlier JBL press release misstated the price of the JBL Bar 9.1. It is priced at $1,000.
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