Review: JBL Bar 1300

Magnificent cinema sound for the price

The JBL Bar 1300 is relatively inexpensive, but that doesn't stop it from delivering extremely potent and hard-hitting home cinema sound.

Published 2023-05-08 - 8:00 am
JBL Bar 1300
Geir Nordby

The Bar 1300 is the largest and most advanced soundbar from JBL to date. The American speaker manufacturer is one of the audio world’s most iconic brands, with close associations with professional concert and cinema sound.

We’ve been impressed in the past by what JBL has managed to achieve with affordable models like the test winner Bar 500, so it’s exciting to see what they can do with significantly more resources!

JBL Bar 1300

The top model in the JBL range is not exactly small: At 134 centimetres, it is among the largest. The Bar 1300 is equipped with a total of 15 drivers in a so-called 11.1.4 configuration. It also has a full-bodied subwoofer with a ten-inch bass unit in a bass reflex enclosure.

The big “party trick” of this model, however, is the removable wireless rear speakers. These sit on either side of the soundbar and can be easily detached from the magnetic brackets and placed at the back of the room when you want the full surround sound experience.

The rear speakers are battery powered, and are charged each time they are docked into the soundbar. But they can also be connected continuously, each powered by a separate USB-C charger, if desired. The speakers also have their own Bluetooth connection, so you can also use them as standalone speakers. A character pane on the front shows the status of the input and sound mode.

The soundbar is easy to set up using JBL’s own app. There’s also room correction, which is activated using in-built microphones in the rear speakers. By placing these in the listening position, reverberation measurements are taken, as well as frequency response and delay correction.

Connectivity is very good, with three HDMI inputs for external A/V sources. Unfortunately, there is no support for 4K/120Hz passthrough, so any games consoles should be connected directly to the TV.

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Design-wise, the Bar 1300 is similar to its smaller siblings, with a very simple grey plastic cabinet. Here, resources have probably been spent on the interior rather than the cosmetics (Photo: JBL)

Sound quality

We started listening with the rear speakers connected to the front, and the surround sound actually sounds pretty impressive already. JBL creates a big, wide soundstage that extends far beyond the size of our TV screen. We don’t actually hear sound effects from behind, but they’re well dispersed off to the sides.

At the same time, dialogue is well centred with clear speech reproduction. The voices are rich, crisp and clear and immediately draw us into the action.

“There’s a lot of power and authority here,” Geir exclaims enthusiastically, and Audun nods in agreement: “Yes, the dialogues come across well; we don’t have to ask them to repeat anything, so to speak!”

However, it is when we place the surround speakers at the back of the room that the “sound bubble” really closes in on us. The JBL speakers have clear and distinct height effects, where we can easily sense the sound objects moving around – whether it’s diffuse background sounds or a perfectly tuned Formula 1 car screaming past.

The subwoofer in the JBL system is also a real treat! Tight and precise, while still being able to deliver some powerful thumps when the soundtrack calls for it. The deep bass from the organ music shakes the floors and walls, and the artillery strikes in Nothing New from the Western Front send a shockwave through the room!

Compared to the silky smooth tones of Sony and Sonos, the JBL has a more forward and rocking style. There’s a bit more energy in the overtones here, which makes the details really stand out. It’s also evident in the music reproduction, which is open, engaging and rhythmically precise.

On the Atmos album Tuvayhun from music label 2L, however, we can hear that both the Sonos and Sony systems have an even larger and more convincing 3D bubble, helped by the slightly more powerful rear speakers. Sonos and Sony also have a slightly softer and airier, more fine-grained tweeter than JBL. But the difference isn’t huge, and considering that the entire JBL package is half the price (!), there’s no doubt that the Bar 1300 delivers a lot of bang for your buck.

Conclusion.

The JBL Bar 1300 comes packed with so many speaker units that it’s easy to lose track. The big question, of course, is whether this translates into good sound – and it does! The JBL soundbar delivers a large and convincing surround sound image, with good diction and clear height effects. The bass is also taken care of with a subwoofer that can play both loud and deep. The bonus is the detachable rear speakers that can be disconnected and reconnected as needed, without having to faff around with cables. A really good buy!

Karakter
JBL Bar 1300
High End

We think

JBL delivers a big, dynamic soundstage with punchy deep bass and convincing surround effect. Plus, great connectivity and fully wireless rear speakers. Depending on whether the rear speakers are included in the system, this soundbar can be a bit bulky.

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