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JBL Bar 1300 review: No strings attached surround sound

Our Rating :
£1,858.88 from
Price when reviewed : 1,299
inc VAT

This ingenious Dolby Atmos soundbar offers a front-to-back solution thanks to its detachable and rechargeable wireless rear speakers

Pros

  • Impressively immersive soundstage
  • Rear speakers are genuinely wireless
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support

Cons

  • No 4K/120 or VRR passthrough
  • No HDR10+ passthrough

The JBL Bar 1300 is a multi-channel soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio. You’ll find plenty of those on our best soundbar and best Dolby Atmos soundbar roundups, but the Bar 1300 sets itself apart by including detachable and rechargeable wireless rear surround speakers. These not only eliminate unsightly cables but also the need to plug them into power sockets.

JBL has taken this approach before with the Bar 9.1, but the Bar 1300 ups the ante with an increased number of channels, a more powerful subwoofer, increased amplification and extensive features. All of this puts it in a strong position against similarly priced models from LG and Samsung.

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JBL Bar 1300 review: What you need to know

The JBL Bar 1300 is the brand’s latest flagship soundbar, offering an 11.1.4-channel system using a layout based around a main unit, two wireless rears and a wireless subwoofer. A staggering 1,170W of power drives all these speakers, and the sub sports an impressive 10in driver.

The soundbar supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, plus the HDMI connections can pass HDR10 and Dolby Vision, but not the less popular HDR10+ format. As is common with soundbars, there’s no passthrough for 4K/120Hz and VRR, which will doubtless disappoint next-gen gamers.

In terms of other features, the Bar 1300 takes the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast and AirPlay found on the Bar 9.1 but adds Alexa Multi-Room, a hat-trick of voice assistants (Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant), and Pure Voice to bring out dialogue in more complex surround mixes.

JBL Bar 1300 review: Price and competition

The JBL Bar 1300 is priced at £1,299, which is fairly competitive when compared to similarly performing soundbars. The ability to quickly create a fully immersive sonic experience with the minimum of hassle and no visible wiring certainly helps to make the price tag more appealing.

The obvious competitor is Samsung’s HW-Q990C, which also offers Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio using an equally immersive 11.1.4-channel speaker layout. Thanks to some recent price reductions it’s also surprisingly cheap, currently retailing for a tempting £1,099.

In terms of other brands, the LG S95QR is another possibility with its 9.1.5-channel system that has fewer side channels but an extra centre-height driver instead. Otherwise, it’s very similar to the JBL and Samsung soundbars but is currently the most expensive option at a hefty £1,699.

READ NEXT: The best subwoofers to pair with your soundbar

JBL Bar 1300 review: Design and features

The JBL Bar 1300’s design is minimalist, with curved edges, mesh grilles, and a black finish. The styling is sleek, and at only 60mm high, the JBL should be able to sit in front of a TV without blocking the screen. It’s solidly built, and the perfect width for 65in screen sizes.

Along with the included remote, there are basic controls on the top of the soundbar itself, plus a simple display at the front right. The detachable rears are obviously designed to match the styling of the soundbar, while the wireless subwoofer is finished in a simple matte black.

JBL includes L-shaped brackets for wall-mounting the soundbar and smaller U-shaped brackets for installing the surrounds at the back of the room. If you do this, there are side caps for covering where the rear speakers normally dock, and instead, you recharge them using their USB-C ports.

The soundbar contains six racetrack drivers, five tweeters, and four full-range up-firing drivers, while the rears each have a racetrack driver, an up-firing driver, and a passive radiator. There’s a massive 650W of amplification in the soundbar and 110W of power in each rear speaker.

The rear-ported subwoofer has a 10in downward-firing driver combined with 300W of juice. While the channel count is comparable to Samsung’s HW-Q990C, the JBL has significantly more power and a larger subwoofer when compared to the 8in drivers used by the Q990C and LG S95QR.

The Bar 1300 decodes the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats, delivering them using front left and right channels, a centre channel, front and rear overhead channels, width channels, and front and rear side channels. All of which create a seamless bubble of sound.

To ensure this spatially acoustic hemisphere is cohesive and balanced, there’s an auto-calibration feature that you run using the remote or control app. Follow the instructions on the screen and in a few minutes you’ll have a calibrated system with any sonic aberrations in the room corrected.

While the Bar 9.1 also sported detachable rears, the Bar 1300 goes further by allowing you to pair one of them with Bluetooth devices as a standalone speaker, or even pair both for a stereo setup. When fully charged, the detachable rears have a claimed maximum play time of 12 hours.

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JBL Bar 1300 review: Connections and control

The JBL Bar 1300 offers decent connectivity with three HDMI inputs, and an HDMI output with eARC, all of which pass HDR10 and Dolby Vision. However, there’s no support for HDR10+, 4K/120Hz or VRR, although this equally applies to LG, and the latter two in the case of Samsung. In addition, there’s also Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast and AirPlay 2 for wireless connections.

The included remote control might be small and simple, but it’s comfortable to hold, easy to use, and fairly robust. The main controls are present and correct, with power, mute, volume up/down, and the three inputs. There are also controls for quickly tweaking the levels of the overhead and rear speakers, along with the subwoofer, plus you can engage the auto-calibration feature.

In terms of other control options, there’s the JBL One app (iOS and Android), which is very cool. This well-designed and intuitive interface offers an exact facsimile of the actual remote control and a host of other functions that allow you to easily set up the Wi-Fi, integrate music streamers, personalise the audio features, and manage the soundbar settings.

READ NEXT: The best wireless speakers money can buy

JBL Bar 1300 review: Sound quality

The JBL Bar 1300 impresses right out of the gate, in no small part thanks to its combination of quality speakers, powerful amplification, and beefy subwoofer. Most importantly, it all coalesces into a coherent and powerful soundstage, where the combination of identical drivers and auto-calibration produces a balanced delivery and seamless steering of effects around the room.

What’s even better is that the system is a cinch to set up; simply place the soundbar under the TV, making sure the upward-firing drivers aren’t blocked, and then put the subwoofer at the front left or right of the room. If you’re watching the news you won’t need the surrounds, but when you do just detach and place them behind you. Then run the auto-calibration, and you’re good to go.

If you feel the need to tweak the levels of the rears or heights you can use the dedicated controls on the remote or in the app, and the muscular nature of the subwoofer means it may require some taming, depending on where you position it. As with any up-firing speaker, its effectiveness depends on your ceiling, but if necessary try boosting the Atmos/DTS:X level.

The Bar 1300 is excellent in terms of its overall performance, and for a soundbar, it’s surprisingly good with music. The larger drivers provide sufficient clarity and detail, the width of the cabinet ensures plenty of stereo separation, and the big subwoofer delivers a solid foundation of bass that feels tight and controlled thanks to the highly effective automated calibration feature.

Moving on to multichannel music, movies or TV shows, the side-firing speakers create added width, while the centre channel keeps the dialogue clear and focused on the screen. The rear speakers ensure that 5.1-channel soundtracks are delivered with genuine surround presence, the steering of effects is seamless, and the wireless connection is free of any delays or dropouts.

When the entire 11.1.4-channel soundstage is engaged with a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X soundtrack the Bar 1300 is a cracking performer, creating a fully immersive spatial sonic experience. There’s a feeling of being encased in a realistic bubble of sound as the decoding uses all the available speakers to effortlessly place audio objects around you in a believable three-dimensional space.

Watching Fast X in Dolby Atmos provides the perfect opportunity for the Bar 1300 to reveal its object-based prowess as it flawlessly moves sounds around the room. Cars zoom from front to back, planes fly overhead, and as a giant bomb tumbles around Rome the sub adds a perfectly timed low-end thump to each bounce. When it actually explodes the sense of scale is palpable.

If you just leave the rear speakers attached to the soundbar the result is a very wide front soundstage that’s ideal for simply watching regular TV programmes. The Pure Voice feature can be useful, although the dedicated centre speaker does a great job of delivering clear dialogue with even the busiest of soundtracks. The added width also complements the largest of TV screens.

The lack of next-gen gaming support aside, the Bar 1300 works exceptionally well with games, creating a realistic and visceral soundstage that’s particularly effective with first-person shooters. The balanced nature of the system allows sounds to seamlessly move from speaker to speaker as you change your point on the screen, helping to sell the illusion and increase the sense of immersion.

There’s a pleasing dynamism to the overall delivery, and plenty of headroom thanks to all those powerful amps. So whether you’re watching TV, immersing yourself in movies, listening to music or playing games, the Bar 13000 delivers an exhilarating and incredibly immersive spatial audio performance that’s also convenient, elegant, and unobtrusive.

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JBL Bar 1300 review: Verdict

The JBL Bar 1300 is an impressive flagship model from the brand, significantly upping the ante compared to the earlier Bar 9.1 while also offering a viable alternative to competitors like LG and Samsung when it comes to fully immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X wireless soundbar systems.

In terms of specs it’s the equal of the two Korean models, but also features detachable rears and a slick remote app to give it an edge. The design is eye-catching, and the connectivity is very good, even if like most soundbars there’s no passthrough for gaming features like 4K/120Hz and VRR.

The Bar 1300 also has more power than the flagship models from LG and Samsung, while the subwoofer digs deeper, allowing the JBL to deliver immersion on a grander scale compared to the competition. In addition, effective auto-calibration ensures the system is balanced and cohesive.

The result is a cracking sonic performer that delivers an engaging and enjoyable surround sound experience. The JBL Bar 1300 isn’t cheap, but if you’re looking for a high-quality and very flexible immersive audio solution, this wireless soundbar system has you covered from front to back.

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