JBL Bar 5.1 soundbar transforms into a wireless surround cinema speaker system

Ever fancied getting in on the whole 'cinema sound in your home' experience, but been put off by the mess of cables that inevitably comes with dotting a load of speakers around your living room? The JBL Bar 5.1 system might be the answer.

Launching at IFA 2017,  it looks initially like a standard soundbar / subwoofer combo, but comes with a neat trick up its sleeve. The ends of the soundbar can be detached to act as standalone, rechargeable satellite speakers, effectively transforming the whole thing into a 5.1 surround sound system (if you count the soundbar as two distinct channels).

The speakers charge when they're docked to the soundbar, and will give you wireless audio for about 10 hours, which is just about enough for a marathon of the (good) Star Wars films.

Connections include HDMI and HDMI ARC inputs, while audiophiles are covered with optical and AUX wired connections. Three 4K HDMI pass-through inputs are onboard too, letting you hook up Blu-ray decks and games consoles, while JBL's SoundShift technology lets you jump between other audio sources on the fly.

As for output, there's 510W of power overall out of the system, with the subwoofer a 10-inch wireless number.

Sound as a pound

If you're after something a bit simpler, the JBL Bar line includes three other models with slightly varying feature sets, depending on price.

The JBL Bar 3.1 ditches the detachable modules, offering 450W output from its three-channel soundbar and 10-inch wireless sub combo. It too offers three 4K HDMI pass-through ports.

Next up is the JBL Bar 2.1, which has a max 300W output, again comes with a wireless sub (this time a 6.5-inch model), but drops the 4K output for a standard HDMI-out port.

Finally, the Bar Studio is a straightforward 2-channel soundbar, with a built-in bass port making up for the lack of a dedicated subwoofer.

In terms of price and availability, for the Bar 5.1 you're looking at an October launch and £649.99 (about $840 / AU$1060). The Bar 3.1 will arrive in September for £399.99 ($515/ AU$650), along with the Bar 2.1 at £299.99 ($385 / AU$490), while the Bar Studio will be available in October for £149.99 ($190 / AU$245).

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Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.