JBL Bar 800 soundbar review: a terrific all-in-one surround sound set up

Testing out a true home cinema experience with the powerful JBL Bar 800 soundbar

JBL Bar 800 soundbar being tested in writer's home
(Image credit: Anete Lusina)
Livingetc Verdict

If you can overlook the soundbar’s shortcomings in the design space, the smart features and powerful sound experience more than make up for the less-than-polished aesthetics. It is fast to connect with smart devices, so for households with numerous devices, everyone can enjoy their favorite content, from TV to music and games.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Compatible with smart devices

  • +

    Immersive Dolby Atmos surround sound

  • +

    Two battery-powered detachable speakers for a 3D sound

  • +

    Free smartphone app to configure settings

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Both the soundbar and subwoofer are bulky and far from sleek

  • -

    The price is a big investment even for the biggest home cinema fans

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With plenty of us still enjoying the comfort of home entertainment, especially in the colder seasons, you may be looking to enhance your visual and audio experience. A modern soundbar is a step towards bringing that cinematic experience to your living room without investing in a home theatre. 

JBL Bar 800 (opens in new tab) is a soundbar promising to bring real 3D surround sound without the hassle of extra wires and power connections. With plenty of smart features and two detachable speakers, it may just become the focal point of your home entertainment. Be it a movie night or a games day with friends and family.

Does the premium-priced soundbar deliver on its promises to bring a theater-quality sound to your home? We tested it out to see if it was worth the investment. And you can read our guide for more on what makes the best surround sound system.

JBL Bar 800: Key info

  • Dolby Atmos?: Yes
  • Connections: Optical, HDMI, HDMI ARC/eARC, USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast 
  • Dimensions: 34.8 x 2.2 x 4.7in (soundbar); 12 x 17.3 x 12in (subwoofer) 
  • Weight: 7.4lbs (soundbar); 22lbs (subwoofer) 
  • Color: Black 
  • Included: Two detachable speakers and a remote control 

JBL Bar 800 remote resting on top of soundbar

(Image credit: Anete Lusina)
Anete Lusina

Anete is a freelance writer and product reviewer in the tech industry, ranging from photography software to home living products for a modern lifestyle. As a self-taught photographer, she is always on the lookout for user-friendly smart home and business devices that don’t take a genius to figure out. When she is not working at her desk, Anete can be found creating artistic projects and looking for ways to make her home smarter and more organized. 

JBL Bar 800: Set-up

When you unbox JBL Bar 800, the first thing that sticks out is the size. Though some rival soundbars are larger, it still measures almost 35 inches in width. If your TV unit is on the smaller side, you may need to rethink where to place the unit. On the upside, if the soundbar throws off your decor, you can use the included wall brackets to mount it on the wall.

We put ours on our TV unit, and it slightly hovered over the edges. But, because the soundbar has two detachable wireless speakers, you can remove those (and take off a few inches on either side of the soundbar) and put them behind your sofa. Though, unless you have a shelving or a standing unit behind your sofa, or it has a hardback, you may have to rethink the best placement. 

The easy magnetic connection between the speakers and the soundbar was a pleasant surprise. You also get magnetic cases to cover the exposed connections for the soundbar and the speakers. Be aware if you want to use speakers separately straight out of the box, they will likely need charging via a USB-C or connect them to the unit to charge up.

It may be a wasted feature if you don’t have anywhere to place the detachable speakers. In this case, one of the smaller JBL Bar units could be a better choice. But, if you can, use the speakers behind you for a subtle 3D sound. It’s not overwhelming, but you can truly enjoy the effect when a movie calls for background sounds, voices, or echoes. 

The subwoofer comes at a hefty 22 lbs and stands just over 17 inches tall. With its simple, black design and small legs at the bottom, it resembles a small, basic living room unit more than a subwoofer. We put ours in the corner of the room next to a plug socket. Once powered, it uses a wireless connection, so you can easily place it around your room where it fits best. 

The soundbar setup is simple. Using an HDMI, Optical or wireless connection, you can get it connected to your TV, smartphone, or gaming console. If you need to use it the same day it arrives, you should be able to get it up and running and connected fast. To stop you from guessing if your soundbar is idle or connecting to a new device, it has a subtle screen at the front to let you know the status of your connections. 

You're probably right if you think having an app for even the best soundbars is a little over the top. But, the JBL One App helps keep up with any software updates, and you can add third-party smart devices like Amazon Alexa for voice control. 

The app also allows you to sync your audio if the connection between the screen and the soundbar is off-sync and you need to offset it. As a bonus, if you lose your remote control or run out of batteries, the app also works as a remote control.

JBL Bar 800 with detachable rear speakers viewed from the side

(Image credit: Anete Lusina)

JBL Bar 800: Performance

The subwoofer connects almost instantly, and you can immediately tell the difference in sound quality. Listen to drums once (like in an adventure movie trailer), and you will never want to go back. The difference between the soundbar and a TV playing through its internal speakers is impressive.

Voices are mostly clear and harmonious with the bass. Watching a movie, we found the dramatic moments that call for a heavy bass don't overwhelm any music or speech. You can adjust the level of the bass – either using the remote control (the soundbar will show you the level of the bass between 1 and 5) or in the app. The jumps between the first few levels seem minor, but going from four to five, you will feel a major difference. It would be nice to have more subtle controls for this. 

Although the sound coming from the soundbar and the subwoofer is immersive enough, you may want to calibrate it. Use the included remote control and follow the quick setup guide–with a few button clicks, the soundbar will start the process and automatically gauge your environment for the optimal setup, no matter the size of your room.

JBL Bar 80 subwoofer

(Image credit: Anete Lusina)

JBL Bar 800: Design

The soundbar and subwoofer’s design is far less impressive than their performance. Neither look as polished as you would expect units to be in this price range. Both soundbar and subwoofer have a simple plastic look, unlike some competitor soundbars with sleek, glossy finishes or more unique textures that add to the luxury look.

Having said that, if you have a large TV unit or mount the soundbar to the wall, the overall look will be more harmonious, and the soundbar won’t stick out like a sore thumb. The detachable speakers add an extra layer of flexibility – when not in use, you can keep them in a drawer to reduce the soundbar’s size for everyday use.

While packed with smart features, the soundbar unit has a few buttons on its surface. You can use them to turn it on, switch between different sound sources, or adjust the volume. 

JBL Bar 800: Our verdict

A modern soundbar, like the JBL Bar 800, is a long way from the rattly, old subwoofers that make you question if your house shaking is part of the cinema experience. The Dolby Atmos sound (with the help of detachable speakers) delivers as promised. At the same time, as most Dolby Atmos soundbars sport a bulky look, so does the Bar 800.

Freelance contributor