JBL Bar 1300X Reviewed at $1,699.00
Product Name: JBL Bar 1300X
Product Description: 11.1.4 CH Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Design - 9/10
Movies Performance - 9.3/10
Music Performance - 9.1/10
Inputs and Features - 8.9/10
Price / Quality - 9/10
Reviewed at $1,699.00
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
- One of the best performances in the soundbar market
- Simple to setup and to use
- Flexible design
- No 4K@120Hz support
- Atmos requires specific room design
- Relatively low max volume
- Not cheap for a soundbar
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Well, this was bound to come but to be honest we were not expecting to review this one so fast. Especially after finishing our review of the remarkable JBL Bar 1000 just a few days earlier. So in our JBL Bar 1300X review today we will be finally testing JBL’s new flagship unit for 2023 and determine if it can be the new King in the soundbar market.
The JBL Bar 1300X is part of JBL’s new Bar series that consists of no less than nine new entries. One thing to keep in mind is that there are two Bar 1300 variations with the simple Bar 1300 featuring a 10″ subwoofer that seems to be aimed for European and other markets while the Bar 1300X we have here for testing comes with a 12″ subwoofer and is released in the US market. All other specifications are exactly the same so you are not going to lose anything else.
So before we start our analysis let’s see in a glimpse what this monster of a soundbar has to offer. The Bar 1300X is a 11.1.4 channels full soundbar system with 1170 watts of power output. It supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and MultiBeam surround sound and comes with online functionality including WiFi6 and Bluetooth. In terms of extras we get an audio calibration system, Chromecast, Airplay, voice control capabilities and support for the JBL One app.
In terms of software the Bar 1300X looks extremely similar to the Bar 1000. The real difference is the power output, number of channels and obviously the price. With a $500 price increase is the JBL Bar 1300X the definite JBL soundbar to look for or you pay too much for too little? Time to find out.
Design, Inputs and Features
The JBL Bar 1300X borrows the exact same new design that JBL created for the new 2023 series in order to keep parity with the rest of the models. Obviously some small changes here and there in the design were mandatory due to the different configuration. But if you look at the entire design its characteristics are the same with the rest.
For a flagship soundbar the Bar 1300X is relatively compact. Especially if you compare it to some other flagships like the Samsung HW-Q990B. Size wise the Bar 1300X measures 1000 x 60 x 139 mm / 39.4” x 2.4” x 5.5” without the surround speakers attached to it. These measure 202 x 60 x 139 mm / 8” x 2.4” x 5.5” so in essence with them attached the soundbar can reach 54.2″ (1376 mm) in width.
For the above reason and also for the fact that the main bar utilizes more side firing channels than most soundbars out in the market, you should take extra care to place it in a place where its drivers will not be obstructed.
Also keep in mind that if you plan on placing it in front of your TV the soundbar does not come with any IR repeaters. So if your TV’s IR sensor is extremely low then it may obstruct the signal, so you better measure first just to be on the safe side.
Most TVs do have a gap of around 2.5″ below the panel, but some sit much lower. So while the soundbar’s 2.4″ height may allow it to fit under most of them, there are some, like the Sony A95K for example, that don’t leave any space for a soundbar and a different solution is needed.
Colors & Quality of Materials
The soundbar is using the same dark grey plastic material for most of its chassis as we saw in the other new releases. Again, the soundbar looks good but it will not give you this premium feel that some other soundbars have.
The perforated grille covers the entire front face, hiding the drivers and front display. With the surround speakers attached this grille extends to the sides in order to provide protection for the side channels also.
At the top side we find the built-in buttons that are placed on the right side. To the left of them there is a single LED that works as a status indicator and more towards the left there is a tiny hole used by the built-in microphone.
We are always very critical of the kind of display we find in a soundbar but thankfully the new JBL releases do not disappoint. The Bar 1300X uses the same dual display scheme that JBL created. One is the single LED status indicator next to the built-in buttons and the second is a full functions display at the front.
But with so many racetrack drivers taking most of the space at the front, designers moved it more to the right side. Not a big problem but surely will bother some that like things to look more symmetrical.
The display can show you various functions like volume control, input selection and sound adjustments among others. We definitely like that JBL used a full functions display instead of LED lights. As it is much easier this way to know what the soundbar is doing. The display can show up to 4-5 characters and uses a scrolling motion for showing longer words.
As for the single LED status indicator, this also shows various functions of the soundbar like network status and updating. But its placement is not very practical and not of much use anyway.
At the back there is a central inset with all the connection ports exactly at the center. There is nothing else visible as the wall mounts keep the unit from underneath.
All of JBL’s top-tier or flagship soundbars have one common characteristic. And this is no other than their detachable speakers. This really set them apart as they add an extra level of flexibility no other competing brand has.
These speakers you can attach or detach from the main unit depending their use. This is important as you do not need a fixed placement and you can change their position at will.
Remember that these speakers need about 3.5 hours to recharge and can offer up to 10 hours of use. We did our own measurements and it seems that these numbers are indeed close to our findings.
Unfortunately, while they do come with a LED indicator that flashes when battery is low you really do not have an indication how low the battery is in general. So our recommendation is to fully charge them after each use. Just to be on the safe side.
The surround speakers has some built-in buttons for power and wireless connection. There is also a USB-C for charging them with a USB charger instead of the main bar. And lastly we find some mounting holes in case you want to place them on the wall.
The speakers weight 1.17 kg / 2.57 lbs making them far heavier than those we saw in the Bar 1000. But they still are easy to handle even with their bigger size and overall weight.
And we should not forget the subwoofer. Design wise, this is the same standard cubic design with a single air port at the back. The down-firing design of the subwoofer surely helps with placement as it will not be affected by tight spaces. Its rounded edges give it a more modern look, which is typical of JBL soundbars. And its four long legs make sure to keep it high enough for the transducer to do its work.
The subwoofer in the 1300X is bigger than all other 2023 JBL soundbars. In fact its the only model with a 12″ sub as even the Bar 1300 uses the standard 10″ variant. The sub measures 366 x 481 x 366 mm / 14.4 “ x 18.9” x 14.4” and with a weight of 15.65kg / 34.5 Ibs which surely makes it impressive.
JBL systems never feel premium, either they are entry level models or top flagships. And the Bar 1300X is no different. Quality wise it is not bad, just don’t expect anything fancy.
Surely, when we reviewed the JBL Bar 1000, a few days ago, its configuration was more than impressive. But the Bar 1300X really takes this to the next level which is what a real flagship should do.
Configuration & Power Distribution
The 1300X is a 11.1.4 channels rated soundbar with a jaw dropping 1170 watts of power output. Power distribution is 650 watts for the main bar, 220 watts for the wireless speakers and 300 watts for the subwoofer.
Once again there are no individual channels rating but this surely doesn’t matter a lot.
For the right and left channels JBL used four 46 x 90 mm racetrack drivers, two for each side. The center channel gets a single 0.75” (20mm) tweeter with two 46 x 90mm racetrack drivers, one at each side.
Its surround capabilities are also greatly expanded as we get Surround channels and Wide Surround channels. Each of them uses a single 0.75” (20mm) tweeter. As for its Atmos channels, there are still only two at the front.
But this is the only JBL unit that uses two 2.75” (70mm) up-firing full-range drivers for each channel. These drivers are positioned in different angles in order to widen the overhead field as much as possible.
The detachable surround speakers also come with a different configuration. This time JBL used a (46 x 90)mm racetrack driver with a single 0.75” (20mm) tweeter. We also find a 2.75” (70mm) up-firing full-range driver for Atmos effects. And lastly each speaker includes two (48x69mm) rounded rectangle passive radiators. These are meant to help each surround speaker to boost its bass.
The subwoofer is a small monster and one of its kind as it is the only JBL soundbar that uses a 12″ driver. It uses a down-firing transducer which is bigger than most of the competition in this price range.
The Bar 1300X does not only come with a lot of channels. JBL also added their own MultiBeam technology. This promises to offer not only precise 3D sound but a full 360 immersion bubble like no other. This technology is nothing new, as we experienced it in other JBL units before. But surely it will be interesting to see how this can perform with some equally impressive hardware.
All the above give the Bar 1300X a frequency response of 33Hz – 20kHz (-6dB).
In terms of connections the JBL Bar 1300X uses exactly the same layout and number of ports as the Bar 1000. No difference whatsoever here.
From left to right there is a power connector, a USB Type-A, an Ethernet port for wired connection to your local network, four HDMI ports, three inputs and one output, and a digital optical audio input.
All HDMI ports support HDCP 2.3 and can pass-through 4K, HDR10 and Dolby Vision signals. The output comes with eARC capabilities which means it can support Dolby Atmos not only from Dolby Digital Plus but also Dolby TrueHD.
Unfortunately if you are a hardcore gamer and you expect it to do 4K@120Hz you are out of luck. The ports of the Bar 1300X do not support such high bandwidth. At best you can do 1080@120Hz or even 1440p@120Hz but nothing more. This shows that these ports are not true HDMI 2.1 ones.
We did connect our PS5 in pass-through mode and no matter what we tried 1080p was the standard for 120Hz gaming. It’s still good enough for everything else but we more or less expected this. We still have a way to go for true HDMI 2.1 ports in soundbars. Even in flagships.
A Few More Points of Interest
If you own older equipment there is an optical port while we should note that the USB port has MP3 playback functionality only for the US models. All other regions are using this for service only. A strange decision to be honest. But one that JBL made some time ago.
With the inclusion of three HDMI ports this unit can support a wide variety of sources at the same time. This means you will not have to rely on your TV to pass-through all signals.
And this is great because the solution of the ARC/eARC port is one that we honestly avoid as much as possible. As convenient eARC may be, it is not very reliable and can create more problems than it should.
As for its wireless capabilities there is WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4GHz/5GHz) as well as Bluetooth v5.0. The new models added WiFi6 which surely is an improvement over their predecessors.
Now let’s take a look at all the ways you can control the soundbar. All JBL soundbars that have built-in WiFi and Bluetooth are the same here. So the Bar 1300X is essentially the same in terms of capabilities here.
First comes the included remote and from the looks of it JBL decided to update its design also along with the bars themselves. The remote is very simple and low cost looking but is slightly better than what previous JBL units came with. The new one still has big round buttons with enough space between them but the layout is completely different.
At the top we find the power and mute buttons while the rest of the body is divided into two sections. On the left one we have the source selectors, with three buttons in total, and three sound effect buttons. On the right side we find the volume controls at the top with a playback button just below that. A moment button, to access your music playlist and speaker settings, and a calibration button is everything available.
The same complaint we made in our Bar 1000 review we will make here also. Essentially the two units use the same remote so this goes for both of them. It is inexcusable for a $1,700 soundbar not to include some short of backlight to make things easier in the dark.
A cheap looking remote we do not mind. We can live with it. But a backlight is a huge practical feature to have. And one that all flagship electronics should have standard in 2023. Soundbars have come a long way and this should be next on the list. At least the circular buttons have enough distance between them to avoid accidental commands.
As for the built-in buttons, their layout is once again as simple as it gets. There are three buttons in total so not much to say here. A simple source button selection and volume controls is all there is. So you have only very basic functionality control with these.
Further to the left of the control buttons we find a small hole that hides the built-in microphone. That, as we mentioned above, is used only for the audio calibration system. But more about this shortly.
The soundbar also supports HDMI-CEC. So in case your TV also supports this feature you can use that remote in order to control both devices. This way you can use less remotes in your viewing area.
But the soundbar also has the ability to be controlled by another remote even if HDMI-CEC is not supported. This is done by the TV remote control IR learning functionality. With it you can program any remote from any device and make the soundbar learn specific signals. These signals will respond to specific actions for the soundbar itself.
JBL was one of the last few brands that did not provide a dedicated app with their soundbars. But finally after so much time the new 2023 series brought a much desired change to this. They finally offer the JBL One App which is a lovely little app that gives you total control over your soundbar. Keep in mind that this app only works with the latest 2023 Bar series, at least for the moment.
With the JBL One App you can setup Wi-Fi, customize EQ and control your device through a very nice and easy to understand UI. You can also set up your soundbar, personalize settings, and use the integrated music services to enjoy your favorite songs.
One minor nuisance was that when we turned the Equalizer off it doesn’t save your settings. This means that when you turn it on again you have to do the manual setup again. Also it would be nice to give you the ability to save different presets but there is no such option. Small problems but we have faith that JBL will fix them in the future.
With the inclusion of online functionality we also get voice control. The Bar 1300X is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri but unfortunately these are not built-in. The unit may have a built-in microphone but this is only used for the audio calibration. In order to use any of the above you need to use an external voice control device.
The big change this year, for all JBL soundbars that support it, is the arrival of the JBL One App. JBL finally heard our cries and gave us one, even though they are far too late for this. But as always better late than never.
Extra Features and Services
Now let’s talk about all the extra features that are included and we will start with the audio formats supported.
Audio Formats & technologies
The soundbar supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X that work along with their MultiBeam surround technology.
But what is this MultiBeam surround technology? This is an electro-acoustic system that applies JBL proprietary beamforming technology. This replicates the amazing surround sound you expect from a multi-channel audio system.
Unlike conventional soundbars that only emit sound in a forward direction, JBL soundbars with MultiBeam combine digital signal processing (DSP), front-firing speakers, and twin side-firing drivers to beam sound at angles towards the side walls of a room. These beams feature the key to generate accurate side wall reflections. A sharp directivity pattern in a wide-band frequency range. These reflections mirror back to the listening location and create a spacious surround sound effect.
As for sound management features the Bar 1300X is certainly not all that complex. Considering its price tag and what the competition offers then surely this one chooses simplicity over complexity. Which, to be honest, is a characteristic of many JBL products.
Firstly there is a bass adjustment control. This comes with five different levels to choose from depending on how punchy the low end you want it to be. You can also adjust the Dolby Atmos/DTS:X effect, with three levels available. And lastly adjust the rear speakers level with four levels available.
There is also a smart mode. With the smart mode, which is on by default, you can enjoy TV programs with rich sound effects. For TV programs such as news and weather forecasts, you can reduce sound effects by disabling the smart mode and switch to the standard mode. With the Smart mode the EQ settings and JBL Surround Sound are applied for rich sound effects while with Standard mode the preset EQ settings are applied for standard sound effects.
We also find JBL’s PureVoice which is their proprietary dialog enhancement tech. By taking advantage of PureVoice, the soundbar allows you to enhance vocal clarity and easily hear and understand speech.
This tech uses digital signal processing (DSP) to detect human speech from within a TV or movie program and extracts the voice content for analysis and improvement. It dynamically enhances the dialogue loudness for crystal-clear intelligibility without affecting other sounds. This enhancement happens automatically, so you never have to reach for the remote control to hear dialogue. PureVoice can be turned on and off depending your preferences.
It is typical for a JBL soundbar to come with just these basic sound modes. This may not allow for a lot of flexibility like other brands offer. But if you just want simplicity then you are going to love this one.
Auto Calibration System
The unit comes with an audio calibration system which seems to be similar to what we used in the Bar 1000. The audio calibration system is mandatory if you are going to have the surround speakers detached. This happens because it has to adjust for distance and delay, among others, that will vastly improve the final outcome.
The JBL One App gives you specific directions on how to finish the whole process. The on-screen directions are simple and easy to comprehend, so fear not. Because the end result may not offer a day and night difference but every improvement you can get is welcome.
The soundbar also offers plenty of streaming capabilities as with the included Bluetooth function you can stream audio from any mobile device. There is also USB streaming capabilities but playback is again limited to MP3 files. And to make matters worse this applies only for the US market. All other regions have the USB port only for service.
We saw JBL doing the same thing with the USB port on many of their previous releases and to be honest this is a very dubious decision. It makes all other regions feel neglected in comparison. Let’s hope this will change at some point in the future.
But streaming is not limited only to Bluetooth as JBL has included support for Chromecast, Airplay 2 and Alexa Multi-Room-Music. With these you can stream music from an online service from those available either you are an Android or iOS fan. These apps can do more than just stream online music. With them you can also connect various speakers and create your own multi-room environment.
The soundbar has plenty of features but to be honest it is not the most feature complete flagship in the market. Its USB streaming capabilities feel like an afterthought and its sound management is basic. But for everything else we found what is there to be more than satisfactory.
Initial setup is very straightforward, as all JBL units are. Once more we opted to use the pass-through capabilities of the unit. So we connected our Panasonic UHD player to the soundbar itself and used the HDMI output to connect our test TV.
Next you need to connect the unit to your local network and here you can use the JBL One app to do so. The whole process is very easy and very fast so you should finish in just a few minutes.
We strongly suggest you to run the automatic calibration system before anything else. This will improve the sound output and it doesn’t take a lot of time to do it. Lastly all you need to do is adjust the bass, the Dolby Atmos/DTS:X effect and the rear speakers level and you are done.
The JBL Bar 1300X combines a really powerful system with simplicity. And this is one of JBL’s characteristics for many years now.
So we reached the most juicy part and this is what most of you will want to read about. How the JBL Bar 1300X can do with movies. For this test we decided to try out some content from Transformers: The Dark of the Moon. We opted for the 4K UHD version that uses an explosive Dolby Atmos mix which was exactly what we needed.
From the first moments the mayhem starts the soundbar really shows it means business. It will bombard you with sonic waves from all angles and it doesn’t hold back one bit. We previously thought that the Bar 1000 was impressive but the 1300X is a step above that one.
The front stage was really active. The soundbar may not be the most wide we have seen but nevertheless its sound expansion was. With dual side firing channels and its MultiBeam technology at play there was a lot going on at the front of us.
One problem most soundbars have is the proximity of their front channels but the JBL one had good separation and channel shifting. Panning effects were very distinct and impressive with projectiles flying in front of us. Depth was also good with sound sources appearing in different distances from our viewing position.
Usually the two main front channels are the ones doing all the heavy lifting but the Bar 1300X was very capable at distributing all the audio across all its channels. We didn’t feel like there was any prioritization at play with every driver having a very balanced output.
To some extent this equal distribution of sound helped with the dialog immensely. All actors voices were very distinct and easy to hear either it was a quiet moment or when Transformers were battling through the city streets.
During testing we didn’t sense any overlapping between the center and the other front channels and everything was nicely balanced and mixed.
You cannot really get a full cinematic experience if you do not have equally good surround performance. And the JBL Bar 1300X exceled in that. The surround speakers delivered all surround effects with precision and clarity. We can admit they were even a bit too aggressive compared to some other soundbars we tested before. But to be honest, if you like the surround audio to be more active than usual this is the ideal system for you.
The surround speakers had a lot of punch and the passive radiators slightly helped with delivering more deep bass. Positioning of these speakers is crucial for delivering what they are capable of so make sure they are calibrated correctly.
As for Dolby Atmos, we can admit that we were expecting a bit more than what we actually heard. Seeing that the front channels featured dual up-firing drivers in different angles we were hoping for something better. But the Bar 1300X did not behave much different that what we heard with the Bar 1000.
Don’t get us wrong. The Atmos performance of the 1300X was just fine, for a up-firing Atmos system. It just didn’t feel any different from many Atmos capable flagships we have tested.
With this out of the way we can say that Dolby Atmos effects had good elevation and nice directionality. A movie like Transformers gives plenty of opportunities for expansive audio in the upper layer and the unit took advantage of that. Projectiles and fighter jets would fly over our heads with precision. Ambient and atmospheric effects would fill our room and give a nice overhead extension and height.
But as always, if you want to get the maximum out of this then your ceiling must be at a maximum height of 9 feet. Anything more and the effects will lose much of their definition and clarity. Also straight ceiling is a must for the sound to bounce correctly down to your position.
But even with these limitations the Bar 1300X can deliver a lot in terms of Atmos immersion. Just as any flagship should.
As for the bass, what can we say about this 12″ monster that can make it real justice? Obviously there are dedicated subwoofers in the market that can do far better. But for a soundbar subwoofer the 12″ variant we get here is one of a kind.
JBL is known for their bass oriented units and the Bar 1300X really shows this. The system can hit frequencies below 30Hz without much trouble which is impressive for any soundbar in the market. We did notice an increase in the upper bass section where the subwoofer crosses to the main bar but it didn’t bother us much. On the contrary if you are very much into action films you are going to appreciate this.
Overall an excellent presentation of its capabilities and you have nothing to worry about about the system’s bass qualities. You are going to get all the shaking you ever wanted.
This is probably one area where we felt the soundbar was a small letdown. While with other flagships, namely the Samsung HW-Q990B, we could hardly reach their max volume this was not the case here. Don’t get us wrong, the Bar 1300X can get loud, satisfyingly loud. It was just not to the extremes you would expect from such a flagship.
We did notice some slight compression when reaching its maximum volume but nothing too much or over the top. In most cases the soundbar was pretty stable across the entire dynamic range.
As far as music is concerned we didn’t use the soundbar’s USB as this is only available in the US market. So instead we used our media player which we connected to one of the HDMI inputs to stream music to the soundbar.
Fidelity & Overall Quality
When we initial tried out music on the Bar 1300X we were not as much enthusiastic as we were with movies. It really was a completely different experience compared to the soundbar’s cinematic prowess.
Its output lacked definition, cohesion and in general it felt like a very hollow experience. For a moment we thought we did something wrong so we tried various settings because we could not believe there was such a big different in quality between music and movies.
And we think we found the reason for this. You see, by default the system is using, what JBL calls, Smart mode. This mode is using EQ settings and JBL Surround Sound for rich sound effects. But this is not ideal for music at all. As a result audio loses a lot of its resolution as the soundbar tries to create a three dimensional soundstage out of stereo music.
By turning Smart Mode off order was restored. Music quality took a huge bump with better clarity, more resolution, more focus and higher definition. Sound imaging was great and very well defined. Vocals had good energy without creating any ear fatigue. Bass was deep and the soundbar never lost the rhythm, even during more demanding sessions.
We did try some different genres, as we always do in these tests, and the unit showcased a very linear output, except from the low end which again was more pronounced than everything else, no matter what we threw at it.
The soundstage was pretty wide for a soundbar of this size and the MultiBeam technology seems to work wonders here. Just make sure to place the unit on an open area for its hardware to work as it should.
The only downside in all this, is that JBL is not clear about their Smart Mode. Yes, they do mention it in the manual but you have to press a combination of buttons every time you want to turn it off. For something as important as this, it should have its own dedicated button for easy access.
We have seen a lot of consumers complaining about the unit’s less than stellar performance with music and this shows that JBL is not very clear about their Smart Mode. But if you manage to find your way around it then the soundbar will reward you with its musical excellence.
A few days ago we praised JBL’s Bar 1000 and how good it sounded compared to JBL’s previous flagship, the Bar 9.1. Well, we will reserve judgement until we try out a few more of the latest 2023 flagships but for now the JBL Bar 1300X is definitely the new King.
Its build quality is solid and up to the usual JBL standards. Its simplicity in terms of settings and ease of use is characteristic of JBL systems. As for its performance, the unit excelled with movies and did really well with music. If you have a relatively small room with low ceilings then the Bar 1300X will reward you with amazing Dolby Atmos action. Add its long list of features and detachable surround speakers and you get an amazing deal out of it.
As for its weaknesses the soundbar cannot pass-through 4K@120Hz signals as it is missing true HDMI 2.1 ports. If you have high ceiling then surely you are not going to get the kind of Atmos effects the soundbar can produce. Max volume may be an issue if you like to push it to the limit while its price will surely make a lot of people think twice before pulling the trigger.
The JBL Bar 1300X is surely JBL’s finest and a huge leap in performance compared to their previous offerings. It has everything it needs to be called a true flagship and one of the best full surround soundbars for 2023. And thus gets our highest recommendation.
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