Following their acquisition by Samsung last year, Harman’s youth brand JBL has geared up to put the pressure on its rivals with a new set of speakers and headphones.
The centerpiece of the JBL’s new range is their Cinema Soundbar. We came away from a demonstration of this product particularly impressed, with the trailer of Kong: Skull Island literally coming across with enough bass to knock things off the shelves around us. Priced competitively against both Sonos and HEOS, it represents a crucial expansion for JBL. One that sees them not just find their way into the bags of customers but their homes.
It comes accompanied by the Playlist speaker. Boasting a football-like design, this new 60-watt speaker hits both high and low by offering support for streaming services like Spotify and Google ChromeCast well as hi-res formats like 24-bit audio. When demonstrated, the Playlist delivered a surprising amount of depth and resonance. While it does lack in the waterproofing department, it is priced pretty competitively at $249.
Then, there’s the new JBL Control X range. Aimed at semi-professional customers, these configurable Bluetooth-tethered speakers can tether in groups of up to four and come with a built-in battery. There’s also a wired option for those who don’t mind messing with cables.
Beyond expansion into these younger growing categories like Soundbars and Multi-Room speakers, JBL is also gaining ground in those the brand already has a reputation for.
When it comes to headphones, JBL’s set to leverage its heritage as an audio pioneer via the new Quincy Jones special edition of its E55BT headphones.
The unique on-ear headphones feature 20 hours of battery life, ultra-comfortable leather cup design and in-line mic. They’re set to arrive on shelves from October at a $299 pricepoint.
The E55BT comes accompanied by the new Everest and Everest Elite wireless headphones. The main difference between the two models boils down to the addition of active noise-cancelling.
Along with a few minor touch-ups on the design front, the new headphones come with the ability to sync and share audio with not just other JBL headsets but most wireless-headsets.
When it comes to the rest of the company’s more generic headphones (the JBL 310, JBL 510 and JBL 750NC) JBL have made a few ergonomic improvements to the product, making them both more comfortable and convenient. They’ve even bundled in a new revamped carry-case.
Finally, there’s the audio brand’s most popular product: the Flip range. Harman Australia says that since the range launched in 2012, they’ve sold over 10 million Flip speakers. They’re equally positive about the brand’s recent success in winning back the Guinness World Record for most speakers connected over Bluetooth from rival UE.
In Australia, Ultimate Ears holds the #1 spot in the market for portable Bluetooth speakers. The Flip 4 comes with a built-in microphone and an IPX7 rating for waterproofing. A full charge will net you 12 hours of use and JBL are talking up the ease with which multiple Flip 4 units can be synchronized together using JBL’s ConnectPlus feature. As far as 360-degree portable Bluetooth speakers, it looks to be the whole package.
The Flip 4 comes accompanied by the Charge and Pulse. The Pulse has been redone, replacing the LED-mesh of the original speaker with a new lava-lamp design. Users can connect via their smartphone to the Pulse and customise the patterns that inhabit the surface of the speaker.
JBL have redesigned the software side of the experience so that your smartphone now does most of the heavy-lifting, letting you dig in and customize the exterior of the device even further. As with the Flip 4, JBL have leveraged the ConnectPlus feature to make syncing speakers together easier than ever.
Lastly, there’s the JBL Charge. The Charge brings both the bass and a ton of extra battery life to the party. It’s got a built-in 6000mAh battery with multiple output ports available for use. In practice, the difference between it and the smaller Flip 4 was quite stark. If you’re all about that bass but like your kit compact and durable enough to carry around, the refreshed JBL Charge looks like it might be for you.