Harman International’s JBL brand has introduced a new series of sound bars known as the Cinema Series, with models including the SB 100, SB 200, and SB 300. This review is of the middle model, the SB 200, which sports a good look and an even better sound. It’s a very good deal at $299.
Announced last fall and available now, the SB 200 does two very good things: it produces a full, powerful sound when attached to a TV, and it also sports Bluetooth capability. During the testing period, I went back and forth between watching movies and TV through the sound bar, and playing music via Bluetooth from my iPhone.
JBL’s SB 200 sports a 120-watt amplifier and what the company calls Harman Display Surround. There’s also dual 3-1/2-inch (89-millimeter) premium cone woofers and a pair of 1-inch (25-millimeter) dome tweeters. The sound bar is meant to work best with TVs between 32 and 46 inches.
The sound bar is easy to set up — it took me about five minutes from unboxing to getting it working — and fit in well on top of the cable box and under the TV (a three-year-old Vizio model) in my bedroom.
During the testing period, I watched a wide variety of programming on TV, from a movie to an NFL game to a presidential debate. In all cases, the audio was a significant improvement over that offered by my TV itself, and of a quality comparable to that of much more expensive models.
The other winning feature is the Bluetooth capability, which was a great way to play the songs on my iPhone and iPad in a high sound-quality environment. It did lead to one awkward moment, though — I was out jogging one day while listening to music on the iPhone, and when I got within about 50 feet of my house the Bluetooth kicked in, the music stopped playing on the iPhone, and started playing in my house, giving quite a scare to my wife and kids.
The three sound bars retail for $199, $299, and $549. The low-end model does not include Bluetooth, while the higher-end version adds a separate wireless subwoofer.