JBL’s $399.95 Hyperlink Bar is a brilliant soundbar that basically doubles as a media streamer with Android TV, Chromecast, and Google Assistant. Throw in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI, and optical connectivity, and it just about does all of it. From an audio perspective it delivers crisp, clear sound and wealthy, boosted lows and low-mids, however there isn’t a sub-bass actually. That’s left for an optionally available wi-fi subwoofer that prices an additional $300, and it feels like one thing is lacking with out it.
The Hyperlink Bar, accessible in black with a wraparound fabric grille, measures 2.Three by 40.1 by 3.7 inches (HWD). The highest panel is matte plastic, emblazoned with the Google Assistant emblem. Up right here, there are controls for supply, Bluetooth pairing, quantity down/up, and a “privateness change” that’s basically a mic mute management. The far-field mics are additionally situated on the higher panel.
Behind the material grille, there is a standing LED, which amongst different issues, lets you already know when the mic is listening—after you say “Hey Google,” it lights up. Beneath the grille, there are additionally twin 20mm tweeters and 4 1.7-by-3.2-inch racetrack-style drivers delivering a mixed complete of 100 watts and a frequency vary of 75Hz to 20kHz.
Alongside the again panel, there are connections for HDMI (three complete HDMI inputs, together with assist for 4K, and a fourth port for HDMI ARC), optical, 3.5mm aux, and USB-C for service. There’s additionally a button for pairing with a wi-fi subwoofer A single HDMI cable is included. The Hyperlink Bar could be mounted on the wall, and JBL consists of mounting brackets and a information.
Along with the bodily inputs, the Hyperlink Bar streams by way of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It is price noting that it took a number of makes an attempt for us to efficiently pair an iPhone eight with the Hyperlink Bar till we realized this course of entails utilizing a linked TV display. You’ll be able to’t merely pair the same old means by way of your telephone’s Bluetooth menu—you could additionally comply with pair utilizing an on-screen TV immediate (you additionally want to make use of a TV display once you wish to hearken to music by way of Google Assistant). Regardless, as soon as paired, you possibly can hear as you’d with any Bluetooth gadget, without having to make use of the TV display to manage playback (although you possibly can).
The included distant management has buttons for energy, Netflix, HDMI, optical/aux, Google Assistant, dwelling, backward, mute, Bluetooth pairing, and quantity up/down. In the midst of the distant, there is a management pad with a central playback button, and an outer ring that controls observe/movie scene/menu navigation. The distant runs on two included AAA batteries. There are additionally loads of different methods to manage the soundbar, together with utilizing Chromecast in your cell gadget, or your voice to activate Google Assistant.
The JBL Hyperlink Bar is powered by Android TV, so it serves as a media streamer as a lot because it does a soundbar. With that in thoughts, you may wish to join it to your TV over HDMI, and doubtless use it in your primarily enter on the TV. Android TV helps all kinds of apps and streaming providers by itself and the bar consists of three HDMI inputs it will possibly change between, so it will possibly successfully substitute your TV’s menu system for dealing with your mostly used dwelling theater inputs.
Android TV presents all kinds of options, together with mostly used apps and streaming providers. They embody Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Motion pictures & TV, Google Play Music, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, Spotify, Tidal, Twitch, and YouTube. It additionally helps Google Forged, so you possibly can stream audio and video to the bar and your TV out of your smartphone, pill, or a Chrome tab.
It additionally comes with Google Assistant, and you may entry it together with your voice because of the Hyperlink Bar’s far-field microphones. Simply say “Hey Google,” adopted by a request for data, good dwelling management, media playback, or another process Google Assistant can carry out. As a result of it is an Android TV gadget somewhat than an audio-only good speaker, it tends to default to YouTube for music as an alternative of Google Music. For those who simply say “Hey Google, play Queens of the Stone Age,” you get despatched to a Queens of the Stone Age YouTube channel.
Usually, it took longer to get to a YouTube channel than it might to get to an ordinary Google Music providing. And our first time by way of, playback crashed and we have been despatched to the primary menu. Issues improved afterward, however it’s unclear what prompted the preliminary points.
The TV display being sporadically integral to operation of the speaker is irritating. You might solely want to hear music from Google Assistant/Google Play, however asking for music all the time appears to take you to a YouTube channel, so in case your TV is off, you may want to show it on and to the enter for the Hyperlink Bar’s dwelling interface to look. From there, you possibly can press play or pause on the distant. The expertise would not really feel restricted if different, screen-free choices have been simply as simply accessible and controllable, however needing to make use of the TV display to pair a telephone or hearken to music is an additional step that usually feels annoying.
To check the Hyperlink Bar’s film efficiency, we watched Blade Runner 2049‘s crash scene, the place Ryan Gosling falls from the sky in a futuristic flying car. It options a number of explosions, and the Hyperlink Bar delivers respectable low-frequency presence. Within the absence of a subwoofer, the rumble is not thunderous, however the thuds accompanying punches are highly effective sufficient. The music is delivered with stable bass presence and shiny, clear highs, and the dialogue is crisp and straightforward to grasp.
When the Dying Star (spoiler alert) explodes in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Hyperlink Bar delivers sturdy readability all through the frequency vary, and a good quantity of bass depth, however these on the lookout for actual rumble will wish to add within the subwoofer we maintain mentioning—the Hyperlink Bar alone merely cannot pump out these deep bass frequencies. What you are left with, nevertheless, is a crisp, clear dialogue expertise.
Notably with music, the Hyperlink Bar can get fairly loud. On tracks with intense sub-bass content material, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Hyperlink Bar delivers laudable bass depth, however the deepest lows, as with motion pictures, aren’t actually there. At prime volumes, the DSP (digital sign processing) kicks in and thins out the deepest bass thuds a bit—they sound fuller at barely decrease ranges. The mids and highs, nevertheless, are delivered cleanly and clearly.
Invoice Callahan’s “Drover,” a observe with far much less deep bass within the combine, provides us a greater sense of the Hyperlink Bar’s basic sound signature. The drums on this observe have a pure sound to them—probably not boosted a lot within the deep lows. Callahan’s baritone vocals get a severe boosting nevertheless, and we begin to understand that the Hyperlink Bar pushes out some severe presence within the lows and low-mids. The upper register parts of the combo, like some percussive hits and the acoustic guitar, are delivered with brightness and wonderful readability. Fortunately the vocals additionally obtain sufficient treble edge to maintain issues clear and outlined—in any other case that low- and low-mid boosting would make issues a tad muddy.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church within the Wild” receives a great high-mid presence, permitting the drum loop’s assault to keep up its punchy edge. The vinyl crackle and hiss that is normally relegated to background standing additionally steps ahead within the combine considerably. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with out a lot sense of their true bass depth and energy—we hear extra of their raspy prime notes than the rest. The vocals on this observe are delivered cleanly and clearly with some sibilance added in there, although it isn’t disagreeable.
Orchestral tracks, just like the opening scene in John Adams’ The Gospel In keeping with the Different Mary, sound essentially the most pure by way of the Hyperlink Bar—most likely as a result of they want a subwoofer far lower than film explosions or deep-bass digital music do. Merely put, the Hyperlink Bar is a shiny, clear, sculpted soundbar with some very wealthy lows, however no actual sub-bass.
The JBL Hyperlink Bar feels considerably incomplete. From a options perspective, it does greater than just about another soundbar we have examined because of Android TV. As a speaker, although, it feels prefer it’s lacking an excessive amount of of the audio expertise and not using a subwoofer within the combine, so we advocate including it or going a special route completely. We have examined 2.1 methods from JBL that price solely a bit greater than this and have a strong subwoofer as a part of the equation, particularly the $500 JBL Bar 3.1. We additionally actually just like the $800 LG SL8YG—it prices about the identical because the Hyperlink Bar and its wi-fi subwoofer would as a package deal, so the pricing right here is not ridiculous. However you can too get high quality 2.1 audio for much much less with the $180 TCL Alto 7+, which delivers incredible efficiency for the worth.