JBL SB450 Soundbar

Tech Radar

One area where soundbars traditionally struggle with is bass. Having a compact speaker bar makes it difficult to have as much bass as if you were using a stand-alone subwoofer. That’s why many companies are releasing 2.1-channel soundbars which come with a subwoofer to aid in bass response. 

The JBL SB450 soundbar falls into the 2.1-channel category with its soundbar and wireless subwoofer combo. However, the JBL SB450 doesn’t come with a slimmed down and compact wireless subwoofer like many other soundbar kits on the market. Instead, the SB450 comes with a huge 8-inch (200mm) sub that pumps out enough bass to shake your entire house. 

After spending a week with the JBL SB450 soundbar, we were left impressed with its sound quality, ease of use and flexibility. If you’re looking for a soundbar that gets loud and offers earth-shaking bass, the JBL SB450 is a great choice, assuming it fits your entertainment center. 

Design

The JBL SB450 comes in two parts, a long soundbar that measures 44 x 3 x 4 inches (1100 x 76 x 97mm; L x W x H) and a huge subwoofer that measures 13 x 13 x 14 inches (320 x 320 x 355.5mm; L x W x H). This is a beast of a soundbar and sub so make sure you actually have room on your entertainment center for the soundbar and enough room next to it for the sub. 

JBL opted for a silver and black color scheme for the SB450 and it provides an understated elegance. There’s a silver ring around the soundbar and its two adjustable feet are made out of brushed metal. Since the soundbar is so long, it won’t fit more compact entertainment centers like our Ikea shelf-turned-TV-stand. Alternatively, the SB450 allows wall mounting for a cleaner look. 

On top of the SB450 you’ll find buttons for power, source selection, virtual surround sound, volume, Bluetooth, JBL Connect and JBL SoundShift. For the unfamiliar, JBL Connect allows you to sync audio across multiple JBL speakers for a multi-room experience. JBL SoundShift allows you to automatically switch audio sources between your TV’s connected sources and your smartphone’s Bluetooth connection.

The subwoofer is a simple ported black box with controls for power, crossover, phase and pairing on the rear and weighs 21lbs (9.5kg). The 8-inch woofer is bottom-firing and exposed, so make sure not to touch it when taking it out of the box and moving it around. 

On the back of the soundbar itself you’ll find one HDMI output (ARC) and three HDMI inputs, allowing you to connect media sources like gaming consoles and set top boxes directly to the SB450 like an audio receiver. If your TV is a bit older, you have options for optical and 3.5mm audio.  

If you have a 4K TV with HDR , you’ll be happy to know that the JBL SB450 supports passthrough for both 4K and HDR so you get the best sights and sounds out of your home theater system.

Set up is dead simple, requiring only plugging in a few cables. The subwoofer is wireless and requires its own power cable. The soundbar requires you to hook up its HDMI output to the HDMI ARC port on your TV. If your TV supports HDMI CEC, the soundbar will automatically turn on and off with your TV. 

Next, hook up any HDMI sources you have directly to the JBL SB450 instead of the TV. Since the subwoofer is paired from the factory, all you have to do is turn on the TV, set the audio source to the SB450 and you’re good to go.

Performance

The highlight of the JBL SB450 is its sound. The soundbar and subwoofer combo gets ridiculously loud and offers enough bass to shake the entire house. Out of the box, the bass response was so powerful that we had to turn it down to 25% to be bearable. This is one soundbar that you shouldn’t get if you live in a small apartment unless you want to upset your neighbors. 

With the bass dialed in to our preference, we were impressed with how wide and airy the JBL SB450 sounded, especially with the virtual surround sound enabled. The JBL still can’t manage to sound like a true 5.1 surround system but no soundbar can without actual rear speakers. However, JBL’s virtual surround sound digital signal processing (DSP) sounds very good and makes movies more immersive by creating a wide soundstage.

One thing we wished JBL included with the SB450 is independent controls for mid and high frequencies. We found the bass response overwhelmed dialogue during actions scenes but the speaker sounded great otherwise.

Where the JBL SB450 excelled at movies, it's merely average with music playback, and sounds a bit unfocused and flat compared to more musical speakers like the Sonos Playbase . It’s clear JBL focused on home cinema with its DSP settings rather than tuning the SB450 for music. 

Final verdict

If you have the room, the JBL SB450 is an excellent soundbar value. With a price tag of $500 (£500, about AU$660), the SB450 offers a ton of sound and features for the money. The speaker makes watching movies much more immersive with its thunder bass and wide soundstage. Music sounds good but other speakers are better tuned for music. 

If you want to have a multi-room audio solution in your home, the Sonos Playbase or Sonos Playbar are excellent options but cost more money. If you don’t have the space for the huge sub and long soundbar of the JBL SB450, the Sony HT-MT300 is an excellent choice. The Sony doesn’t sound as good as the JBL but it’s a trade off you’ll have to make for having a more compact soundbar. 

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