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If you are looking for a soundbar to compliment your 4K TV, then you can consider the JBL Cinema SB 450. The soundbar has a lot of input options including 4K HDR passthrough, is well built and can really fill the room with sound. The only downside is that sometimes dialogues can be hard to hear, especially the ones spoken in the heat of battle.
4K is the way to go if you are looking to invest in a new TV and don’t want to upgrade for the next 5 to 7 years. If you are looking for a 4K TV on a budget, chances are the audio output from that TV isn’t going to be great. If you are one looking to invest in a pair of speakers or a soundbar, there are few options that give you features like 4K HDR passthrough, a wireless subwoofer and sound worth appreciating. Today we have with us the JBL Cinema SB 450. It has three HDMI ports with 4K HDR passthrough along with one HDMI ARC port, a host of traditional connectivity options and a wireless subwoofer. Is it the dream soundbar you’ve been looking for?
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Total Maximum Power: 440W
Frequency Response: 40Hz to 20KHz
Soundbar Weight: 3.4kg
Subwoofer Weight: 9.5kg
Audio Inputs: 1 Aux, 1 Optical, Bluetooth, USB
Bluetooth Version: 3.0
Subwoofer Transducer Size: 8-inch
Soundbar Transducer Size: 2.25-inch
Soundbar Dimension: 44-inches x 3inches x 4-inches
Subwoofers Dimensions: 13-inches x 13-inches x 14-inches
HDMI Input: 3
HDMI Output (Audio Return Channel): 1
HDMI Version: HDCP 2.2
Price: Rs 37,990
Kicking things off with the build and design of the soundbar, it is extremely well built. It has a grill covering the front protecting the drivers. The front is clean, simple and black in colour with the JBL logo bang in the centre. There are no LED’s in the front to show you the source or input and that’s ok as for some the LED indicator may be distracting. I personally prefer it.
The soundbar has a partially cylindrical design and is flat at the back. This is of course to ensure it can be wall mounted with ease if necessary. The soundbar is really long and has kind a of protrusion towards the end giving it a very dominating presence. People will notice this soundbar under your TV or home entertainment system.
The soundbar also has 2 legs which work as a stand. The height of these legs is adjustable and that is a very good addition for those that don’t want the soundbar to lie flat on the table. All the connectivity options are hidden at the back of the soundbar. You have three HDMI inputs along with the HDMI ARC port conveniently tucked away in one corner where as the AUX input, optical input and power supply are in the other corner. In the centre you have the USB port, subwoofer pairing button and a wall mounted/table top placement toggle. All-in-all, the soundbar itself is well built with a dominating presence giving you the impression that it means business.
Coming to the subwoofer, it is huge. One look at the sub and you know that it is going to bring the roof down (but more on that in the performance section). The subwoofer is wireless which means that there is no physical connection between the soundbar and the subwoofer. It connects wirelessly when both the soundbar and the subwoofer are plugged in and powered on. There is a white light behind the subwoofer which blinks when it is finding the connection and is solid white when the connection is established. When the light is orange, means it is looking for the soundbar. The rear of the subwoofer has the power button, phase toggle and a crossover knob.
For those that aren’t aware, crossover, as the name suggests, is where the frequency of the subwoofer and soundbar's transition or ‘cross over’ to each other. Getting this transition right means getting the perfect blend of sound from the subwoofer and the speaker. In our experience, keeping it towards the lower side was the ideal match for the sound frequency between the sub and the bar. The subwoofer is down firing and has 4 rubber feet. We recommend keeping the sub in a front corner of the room facing you about 15-inches away from the wall (on any side) to get the best experience. The subwoofer is built like a tank, is black and looks like something you’d find in the Batcave.
When it comes to physical controls, you have all of them at the top of the soundbar. You have the power button, input source, virtual surround, volume up/down, Bluetooth, connect, and sound shift. The same controls with a little more can be found on the remote control. The buttons are small, and I wish they were a little bigger.
All-in-all the build quality of the soundbar and the subwoofer is top notch considering the price.
When it comes to connectivity, the soundbar has an AUX input, USB, Bluetooth, three 4K HDR HDCP 2.2 enabled HDMI in ports for passthrough and an HDMI out for ARC (Audio Return Channel). Setting up the soundbar and subwoofer is very easy. Simply connect the two to a wall outlet, switch it on and you are good to go. The subwoofer and soundbar sync in a matter of seconds. You can easily navigate the source and sound options from the remote control. The system comes with an HDMI cable and Optical cable in the box, which is nice. Future proofing the device, I wish it had built in Chromecast, but it doesn’t. This would be a great feature if you have an entry level TV which isn’t smart.
Coming to the remote control, it is made of plastic and doesn't have the same premium feel found on the soundbar. In fact, it looks a lot like my Kinivo HDMI switcher remote. Considering the premium build of the soundbar, it feels cheap and plasticly. It has all the same controls found on the soundbar with the addition of mute, bass controls, HDMI source select, Harman volume and feedback. The remote is small and light and looks like something you will lose easily.
Overall the remote control is functional, easy to use with one hand, but we wish it were better built.
To test the performance of the JBl Cinema SB 450, I have broken it up into music, movies/TV shows and gaming.
I connected the soundbar to a TV via HDMI ARC and saw a bunch of movies/TV shows from Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Videos, and good old-fashioned USB drive connected to the TV. I saw some of the same content by connecting a 3.5mm cable to the headphones out of the TV and AUX port of the speaker. One thing is clear, if the source of your content doesn't have good audio, it will reflect on the speaker. Also, between AUX and ARC, I recommend using ARC as it delivered the best of all the content from the TV. Watching movies from Netflix and the USB drive, the audio seemed crisper when compared to the 3.5mm alternative. Where this system excels is with the bass driving thumps delivered in the action sequences of some movies. The Red Circle fight sequence in John Wick has some subtle music before the high octave action kicks in and then the music changed to funky club.
All the while the subwoofer held my attention with every bang and thud. One big downside is that all the dialogues were lost in the heat of the battle. I thought this was a case with John Wick only, but play any action movie on the JBL SB 450 and if there is conversation in the heat of battle, the dialogues will be drowned out a bit. It was the same for shows like Daredevil, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, Spider-Man Homecoming and more. I kept fiddling with the remote to control the volume so as not to miss some of the dialogues and that can get annoying. In other times, during the same movies, where the dialogues take place without any actions, they sound quite clear.
On the other hand, with shows like Seinfeld, Young Sheldon, Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and more, the conversations are quite clear. Dialogues are crisp, and you can understand everything.
At about 60-70 percent volume I was shaking my entire house with the JBL SB 450. The audio was vibrating through every room in the house and I was shaking in my chair (a slight exaggeration, but my point is that the system is powerful, and the sound can fill a room). Needless to say, if you are looking for a soundbar for your 12 feet by 14 feet bedroom, this will be overkill. However, for a living room, this one should do just fine to give you a good movie watching experience. Just keep the remote handy for when the dialogues pop in.
When it comes to gaming, I played some games on the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro and the experience was a lot of fun especially if you enjoy playing shooter games. Manually up the bass if you like to feel the extra thump of a shotgun. Games like Doom sound great on this system with its rock background score and thumps of the shotgun or the rattling sound of the assault rifle. Quitter games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider also fared well with sounds of the jungle and leaves rustling combined with the cracking of the neck of some foes. If you are going to game on your brand new 4K TV, then you may want to check out this soundbar.
I primarily played music from Apple Music and YouTube on a smartphone and connected it to the speaker via Bluetooth. I played some Poets of the Fall, Charlie Puth, Pink Floyd, Wake Me Up by Avicii, Maria Tambien by khruangbin, Petercat Recording Company, portrait of a time and more. If you are one that wants a lot of bass from their music or listen to bass heavy tracks only, then you may appreciate what the soundbar brings to the table. But if you like instrumental music, or more vocals or orchestral music, then this isn’t for you. You are better off looking at speakers designed for music listening.
The JBL Cinema SB 450 has an MRP of 39,999 but on JBL India’s official website it is selling for Rs 37,990. As of writing this review, the system is available for Rs 28,990 on Amazon.in making it a about 6,000 more expensive that the JBL 2.1 that we recently tested. For about 29k, the soundbar is a great deal especially if you are someone that will watch a lot of movies and play games. The only downside is that the dialogues do get lost in the heat of the action at time, but considering the features on offer and the price, it is a good investment for your new 4K TV. It has three HDMI 4K HDR passthrough ports and a design to compliment any home theatre setup. If you are looking for a soundbar for your 4K TV for about 30k, then you can consider this. It has a host of options and will enrich your movie and TV watching experience.