We all know that soundbars are a great way of upgrading TV sound quality without adding clutter to your living room. But for some people, even a regular-sized soundbar (and the subwoofer that inevitably comes with it) takes up too much space, particularly in a smaller second room. If you’re one of those people then you might want to consider JBL’s Boost TV, a compact speaker that measures just 380mm wide.
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Cute, compact and utterly stylish, the Boost TV looks great perched in front of any TV set. The curvy, pill-shaped enclosure is classic JBL, looking more like one of the company’s Bluetooth speakers than a soundbar. The tough black mesh wrapped around the outside is sandwiched by glossy trims that mould into bass ports at both ends.
It’s solidly made for the money and sits securely on a flat surface thanks to a funky orange rubber pad on the bottom. A rubber panel of buttons is found on top, offering volume, power and input controls plus a button to activate the Harman Display Surround mode.
Flip it over and you’ll uncover a simple array of sockets that includes optical and 3.5mm minijack inputs, plus a USB port for software updates. There are no HDMI ports but it would be silly to expect them on such a small and affordable unit – JBL’s single-cable approach makes installation nice and easy.
Boost TV offers built-in Bluetooth and a couple of handy related features. The first is SoundShift, which automatically switches from TV sound to a connected Bluetooth device when you press play.
Meanwhile JBL Connect lets you link Boost TV with other JBL speakers (like the Flip 3 and Xtreme) and play the same Bluetooth source through them all.
Boost TV packs two 50mm drivers with power output rated at 30W. There’s built-in Dolby Digital decoding and a Harman Display Surround mode, which attempts to expand the width of the soundstage.
As you’d expect, Boost TV is a breeze to install – you’ll be up and running in minutes. Connect it to your TV via optical cable and plug it in. Job done.
Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy and the SoundShift feature works well, eliminating the need to re-pair your device every time you switch to TV sound and back.
Day-to-day operation is handled by a small credit-card style remote. It’s awkward to hold and the blister buttons are horrible to press. Thankfully the JBL boasts a remote learning feature that receives IR commands from your existing TV remote. I suggest you use it.
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Fire it up and the sound that comes out of Boost TV is really impressive for its size. Granted, it can’t match the scale and muscle of most full-sized soundbars, but musters as much power and energy as possible from its diminutive frame. The result is a sound that’s louder and more satisfying than any TV’s speakers.
With Jurassic World on Blu-ray, Boost TV projects voices with confidence, making them sound clear and full bodied. And when we get to the big set pieces, like the Indominus Rex escaping from her paddock, the JBL’s dynamic character adds excitement and drama. The roaring and stomping effects have drive and attack, and there’s a fierce crunch when the jeep smashes to the ground. When the action quiets down, there’s enough low-level drive to keep things audible and engaging.
The JBL’s sound is crisp and detailed, which can be heard in the rustling bushes as dinosaurs creep through them, and the chugging texture of the Indominus’ growl. Human voices are also laced with nuance.
There’s a pleasing sense of balance to the sound, which is rich and solid right across the frequency range. There’s depth to the bangs and explosions, balanced out by a clear, agile midrange and twinkling highs. This isn’t something that can be said for most TVs. Harman’s Display Surround opens up the stage beyond the edges of the screen, although ‘surround’ is something of a misnomer.
There are two things that prevent the Boost TV moving into must-buy territory. Firstly its limited size means there isn’t enough bass on offer. You get a sense of depth and weight as the Indominus crashes around the screen but it’s nowhere near the floor-wobbling thud offered by bigger rivals.
The other issue is volume. Turned up to maximum, the JBL fails to deliver the room-filling satisfaction of other soundbars and gets swallowed up in cavernous spaces. Pushing the volume also reveals a slight hardness in the midrange. So if you own a big living room, this isn’t the soundbar for you.
But back to the positives, the JBL’s clear dynamic presentation is a real asset when watching TV – it turns dramas from mundane to marvellous and you won’t miss a single word of dialogue. When streaming music via Bluetooth it delivers a clear, detailed and well-balanced sound, plus the lack of bass is less problematic in a musical context.
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It may lack the sonic authority of larger soundbars, but the JBL Boost TV is a good alternative if space is tight. Its detailed, dynamic sound, nifty features and compact design make it money well spent, but unsurprisingly it’s not the loudest or most authoritative performer around.
Boost TV’s pleasing performance and compact design are just the ticket if space is tight, but its limited bass and volume don’t cut the mustard in big living rooms