JBL Bar 1300X hands-on: Impressive immersive sound via detachable speakers

Those wireless rear speakers are only part of the story.

Billy Steele/Engadget

JBL revealed five new soundbar models at CES 2023, but the Bar 1300X sits at the top of the lineup. The 11.1.4-channel speaker is capable of 1,170 watts of output with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X onboard for immersive 3D sound. Inside, there are 21 total drivers, six of which are upfiring. That half dozen is three times more than some companies offer, a decision JBL says is meant to make the most out of its MultiBeam spatial audio tech.

In 2020, JBL first debuted a soundbar with detachable rear satellite speakers. On the Bar 1300X those units pack in one upfiring speaker each and can last up to 10 hours on a charge (they charge when you reattach them to the main bar). Being completely wireless, you're free to position them wherever you like. They also double as Bluetooth speakers, both individually or a stereo pair. Once you remove the speakers, there are snap-on covers included as you'll expose side-pointing tweeters you'll want to protect. In terms of connection, there's one HDMI/ARC to connect to your TV and three additional HDMI inputs.

During my demo, I was able to watch a chaotic chase scene from Ready Player One. With the rear speakers detached and situated behind me, I was impressed by how immersive the audio was from the 1300X. The footage was loud with lots going on, but the audio remained crisp and clear, and most importantly, the directional audio enhanced the viewing experience. There was also plenty booming bass from the 12-inch wireless subwoofer.

JBL's PureVoice is available across its entire 2023 lineup to enhance dialogue when other loud sounds are also part of a scene. This feature is impressive as well, boosting spoken words without taking away from everything else that's going on. The tech performs equally well on the $400 entry-level Bar 300 too, an all-in-one option that musters great immersive audio from a single speaker. The 300 is the one model in JBL's 2023 lineup that doesn't come with a sub, though it does have integrated woofers. The company says you can't add a wireless sub either as the Bar 300 isn't compatible with them even if you purchase it separately.

The $1,700 Bar 1300X, like the rest of JBL's new soundbars, will be available February 19th.