The JBL SB 300 is a plus-size sound bar with excellent sound quality, but its unconventional style won't please everyone.
JBL SB 300
The JBL SB 300 doesn't quite look like any other sound bar we've reviewed. Sure, the basic set of components is the same (wireless subwoofer, long cylindrical sound bar), but JBL has given the SB 300 an idiosyncratic style, with a twisting look to the speaker grilles and plastic cabinet of the sound bar, plus a subwoofer that looks more like Darth Vader's helmet than a piece of home audio equipment. You can't knock JBL for churning out a run-of-the-mill design, although different isn't always better.
The distinctive design is our main hang-up with the SB 300 (street price: $500), which delivers exceptional sound quality for a sound bar (second only to the Harman Kardon SB 16) and a basic, but sufficient, set of features. The best light to view the JBL SB 300 in is that you get almost all the performance of the excellent Harman Kardon SB 16 for $100 less. That's a relatively good deal if you're looking for a high-performance sound bar; just make sure you're willing to put up with the SB 300's in-your-face looks.
Choosing a sound bar over a traditional home theater system would seem to indicate a desire for a home audio system that doesn't call attention to itself, which is what makes the look of the JBL SB 300 a bit puzzling.
Connectivity is around back, and it's as simple as it gets. You get a single analog audio input and an optical digital audio input--that's it. Even a basic home theater will likely have more than two devices, so JBL is counting on you to connect your gear directly to your TV, then connect the output of the TV to the sound bar. As long as your TV has the proper output, the arrangement should work pretty well.
The SB 300 system's initial wireless subwoofer pairing is achieved by pressing the "pairing" buttons on both the sub and sound bar. The sub has two control knobs on its rear panel (volume and "subwoofer cutoff control"), both of which permit finer tuning of the system's bass balance than you get from most sound bar/subwoofer systems.
Looks aside, the busy front panel of the sound bar doesn't have a display. That's unfortunate, as it's nice to get some visual feedback as to how loud the volume is or what input you're on. It's definitely not a critical feature, but most recent sound bars include a display these days.
The JBL SB 300 thankfully includes a remote, although it's of the thin, credit-card variety. Quite a few sound bars don't include a remote (which can lead to frustrating issues), so we appreciated the thin clicker, even though we'd recommend picking up a quality universal remote to control your system with.