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JBL Boost TV review: A mini sound bar for small TV screens

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JBL Boost TV

(Part #: BOOSTTV)
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As TV screens have gotten thinner, their speakers have shrunken accordingly. That often makes for audio that can sound less robust than some of the old tube TVs of yore. But there is something you can do about it. While home theater in a box systems and sound bars have been offering affordable alternatives for many years, we're now entering a realm of "mini sound bars." Zvox has its upcoming 17-inch wide Accuvoice TV speaker. And Sony's SRS-ZR7 is a supercharged wireless speaker with an HDMI input for doubling as a TV speaker. Now along comes a third option: the JBL Boost TV.

This is a foot-or-so long speaker which offers Bluetooth and TV connectivity all tied up in a tidy design. While it's not perfect -- it can sound a little harsh at volume or with the wrong music -- the JBL does what it says it will: It amps up your TV's volume.

The JBL Boost TV retails for $200 or £170 in the UK, putting it under the price of most good sound bar systems, but in line with many of the top-notch Bluetooth wireless speakers you can buy. (It doesn't appear to be available in Australia, but the price translates to about AU$260.)

Design and features

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The JBL Boost TV is a compact speaker which offers Bluetooth connectivity is addition to an optical input

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Boost TV is shaped like a football and features two large bass ports at either end. The unit is smaller than most sound bars at 14.8 inches long and 3.3 inches high (37.6 by 8.4 cm).

The speaker features two 50mm "transducers" which appear to wrap around inside the top and front of the unit. This arrangement was presumably designed so you could wall-mount the speaker, though it lacks any way to actually mount it.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connections include digital optical and 3.5mm analog, plus the aforementioned wireless Bluetooth, so you can play audio from nearly any smartphone, tablet or computer source. Bluetooth also allows "multi-room" connectivity via the JBL Connect feature. As a sound bar, the JBL does offer Dolby Digital decoding, though not anything greater than CD resolution. In other words, the best possible Blu-ray and hi-res music options are out.

The JBL has a Harman Display Surround feature but it's a phasey-sounding wide mode. I don't suggest you use it.

The Takeaway
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Sound 7.0
  • Value 8.0
  • Overall 7.8
Editor's Rating

The Good
The JBL Boost TV is simple to set up and gives you better sound than almost any television. The unit is compact and includes the most-used connections. The speaker sounds better than many portable Bluetooth speakers at the same price.

The Bad
The Boost can sound shouty at high volume or with bright music. There's little stereo separation. You can buy a full sound bar and subwoofer system with streaming features for the same money.

The Bottom Line
The JBL Boost TV offers a simple, effective upgrade to your existing television sound with the option of Bluetooth streaming thrown in.

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