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JBL Cinema SB 450 review: Big presence, big sub, big sound

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The Good The JBL Cinema SB 450 offers home theater thrills in a stylish package. The sizable subwoofer is capable of providing meaty bass. The three HDMI inputs offer 4K compatibility.

The Bad Sounds a little too harsh with music. The remote control can be a little confusing to use.

The Bottom Line The JBL Cinema SB 450 scores big with a massive, powerful subwoofer, but the bar's brash demeanor might not wear well.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

Review Sections

JBL is known for pro audio and Bluetooth speakers, but the company also has a history of making sound bars geared toward movie bombast at the expense of musical refinement. The SB450 continues in this vein, thanks in part to a booming subwoofer that sounds (and looks) enormous by sound bar standards.

Beyond that big box, the SB450 adds a couple of features missing from previous sound bars. The most obvious is the four HDMI ports that will pass 4K signals, but the sound bar will also enable Bluetooth restreaming to other JBL devices.

Despite its big sound the $500 (about £400 or AU$660) the JBL comes up a little short against competitors such as the Vizio SB4551-D5 and the LG Sh7B, which offer better overall performance and features.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The JBL Cinema SB 450 might not seem all that different than a slew of other sound bar systems crowding the market until you take notice of its 8-inch, 200 watt wireless subwoofer. At 13 inches square, it's a beast of a sub, one of the biggest we've seen in a midprice sound bar system. It's a definite step up from the one that comes with the cheaper SB350, as long as you can find a place to stash it.

jbl-sb-450-55.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET


The sound bar that accompanies the sub looks essentially the same as the SB350's -- 44 inches wide and covered in a fine steel mesh. This opaque mesh conceals an undisclosed number of 2.25-inch transducers inside. At the top of the bar are controls, while at the bottom sit adjustable feet.

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Sarah Tew/CNET


The credit-card-style clicker is way too complex and packed with tiny, tiny buttons. Program your TV or cable box remote for volume or buy a universal model instead.

Features

While it's not quite the all-singing, all-dancing gadget monster as some of its competition, the SB450 nonetheless offers a strong selection of features. As an step-up model to the existing SB350, the SB450 quadruples the number of HDMI ports to a hefty four, three of which are 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 compliant -- which means watching 4K HDR movies on the JBL is now a thing. Other connections include optical, 3.5 mm auxiliary and USB for firmware updates.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The sound bar includes Bluetooth connectivity and a feature the company calls JBL Connect, which shares your Bluetooth wireless connection with other compatible products, such as the JBL Charge 3. Multiroom Bluetooth is a weird concept because your device doesn't automatically reconnect with other Bluetooth speakers when in range, so if you leave the room to listen to speaker two, for example, your connection is in danger of dropping out. Wi-Fi speakers solve this problem quite elegantly.

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