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JBL Authentics 500 review: Weighty sound

JBL Authentics 500 review: Weighty sound

JBL Authentics 500

The JBL Authentics 500 is the heavyweight member in JBL's new series of Authentics smart speakers. Literally. It weighs almost 8kg, and is around 45cm wide. More importantly, its sound is equally large, with JBL touting an output of 270W from its three tweeters, three mid-range woofers, and a down-firing subwoofer. It also comes with all the smarts that I saw in the JBL Authentics 300, and adds virtualised Dolby Atmos for a more immersive audio experience.

Quick specs

  • 3x 25mm dome tweeters, 3x 2.75″ mid-range, and 6.5″ subwoofer
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3.5mm audio jack
  • 7.8kg
  • Dolby Atmos support

The Authentics 500 looks identical to the other speakers in the series. You get that same vintage, 70s style foam grilles at the front in a leather-like enclosure with copper trim. There's no carrying handle, nor a built-in battery, unlike the portable Authentics 300. But the same LED-lit dials for volume, treble and bass adjustment are present. At the back, you'll find a microphone mute switch, which also disables the speaker's smart assistant feature. Uniquely for a smart speaker, the Authentics 500 support two voice assistants (Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant) at the same time. You can set up both assistants, or just one, or even none. But note that music streaming via Wi-Fi or multi-room audio don't work unless the respective voice assistant (e.g. Google Assistant needed for Chromecast) is configured in the JBL One mobile app. Read the Authentics 300 review for more details.

JBL Authentics 500
The JBL Authentics 300 (left) is dwarfed by the Authentics 500. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

The key differentiator for the Authentics 500 is Dolby Atmos support. You'll need a Tidal HiFi Plus subscription (S$19.80 monthly after 30-day free trial). The speaker doesn't support Dolby Atmos music from other music streaming services (Apple Music or Amazon Music). But unlike the Sonos Era 300, which supports Dolby Atmos from Apple Music, the Authentics 500 lacks any upward-firing tweeters. This means the speaker probably uses psychoacoustics, like the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), to create a virtual Dolby Atmos effect. Does it work? I guess that depends on your expectations for Dolby Atmos music. Personally, I found the Dolby Atmos effect from the JBL speaker to be more subtle (or underwhelming) compared with the Era 300. But this also depends on the song. For example, I could clearly distinguish the Dolby Atmos difference in “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors, but most titles weren't as impressive.

JBL Authentics 500
The down-firing subwoofer in the Authentics 500. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

On the other hand, the bass from the Authentics 500 is anything but subtle. It is honestly overwhelming at times. While the bass is tight and punchy, it can become boomy in some songs. Surprisingly, the trebles are equal to the task, and matches the bass for the most part. But it also means that the speaker can get incredibly loud. Everytime I push the dial beyond 50% volume, I'm risking a noise complaint. In short, the Authentics 500 will fill a room or an entire apartment if given the chance. And if that's not enough, you can combine the Authentics 500 with other compatible smart speakers in a multi-room system. JBL relies on the multi-room feature from Google or Amazon. For example, I managed to set up a speaker group with an Authentics 300, Authentics 500, and Nest Mini speakers using the Google Home app.

At S$999, the JBL Authentics 500 is pricey. But you do get a premium smart speaker that commands the room with its vintage appearance, and to a larger extent, its tremendous sound. Let it off the leash, and it will blow you away with its sheer power, and mighty bass. But I don't recommend doing that in an apartment, unless you want the neighbours to knock on your door. Its virtual Dolby Atmos works, but the Sonos Era 300 (S$799) offers a more impactful spatial experience, and a wider soundstage. However, the Authentics 500 simply overwhelms the Era 300 when it comes to bass output, so if that's your thing, it's the clear, albeit more expensive choice. Get it now from Shopee, Lazada, and Amazon SG.

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Note: Review unit provided by JBL.

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Powerful sound, especially the bass

Buy it at Shopee
Buy it at Lazada
Available at Amazon SG

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