The JBL 2.1 Soundbar is a perfect compromise for many. The low-slung and grounded design combined with its rich audio output place it in direct competition with the impressively balanced sound of the JBL Cinema SB170 which is also a top contender at this price point. Which of these speakers is the better choice?
Which should you pick all things considered? They both come in close at the same price range but they offer slightly different experiences.
We put the two JBL soundbars: JBL 2.1 soundbar and the JBL Cinema SB170, head-to-head to determine which soundbar is a better choice.
Bass is certainly a focus here, with their subwoofers and Dolby digital embedded you know you are getting deep bass that puts your tv speakers to shame.
Even if you are not looking for a soundbar for bass. the focus on clarity of sound should get you excited still.
We will look at their features, sound quality, price, value for money, and specifics like preference, style, and design based on several factors.
While the shape of the JBL 2.1 Soundbar and the JBL Cinema SB170 are pretty similar, they have some peculiar features that set them apart. The JBL Bar 2.1 is a true powerhouse with 300 Watts power output and a 6.5″ Wireless down-firing Subwoofer. The soundbar itself features four 2.25″ racetrack drivers and two 1.25″ tweeters throughout its cross-section hidden behind the curved mesh grill.
It has the full range of inputs for soundbars at this price point, Aux Input. Optical Input, USB input, and HDMI In/HDMI out (ARC). It also has Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless streaming and ships with a designated Remote control (also works with Tv remote control).
It ships with your regional power cable, one optical cable, one aux cable, one set of wall-mount brackets with screws, remote control with batteries included, and the standard set of JBL booklets.
The JBL Cinema SB170 is no slouch either. it features 220 watts power output with a 5.25″ Wireless down-firing Subwoofer. Though slightly less powerful, it makes up for it with a dedicated sound mode that enhances voice clarity for a true cinema experience.
The Cinema SB170 soundbar comes equipped with two racetrack drivers and two 1.25″ tweeters, carefully packed under its cool matte back design and front-facing grill. Connectivity options and inputs include; Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI In/HDMI out (ARC), Optical Input, Dolby Digital, and USB input.
It ships with 8 regional power cables, one HDMI cable, one set of wall-mount brackets with screws, remote control with batteries included, and the standard set of JBL booklets.
Although it’s a close call when it comes to the feature department of both speakers, the JBL Bar 2.1 is the clear winner.
When it comes to sound, we are glad to say that the bass response on both speakers is awesome. You get the extra oomph a subwoofer provides and balanced responses all over.
The combination of the subwoofer and the soundbar of the JBL 2.1 Soundbar is brilliant. You get a clear, rich, and warm sound regardless of the medium.
The movie and game response are spectacular. The surround effect enhances the sound quality especially if you place the subwoofer some distance from the soundbar. It’s also decent for music, but do not expect to pick up specific instruments you would normally hear from a costly home speaker.
On the plus side. the remote allows you to slightly enhance the music performance with the various modes to select from.
There is no distortion at max volumes and you can also adjust the bass if it feels over the top for you.
The JBL Cinema SB170 produces deep bass, with a balanced profile across the mid-ranges as well. The wireless setup makes it easy to plug in the subwoofer at an opposite angle from the soundbar to highlight the surround effect.
The extra functionality for improving clarity when watching movies shines here. It truly provides a cinema experience. Even at max volumes the richness and clarity are outstanding.
It’s also good for games and music. But its performance for music is similar to the JBL 2.1 Soundbar, although the 2.1 produces an overall louder setup.
It’s hard to pick a winner here because they are both solid performers. although we prefer the JBL 2.1 soundbar for its slightly louder profile.
Pricing and value for money
The JBL 2.1 Soundbar is currently listed at $299 on amazon and the JBL Cinema SB170 comes in at $252. They both have very similar pricing and offer close to the same value. let’s take a closer look.
The more expensive JBL 2.1 Soundbar is accurately priced. it features two extra drivers and also has more connectivity options when compared to the Cinema SB170. It may be slightly longer, but that’s for a good reason.
You get more oomph at this price point. You also get more customization and more powerful bass here.
Similarly, the Cinema SB170 is also worth the price. You would be paying less for just a little compromise, not in quality but features. Even though it is the less powerful one, it still has the great build quality and decent sound quality.
This is a solid choice if you a getting this for the movie experience as it produces a slightly clearer sound, though not by much.
Few 2.1 channel Soundbars can outshine the JBL 2.1 Soundbar when you consider its robust sound and features at its price point. It offers excellent features, deep pure bass without distortion, and an overall outstanding audio quality.
Plus, the external subwoofer addition puts it above soundbars without one. It’s a well-balanced choice all things considered.
If you have a lower budget, and can’t shell out an extra $40-50 for the JBL 2.1 Soundbar then the JBL Cinema SB170 is a natural choice. Its performance is fantastic across all ranges. You would love this for movies and games and the occasional bass-heavy music.
They both offer good value for money and are top contenders in their price point. However, for an extra $50 you can get a slightly better sound profile, more customization, and deeper bass.
Style and Preference
Let’s be honest soundbars all have the same shape. but it’s even more similar when comparing soundbars from the same manufacturers.
They both have sleek and minimalistic designs that would masterfully adorn any living room whether it is hung on the wall below the TV or placed on a tabletop.
The JBL 2.1 Soundbar is longer, lower to the ground, and has a curved steel-mesh grill that envelops much of its cross-section. It features an embedded screen that sits behind the grill making its physical controls much easier to cycle through. The JBL logo sits at the middle of the speaker grill, with its rounded rubber buttons on the top surface.
With its shorter cross-section and slightly elevated design, the JBL Cinema SB170 is finished with a glossy black polish from side to side. With a front-facing steel mesh grill. Its buttons are designed with the top surface, it will sit perfectly with most TVs.
Both options look great visually so we guess that it will come down to preference and personal reasons. Perhaps the biggest difference is the design of the grill and the buttons, which serve their purpose well in both cases.
The Verdict – Comparison of two speakers
It’s time to give our honest verdict. We have looked at each speaker’s features, appraised their sound quality, evaluated the pricing and value for money even down to the style and preference. Which would be the better choice?
The JBL 2.1 Soundbar is the better choice.
It’s the more valuable option. It has a richer sound, deeper bass, more connectivity and customization options, even an embedded screen. Its features justify the additional $40 to 50 you will pay for it.
There is no way you would go wrong with the JBL 2.1 Soundbar.
It was a pretty close comparison but the added features of the JBL 2.1 Soundbar were just too much to ignore.
However, this does not mean that the JBL Cinema SB170 isn’t a great option. It has its merits and is the more reasonable option if you are maxed out at a $250 budget.
They are both great soundbars overall and no matter the one you pick; sound quality will never come up as an issue. We can assure you of that.