Review: JBL Boost TV – Compact Bluetooth TV Speaker

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Thankfully, Bluetooth speakers are extremely common now. Gone are the days in which wireless automatically meant expensive and in today's market, you can now find some extremely capable Bluetooth speakers and at very competitive prices. Of course, if you want an even better quality or more capable Bluetooth speaker, then all of the big name manufacturers also have a selection to choose from. JBL is one of those who offers a variety of Bluetooth speakers and ones which are priced across the board and catering to different needs. In fact, you can even pick up a JBL branded Bluetooth speaker designed for your TV. The JBL Boost TV, which comes priced at $199.99.

Specs

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JBL Boost TV AH-1

In terms of the specs, the JBL Boost TV is rated to offer an output of 30-watts, a frequency response of 60 Hz – 20 kHz, along with an SPL of 92 dB. This is a unit which comes equipped with one analog input, one optical input and also houses the ability to establish a connection via Bluetooth. Additional features include Optical Digital Audio with Dolby Digital, JBL SoundShift, Harman Display Surround and JBL Connect compatibility. In terms of its physical dimensions, the JBL Boost TV measures 3.3-inches in height, 14.8-inches in width and 4.8-inches in depth.

In the box

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The unboxing experience is a rather standard affair. The main unit is the first and dominant aspect presented. Beneath the speaker, you will find a number of the additional elements including a 3.5 mm analog cable, optical cable, the power cable along with your various pieces of paperwork including a quick start guide, warranty card and safety sheet. You will also find a nice little remote control which comes as part of the package as well.

Design & Hardware

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JBL Boost TV AH-9

If you are someone who often picks up Bluetooth speakers from JBL, then you will have likely noticed a very clear design trend with their speakers. JBL likes circular speakers and especially ones which are designed to be more durable and come with more of a grilled or mesh effect. Although the JBL Boost TV is not designed to be portable, submerged in water or taken to the gym, it still does sport these notable design cues, resulting in an instantly JBL-identifiable speaker.

On first glance, the JBL Boost TV looks very similar in design to the likes of the Flip and Xtreme range of speakers. Generally speaking, it adopts the same shape and style, although it is much longer and thinner. More soundbar-like, which is not surprising seeing this is what the JBL Boost TV essentially is. As this is a stationary unit, one of the noticeable differences between the Boost TV and the latest Flip or Xtreme is that the bottom of the Boost TV is flatter. So while you have what is a majority circular design, it is not completely circular and there is most definitely a right way to position the Boost TV. Although you can position it vertically if you really want to.

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JBL Boost TV AH-8

As mentioned, this is one which follows in the general design language of JBL and this does mean that the entire surface (barring the flatter bottom) comes encased in a mesh-type covering. Not only does this add grip to the Boost TV, but it does certainly make the speaker look more like a speaker. The mesh is very firm and pronounced, so you really do feel it when running your hand across the unit.

JBL Boost TV AH-10

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Largely speaking, the mesh and entirety of the speaker is solid black throughout, although in spite of being black, it does sport a sheen to its color, resulting in a shiny black when the light hits it. That is except for the flat bottom which is vastly different to the rest of the unit. The flat bottom not only looks different (sporting a plastic build), but also comes in an extremely bright orange color. Which certainly does add some contrast to the speaker overall. This is not a speaker which you would have trouble in understanding which way is up. As part of the plastic back/bottom, this also houses a recessed section where you will find the majority of the connection points. These include ports for the optical cable, an AUX IN, a small microUSB port (used for software updating) and the main power cable port.

JBL Boost TV AH-7

Moving back to the front briefly and again in typical JBL fashion, the top (or front) of the unit is where you will find a small plate attached which houses a variety of soft-touch (sensor not physical) buttons. Here you will find all the usual suspects including the main power button, volume up and down, the Bluetooth pairing button, the JBL Connect button as well as some more unique options like a TV button and a Virtual Surround button.

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JBL Boost TV AH-5

Adding some additional value to the Boost TV, this is also a unit which comes with its own remote control. This is a very small remote control, however, it is one which does get the job done. The remote control is CR2025 battery powered and so there is no need to charge or worry about the remote control on a daily or weekly basis. This is a very common battery (likely to be the one which powers your car entry fob) and one which is likely to last you some time before needing to be replaced. In terms of the functionality of the remote control, as well as power on/off, the small remote offers the ability to control the volume, switch between TV and non-TV mode, mute, and activate the virtual surround sound feature.

JBL Boost TV Remote AH-1

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Overall, the design of the Boost TV is one which sticks very closely to the form factor and look of the rest of the JBL Bluetooth range. So if you do already like the look of JBL Bluetooth speakers and have a few dotted around the home, the Boost TV will fit in perfectly. Again, consistent with what you will find with other JBL Bluetooth speakers, the build quality is excellent and it does feel like a quality product and one which is stylish enough to complement any system you already have in place.

Sound Quality

JBL Boost TV Side AH-1

With any audio-related or focused product, sound quality will be one of the most relevant factors when it comes to deciding whether to purchase or not. Of course, the price will be reflective of the sound and it would be expected that at the higher price point, like $199.99 for the Boost TV, the sound would be of a good quality. The short answer to this is that it is. Overall, the sound quality of the Boost TV is rich. The range of frequencies come through nicely and you can definitely hear the separation of frequencies to a good enough degree. However, the bass is a little lacking on this unit and is where the sound is slightly let down. In fairness, this is probably to be expected with the type of audio product that this is, as the Boost TV is not designed first and foremost to be a Bluetooth speaker but instead to be an extension of your TV's audio output. However, excuses aside, the bass is just not punchy enough. It is there and if you are playing anything on the heavier side, you will hear the bass but you will not feel it. It is just not alive or as pounding at it should be, or what can be found on other Bluetooth speakers for the same amount of money.

Taking this point into consideration and for those looking to use the Boost TV as a dedicated sound bar, then the sound is far more in line with what is likely to be expected. When used solely as a TV sound output, the quality does shine through a lot more than in the dedicated Bluetooth speaker mode. When connected to the TV, the sound is great and this is a unit where you will immediately notice an overall improvement of the audio quality that your TV is outputting. The difference is instant and you can test it as often as you like by simply turning the power off and on. Not only does it instantly add volume to your TV but it also adds clarity to the louder volume. As the focus is less on the bass and more on the more natural vocal-relevant frequencies, the Boost TV is extremely adept at bringing to life the audio soundtrack to TV content.

Adding to its TV appeal, this is also a unit which comes equipped with a virtual surround sound feature as well. Which when activated results in the sound becoming richer and more distributed. It should be made clear that the surround sound feature is only a virtual one, which means that it looks to emulate what you will get from a real surround sound system. Emulate not replicate. This will not provide you with the same sort of sound quality you will get from the likes of a 5.1 surround system. However, it does do a fairly good job at creating a more 3D like sound with the whole output adopting greater depth and somewhat throwing the sounds to create the more rounded output.

Overall, when it comes to the sound quality, the Boost TV does make a good addition to a TV setup. If compared to dedicated Bluetooth speakers, then you will find the sound a little lacking in certain respects and while it is able to connect to your mobile phone, this is not going to replace a standalone Bluetooth speaker. Likewise, if compared to a full surround system, then again this is not going to replace your existing setup. However, if you do not have a setup already and are looking to make use of an all-in-one type audio solution which can act as a Bluetooth speaker for general audio playback and can also provide you with a richer TV experience, then the Boost TV will easily be enough, in spite of its compromises.

Connectivity & Performance

JBL Boost TV Main AH-3

Moving on to the general level of connectivity with the Boost TV and there is very little to complain about. This is a stationary unit and is primarily designed to connect directly to your TV and adopt the stance of your TV's main audio output. With that in mind, there are next to no issues with the consistent or quality of the connections. After all, these are physical connections being made and therefore any issues you encounter will likely be caused by your cables and not the speaker. Not forgetting, this offers two routes to connect to your TV. If you have a digital optical out then you are good to go thanks to the optical connections on offer, while if your TV setup does not offer an optical out then you can always directly connect by using the AUX IN which is a 3.5 mm stereo jack connection. Both seemed to work fine during testing and both will easily get the job done.

However, unlike some stationary TV systems, this is a sound bar/speaker which also offers Bluetooth connectivity. As a result, you can connect any Bluetooth-enabled device to the speaker directly and stream music or video (the audio at least) wirelessly. Again, in terms of the stability and quality of the connection over Bluetooth, there is very little to criticize the Boost TV with. It does establish a very solid connection and it certainly is able to maintain that connection without too much trouble. Issues of cutting out, dropping off or interference were never noted during testing.

Direct and Bluetooth aside, this is not the totality of the connections that are on offer with the Boost TV. With this being a JBL speaker, it is also one which makes use of JBL Connect. This essentially means if you already have one or two JBL Bluetooth speakers at home, they can all be connected up to the Boost TV as well and wirelessly. Which as you would imagine, greatly increases the dynamic and quality of the sound within the one location, while also providing the option to control the Boost TV directly from the Android version of the JBL Connect app.

On a last note, in spite of this being a Bluetooth speaker and keeping in mind this is designed to be a stationary unit, the Boost TV does not one come with an internal battery. So there are no options to use this in a standalone unplugged fashion. The Boost TV not only requires to be stationed but does also require to be continually plugged in at all times. Which is not a massive issue for those who are buying this primarily to fit into their home setup, but should be food for thought for those thinking about this as a Bluetooth speaker.

Wrap Up

Overall, the JBL Boost TV is a product which is designed to bring two specific audio sub-markets together. The Bluetooth speaker market and the home entertainment audio market. In truth, this is achieved rather well, with the JBL Boost TV easily able to adapt to being one or the other. However, with any device which spans two different markets or purposes, there are always going to be compromises at either extreme and that is the case with the JBL Boost TV. In either market, it would face stiff competition from what is, to be frank, better options. However, as a dual-purpose device which looks to offer the best of both worlds, the JBL Boost TV ticks most of the boxes you should be concerned about.

Should you buy the JBL Boost TV?

Well, this is a very easy question to ask yourself. This is not the best Bluetooth speaker available and JBL offers better for the money. So if you are after a dedicated speaker, then you would be wise to check out one of the other JBL options. Likewise, if you are looking for a dedicated and fully-fledged 5.1 system, then this is not that either. However, if you are looking for an option which can give you a far richer TV audio experience without going down the full system route, then this will do that. As well as being able to offer the functions of a perfectly usable Bluetooth speaker. In the very shortest of terms, if you are looking for one or the other, there is better. If you like the idea of both in one unit, buy the JBL Boost TV.

Buy the JBL Boost TV

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Editor-in-Chief

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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