Better Late Than Never: Google & JBL Confirm The Arrival Of Android TV Soundbars

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Google and JBL have today taken the opportunity to detail the arrival of soundbars powered by Android TV.

Both companies have now released separate announcements (here and here) relating to the arrival of the JBL Link Bar. The newest member of the Android TV hardware family and the first to showcase the technology within the soundbar form.

Strangely, while these announcements have been released to coincide with each other, they do appear to be a little late to the party considering the JBL Link Bar became available to buy almost two weeks ago. Ever since it arrived in stock in early July, the JBL Link Bar has only been available to buy through JBL and Harman's web stores, although the JBL announcement does specify "retail outlets" are also expected to start selling the new Android TV-powered device.

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As to be expected, both Google and JBL's announcements focus on the main benefits associated with this new product form. These include the ability to, as Google puts it, "turn up the bass" due to the improved audio qualities on offer with a soundbar. As well as the fact the integration of the platform within an existing piece of home entertainment hardware means there's less cords overall as there's no need for an additional set-top box solely to access Android TV. In other words, another, and more physical way in which you can cut the cord.

Both announcements also took a moment to highlight that as the new soundbar includes Android TV, it also includes Google Assistant, and therefore the ability to control the experience using voice commands alone. Again, due to the greater integration, this also means controlling aspects such as switching between devices connected to the soundbar via the HDMI ports.

What both of the announcements failed to touch on however, was the delay in the first of these products in coming to market. Not only was the JBL Link Bar announced some time ago, but its launch was delayed and not once, but multiple times. Eventually leading to the point where it had become uncertain if the product was ever going to make it to market at all.

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Regardless of those delays, the JBL Link Bar is now here and both Google and JBL are keen to make sure consumers are now aware of the fact. Those interested in giving this new device a try will need to be prepared for the high costs associated with the new soundbar form as the soundbar on its own costs $399 in the U.S. Those looking to up the audio quality even more with a separate subwoofer will be looking at spending an additional $299, bringing the overall total for the JBL Link Bar package to just under $700.

At this price, and in spite of the obvious audio improvements, the JBL Link Bar is significantly more expensive compared to the set-top box options, and even when compared to the more expensive Android TV set-top boxes like the NVIDIA SHIELD. Arguably, it is also more expensive than the entry level TV sets that are also available and also provide access to the Android TV platform.

It might be worth pointing out the price barrier is likely to be lowered in due course as although JBL's announcement was focused entirely on its product, Google's announcement was wider in this respect with Google opting to focus on "Android TV soundbars" as a product category.

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The clearest indication yet that the JBL LInk Bar is not just a one-off, but simply the start of things to come.

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