JBL Authentics 500 review

JBL’s Authentics 500 is a very good smart speaker. There’s a lot to like here. 

Its unique 1970s design, combined with its clear, precise and powerful audio capabilities, make it stand out from the crowd.

Like most JBL speakers, it’s simple and easy to use, and it’s compatible with smart features like Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music and more. 

At $1,000, this is an expensive smart speaker, but it’s worth every cent. If you’re looking for a smart speaker that will sit in your house and look and sound excellent doing so, you’ll love the Authentics 500.

Pros

  • Clear, concise audio capabilities
  • Sleek 1970s design
  • Light up bass/treble/volume knobs
  • Compatible with most digital ecosystems

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Moments feature not compatible with Spotify or Apple Music

Price

The JBL Authentics 500 costs $1,000. It’s an expensive smart speaker, but it’s priced fairly. The Sonos Five also costs $1,000, and the Bose Home Speaker 500, which doesn’t provide quite the same capabilities, costs $700. 

Design

The JBL Authentics 500 smart speaker merges a 1970s-inspired design with contemporary features. Its retro look, characterised by a distinctive Quadrex grille on the front and an aluminium frame, is eye-catching, and it looks great. The speaker is wrapped in a custom faux leather enclosure, further enhancing its vintage appeal, and it won’t look out of place in any room. It is a nice change from the sporty, in-your-face colours of other JBL speakers.

There are three rotating knobs on the top for adjusting bass, treble, and volume; these light up when you use them, which is a nice touch. Additionally, there are two buttons for Bluetooth mode and the unique “Moment button,” which provides quick access to personalised playlists and settings via the JBL One app (more on that below)

On the back, there’s an ethernet port, a USB-C port, an AUX input, and a power input. There’s also a switch for turning the voice assistant feature on or off.

At 447 (w) x 240 (h) x 255.7 (d)mm, it’s not a massive speaker and it’s easy to place.

JBL Authentics 500 review

Audio

This speaker boasts impressive sound capabilities. Thanks to its substantial 6.5-inch down-firing subwoofer and SlipStream bass port technology, it delivers exceptional audio quality with a strong emphasis on bass. SlipStream manages the airflow that comes from the speaker when it’s producing low-frequency sounds. It’s a special design that helps reduce the turbulence or noise that can occur when the speaker is playing low-pitched sounds at high volumes or high intensity. This, combined with the subwoofer, produces clean, thumping bass without distortion, even at high volumes.

With a 270-watt, 3.1-channel sound output, the Authentics 500 can get impressively loud without compromising on clarity. There’s no fuzziness or distortion even at maximum volume, a testament to its well-engineered audio system.

Equipped with three 1-inch tweeters and three 2.75-inch midrange woofers, the speaker offers a balanced sound profile. Highs and mids come through crystal clear, and users can easily tailor their audio experience using the JBL ONE app, which allows for straightforward EQ adjustments. I would’ve liked to be able to adjust more than three frequency bands, but I managed to customise the sound to my preference quickly enough. I also appreciated that the alterations I made with the treble and bass knobs on top of the speaker were reflected in the equaliser.

Supporting Dolby Atmos, the Authentics 500 offers an immersive sound experience. This feature adds a height dimension to the audio, creating a 3D soundscape that enhances the listening experience, especially for movies and games.

The speaker’s versatility in handling different genres of music is notable. Whether it’s playing bass-heavy tracks like “No Save Point” by Run the Jewels or more mellow tunes like Hans Zimmer’s “Now We Are Free,” the audio quality remains consistently excellent.

App/Features

The JBL Authentics 500 smart speaker is firmly rooted as a home audio solution. This isn’t a portable speaker. It supports both Google Assistant and Alexa for voice inputs.

It’s compatible with AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music, Chromecast, and Spotify Connect, all through a WiFi connection. This is a good range of options, and it ensures the speaker will fit nicely in various digital ecosystems.

The JBL ONE app is barebones but includes all the essential features. The ‘Moments’ function is particularly useful, allowing for quick access to music playlists and settings from select audio apps – Amazon Music, Calm Radio, iHeartRadio, Napster, Qobuz, Tidal, and TuneIn. However, the lack of integration with popular services like Apple Music and Spotify is a noticeable limitation, potentially alienating a portion of the user base.

Regarding user experience, the Authentics 500 is straightforward to set up and use. Connecting to the speaker via WiFi and controlling music from any device is easy and efficient, making it a practical choice for users who value simplicity in their audio equipment.

JBL Authentics 500 review

Verdict

The JBL Authentics 500 smart speaker justifies its $1,000 price with its great-looking retro design and powerful audio capabilities. Its unique appearance, featuring a Quadrex grille, aluminium frame, and a custom leather enclosure, sets it apart from typical speakers, and it will look good in any room.

In terms of performance, the speaker excels with its deep, clear bass, thanks to JBL’s SlipStream technology and a powerful subwoofer. The 270-watt output and Dolby Atmos support ensure an immersive and balanced audio experience across a variety of music genres, maintaining clarity even at high volumes.

While the JBL ONE app is user-friendly and efficient, its limited compatibility with popular streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify is a notable downside. Nevertheless, the speaker’s overall ease of use and the quality of sound make it a strong competitor against the likes of Sonos Five and Bose Home Speaker 500.

In summary, the JBL Authentics 500 stands out for those who value a combination of stylish design and superior sound quality, making it a solid choice in the high-end smart speaker market.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Price
Design
Performance
Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.
jbl-authentics-500-review JBL's Authentics 500 is a very good smart speaker. There's a lot to like here.  Its unique 1970s design, combined with its clear, precise and powerful audio capabilities, make it stand out from the crowd. Like most JBL speakers, it's simple and easy to use, and...

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