JBL unveils Playlist: a Bluetooth speaker with Google Cast support, plus a range of other audio goodies
Bluetooth speakers are ten a penny, but the number with built-in support for Google Cast is actually pretty small. Now, as part of its big IFA reveal, JBL is set to add to that cohort with the JBL Playlist.
Google Cast support means you can send tracks from your phone to the speaker without worrying about playback being interrupted when you wander out of range. It also adds multiroom capabilities via the Google Cast app, allowing users to group speakers and Chromecast Audio dongles together to deliver synchronised audio playback across those devices.
It should also mean higher-quality audio, although whether you’ll be able to tell the difference depends largely on the quality of the speaker. We’ll update you on this part when we receive a Playlist for review.
The speaker also includes support for Spotify Connect, a Wi-Fi-based streaming system that works just like Google Cast (you need to have Spotify Premium for that, though), dual-band 802.11ac wireless, 24bit/96kHz audio format support and “one-touch” access to your favourite Spotify playlist.
The JBL Playlist will hit the shops in October 2016 and is set to cost £150, including three months’ free access to Google Play Music.[gallery:16]
New soundbar and headphones
Also announced at the JBL press event was a raft of new headphones and a new £500 soundbar – the JBL Cinema SB450.
The JBL Cinema SB450 is a £500 2.1 soundbar that includes a beefy-looking wireless sub and has support for Bluetooth streaming and connection to other JBL Bluetooth speakers for synchronised playback. As you’d expect of a soundbar in this price bracket, there’s a host of different connection types, with three HDMI inputs at the rear, plus an ARC-enabled HDMI output so users can pipe audio from the TV back to the soundbar, as well as from external devices directly connected to those HDMI inputs.
The SB450’s sub has a big, 8in driver and 200W worth of output power, while the soundbar delivers 240W of power. JBL’s SoundShift feature is in evidence here too, a technology that aims to eliminate the need to re-pair or wait for connection every time you switch from TV audio to Bluetooth, instead flipping back and forth instantaneously.[gallery:7]
On the headphones front, JBL is going full bore. First up is a new pair of wireless sports headphones – the JBL Reflect Contour (£80), which has an interesting “dual-lock” over-the-ear and in-ear, wing-lock design, aimed at preventing the earphones from popping out of your ear canals while you work up a sweat.
The firm also refreshed its E-Series range of headphones, updating the design with new fabric headbands, more flexible hinges and a more sensible button arrangement, with a sliding power button aimed at preventing the headphones turning on when you’ve stowed it away in a bag. The E-Series will come in four different colours – black, red, blue and white – and ranges in price from £35 for the wired, in-ear E15 right up to £100 for the Bluetooth, over-the-ear E55BT headphones.
JBL also announced updates to its range of portable speakers, with a series of crazy-looking “special edition” designs for its Charge 3, Flip 3, Clip 2 and Xtreme speakers, plus added Siri and Google Now voice integration for the Xtreme, Pulse 2, Charge 3 and Flip 3.[gallery:2]
The voice features sound particularly interesting here. These should allow owners of the supported speakers to press a button and search for new music to play without having to touch their phone. A feature that could well come in handy if you like listening to your tunes in the bath.
All the new JBL products will be available in shops in September (Reflect Contour sports headphones) and October 2016 (E-Series headphones, Cinema SB450 soundbar, new speaker designs).