Dialog-enhanced television soundbar — may help some among the hearing impaired — for example, JBL Bar 3.1 — a micro review

© 2019 Peter Free


03 September 2019



This mini review is directed at the hearing-impaired


Based on my related experience, a dialog-enhanced television soundbar may help some of you.


I mention this because most advertising seems to gloss over dialog-enhancement, without expressing much genuine appreciation. Because I am generally skeptical about advertising puffery associated with technological leaps, I was surprised that dialog/speech-enhancing soundbars actually do deliver some of what they claim to.


This impression runs counter to some of less than glowing reviews that I have read about these devices. From my perspective, it just may be that dialog-enhancement is soundbars' most significant tech-based benefit.



As a comparative baseline, my own hearing impairments


I am completely deaf on one side.


"Profoundly impaired" on the other.


"Profoundly impaired" in audiologist talk means the inability to hear a range of normally heard frequencies. In my case, these are above 4,000 Hertz.


And, as with a lot of older folk, another major problem for me is the inability to (understandably) distinguish speech from surrounding background noise. The louder the situation, the more impossible this becomes.


In airports, restaurants and normally noisy venues — like stores with significant numbers of customers — I generally cannot distinguish words that people, often even standing next to me, are saying.



Enter the JBL 3.1-Channel 4K Ultra HD Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer


My wife and I bought the dialog-enhanced JBL Bar 3.1 after listening to it.


We compared it to two other speech-enhanced soundbars at Best Buy:



Samsung 3.1 channel 340 watt soundbar with 8 inch wireless subwoofer


Klipsch 3.1 channel 440 watt soundbar with wireless 8 inch subwoofer



Of these three, the Samsung made it easiest for me to distinguish words and lyrics. It emphasizes the lower frequencies that lie within my remaining audible range.


The JBL, to my wife's ear — and even to mine — did a better job of distinguishing the subtle nuances of classical and computer-generated music.


The Klipsch fell between the two others. It adds some of the JBL's emphasis on higher frequency clarity — but tends, still, to concentrate on delivering a higher proportion of lower frequencies in the mix.


We chose the JBL as the best compromise for both of us.


We thought that the Samsung and Klipsch were slightly too muddy in their delivery of music. Neither of us is a booming bass fan. Those of you who are bass aficionados will probably prefer the Samsung and Klipsch.



At home, the JBL Bar 3.1 performs well


For the first time in years, I can understand a significant portion of what is being said.


And my wife tells me that the JBL Bar 3.1 is excellent in delivering the nuances of the recorded music that she listens to.



The moral? — A dialog-enhanced television soundbar may benefit some — among the hearing impaired population


I have been surprised what a genuinely big difference ours makes to my previously almost absent ability to follow what is being said or sung on television.


You may experience the same benefit.