JBL Authentics 500 Speaker

JBL Authentics 500 Review: Old School with Big Sound

The JBL Authentics 500 is the most powerful of all the JBL Authentic series speakers and is the bigger version of the Authentics 300 and Authentics 200. This massive speaker has the most power of 270W in its 3.1 output channel which is even more power than the large JBL Boombox 3 – and it also comes with Dolby Atmos support which makes music sound more spacious and detailed with 3D imaging. This large speaker comes with three 1” tweeters and three 2.75” midrange woofers that provide superb clarity for any kind of music genre that you can throw at it. It also comes with its own integrated 6.5” downward firing subwoofer with a SlipStream bass port that delivers really deep low-end performance.

One of the things that we liked about the JBL Authentics 500 is that is comes with a retro-inspired design that looks pretty old school. They can fit inside a living room or blend in with modern home interior décor easily, and we really liked the speaekr’s aluminium frame and custom leather enclosure (it also has a Quadrex grille) which gives it a distinctively vintage appearance. This speaker also supports built-in Wi-Fi with AirPlay and Qplay, and allows you to stream music directly from all your music streaming apps with ease.

In many respects, the JBL Authentics 500 is comparable with the Marshall Woburn 3 speaker in terms of loudness and specs. While the Authentics 500 is clearly the more powerful speaker with louder volume and deeper bass, we can’t help but also like the vintage warmth that the Marshall Woburn 3 delivers.

Read more: JBL Authentics 500 vs Marshall Woburn 3

Let’s take a look at the full specs of the JBL Authentics 500 before we talk about the sound performance.

JBL Authentics 500 Full Specs

Sound System3.1 channel & Dolby Atmos Music
Power Supply100 – 240V AC, ~ 50/60Hz
Total Speaker Power Output270W (Max @THD 1%)
Transducer3 x 25mm aluminum dome tweeter + 3 x 2.75″ midrange + 6.5″ subwoofer
Networked Standby Power< 2.0 W
Operating Temperature0°C – 45°C
Frequency Response40Hz onwards (specific upper limit not provided)
Design InspirationRetro, inspired by classic JBL heritage designs, with premium aluminum frame, custom leather-like enclosure, and Quadrex grille
Streaming ServicesWi-Fi connectivity for podcasts, internet radio, and music streaming through AirPlay, Alexa MRM, Chromecast, Spotify Connect
Voice AssistantsGoogle Assistant and Amazon Alexa available simultaneously
Bluetooth PairingSeamless connection with any Bluetooth devices
Controls and AppIntuitive on-speaker controls and JBL One app for customization
Multi-Room PlaybackSupported using Google Home app or Amazon Alexa app
Automatic Self TuningYes, optimizes audio performance for location
MaterialsMade partly with recycled materials: 100% recycled fabric, 85% recycled plastics, 50% aluminum

Sound Performance

Now we have tested quite a lot of speakers over the years including the Marshall Woburn 3 and the Sonos Move 2 speakers with Dolby Atmos support. When we tested the sound performance of the JBL Authentics 500, we would say that there is nothing old school about the sound at all – this speaker demonstrates what modern tech can bring to the table vs older vintage speakers. The Authentics 500 has a really nice V-shaped sound signature with a good emphasis on the bass and the highs; the bass feels solid but not overwhelming, and it punches deep without sounding muddy or bloated. At 270W of output power, the Authentics 500 has some serious power output that surpasses even the Woburn 3 or the JBL Boombox 3 and can deliver really loud and clear sound performance akin to a full-fledged standalone sound system.

We played a couple of instrumental music pieces and the Authentics 500 delivers really nice sound that feels almost analytical – acoustic guitar sounded crisp and distinct, and you can hear the plucking of the guitar strings or the subtle strokes of the piano. You can even hear the differences between the sound of the guitarist’s palm on the guitar vs the cajon. The highs are distinct and clear without sounding too bright, and there is a nice clarity to the upper frequency ranges when it comes to vocal performances.

We also tried a couple of EDM music performances including Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and Taylor Swifts’ “You Belong with Me” and we would say that the sound felt really bright and clean with spacious soundstage. The bass felt present and has plenty of depth without feeling muddy – it delivers really clean bass. You can really pick up where each sound is originating from and where each instrument on stage especially when you use this speaker with Dolby Atmos music.

I just want to focus a little more on the soundstage that you get with the JBL Authentics 500 because it is really good – this speaker has the ability to make you feel as though you are sitting in the center of a concert hall especially if you play instrumental music on this speaker. You can hear the sounds of the piano, the violin and the drums with really good spatial differentiation which surpasses that of the Marshall Woburn 3. At higher volume levels, this speaker really pumps out detailed and clean audio performance that sounds very clear without a hint of distortion – you really good very good 3D soundstage and clean sound performance with the Authentics 500 without any coloration (that the Marshall Woburn 3 has). Vocal performances also sound really crisp and detailed particularly with female vocals on this speaker system (try listening to Wham! – Last Christmas on this speaker and you can hear really nice timbre ranges with very good midrange performance).

The JBL Authentics 500 has a nice vintage appearance with a front grid leatherette appearance

Design and Specs

Suffice to say, the JBL Authentics 500 is probably among the loudest Bluetooth speakers we have tested in the wireless home speaker segment. While this is not the kind of speaker that you can take around with you, it’s designed to be a conversation starter at home and looks really retro and vintage in any living space.

Having said that, I do somewhat prefer the retro vintage design of the Marshall Woburn 3 compared to the JBL Authentics 500. The Woburn 3 has a more vintage appearance with a polished brass top panel that looks really nice and clean with brass knobs. The Authentics 500 control knobs, by contrast, feels somewhat plastic in design and do not feel as tactile as the Woburn 3 buttons. I did like the front grid cover design of the JBL Authentics 500 though – it gives is really unique and retro appearance with a gold-colored aluminium frame. The on-speaker controls on the JBL Authentics 500 are enough for you to adjust the volume, bass and treble levels on the go, or you can use Alexa or Google Assistant to control your device as well (with more controls on the JBL One app).

One of the key features that I really find useful with the Authentics 500 is the ability to automatically self-tune – the speaker automatically calibrates and optimizes the music sound performance according to your listening environment every time you turn on the speaker. However, I did find the volume and bass knobs to be particularly useful if you want to achieve a more ‘V’ shaped sound listening curve with this speaker.

JBL Authentics 500 Subwoofer
The JBL Authentics 500 comes with its own 6.5″ subwoofer that delivers extra deep bass performance

The Verdict?

It is evident that JBL introduced the Authentics series speakers to compete in the wireless home speaker segment which includes the Marshall line of Woburn and Stanmore speakers or the Sonos Move 2. It is unique in the sense that it is designed as a standalone retro-vintage style speaker to play music in a living room setting or in a large room environment, with support for Wi-Fi and Qplay. Overall, the JBL Authentics 500 is a really powerful speaker to get if you want to blast music in a large room environment and get really clean Dolby Atmos sound. This speaker definitely punches above its weight, and delivers really nice soundstage with very good 3D spatial imaging (we were surprised at how good the spatial imaging was on this speaker) especially with Dolby Atmos enabled music. It is definitely much more powerful than the Marshall Woburn 3 or the Sonos Move 2, and it does elevate the entire listening experience with the level of detail and clarity that you get with this speaker.

With that said, while the Authentics 500 is designed as a retro-style speaker, it lacks the vintage tint or warmth that you would get with the Marshall Stanmore III or the Woburn III. This is not to say that it is a bad speaker, but if classical vintage warmth is something that you are looking for, the Woburn III would be a slightly better choice. However, the Authentics 500 really stands out with its Dolby Atmos support and the spatial imaging and separation that you get with this speaker is second to none.