Google and JBL have teamed up to release an interesting home entertainment device called the JBL Link Bar that combines a TV soundbar, Android TV set-top box, and smart speaker into one product. While trying to learn more about the device, I found this PDF on JBL’s European site and this JBL webpage (cached by Google), that has since been taken down, describing the JBL Link Bar as a voice-controlled soundbar that uses “Hey JBL” as its wake word. It does not appear as though this original JBL Link Bar was ever released, but it may be closely related to the upcoming Link Bar running Android TV.
If this original JBL Link Bar is in-fact the first version of the recently announced Link Bar, a lot has changed between the two iterations. While both are hands-free voice-controlled soundbars, the original did not have Google Assistant. Instead, it appears to have used JBL’s in-house voice control functionality. The spec sheet says to “Simply say Hey JBL to activate Voice Control on your JBL LINK BAR. You can control functions like Play, Pause, Volume and Next/Previous Track with just your voice.”
The original JBL Link Bar also didn’t have any HDMI inputs, although, it did have an HDMI out port. It’s unclear what the soundbar displayed on the TV screen, since it did not run Android TV. Perhaps it used the TV just for music visualizations, but the documentation does say it is “ready to become the center piece of your home
theater” and it “can also learn your TV remote control giving you easy control over your home theater,” so who knows.
The remote for the new JBL Link Bar running Android TV hasn’t been revealed, so the original remote could give us some idea of what to expect. However, it would need to go through major changes since the original is missing directional buttons, which are necessary to control Android TV.
The upcoming JBL Link Bar, set to be released this Fall, seems to be a compelling device for those wanting an all-in-one home theater device. It shouldn’t be long before we learn how closely its specs resemble what appears to be the unreleased original Link Bar.