When it comes to the best wireless speakers there's a new player in town to rival the Sonos Era: JBL has revealed its revamped Authentics range, last introduced back in 2014, with a classy-looking new range for 2023 – and I can't wait to hear the top-of-the-line speaker in particular.
The Wi-Fi speaker series comprises the JBL Authentics 500, Authentics 300 and Authentics 200, with clear placement throughout the range to rival Sonos and its Era 300 and Era 100 models (there's also rumour of a bigger Era 500 coming later down the line, not that it's a reality just yet).
One feature that makes the JBL Authentics 500 stand out compared to the rest of the range is its inclusion of Dolby Atmos three-dimensional audio decoding. That's delivered through a 3.1 channel configuration from its seven drivers: beneath the black-and-gold-finished exterior are three 1-inch tweeters, three 2.75-inch woofers, one 6.5-inch subwoofer, combining for 270 watts of output.
I've tested many Wi-Fi speakers over the years, with the likes of the Naim Mu-so 2 being a high-end favourite in particular, but that alternative is very large scale and so won't suit all. That was the thing which impressed me about the Sonos Era 300: it's smaller in scale yet can deliver massive sound. The JBL Authentics has all the spec tick-boxes to sound even more massive.
Visuals are a major part of any product too, with JBL's extended history – the company is over 75 years old, which makes Sonos pale by comparison in terms of experience – influencing the Authentics range's aesthetics with 1970's retro style. I think it looks smart, especially if you're less on board with the 'swooping' modern shape and style that's so typical of current speakers.
There might be one sticking point to my thus far love of the JBL Authentics 500 though: its £579.99/€629.99 asking price is well beyond that of the Sonos Era 300 (which also offers Dolby Atmos output). Further down the range the JBL Authentics 300 will be priced at £379.99/€429.99, while the JBL Authentics 200 will have a £299.99/€329.99 asking price. All models will be available to buy from 15 September, just after the Apple iPhone 15 launch...