JBL Authentics 500 review

The Authentics 500 is a whopper – but is its sound fit for a king? Tested at £560 / $700 / AU$1000

JBL Authentics 500 wireless speaker on wooden kitchen furniture
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The Authentics 500 is more of a singalong rocker than a classically trained musician, favouring a bold, front-footed sound that just lacks for genuine subtlety.


  • +

    Enthusiastic, bold sound

  • +

    Solid range of features

  • +

    Nicely made and simple to use


  • -

    Sound lacks refinement and finesse

  • -

    On-unit controls feel a little cheap

  • -

    Up against tough competition

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Nothing about the JBL Authentics 500 comes across as shy and retiring. From its burly dimensions to its retro good looks and powerful, attention-grabbing sound, the largest member of JBL’s Authentics range of wireless speakers is also one of its most sonically outgoing. Were the Authentics 500 a party going pal, it would be the one dancing on the tables with its shirt off, belting out Wonderwall at the top of its lungs as it reaches for its sixth Peroni of the night. 

Friends like that can be a blessing; they’re great for getting the party started and, in the right doses, they’re a hell of a lot of fun – but are this JBL's ‘look at me, listen to me’ charms likely to wear thin after a time?


JBL Authentics 500 wireless speaker close up on JBL logo

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The JBL Authentics 500 doesn’t come cheap. The hefty wireless speaker retails at around £560 / $700 / AU$1000, and although we’ve seen that figure drop fractionally online, few significant discounts have surfaced just yet. 

That sees the Authentics 500 occupying a tough section of the market, just above some seriously competent rivals. The recent five-star Audio Pro C20 only costs a comparatively modest £450 / $550 / AU$899, while our current king of spatial audio, the smart and superb Sonos Era 300, sports an RRP of £449 / $449 / AU$749. For anyone splashing a bit more cash, the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation currently goes for around £700 / $1000 / AU$1000.

Build & design

JBL Authentics 500 wireless speaker close up shot showing dials

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Authentics 500 is a handsome, sizeable and at 7.8kg rather weighty unit, so you’ll need to ensure you have sufficient desk space or a particularly robust shelf if you are planning on making it your new wireless speaker of choice. The speaker’s eye-catching waffle grille gives it a bold, assertive look, edged beautifully by a sleek metallic trim that doesn’t so much hint at a well-made product as it does shout it from the rooftops. 

Thanks to its substantial dimensions, JBL’s latest has enough space to cram in quite a few drive units behind that waffle-like frontage, housing three 25mm aluminium dome tweeters alongside a trio of 7cm midrange units and a 16.5cm downward firing subwoofer. That’s a significant advance on the smaller Authentics 300 model, which packs a more modest array comprising a duo of 25mm tweeters and a single 13cm woofer.

JBL Authentics 500 tech specs

JBL Authentics 500 wireless speaker

(Image credit: JBL)

Power 270W

Bluetooth? Yes, 5.3

Mains-powered or battery-powered Mains-powered

Battery life N/A 

Features Dolby Atmos, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Alexa Multiroom, JBL self-tuning

Connections USB-C, Ethernet, 3.5mm aux in

App? Yes

Dimensions (hwd) 24 x 44.7 x 25.5cm 

Weight 7.8kg 

Finishes x 1 (black)

While sound is undeniably paramount, much of the delight in owning an Authentics 500 will come from its physical presence. Single-unit boxes can often be functional or a little drab looking, but this is a speaker with the rocking vintage aesthetic and ease of use to make it a real contender for your next living room audio showpiece. You will need to keep it plugged into the wall, though, as the handsome speaker runs exclusively on mains power rather than any internal battery. 

For all this talk of retro chic good looks, the JBL speaker isn’t perfect in its usability. The unit’s three main control dials – one large power button and two smaller treble and bass adjusters – are smooth and responsive, but they feel a little cheap to use. Each dial is circled by some rather enticing surrounding lights to indicate how far up the scale you’ve set your EQ or adjusted the volume, but it’s a slightly vague system which isn’t as helpful as it should be. A centre indent to mark the halfway points of the bass and treble would have come in handy, while a labelled, graduated system might have helped us to know exactly how far the dial has been turned with more definitive precision.


JBL Authentics 500 app screenshots

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

This is the largest speaker in JBL’s retro-inspired Authentics range of wireless speakers, and while it doesn’t boast the convenient semi-portability of the more affordable Authentics 300 model (there’s no carry handle or battery), the Authentics 500 strives to go beyond its simplest raison d'être of providing great sound in a handsome package. One of this speaker’s trump cards over its little brother is support for Dolby Atmos spatial audio, with its handling of specially mixed Tidal recordings of Gorillaz’s Cracker Island and Pearl Jam’s Dark Matter competently creating a more spacious soundstage in which instruments and voices are naturally separated across the composition. 

However you’re planning on listening to your favourite tunes, the Authentics 500 has you covered thanks to its wide array of streaming options. The JBL offers Bluetooth 5.3 support, as well as streaming via wi-fi for platforms such as AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect. The US brand’s self-tuning technology, meanwhile, means that the speaker automatically adjusts and optimises its sound profile depending on where it is placed in a given room or location, aiming for a more attuned sound no matter where you choose to place your burly companion. We’ll get to that below.

The speaker provides an ethernet port for those of us who prefer to rely on a wired rather than wireless internet, and while the wireless experience is solid, hard wiring the unit to your home network will always lead to a more stable connection. If you want to keep things super traditional, the Authentics 500 has a 3.5mm aux-in for hooking up to your music physically, as well a USB-C connection if you’re planning on connecting your JBL speaker to, say, a laptop, portable music player or smartphone. Both types of connection worked seamlessly when we tried them ourselves.

JBL Authentics 500 wireless speaker showing back panel ports

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The housing of twin voice assistants is always a big plus if you’re looking to integrate the Authentics 500 into a smart ecosystem or you haven’t made up your mind about which AI helper is the one for you. Once set up, both assistants work simultaneously depending on which you summon, with our use of either a quick “Hey Google” or “Hi Alexa” getting the attention of our desired computerised copilot without it ever feeling as though we were crossing our virtual wires.

Using either Google Home or Amazon Alexa, you can harness the JBL’s multi-room capabilities by connecting two or more speakers to a single playlist If you don’t like your speaker listening in at all times, you can simply switch the option off entirely by virtue of a handy rear-mounted toggle switch, a handy feature for group settings when you don’t want five of your friends all screaming at Alexa to play Wonderwall, Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It or Rocketman at the same time.

Most of the above functions, including coordinating your chosen voice assistant(s), adjusting your EQ setting and getting access to your desired streaming service, are handled by the JBL One app, the US brand’s convenient and well-thought-out app that we’ve always found to be a smooth, neatly laid-out pleasure to use.


JBL Authentics 500 wireless speaker slight angle showing waffle-grille design

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

To switch from musician metaphors to animal analogies, the Authentics 500 is far more of a leash-straining, tail-wagging puppy of a speaker than it is a languid sloth or a wise old owl. Pinning down the canine breed is a little harder to do, though, as while the JBL has the keenness and tenacity of a smaller mutt, it certainly has the capacity to produce the sorts of booming roars you’d normally only hear emanating from ravenous Rottweilers and daunting Dobermans. 

Björk’s Bachelorette has become a go-to for seeing how well a speaker handles, well, everything, and while the Authentics 500 makes it sound big, bold and admirably detailed, it doesn’t necessarily curate and control every ebb and flow of the carefully composed masterwork in the same way that the well-balanced Audio Pro C20 does. Everything comes forward with vivacity and life, even if some of those subtler nuances and textural flourishes tend to become lost as a sense of overwhelming boisterousness takes over.

Thanks to its keen enthusiasm, the Authentics 500 can be just a touch one-dimensional, with a brash tendency which can overlook some of the subtleties hidden within your favourite tunes. The five-star Audio Pro C20 doesn’t have the forthrightness or heft of the JBL, but it does a finer job in curating and communicating the light and shade of alt-J’s Every Other Freckle or Liars’ The Start, picking out the phrasing of notes and textures in a more insightful manner.

This might be sounding just a tad negative, so let’s pull a small U-turn and get into more unequivocally positive territory. Yes, the JBL is brash and bold, but there’s no denying how fun and likeable the Authentics 500 can be when it really gets its teeth into a track. Gorillaz’s Cracker Island fizzes with energy, with the unit providing the track’s snappy, forceful percussive underpinning with enough bite and rhythmic understanding to get your toes tapping and your head bopping like a nodding dog figurine sitting atop a car dashboard. This is a fun track, something that the JBL immediately understands, latches onto and then communicates with the verve and tenacity of a speaker that seems to be enjoying its musical task rather than simply going through the sonic motions.

Not only is the JBL energetic, it’s also admirably effective at directing that energy to create a soundstage that expands with sufficient breadth, expansiveness and detail. Thanks to its downward-facing subwoofer, the Authentics 500 benefits from a well-rounded sound that provides ample bass weight, filling our test rooms with a confident, blossoming sound that rarely feels restrictive or overly hemmed in. Crank the volume up to merely half or two-thirds of the JBL’s potential capacity and you’ll have enough sonic power to fill all but the largest domestic spaces without distortion or muddiness.

Even if we’d like a little more dimensionality and nuance, we never found the 500 anything less than interesting and engaging to listen to. From the anthemic joyousness of Reef’s Place Your Hands to the snappy funkiness of David Bowie’s Golden Years, we found ourselves engaged by its punchy and direct character.


JBL Authentics 500 wireless speaker

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

There’s certainly a lot to like about the JBL Authentics 500. It’s undeniably well made and generally easy to use, with a strong feature set that will furnish you with multiple ways to enjoy your music.

It’s also, to our eyes at least, a truly handsome beast, adding to its appeal as the sort of wireless speaker that could sit in your home for years without looking drab or out of place. Add to that a punchy, exciting sound character with plenty of muscle, and JBL’s latest will certainly find many admirers for anyone seeking their next wireless speaker.


  • Sound 4
  • Features 5
  • Build 5


Read our review of the Audio Pro C20

Also consider the Sonos Era 300

Read our Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation review

Best wireless speakers tried and tested by our expert team

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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