Sonos may be synonymous with WiFi-equipped multi-room speakers, but plenty of companies have introduced their take on those products since the Play:1 arrived in 2013. Today, JBL announced its new Authentics series, a lineup of three connected speakers that offer a lot of what we’ve come to rely on from Sonos. All three support multi-room audio and automatic self-tuning alongside Bluetooth, WiFi and Ethernet connectivity. While only the most expensive has Dolby Atmos immersive sound, the entire trio can run Google Assistant and Alexa at the same time, a feat JBL says it’s the first to achieve.
For the design of the Authentics series, JBL took inspiration from its L100 speaker that debuted in the 70s. That bookshelf unit featured a grid-patterned Quadrex grille as a prominent aesthetic element, one that the company has carried through a few of its pricier products over the years. That square layout graces the speaker cover on the Authetics series too, while a leather-wrapped aluminum frame and black and gold color scheme complete the look.
JBL is touting its new speaker line as the first units capable of running both Google Assistant and Alexa simultaneously on the same device. Plenty of speakers and headphones support multiple voice assistants, but you have to select one at a time. Here, you can set up these two in the JBL app and use either one (without diving into the settings menu) for hands-free control of connected devices, music and more. Simply say “Hey Google” or “Alexa” and the Authentics speakers summon the assistant you need. The company explains that it designed the integration in collaboration with Google and Amazon so that “customers have the choice and flexibility to communicate seamlessly with both voice assistants and take advantage of their different capabilities.”
At the top of the lineup is the Authentics 500. This model packs in three one-inch tweeters, three 2.75-inch mid-range woofers and a single 6.5-inch downfiring subwoofer. The company explains that this driver arrangement cranks out “crystal clear sound” with “tight, accurate bass.” The 500 is the only unit in the series that supports Dolby Atmos audio, delivering 270 watts of 3.1-channel sound for a virtualized 3D effect. As you might expect, this is the biggest and priciest option at $700.