Beautiful summary with bullet points for added effect!That is the basic situation, perfectly summed up! Quality vs Immersion.
I'm used to 5.1 currently so my main worry with the B&O Stage is that I'll miss the rears. Current system is a Panasonic BTT-590 which is an all-in-one system. While it's probably slightly above average compared to other similar systems, the sound quality isn't amazing as you'd expect. So I'm sure the JBL will be a big step-up in quality anyway, if not on the same level as the Stage.
Whathifi's review of the JBL's sound performance was pretty scathing, but most other reviews of it I've read (e.g. avforums) were very good. I'm wondering if Whathifi's setup went wrong somehow as they said the Atmos effects seemed disjointed etc, whereas avforums seemed to say the Atmos worked really well?
I've started a list of pros and cons. It doesn't really help particularly as what I really want is something with the sound quality of the B&O but with the immersion of the JBL, at a reasonable price and with no wires anywhere. Not too much to ask is it?!
- Sound quality
- Build quality
- Product support
- Minimal and neat solution (think it will look really good wall mounted below the TV).
- No sub on display
- Will work well as a music player as well as for movies
- No rear speakers
- Less immersion, less Atmos effect due to no upward-facing drivers
- No DTS:X support
- Expensive at full price
- Fabric cover looks like it could be a problem with a sticky-fingered 2 year old
JBL Bar 9.1
- Fully wireless rear speakers
- More immersion, more Atmos effect from upward-facing drivers (in theory)
- Supports all formats
- Dedicated sub
- Looks like a robust piece of kit
- Not as attractive
- Sub is large and might not be easily hidden in the room
- Sound quality not as good overall
- Not great for music
At least I've got plenty of time to decide as I'm not buying a TV until Nov (unless any amazing offers appear before then), therefore I'd have no Dolby Atmos until then anyway.
I noticed Curry's have an offer of 30% off the JBL when bought with a TV, but they have zero stock currently. If they happened to have stock come November then that would make it a very attractive proposition, but who knows. I'm not a big fan of Curry's though and would rather buy from Richer Sounds if possible. Depends if they would price-match that offer.
Edit: Regarding Atmos itself, I probably need to go somewhere and actually get a demo of it, as I can only understand it in theory at the moment. A lot comes down to how it's used I imagine. If the sound track is developed specifically to use Atmos to it's full effect I'd imagine it's quite impressive, but if it's just an afterthought of the odd height effect added to the mix then it maybe won't be that great? A bit like 3D I suppose, the only film I've seen where the 3D was actually any good was Avatar, because it was specifically designed to use 3D to it's full extent (edit: forgot about Gravity, that was alright). Every other 3D film I've seen just had the odd bit of depth or something flying out of the screen at you. I don't expect Dolby Atmos to die off in the way 3D has, but it needs to be more than just a gimmick to make it worthwhile.
Mike - I think in some respects you are comparing apples to oranges. The Stage is fundamentally meant to produce sound in front of you (though it does have some small upward-firing drivers at its extremities, you should find an image of the driver array online somewhere) and is never going to be as immersive as a 5.1 system with speakers separately placed around your room.
Every sound system is a compromise of some sorts unless you build a dedicated room from the ground up. I suppose you want it all! Don't worry about one bad review from "What Hi-Fi", I've bought quite a few things based on reviews from this site and have never felt let down or misled.
Soundbars require minimal accommodating and set up and are centred around convenience, 5.1 requires more careful planning and are more centred around sound quality. I know B&O and Sennheiser have muddied the waters somewhat with producing excellent sound quality in one box, but you're paying for that excellence.
Speaking of which, you say you want the sound quality of the Stage + the immersion of the JBL? Well, there is a product on the market that can do that: the Sennheiser Ambeo. I know there have been teething technical issues (almost like it was released as a test product and owners are the lab rats!), but it does sound quality + immersion all in one box.
Having said that, I believe that @keithwiggins owned an Ambeo and returned it? (apologies if I've got you mixed up with someone else, Keith) It does tick all your Pro boxes apart from price, and the only things that put me off getting one was having to accommodate the Beast and the initial cost. I think Sennhesier will sort out the technical issues in due course, I can't believe it's fundamentally flawed as a design.
Sorry to add something else to your already extensive list! For what it's worth, I think the JBL would suit your needs perfectly: you like an immersive sound, there are no stupid wires everywhere, it should be a sound quality upgrade to what you already have and you should be able to get it at a competitive price. I think Richer Sounds do offer Price Match, so they may match Currys' offer.
I think we may have muddied the waters somewhat by suggesting a non-Atmos soundbar for consideration, when that wasn't something you suggested in your initial post. For your current budget and needs, the JBL is probably the most suited. But if you can find the extra money, then the Sennheiser is undoubtedly the best at what it does.