Our Verdict 
A thoroughly enjoyable sound that’s full of fun, with punchy sound and impressive connectivity
For 
Big, energetic sound
Open and dynamic
Punchy, taut bass
Agile timing and excellent depth of detail
Good connectivity
Good quality build
Against 
Slight hardness to sound
Enthusiastic character won’t suit all songs
Reviewed on

The JBL OnBeat Rumble is a big ball of energy that delivers any song you throw at it with pure enthusiasm. We can’t remember the last time we had so much fun listening to a wireless speaker dock.

The OnBeat Rumble is a Bluetooth-toting speaker with a Lightning dock, which also offers USB charging and a 3.5mm wired connection, so you can stream and play music from almost any smart device or laptop. But the main focus of this JBL speaker is its fine sound quality.

JBL OnBeat Rumble

Sound quality

Right from the start, the JBL OnBeat Rumble grabs our attention with its powerful, punchy and agile sound. We dock a fifth generation iPod Touch, though of course it should work with the new iPhone 5S, and the JBL delivers all genres of music with a superb level of detail and dynamic subtlety.

Bass performance is a strength: the low notes rumble along happily while also sounding taut and full of impact. Most impressive, though, is the sheer scale of the open, clear sound coming from the speaker – the onBeat Rumble easily fills the room with a big sound without ever losing control even when pushed to higher volumes.

It would be easy for the midrange and treble to get overwhelmed by that powerful bass, but the JBL delivers voices with warmth and detail. Jani Lane’s powerhouse vocals are expressive and unwavering amidst the punchy and muscular rock performance of Warrant’s The Rainmaker.

JBL OnBeat Rumble

There is, however, a slight hardness to the sound that shows up when playing slower, more delicate songs or classical tracks. The JBL’s natural enthusiasm doesn’t slow down for songs that need a more refined approach.

As a result, the gentle piano and violin solos from the Amelie soundtrack end up sounding harder and punchier than originally intended, although the detail and dynamics present are still enjoyable.

One of its rivals, the Geneva Model S Wireless DAB+, in contrast, offers a subtler and more transparent performance that’s closer to the emotional message of the music.

The Rumble is happiest when playing upbeat tracks, so if you’ve got a playlist full of heavy rock or poppy dance tracks, then you’re in good hands. It’s also rather forgiving with low-quality recordings and files streamed from Spotify – the JBL is eager to please.

JBL OnBeat Rumble

Switching sources to Bluetooth is clearly more convenient, but the sound quality is not quite as open and solid sounding as the dock connection. We’d also avoid placing the speaker too close to a wall, as the music starts to lose its open clarity and can sound too boomy.

There are some bass-enhancing sound modes available on the JBL OnBeat Rumble. The ‘Bass Boost’ does add another helping of bass, but it sounds unwieldy and bloated, and the overall sound loses punch and clarity.

The ‘Club EQ’ mode has a stab at surround sound, but at the expense of the Rumble’s natural ability to make a song sound cohesive and full of life.

More after the break

Design

The Rumble is quite a large unit, and the curved shape with bright orange cloth peeking through the mesh grille bears more than a passing resemblance to Geordi La Forge’s VISOR from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Still, it’s a fun, flamboyant design. We’d have been disappointed if it looked sensible or sedate. The mixture of glossy and matte black textures looks great, and the build quality is solid.

JBL OnBeat Rumble

The Lightning connector dock is hidden away under the top panel. Press down on it and the cover opens up smoothly to reveal the docking station. Unlike on the B&W Z2, there’s enough space to dock the larger iPad 4 and iPad Mini tablets alongside the iPhone 5 and iPod Touch.

The Lightning dock and Bluetooth streaming aren’t the only connections on the JBL. There’s a 3.5mm input tucked away under the back panel so you can hardwire various music players and even laptops to the JBL Rumble. A USB port is there for charging only, while the Lightning dock also charges your device while it’s playing.

The control buttons on the unit are responsive, while the source button’s LED glows a different colour to indicate whether the music is being played via Bluetooth (blue), Lightning dock (white), or auxiliary input (amber). 

JBL MusicFlow app

There’s no remote control supplied, but you can use JBL’s MusicFlow app to create impromptu playlists from the music already stored on your smart device.

It’s a slick app that allows you to whip up a custom playlist depending on your mood, and without having to go through the hassle of setting up a brand new playlist via iTunes.

JBL OnBeat Rumble

The playback controls are intuitive to use as well, and the app runs smoothly. There are also additional EQ modes within the app, such as ‘Rock’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Movie’ and ‘Club’ – but as we found with the bass boost, we’re not inclined to mess with the JBL’s natural exciting and well-balanced sound.

It's only available to downloadfor Apple iOS devices through the iTunes app store, though, so no Android app as yet.

Verdict 

The JBL OnBeat Rumble is a speaker that simply wants to have fun, and the detail, scale and clarity you get alongside that endless energy is really impressive.

It’s well connected and versatile enough to support all types of smart devices, and its £260 price makes it superb value, too. Its direct rivals, the Geneva Model S Wireless DAB+ and Libratone Zipp cross over the £300 threshold, so for its talents, the JBL is starting to look like one of the bargains of the year.

Would we buy the JBL OnBeat Rumble? In a heartbeat. 

MORE: iPhone 5S review

 

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