JBL OnBeat review

The design-led JBL OnBeat is style over sonic substance Tested at £150

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

As a speaker for watching video, it’s fine – but as a serious hi-fi dock? Sorry, no dice

For

  • Smart design
  • simpler material sounds well organised
  • works with Spotify

Against

  • Weak sound
  • not nearly enough bass
  • harsh treble
  • loses cohesion easily

One would think there wouldn’t be much room left in the dock market, wouldn’t one? It turns out that one would be wrong.

The JBL OnBeat is a compact, smart-looking dock that has the rare ability to accommodate pretty much any modern iDevice you’d care to plug into it. It comes with brackets to hold iPhones and iPods, and also iPads.

They all fit snugly, and can be rotated into landscape mode for Cover Flow browsing and video watching.

Round the back are a USB socket (which lets you connect the OnBeat to a computer and play your iTunes library through it, and also syncs your iDevice if it’s docked), a 3.5mm input for non-Apple-flavoured music players and a composite output for watching video on a connected telly.

On the side are volume up/down buttons, while the remote is your typical plastic credit card-style zapper with basic controls.

Hobbled by weak sound

And the sound? A bit underwhelming. While vocals are reasonably clear and instruments are well organised with simpler material like an Apple Lossless version of Noah and the Whale’s L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N., play anything more involved – we took a spin down memory lane with Aerosmith’s Love in an Elevator – and things quickly get cluttered.

Crank it up and things don’t really improve. The midrange develops a ‘honky’ quality, and treble gets way too abrasive, while organisation gets lost. This would all be mitigated a little if there was a decent amount of bass heft, but that doesn’t exist, either.

And that’s pretty hard to swallow when you consider that Logitech’s Award-winning S715i costs £20 less and packs a good deal more oomph.

Where the OnBeat claws back some cred is as a kitchen or bedroom video player. Dock an iPad in it and you can use it as an attractive-looking internet TV source – where sound quality doesn’t really matter as much as it does with music.

We wanted to like the OnBeat – we really did; it looks nice and is versatile. But the sound quality – its raison d’être – doesn’t do it any favours. Shift its focus to iPad-based video, though, and it could be worth a look.

See all our dock system Best Buys

Follow whathifi on Twitter

Join whathifi on Facebook

Specifications

View All

General Information

Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.harman.com
Brand NameJBL
Product TypeSpeaker System
ManufacturerHarman International Industries, Inc
Product LineOnBeat
Manufacturer Part NumberONBEATRUMBLE
Packaged Quantity1
Product NameJBL OnBeat
Product ModelRumble

Miscellaneous

Package Contents
  • OnBeat Speaker System
  • Power Supply
  • AC Cord
  • Remote Control
  • iPod/iPhone Adapter Clip
  • iPad Adapter Clip
Compatibility
  • Apple iPhone 5
  • Apple iPad mini
  • Apple iPad (4th generation)
  • Apple iPod touch (5th generation)
  • Apple iPod nano (7th generation)
  • MP3 Player
  • Smartphone
  • Tablet
  • Laptop Computer

Technical Information

Minimum Frequency Response50 Hz
FeaturesEqualizer, TrueStream Technology, PMP Docking
Maximum Frequency Response18 kHz

Audio

RMS Output Power50 W
Speaker Configuration2.1
Wireless SpeakersYes

Physical Characteristics

Width45.3 cm
Depth22.3 cm
Weight Approximate861.8 g
Height16.9 cm
ColourBlack
Dimensions16.9 cm (H): 45.3 cm (W): 22.3 cm (D)

Power Description

Power SourcePower Supply

Network and Communication

BluetoothYes

Interfaces-Ports

USBYes