Audio docks for iPhones, iPods, even iPads, aren't new. Products for this niche has been around as long as the mentioned products are. But then, there's one brand that's always bound to jam quite a set of cool features in their sound system while maintaining audio quality. I believe that that's the JBL OnBeat Air.
If you're looking for an entry level audio machine which looks expensive, has some added features, and sounds good, then go ahead and read our JBL OnBeat Air review.
As with all JBL products, you'll instantly think of this phrase once you see it: Well-made. The JBL OnBeat Air is light enough to be picked up with one hand yet sturdy enough to handle your iPad.
As with the others in the OnBeat series, the OnBeat Air features a heart-shaped top half-circle, at least that's one way of describing it. One might even be reminded of the Selecta logo. The main linings are made with shiny plastic (which easily picks up smudges making it ugly real quick), with the dual Phoenix speakers neatly hidden in a nice mesh grill that's wrapped around the system.
(Click images to enlarge)
The OnBeat Air features the ubiquitous 30-pin Apple dock which fits virtually every Apple product (yes, even my 4th generation iPod Nano works with it) mounted on a movable neck that rotates up to 45 degrees to the right. This feature allows for landscape orientation viewing, perfect for movies. Unfortunately, this isn't true with the iPad, as its massive size only allows it to stay in portrait mode.
Aesthetically, docking an iPhone (or anything smaller) seems to make the "dockee" out of place since proportion plays in. A docked iPad on the JBL OnBeat Air looks definitely better since it looks like you're using a full-fledged mini television system.
On the front side of the system lies the JBL logo. The back side, on the other hand, features the power input, the power button, an audio in port, a USB port, and a video out port, the latter handy for watching things from a video player. Lastly, the right side features the volume buttons and a WiFi button, for the AirPlay feature.
As expected, the JBL OnBeat Air plays audio like a pro. The sounds won't blow you away like other more high-end JBL products would (which also goes for more high-end products from other manufacturers), but for its price, it's a winning choice.
We played two whole albums of the Black Eyed Peas (mainly Don't Stop the Party) and mixes from Armin Van Buuren and Skrillex and the playback was wonderful on 50% volume, which was already quite an earful. The bass is maintained at a moderate sound level, but as we observed it loses bass integrity at 100% volume, but in no time did the OnBeat Air sound canny.
One good way of measuring bass, aside from hearing analyses and estimation, is through feeling vibration through hollow wooden walls, windows, and if the bass is really heavy, it can even move small objects. Yes it may seem weird, but it works. We also did this with the OnBeat Air and yes, although the bass increased with volume, it wasn't enough to keep up with the sound itself.
The JBL OnBeat Air comes with a pair of JBL® Phoenix full-range transducers which is audio talk for small speakers with big sound, which is definitely true to some extent.
The JBL OnBeat Air might not have Bluetooth, but it makes up for it by having an amazing feature Apple users would surely love: AirPlay. What it does is play music through WiFi, and that's cool.
Basically you just have to download the AirPlay app from the Appstore to your device. On the other hand, setting up the OnBeat Air (hence the AirPlay capability) needs a little work. You have to log-in to your OnBeat Air from a browser-capable device (such as your iPhone) and hook it to your WiFi network (yes, your AirPlay device and the OnBeat Air should be on the same wireless network for the wireless playing to work). But once you're all set up, just execute the AirPlay app and select the OnBeat Air as the output and you're good to go. As far as I'm concerned, sound quality didn't diminish on wireless play.
Another feature of the JBL OnBeat Air is its included remote control. It's about the size of an iPod Nano, has 10 commands, and would break if accidentally sat upon. So yes, keep it tucked away in a neat place. I personally didn't have much use for the remote since AirPlay and touch-pressing was enough for me.
At P8,499, the JBL OnBeat Air is one relatively affordable decent piece of audio machinery. It offers good sounds, great mobility, a fantastic design, and wireless playing to boot (theoretically you can even play through a mall's free WiFi, correct me if I'm wrong). If you're touchy about your bass though, you can always opt for the bigger OnBeat Xtreme or a Beats by Dre headphone.
JBL OnBeat products are available at PowerMac centers and malls near you.
Share this JBL OnBeat Air review to a friend who uses Apple products a lot. Who knows, he or she might just let you use it too.
'Till my next installment.
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