JBL On Air Wireless AirPlay Dock Review

By on July 24, 2011
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Easy on the senses, hard on the wallet.

Good: Seamless connection using AirPlay; Very easy setup; Good sound; Screen displays album art in high-res
Bad: Lags whenever new song is played; Slow menus; External FM antenna attachment is ugly; Expensive for this range of iPod docks
Price: AED 1,499
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Listening to the songs was a surprisingly pleasant experience on the JBL On Air. I honestly wasn’t expecting such good sound from a relatively small set of speakers, but the On Air managed to play back songs with good mid-range and clear high tones. The bass at low volume levels is just about ok, and at higher levels it starts to boom. Overall the sound is pretty decent, but at this price point anything less would have been really bad. I noticed that the sound never cracked at the highest volume level, but it felt like the speakers were trying to outdo themselves. I would recommend keeping the audio at 90% max if you want to have a party with the JBL On Air.

The local FM radio stations fared fairly well, with some slight hissing and crackling, but if I attached the rather old fashioned antenna, then pretty much every station sounded great. As far as alarms go, it’s what you’d expect with any iPod alarm dock. You can set up the alarm to open up to the radio, iPhone/iPod, or its own alarm bell. You can setup two separate alarms with totally different configurations as well.

Interestingly the AirPlay feature will work with all iOS devices (iPhone/iPod/iPad) as well as Macs running iTunes. The playback is totally seamless. I tried testing the range of the On Air using both my MBP and iPhone 4 which gave a full signal when I was in my drawing room, which is where the On Air were kept. Moving into my bedroom next door, I was getting 2 bars (out of 3) with the same amount of lag I was experiencing when the devices were in the same room. Moving all the way to the other end of the home, with two rooms in between, I was able to get 1 bar, but with more lag. Each song took nearly 7 to 8 seconds to start playing. The quality of the song on the Air Air remained just as good as if the iPhone was on the dock, which was pretty impressive.

The thing is that the JBL On Air do a brilliant job with easy connectivity, but going through the menus themselves is slow and cumbersome; the overall design looks good, but the base screen looks slightly awkward; the sound is good, but not amazing; the remote is functional, but not always useful; the song playback is smooth, but always laggy at start. The simple issue that I have with the JBL On Air is that for all of its features and overall performance, it’s simply not worth the price tag. Maybe a firmware update or two will fix some of the technical glitches, and if ever the price dropped to $300 (AED 1,200) or, ideally, even less than that, then the JBL On Air will be a worthwhile purchase.




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From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

  • Airplay Speakers

    The JLB is really good for use in the kitchen, always use it when im cooking. 

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