Name: OnBeat (JBL)
Type: iPad / iPod speaker dock
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: £144.20 from Amazon
Image Gallery: Click here
iPhone/iPod docks are two-a-penny these days, but iPad docks? Even more than a year after the tablet’s launch, they’re still a relative rarity. JBL’s latest speaker dock, the JBL OnBeat, could well be your one-stop-shop dock when it comes to blaring out music from an iOS device, thanks to a dock that supports iPhones, iPods and larger iPad slates. But is it any good? Read on to find out.
The JBL OnBeat has a rather snazzy oval shaped design, with swathes of silver edging and a peppered grille covering the speakers. Available in black or white, from the centre of the dock comes an interchangeable cradle arm. Two brackets (one for iPads and one for iPhones/iPods) are included, snapping easily onto the rotating arm that allows you to pop the iOS units into landscape mode.
While you can technically dock an iPad in landscape mode with the JBL OnBeat, we wouldn’t recommend it; the arm seems designed to better distribute weight in a portrait position for iPads, and we’d imagine the arm would weaken over time. Of course, this isn’t a problem for lighter iPods and iPhones.
Head around to the back of the OnBeat and you’re greeted by the familiar and welcome 3.5mm aux input which will let you hook up practically any audio source that employs a regular headphone jack, as well as a USB port for firmware updates and a composite video output for pumping video content to a big screen.
A small 10-button remote is provided that offers basic playback controls (play, pause, volume up or down, track forwards or backwards, and a few menu navigation controls), and while it works perfectly well with iPods and iPhones, again iPad support causes problems. In this case it’s purely down to industrial design; the iPad takes up more room on the front of the speakers, and depending on your angle in relation to the IR sensor for the remote, Apple’s tablet may obstruct your remote inputs.
Sonically, the JBL OnBeat packs a punch, but no more than other docks in the £150 range. Mid range frequencies seem to benefit most of all, which leads to a warm sound that, while lacking a little in crispness, helps to prevent the dock from sounding tinny and cheap. Bass is a little lacking overall, and volume levels too high and lower frequencies distort noticeably. Treat the OnBeat then more as a casual player rather than a party centrepiece or audiophile unit and it won’t disappoint.
The JBL OnBeat sits at the top of the iPad dock pile, but that’s not a particularly hard feat considering how few there currently are on the market. Not being able to place an iPad in landscape mode safely will frustrate users looking to add a little more sonic “oomph” to their tablet movies, but it’s a perfectly serviceable unit for iPod and iPhone users. If your dock must be a jack of all trades when it comes to supporting a wide range of Apple products then the JBL OnBeat is for you, otherwise your money will be better spent elsewhere.