Jbl Onbeat Rumble Wireless Speaker Dock With Lightning Connector – The JBL name is one of the most revered in the audio market. Since its founding in 1946 by James Bullough (I love that middle name) Lansing, the brand has always represented excellence in the professional market. The company has been part of the Harman constellation for 40 years and has expanded into the consumer market, but its reputation has held firm. Now, JBL is pushing hard in the portable speaker and dock markets. Does the red square still maintain the quality?
The JBL Charge kills multiple birds with one stone. In particular, it’s a small portable speaker that can connect to your music source via Bluetooth or via a 3.5mm analog input jack. It also provides a USB port that can be used as a charger (hence its name) for a phone or other device.
Jbl Onbeat Rumble Wireless Speaker Dock With Lightning Connector
The cylindrical unit is made of plastic, except for a metal grid. Two 1-1/2-inch speakers shoot through the grille, and there’s an audio port (but no speakers) at one end. The other end sports the USB port behind a plastic plug. Two plastic strips on the bottom allow you to place the speaker horizontally, but if you don’t use the USB port, you can place it vertically.
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There’s a power button on the top, with three LEDs showing the battery level, and a volume button. The bottom has a charging connector and an analog audio input. My review unit arrived in a non-threatening blue color; it’s also available in a slightly more menacing gray and a very tropical green. The unit comes with a soft, stretchy neoprene case and an AC charger with USB cable.
Operation is simplicity itself. Press the power button and the unit automatically finds and pairs with a Bluetooth source. The button flashes blue if there is no Bluetooth connection, flashes blue and red during pairing, and is solid blue when Bluetooth is established. The stereo amplifier is rated at 5 watts/channel. The unit is rated to run for 12 hours on its 6000mAh Li-ion battery. Charging time is about 3.5 hours. The unit measures approximately 3 x 7 inches. The retail price is R$150.
As you would expect from such a small device, playback fidelity was limited. However, I’ve certainly heard a lot worse, and in fact, the Charge sounded pretty good. Listening to tracks from Pink Floyd’s Delicate Sound of Thunder at moderate levels revealed a clear midrange (with distinctly enunciated vocals), a fairly warm low end (note I didn’t hear any real low end), it’s satisfying (albeit underwhelming) response high level. This is quite typical of small speakers, but the sound was uncharacteristically redeemed by some low-mid heat. On the other hand, the extended bass response in Pink’s Blow Me One Last Kiss was largely absent; again, not a shock given the small size of the unit.
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As expected, sound quality degrades at high volume levels. The treble response becomes squeaky, but the midbass manages to stay there. Although distortion also increases, there is a surprising lack of clipping. I strongly suspect that the engineers at JBL put some sort of limiter in the signal path to clip the spikes that would otherwise have clipped the speakers. Anyway, not bad.
Bluetooth playback sound quality was equal to wired sound quality; this is almost certainly because the speaker’s sonic limitations have eclipsed those of the Bluetooth connection. Finally, from an operational point of view, I am disappointed that the USB port cannot function as an audio input.
Long playtime, decent sound quality, compact dimensions, and last but not least – the ability to keep your phone charged – the Charge does it all. Amidst a sea of tiny speakers, this deserves a look and a listen.
Jbl Onbeat Rumble Review
The JBL OnBeat Rumble is an iPod/iPhone dock and one of the few of its kind that supports the Lightning connector. Its wide width (nearly 18 inches) provides enough room for a decent transducer add-on, and the accompanying fidelity and stereo separation that most docks lack.
Rumble sports a cheerful orange facade; in particular, the orange fabric is behind a perforated metal grille. The rest of the unit is housed in softer black plastic. Stereo reproduction is provided by two 2-1/2-inch speakers, and bass is handled by a single 4-1/2-inch bottom-firing driver. The unit is elevated by its plastic housing and orange rubber foot strap; the back is open, allowing bass to escape. An additional pair of acoustic ports on the rear panel contribute to the bass response. The amplifier is rated 11 watts x 2 plus 28 watts for the subwoofer.
The Lightning connector is revealed when you open a spring-hinged lid. A few buttons on the top provide power, source/Bluetooth, volume, bass boost and “club” EQ. Bluetooth pairing is simple; just press the button and let the dock and source do their thing. The same button selects the attached device or an auxiliary analog input; creatively, depending on the selected source, the button lights up in blue, white or amber. On the back you’ll find a headphone jack, an analog auxiliary input and a USB port. As with the Charge, I regret that the USB port cannot function as an audio input. Power is supplied through an external power supply. Measurements are 17-13/16 x 6-11/16 x 8-13/16 inches. The retail price is R$400.
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While not a mandatory form of use, as its name implies, OnBeat Rumble is loosely geared towards the DJ crowd; JBL reminds you that you can download any DJ mixing app that allows you to DJ with Rumble for playback. You can also run JBL’s MusicFlow app on a tablet paired with Rumble; when using the app, additional EQ settings are enabled: wider stereo movie, rock, jazz and gaming.
The sound quality was several levels above average. Given its premium price, this shouldn’t be surprising. The Pink Floyd wall sounded great (for docked playback). The highs were smooth and extended, the mids were precise with natural vocals, and the bass was – if not deep – extended and robust. In fact, the luxurious warmth of the overall sound quickly won this dock for me. I also appreciated the really excellent stereo separation – well above what most dock listeners are used to. In fact, I wonder if JBL uses some sort of processing to artificially (but effectively) expand the sound field.
When faced with copious amounts of bass in Pitbull and Shakira’s Get it Started, Rumble pumped out correspondingly copious amounts of bass; it didn’t reduce low-end content and also treated it at strong levels, with completely acceptable distortion levels. Also, the bass was strong and impactful and yes – it hit my desk. Good job, JBL.
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The Bluetooth AAC connection (enhanced by the process called “Harman TrueStream”) sounded first. In general, I couldn’t hear the difference between wired and wireless playback. If there was a little less dynamic with Bluetooth, it was probably my imagination; I couldn’t duplicate the supposed difference in informal listening to Czech. Don’t be paranoid; use Bluetooth; that’s nice.
There are hundreds of docks on the market and probably several dozen (the number is growing rapidly) with Lightning connectors. OnBeat Rumble lives up to its JBL logo and is therefore better than most unnamed docks. The DJ thing is more marketing than reality; You don’t buy Rumble because you’re a DJ, or you don’t buy it because you’re not a DJ. It is, on the other hand, a solid Lightning dock with excellent Bluetooth performance and a healthy bass response. After Apple removed the old 30-pin connector, many new sound docks, until late last year, were rendered useless by the new one. iPhone 5 and the new iPads. JBL is one of the first manufacturers to release a Lightning port dock.
When Apple released its new Lightning port devices, we weren’t too worried. Because we were very happy with our old iPads and iPhones and the 30-pin docks we already had. But when we faced the prospect of getting the next-gen Apples, we headed back to the docks, a little uneasy about their fate. And when we were done wrapping up the old docks after getting the new Lightning devices (our hearts sinking a little), CES arrived. And JBL was our savior, announcing new docks in all sizes for our new devices. Which brings us to the new OnBeat Rumble.
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A name like Rumble definitely catches our eye. And why shouldn’t it? We at Smartbuy are a bunch of audiophiles who love rich audio, deep bass and a device we can look at (by the looks of it) while listening to popcorn music in hand. So when something named after a sound type comes our way, we have our expectations raised and our grains of wheat are thrown away.
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