JBL Radial

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JBL Radial
  • JBL Radial
  • JBL Radial
  • JBL Radial

Pros

  • Great design, quality sound, charges and synchronises your iPod, works with any portable media player

Cons

  • Expensive, no bass or treble controls, can't run on batteries

Bottom Line

You'll pay a premium, but the Radial offers quality sound, an excellent remote control and a weird but attractive design. An excellent portable speaker system on the whole.

Would you buy this?

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The JBL Radial is an all-in-one, 2.1 speaker system for your iPod or portable music player that stands out from the crowd thanks to an outstanding, if unconventional design. The Radial features a remote control, excellent sound quality and added features like audio-in, S-video out and USB ports, but its high price may shy some people away from what is otherwise an excellent product.

The Radial has a similar design to the JBL On Time, using a unique dome shape with the iPod docked underneath, encircled by the speaker above. In the package, JBL includes a number of dock inserts allowing any version of the iPod to be used with the exception of the iPod shuffle (2nd Generation). Thankfully though, the Radial also includes an auxiliary input jack on the rear and a line-in cable in the package, so any digital music player with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack is supported.

Using the Radial is a simple matter of plugging in the included AC adapter and docking your iPod. One of the best features of this system is the remote, which does far more than most speaker systems. The remote allows users to increase and decrease volume, skip and forward tracks, play and pause and even scroll through your iPod like you normally would using the scroll wheel. Our only complaint is with the small buttons, as they are sometimes awkward to press. But as far as navigation goes, the Radial allows almost full operation of your iPod from up to five metres away, which is a huge convenience.

Sound quality is very good, certainly better than we expected from a unit this size. The Radial is the best sounding portable multimedia speaker system we've reviewed, alongside the Bose SoundDock. Bass levels are good and complex riffs are produced with fine crispness. Vocal reproduction was also excellent, with good separation of instruments in the middle and upper ranges. The only weakness is a slight lack of low mid to bass response, but that is somewhat expected from a speaker system this size. Most importantly, there was no distortion evident, even at high volume levels. Although the dome design is pleasing to the eye, it means that directional qualities of the speaker are compromised to an extent. Overall though, the Radial is clearly good enough to replace an in-home stereo system, and attractive enough to ensure you'll want to show it off.

It does however have one glaring omission; bass and treble controls. The Radial only has buttons for volume up/down on the unit itself, so users will have to rely on their iPod equaliser settings if they wish to tweak the sound. On a system commanding this price tag, we expected some kind of controls. The Radial can't run on batteries, so it only works through the AC adapter provided.

The Radial includes an S-video out port, allowing users to dock a photo or video iPod, connect it to your television using an S-video cable (not included) and view pictures and video clips. There is also a standard USB connection, meaning the Radial can act as a dock, charging and synchronising your iPod when connected.

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