Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
JBL On Stage IIIp
Tiny portable iPod dock with iPhone support
- Portable design, good separation, battery powered, very functional remote
- Lack of control in mid-range and bass, bass not all that punchy
If you're after a portable iPod speaker solution then JBL's On Stage IIIp may be just the ticket. While it does have a few small sound quality issues there is no denying that its small size, carry bag and battery support make it ideal for road listening.
Price$ 299.95 (AUD)
Cashing-in on the incredible success of Apple’s iPhone is a popular option these days. All the big audio vendors have refreshed their iPod dock ranges to include iPhone support; the On Stage IIIp is JBL’s attempt to jump on the bandwagon. It is a circular speaker system with a focus on portability. While its audio does have a few issues, it should satisfy the average listener.
This unit certainly is small. It is 150mm in diameter and 50mm tall, making it one of the smallest docks we’ve seen. Weighing only 500g, it is also extremely portable. The unit comes with a carry bag included and can run via six AA batteries, so it's easy and practical to take it on the road.
It is generally difficult to produce excellent quality audio from small drivers, and while the On Stage IIIp makes a valiant effort its audio still suffers from a few key issues.
The biggest of these is a lack of punch in the bass; this isn’t really a surprise as most small systems lack a quality subwoofer component. The bass was reasonably loud and nicely detailed, but it didn’t really have the power and punch of some other systems. It was also a little uncontrolled and would have benefited from a slightly tighter sound.
The same can be said of the mid-range. We didn’t really notice it during quieter or simpler passages but when complex guitar riffs and multi-layered musical scores come into play the On Stage IIIp begins to lose control. The mid-range was relatively detailed but this issue means we wouldn’t really recommend it for heavy metal or hard rock aficionados.
The treble notes were fairly good, with a crisp sweet sound and nice extension. They tended to take a bit of a backseat to the mid-range and bass notes, which were more prominent in the overall balance, but this wasn’t problematic.
We found the separation was excellent, with all the instruments in our test tracks sounding distinct. The soundstage was fairly good, too, with the circular speaker projecting audio to all corners of the room. We’d have liked it to be a little louder; it will barely fill a medium-sized room, but given its size we were not surprised.
There is a fully functional remote control included in the package. It not only has basic playback controls but lets you navigate the menu too. We had a little difficulty with its responsiveness, but the extra functionality is much appreciated.
The dock has little in the way of connections; just a power plug and an auxiliary jack for non-iPod players. It has no bass or treble controls on the actual unit; in fact the only buttons are two discreet volume controls on the front.
Aesthetically it is pretty simple, with a gloss black colour scheme and a diminutive design. It's more subtle than stylish.
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