The world of audio devices is a diverse one. It ranges from outdoor speakers that can fill entire stadiums with sound to tiny in-ear buds to tune in to your personal favourites whenever you want to. We obsess over powerful home theatre systems, sound docks that have a few tricks up their sleeves and giant bass monsters that can knock the Hulk off his green feet.

But every once in a while, we come back to the device that has been the first tryst with digital audio for many – desktop speakers. For these are the ones which have been our old faithfuls before smartphone and slate docks, and have been entertaining us whenever we have decided to get comfortable on desktops, beds, floors and couches to watch movies, play games and listen to music. They’ve even powered a few impromptu parties in hostel rooms and sleepovers.

One of the latest to join this long line of versatile personal audio devices is JBL’s Jembe, and a pair of them have been sitting (and making some noise) on Smartbuy’s desk for a few days, and we’re now ready to tell you how they, for want of a better word, sound.

Design

The Jembe 2.0 speakers are available in both wireless and wired options, the wireless ones connect via Bluetooth (we got the wired ones for review). Upon unboxing, we found two satellite speakers, with a glossy black finish and a metal grill in black . The speakers bear the typical Weave design, which JBL has been incorporating in many of its new products.

The taper-down cylindrical design and compact size of the speakers (106mm diameter and 135mm tall) make these speakers look good wherever they are placed, and they don’t take up too much space either. The fascia of the speakers sport the JBL stamp and the drivers on the satellites direct most of the sound through this side.

Tech Inside

The Jembe speakers have been outfitted with a 6-watt driver on each satellite and built-in power amplifier, to deliver a powerful output, despite its compact size. It also features Slipstream port technology, for delivering large amounts of bass without distortion. The speakers run on 12V DC power supply, for which an AC adaptor is supplied.

Volume control is achieved though a huge circular volume and power knob, which is actually the right channel satellite’s top panel. The Jembe speakers utilises a 3.5mm jack for audio input, maximising device compatibility. It also features two more 3.5mm ports for headphone/speaker out and auxiliary in.

Performance

JBL has pitched the Jembe as computer speakers, so we plugged the speakers into our MacBook and tried out a lot of genres of music, to see how the Jembe fared. More often than less, users listen to compressed audio formats on various devices, hence we also decided to use tracks of the same compression rates for this review.

First up on the speakers on the desktop was “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. The first impressions were, err, impressive. As Ritchie Blackmore’s immortal riff started playing, the speakers, though small in size, filled the entire room with loud and clear sound. The volume level was between half and three-quarters, and the sound was crisp and there was no distortion (except for that on Blackmore’s Fender).

The sound was clear even when the hi-hats and the bass lines started, but the first bit of slight disappointment came along when the drum beats started playing. The taut snare’s beat wasn’t as powerful as we expected, but whatever we got wasn’t bad either, considering the fact that the output was from smaller drivers.

We then played a track which didn’t have any pronounced percussions, an acoustic version of Eric Clapton’s Layla. The Jembe speakers delivered high fidelity music even until almost the full volume level. Clapton’s vocals and guitars were extremely clear.

We say

The JBL Jembe computer speakers wouldn’t exactly cause a spike on your desktop’s Richter scale with its bass performance, but for their size, they do deliver clear and loud experience for any entertainment media.

Being compact and stylish, they look good anywhere, either in a corner or in the middle of your table, while consuming only a little bit of space. The small and cylindrical build also means that you can just pack them in a bag and take your entertainment with you.

Rs 2,999

Love – Loud and clear sound, compact design

Hate – Not-so-powerful bass, slight distortion at max volume

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 18, 2012)
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