Other Gadgets

JBL OnBeat Rumble review

Sabyasachi Biswas March 27 | Updated on March 25, 2013 Published on March 25, 2013

JBL OnBeat Rumble

JBL OnBeat Rumble

JBL OnBeat Rumble

JBL OnBeat Rumble

After Apple retired the old 30-pin connector, many new sound-docks, as recently as late last year, have been rendered useless for the new iPhone 5 and the new iPads. JBL is one of the first manufacturers to release a dock for the Lightning port.

When Apple came out with it’s new Lightning port devices, we weren’t worried much. Because we were quite content with our old iPads and iPhones and the 30-pin docks that we already had. But when faced with the prospect of getting the latest gen Apples, we glanced back at the docks, slightly troubled thinking about their fate. And just when we were done bubble-wrapping the old docks after getting the new Lightning devices (our hearts sinking a bit), CES came along. And JBL was our saviour, announcing new docks in all sizes for our new devices. Which brings us to the new OnBeat Rumble.

A name like Rumble definitely grabs our attention. And why shouldn’t it? We at Smartbuy are a bunch of audiophiles who love rich audio, deep bass, and a device that we can stare at (for the way it looks) while listening to music popcorn in hand. So when something named after a type of sound comes our way, we have our expectations raised and our corn kernels buttered.

Overview

Remember the boombox? The big audio systems with those big speakers? This jumbo dock is almost that big. And the size is completely warranted for, as the dock houses a massive 4.5-inch downward firing sub-woofer, and two 2.5-inch forward facing drivers.

But you don’t see these, because the front panel, stretching over to the sides in a graceful curve, is one huge metal mesh with fabric inside, in typical JBL’s shade of orange. On the top, you get to see just five buttons – Power, Bluetooth pairing, volume rocker and two preset enhancement buttons (Bass and Club). And of course, the top panel contains the flip-open Lightning pin and dock, in which our new iPad sat very well.

The overall construction is plastic, but a very good grade of plastic fibre nonetheless. At the bottom, is a clever little addition of an orange-coloured rubber base. Apart from giving the Rumble a flashy bottom (pardon the pun) it also gives the audio system a very firm grip on the table or mantelpiece. We think this was much needed, because looking at the size of that driver, we knew there was bound to be some severe base vibration, but more on that in a bit.

The subwoofer has been given an outlet under the device; hence the rubber base also provides the elevation required for unrestricted airflow. Apart from that, the two other smaller drivers have been given air ports at the back, so keeping this a couple of inches away from the wall would always be a good idea.

This new dock from JBL, apart from supporting Lightning port iDevices, is also compatible via Bluetooth for other devices. There’s also a USB port for USB-based media players, and there’s a 3.5mm auxiliary-in port as well.

The interesting bit is that in spite of a relatively large footprint, the Rumble is not very heavy, and can be easily carried between rooms, as we discovered for ourselves. We found ourselves wishing that it would be more portable with the option of battery power .

Performance

We have different tastes in music, at Smartbuy. But as long as the audio quality is rich, we can bear each other’s choices. So we sat down with everything ranging from Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton to Coldplay and The Script to Bollywood and Punjabi folk.

Bluetooth pairing is fairly easy – just long press the Bluetooth pair button, and within seconds the dock shows up on your list. Once paired, we tried out some bass heavy Bollywood tracks, and moved on to even more bass heavy Eminem, Coldplay and some of J Lo.

Even without any preset on, the Rumble proves its name – that big downward firing woofer caused a rhythmic micro-earthquake on the tabletop. The bass was distortion free, and the mid-tones and treble too, were extremely crisp. Once done, we tried Knopfler’s Shangri-La hit, Boom Like That, and on this, we switched on the bass boost. There was a minor boost in the stringed bass and the depth of vocals, but the percussion bass remained almost the same.

But with the ‘Club’ boost, we got a more spatial sound enhancement, and the already clear mid-tones got louder. And when the two presets were activated together, let’s just say that people on the entire floor took notice. With the new iPad, we discovered that the audio level is actually almost 10db higher (yes, we measured it) when it’s docked in, than being played over a Bluetooth pairing.

The thing with a dock that’s going to be a part of the living room is that everyone will want to listen to a different genre of music on it. Apart from that, people in the household, or the people in the party, will have a Bluetooth device in various corners of the room. However, Bluetooth pairing works with only one device in the OnBeat Rumble. A dock that sounds so good, should be able to offer simultaneous multiple device connectivity. Because trouble begins when the music stops.

We say

The butter in the popcorn was not fat-free, but thankfully, throughout the review process the dock stayed distortion free, at even the highest volume levels. Yes, it is a little expensive, but given its presence in the room, visually and aurally, this one is definitely one of our recommended buys. And unless or until Apple doesn’t change the pin again, this one will keep your party going on for a long time to come.

Rs 19,990

Love - Rich, deep and clear bass, design

Hate - Doesn't support multiple Bluetooth devices simultaneously

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 25, 2013

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