Portable audio docks have been around and docks designed specially for Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPads have been in plenty. JBL has a ton of these docks and we’ve reviewed quite a few of them. Apart from a few features here and there, they are almost identical. There are a few things that make the On Air Wireless a little different.
The most prominent and important feature of the JBL On Air Wireless is its ability to use Apple’s AirPlay technology. The technology works over any Wi-Fi router and it lets users stream music from iPods, iPhones, iPads and also Macs to the speaker. We setup the On Air Wireless with a Buffalo router without any issues. The installation was straightforward and it took place without any glitches.
Stylish and available in two colours
The menu on the dock is simple to understand. The Settings menu allows you to select the router you wish to connect to. Once that’s done, the same needs to be done on the device you’re playing the music from. Selecting the output device on the Apple device is the last step of the process.
Very little difference from other JBL docks for Apple devices
The display on the dock is used for navigating through the menus of the dock, but also to display album art, once you start streaming music from the docked player or even wirelessly.
The JBL On Air Wireless is rated with a frequency response range between 20 and 20kHz. The dock has a pair of 7W channel speakers. The Wi-Fi module on the dock supports 802.11g, which means theoretically, it has a bandwidth of 54Mbps. Even with obstructions, it should be able to stream music fine.
USB port, meant for the firmware upgrades
There’s FM radio support as well. An external port for connecting the bundled antenna is present at the rear of the dock. The dock also doubles as an alarm that you can place right next to your bed. There’s a large snooze button at the top of the device, so you don’t have to scamper around to find it.
Design and Build Quality
In terms of design, the dock is only slightly different than some of the docks, such as the JBL On Time 5V. The dock has a frame that curves and attaches to its base. It's a standard dock for iPod and iPhone devices. Not much space for mounting an iPad has been provided. The body is made of plastic and has a glossy finish to it. There are three sets of buttons on the device – the volume controls on the left side of the player, and the main navigational buttons on the right. The speakers are placed along the sides of the player. The base has large rubber pads, which stop the dock from sliding about.
The bundled remote control is really compact and thin. Buttons, too are flat, giving limited feedback. All the controls found on the dock are present in a similar arrangement on the dock, as well.
Audio performance is decent. There's nothing impressive about it. It gets pretty loud and it’s sufficient for a medium-sized room. Detail from the speakers is average, though. The sound rendered is slightly bright and more emphasised on the highs and the bass. Mids are somewhat recessed. Sitting on either side of the dock gives a clearer sound than sitting in front of it. Cranking up the volume above the 75 percent mark distorts the sound.
A screen that displays album artwork
We tried the speakers using an iPad 2 and iPhone 4 and it worked just fine. We also connected the player to a phone using the 3.5mm analog connector. Audio quality is marginally better using AirPlay. Powering up the dock takes roughly 44 seconds, which is quite a lot. Once started up, navigation is quick.
We placed the On Air Wireless at a distance of 10m from the router and it was able to stream music just fine. The remote control on the other hand requires you to be accurate with where you point it. The dock doesn’t respond if you point at it from the sides or from the back.
The price of the JBL On Air Wireless is Rs. 17,500 in India. This isn’t exactly affordable. For its compact size, it’s got a lot of power, but it’s not necessarily great sounding.
A design that stands out
The ability to stream using AirPlay is really unique and handy, but better audio performance would’ve really made it shine. If you’re in for the convenience and not really particular about audio quality and no tight budgets to adhere by, you won’t be disappointed.
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