I have been a fan of the JBL OnStage iPod speaker dock for some time now, having stumbled across one when it first launched and I didn’t want to spend a small fortune on a large Bose speaker, which pretty much had the iPod market to itself.
JBL did a great job of managing to fill my living room with rich sound from my iPod, despite it being a very much smaller proposition than the Bose, thanks to its circular donut speaker arrangement.
But one thing always bugged me big time, and that was the lack of a remote control. In fact I ended up buying a third party remote which required a receiver to sit atop my iPod, and even then only controlled track skipping and not volume. To change volume I had to walk across the living room and do so on the iPod itself, and anyone who knows me will appreciate that walking across the living room is serious exercise as far as I am concerned.
Which is why I was rather interested in the newer, smaller, On Stage speaker dock from JBL called the "micro" which comes with a fully functional remote control.
Thankfully it is not just a one trick pony, and is fully functional in pretty much every regard. I opted for the glossy black and dark silver/grey speaker mesh device to compliment my glossy black iPod video player, but there’s a standard white version as well of course.
Whichever colour you opt for, you get the same smaller sized donut measuring just 148mm in diameter at the base, tapering in to 75mm at the top of the donut which stands 38mm in height.
True portability is assured by the 375g weight, plus 4 AAA batteries which won’t exactly break any camels back. At a normal 50-60% volume, I was able to get 16 hours playback which is OK but not the full 24 hours as promised. Luckily the supplied AC power adaptor is a small and light one so it can be transported with the speaker dock to get around the battery life limitation if you are away for a long weekend. Of course, most people don’t leave such a device on for a constant 16 hours, and the On Stage Micro does have an automatic sleep mode when there is no input signal to save battery life, and the system awakes again at the previous volume level with a single touch.
The JBL On Stage Micro uses aluminium-domed Odyssey transducers to deliver the rich full spectrum sound performance across four octaves, coupled with a proprietary "slipstream" port architecture for improved bass response with minimal distortion. The speakers output 2 x 15 Watts and 1 x 30 watts with an input Impedance of >10k Ohms and a signal to noise ratio of >85dB. Not only is the sound quality good, but the build quality matches it.
As well as being compatible with most iPods, including the nano and 5G versions, the device also has a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack connection so you can plug in most devices with an audio out function and enjoy the sound through the delicious little speakers with the big sound.
I was delighted to find that if I removed the connector adaptor and used the dock in its naked mode my iPod video fitted perfectly while encased within its rubber and perspex iSkin evo case. Which was a huge relief, as there’s nothing worse that having to keep fitting and removing cases all the time. The fact that as well as a speaker it will also charge your iPod while it sits in the dock, and thanks to an included USB cable the dock can connect to your computer and synchronise with iTunes, makes this a true all-in-one iPod home-from-home.
But I have to come back to that remote control, it really is superb. For something so small and slim (85 x 30 x 5mm) it doesn’t miss a trick. Volume and muting are givens, of course, as is the ability to skip between tracks.
However, users of speaker docks will appreciate the novelty of being able to bring up all your iPod menus and navigate through them at will using the remote which has an enter button that mimics the iPod click/select button.
Oh, and if you have an iPod video then it really comes into its own as it provides full playback control there as well. Shame that the remote is infra-red and not radio-frequency though, a failing that does mean you need a line of sight connection to use it. That said, the range is good enough to work reliably at 6 metres away.
Good looking, superbly well built, decent sound and a fully functional remote. What more could you want? True portability and value for money? You get those as well, along with our hearty recommendation.