The picture on the box that contains the JBL On Air Control 2.4G displays two speakers, a small transmitter, and a little remote, but omits the tangle of wires required to get any sound out of the system. It is, after all, a wireless speaker system--so we understand the motivation of JBL's marketing department--but then again, we're not surprised. The new JBL, like every other "wireless" speaker system on the market, comes with at least some wires--the wireless moniker refers to the wireless signal transmission between the source and the On Air Control 2.4G's left speaker. The versatile system was designed for a number of applications, including use as the surround channels in a multichannel home theater; as a second-room music system; and as a primary speaker system for any audio source (DVD/CD players, cable/satellite boxes, iPods, computers, and other devices). Unfortunately, the JBL system's connectivity issues may leave some potential home theater and home audio enthusiasts without a viable hookup scheme. That said, unlike the underwhelming experience we've had with many previous wireless speaker solutions--most produce iffy sound quality and many are plagued with distortions and sonic dropouts--we're happy to report the $350 JBL On Air Control 2.4G's operation was glitch-free, and the sonics were nearly the equal of any decently designed wired speaker of its size and price.
The JBL On Air Control 2.4G system includes a pair of compact two-way speakers; a speaker power supply; a transmitter; transmitter power supply; adjustable speaker wall brackets; all of the necessary hookup cables including one 33-foot-long speaker wire; and a small credit card style remote control. The "Control" moniker in the product's name is actually a preexisting JBL speaker line. In fact, aside from the wireless capabilities, the speakers are essentially identical to the $130 Control1Xtreme models. They're 9 inches tall, 6.1 inches wide, and 5.5 inches deep, and the rugged, black plastic cabinets feel nice and solid. The left speaker is where all the action is: it includes the wireless receiver, and it also has a power supply that must be plugged into an AC outlet. To get the right speaker up and running, you'll need to run--yep, you guessed it--a speaker wire from the left speaker over to the right speaker. Yes, the power cord and the left-to-right umbilical wire certainly ruin the fantasy of "wireless" speakers. At the same time, it does give the On Air Control 2.4G much more mobility in a given room: using them as rear-surround speakers, for instance, you won't have to string wires from the front of the room to the back.
The speakers are standard black monitors--they won't win any beauty contests, but their relatively small size and curved edges should help them blend into the background of most rooms. They're magnetically shielded, so placement near a TV shouldn't be a concern. The rubberized top and bottom give them a rugged appearance, but they're not all-weather outdoor models. JBL does throw in a pair of wall-mount brackets, though, and the speakers have standard threaded inserts on their underside and rear for attaching third-party mounting solutions as well.
Popping off the removable grilles, we took a closer look at the speakers themselves. Each features a 0.5-inch titanium dome tweeter and a 4-inch woofer. The left speaker houses the left and right channel's 15 watt amplifiers, and includes a mini-jack input for connection to a second local audio source, as well as a subwoofer output. Both the speaker and the transmitter have a small switch that lets you toggle between one of four wireless channels (useful for avoiding interference, or if you're operating multiple On Air speaker systems in a single house).
The speakers receive a stereo signal from the included 2.4GHz transmitter. Not much larger than a Treo smartphone, the tiny unit will slip into whatever extra space you have in your equipment rack. The always-on transmitter is AC powered, of course, and needs to be tethered to your primary audio source--a DVD player or an A/V receiver, for instance. The only connectivity available is a single pair of line-level RCA inputs. That means the transmitter will interface with any piece of audio/video gear with an analog A/V output or even just a headphone jack (a minijack-to-RCA adapter cable is included).