JBL On Air Control 2.4G wireless speaker system review: JBL On Air Control 2.4G wireless speaker system

The left speaker contains the wireless receiver and the connectivity jacks.

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).

Unfortunately, the single stereo connection limits the usefulness of the entire On Air Control system when connecting to A/V receivers. Whether you want to use the On Air Control 2.4G speakers as the rear channels in a 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround system, as front stereo speakers, or as Zone 2 speakers in another room, your A/V receiver will need to have preamplifier outputs. The problem is few moderately priced ($500 and less) receivers are so equipped. Why JBL engineers didn't include speaker level inputs on the transmitter to ensure universal compatibility is impossible to fathom, and we guess the RCA-only input scheme might be a deal breaker for some potential buyers. On the other hand, JBL is already saying this is merely the first product in a larger On Air wireless speaker lineup, so it wouldn't be a surprise to hear that a system with speaker-level inputs is on the drawing board.

The transmitter can only be connected to line-level or headphone outputs--not directly to speaker outputs.

JBL claims a 70-foot transmitting range, but we were able to go up to about 100 feet before the signal died. The crowded 2.4GHz wireless band can experience interference from cordless phones, wireless networking equipment, and even microwave ovens, but neither wireless telephones nor a Wi-Fi-soaked environment caused any problems for us. Of course, both issues--transmission range and interference--will certainly vary from location to location. Interestingly, both of the AC adapters are compatible with world voltage standards, and JBL even includes international prong-style power cords (in addition to the standard North American ones). We suspect that means JBL can ship and sell this single system pretty much anywhere on the globe.

Whether you live in Paris, Texas, or Paris, France, you'll be able to plug right in.

After we figured out where all the wires and power supplies went, system setup was hassle free; as long as both the transmitter and the speaker are set to the same channel, you should be good to go. The small remote controls volume and mute, and toggles between two inputs (the wireless transmitter or the speaker's line-in), but it's not a very great clicker. Not only does it need to be pointed directly at the left speaker to work, its four tiny membrane keys weren't always responsive--we sometime had to press the mute button two or three times before it engaged. Another annoyance: the left speaker's two LED indicators (power/mute and input) are irritatingly bright in a darkened home theater, and there's no way to dim them. Also, when we weren't playing any music, we detected a very faint hiss/noise coming from the speakers.

What you'll pay

Editors' Top PicksSee All


Discuss: JBL On Air Control 2.4G wireless speaker...

Conversation powered by Livefyre