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JBL Duet III review: JBL Duet III


David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

CNET reviewed the JBL Duet II PC speakers earlier this year and had some good things to say about them, though we did think they were a little short on bass. Now we got our hands on the step-up model, the Duet III, which offers the same design but the speakers are blown up in size by about 25 percent.



The Good

Attractive, modern design; decent clarity and sound quality.

The Bad

The Duet III speakers are a little short on bass; no auxiliary input for a second audio device.

The Bottom Line

While the JBL Duet III speakers just don't have a lot of oomph to them, they look good and offer decent sound.

The package includes zeppelin-shaped speakers measuring 4.6 inches by 4.6 inches by 12 inches (the Duet IIs are 10.5 inches tall). Their fronts have a metallic silver mesh (read: cloth) covering the speaker grilles and their backs have a glossy black finish. They're attractive, modern looking, and go particularly well with iMac models that feature an aluminum finish.

The speakers themselves are fairly lightweight--the left speaker weighs in at 1 pound, 3.5 ounces and the left at 1 pound, 6.5 ounces--but they're not totally unsubstantial. JBL has conveniently placed a volume control on the top of the right speaker that when turned all the way to the left, shuts off the speaker.

As Jasmine France noted in her review of the Duet IIs, the Duet series has kind of a funky cable setup. She describes it as such: "Coming off the left speaker alone, you have three cables: one for power, one to attach to the right speaker, and one for the audio source. The right tower features just one cable to connect it to the left. On the plus side, the overall length of 7.5 feet should be plenty for most setups." The speaker-to-speaker cable connects with a standard RCA plug, so you could even theoretically extend it farther. Meanwhile, the audio source cable, which terminates in a silver-plated 3.5mm straight plug, measures 66 inches.

We didn't mind the Duet's cable system as much as she did, but it's too bad that the speakers don't have an auxiliary input for second audio device. In other words, to use the audio source cable with another device, you have to unplug it from your computer. A lot of PC speakers offer both an audio source cable for connecting to your computer, as well as auxiliary input for attaching a second device (or second computer).

The Duet III exhibited similar traits to its smaller brother. Overall, the speakers offered decent clarity and sounded good, but they were a little short on bass and just didn't have much oomph to them, even at higher volumes. That said, because of their bigger size, they do offer slightly more bass than the Duet IIs and sound better overall. We liked their sound but weren't wowed by it. (Bass aficionados should consider a 2.1 speaker package that has a dedicated subwoofer--and, of course, even more wires.)

These PC speakers would be hard to recommend at their list price of $149.99, but Amazon has them on sale for $85, which is a nice discount (see Editors' note below). By comparison the Duet IIs sell for about $75 on Amazon, which isn't bad either. However, if you were choosing between the two, we'd say step up to the Duet IIIs. The extra $10 is worth it.

Editors' note: To get the discount at Amazon (as of July 13, 2009), you have to add the product to your cart for it to show up with the reduced price.



Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 7