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

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MSRP: $429.99

The Good A first--a wireless speaker that sounds as good as a wired speaker; works with any product that offers line-level outputs or headphone jacks; solid build quality; versatile mounting options (including the enclosed brackets); line-in port for nonwireless connection; worked beyond the claimed 70-foot range.

The Bad This "wireless" speaker system includes quite a few wires; usefulness as surround channels is limited to receivers with preamplifier outputs; remote control delivered quirky performance.

The Bottom Line JBL's On Air Control 2.4G requires an annoying amount of wires and has limited compatibility with surround receivers, but its impressive sound quality surpasses that of previous wireless solutions.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

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.

For a "wireless" speaker system, you'll find quite a few wires in the box.

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).

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