Doing what I do for a living, I'm often tasked with being able to foresee trends and innovations before they actually happen. So when the fancy speaker making folks of JBL decided to ship me their On Air Wireless speakers to review, there was no way I could say no (free stuff + the fuuuuuuture = happy dork). I've spent a few weeks using the speakers now and trying out wireless music streaming for the first time, debuting them for my friends at a Memorial Day BBQ which would be the ultimate test. Below is what I liked, what I didn't quite like, and what the future holds for you.
What I Liked:
The design. OBVIOUSLY.
This is like the Darth Vadar of wireless speakers. You could put it anywhere in your apartment and people would think it was the coolest droid of all time. When it arrived at my office there were a lot of "Oooooooos" and "AHHHhhhhs" while I harnessed the force of wireless music technology (and I work in a digital media office so people here know their stuff).
Like a feather. Easy to carry around from place to place. In NYC portability is clutch. Crazy easy to program.
I figured out pretty much all of the controls without even having to pick up the instruction manual. You could give this to your boyfriend who doesn't like to ask for directions and he'd figure this out like a boss. The only thing the booklet didn't tell me when I finally had to refer to it was what I had to adjust in iTunes to make it work properly but I managed to figure that out on my own. If you want, I'll tell you too, for five dollars. Haaa...
The sound quality.
Portable speakers, in my previous experience, have all sounded like your music filtered through a megaphone and then dropped into a tin can. Bad bad bad. But no matter what I was playing music off of - iPhone, laptop, the sound was the same and high quality. The speakers have three TRANSDUCERS (doesn't get much more future sounding than that. If it had a flux capacitor I'd think you could time travel with these things) with 360-degree HALO acoustics. Do you know what HALO means? I didn't, but I'm going to tell you right now. Horizontal Acoustic Level Optimization. BOOM.
You can play fun tricks with them.
Allow me to illustrate. My boss and I had adjoining offices. I went into his office and put these speakers under his desk. Back in my own office, I slowly cranked the volume on some god awful song (probably Miley Cyrus "Party In The USA" which I MIGHT secretly love. secretly.) and pretty much died laughing as he freaked out about where the music was coming from and faced mocking from our coworkers. Good times all around (please do not get fired).
It has an ALARM clock with dual alarms.
This works very well for my boyfriend who is definitely not a fan of my current alarm for which the only wake up option is "ungodly loud siren-esque heart-attack inducing noise" and also not a fan of the "oops I woke up before you and forgot to reset the alarm so you had three minutes to get ready for work later in the day MY BAD" scenario. This way you can set two alarms and wake up to the music of your choice. I don't recommend Miley Cyris "Party In The USA" for this (or DO I?) but you get the idea.
What I didn't like:
Note: This all really came down to what went on when I held the aforementioned Memorial Day BBQ. While I think these speakers are great for personal or at home listening, I really wanted to put them to the test as a party soundsystem.
They just do not get loud enough.
I actually had people over twice while trying out these speakers, two groups of different sizes. I really was excited to use the speakers for a party because it meant I could keep my laptop in my room, out of harms (read: drunks) way, while still controlling all of the music. But each time the party reached its peak attendance, the speakers just did not have the oomph necessary to carry over the noise of the crowd and I had to switch to another option. And with the amount of music bloggers I know, the ability to rock out is just essential. You CAN plug other speakers into them, but even then the sound just did not go where it needed to.
And then there is the biggest bummer of all:
The sound cuts out. Completely. A lot.
I don't necessarily mind this when I'm listening alone at home, but when you are having a party it's like the DJ just spilled redbull all over the turntables and the mood is just DEAD. Heckling happens. It is not pretty. My reasoning for why this might be happening is two fold:
1. I live in Brooklyn in a densely populated area with a lot of apartments near by (Manhattan would likely be worse). As such, even though my wireless network is closed, there could still be interference that you woudln't necessarily experience if you lived in say - Nebraska. People of Nebraska, I envy you here. I also live on the top floor of my building so that may have something to do with it as well.
2. Wireless technology - still a ways to go. This is the FUTURE, people. Maybe it's just not perfected yet. I still can't teleport myself places, so I figure everything is a work in progress. The first VHS player probably destroyed a lot of tapes, right?
Bottom line: I can't for the life of me figure out WHEN the disruptions are taking place ie: what is causing them. I've tried moving around incase I'm physically blocking the signal myself (that is a fun dance) and moving the speaker too. But my apartment seriously is NOT that big so I don't understand how having my computer in one room and the speaker in the other would allow for that much signal disruption. Sometimes it just cuts in and out, other times the whole song would stop for 30 seconds or more. It made me super sad, to say the least.
Those are my only negatives, but I know they might be pretty significant. I guess the conclusion is this: These are some really really cool looking speakers that - when they do work - are rather awesome. They will make you look cool in front of your design and tech savvy friends, let you play mad pranks on your boss and allow you wake up at a different time and to different music (MILEY!) than your significan other, possibly saving your relationship from ruin. Ruin! They may not work well at parties but you can definitely have fun with them at home (this can also be said for several of my ex-boyfriends badumbumching!).
The last caveat here is the price tag: a somewhat hefty 350 dollars. But look, if you have already invested in an Apple product or two, you KNOW you want to look even cooler. Don't lie. Accessorize yourself pronto. Be cool. Be in the future.
JBL sent me this product for review. The opinions above are not paid for and are my own, and probably also ridiculous.