Saturday, July 26, 2008

JBL On Tour

Speaker systems for iPods and MP3 players tend to come in two varieties: (1) Expensive docking systems that sound great but are too big and unwieldy to drop in a briefcase for a weekend trip. (2) Cheap and flimsy mini-speakers that are small and highly portable but sound terrible.

The JBL On Tour speaker system finds a middle ground between those two extremes. Retailing for about $50, this little gem boasts very respectable sound quality for its size.

I recently bought this system for use with my Palm Treo 700p smartphone running Pocket Tunes software, and I've found it to be a great combination for traveling. It's ideal for use in hotels and B&Bs when you want decent high-fidelity background music to accompany your travels.

The On Tour sports a classy and clever flask-shaped design that opens up to reveal the speakers:

With 3 watts RMS per channel and active equalization (see specs), the On Tour excels at smooth reproduction of most music types at moderate volume levels. The twin 1-inch ported transducers do an admirable job of reproducing bass down to 100Hz. Earth-shaking bass and ear-splitting volume obviously can't be expected with a system this small, but what's notable is that JBL has engineered a miniature speaker system that sounds natural and musical. For fifty bucks, that's quite an accomplishment.