The latest entry into the high-end iOS device dock space is the OnBeat Xtreme, from Harman International’s JBL brand. The product, unveiled in late 2011 and capable of connecting with the iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad, is a powerful, high-performance device, sporting big sound and unique look.
The OnBeat Xtreme sports a black and silver-accented design, with speakers crossing over each other – the “weave design,” as JBL calls it- and the dock connecter in the middle. Any of the three iOS devices fit onto the dock, with adjustable connectors making it attachable in landscape or portrait mode. The icing on the cake is Bluetooth capability, which is not typically offered in this type of docking product.
The product is also easy to set up, and everything worked on the first try- even Bluetooth.
JBL had previously released a couple of OnBeat devices, including the original and the AirPlay-equipped OnBeat Air, although the OnBeat Xtreme is bigger and packs more features.
I tested the device with both an iPhone and iPad, and the dock performed exceptionally with both. What stands out particularly about the OnBeat Xtreme is three things: the sheer quality of the sound, the 360-degree reach of the speakers and the Bluetooth capability.
I set the device on a table in the center of a room, and the sound was big and bold on all sides, whether I was playing music from an iPod-based music playlist or hearing the pulsing soundtrack of an “X-Men” action scene from the iPad. The sound, thanks to what JBL calls Ridge tweeters and Atlas woofers, is as strong as I’ve heard on a dock of this kind. The Bluetooth meanwhile, is an added bonus; being able to wirelessly beam any song from one’s iPhone or iPad to the dock across the room has the makings of a living room game changer.
The best high-end dock product I’d reviewed in the last year, Monitor Audio’s i-Deck iPod/iPhone Dock 200, did not feature either the circular speakers or Bluetooth connectivity.
Other features include composite output to attach the dock to a TV, a USB port, and even the ability to make hands-free speakerphone calls through the device. There’s a handle on top for portability, although the dock is a bit heavy for that.
JBL also offers a free, downloadable app for interfacing with the dock, although I found the standard iPhone and iPad music functions were more functional.
The product retails for $499.95. It’s a bit pricey, but it buys you one of the best dock experiences available.
JBL OnBeat Xtreme Speaker dock for iPhone, iPod and iPad $499.95 www.jbl.com