JBL OnBeat Venue iPod dock

This Bluetooth iPod dock has a simple design and good speakers

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JBL OnBeat Venue

Pros

  • Solid construction
  • Good sound quality at low and moderate volume

Cons

  • Maximum volume introduces distortion
  • No remote control

Bottom Line

JBL's OnBeat Venue is a simple, mid-range iPod dock with built-in Bluetooth. It's got good sound whether you use it wirelessly or with the dock, and can reach an impressively loud volume. It does distort at max power, and sounds punchy, which may annoy some listeners. As an easy-to-use wired or wireless music system that's almost portable, it does a good job.

Would you buy this?

JBL recently updated its mini hi-fi speaker docks with three new systems: the OnBeat Awake, the OnBeat Rize, and the OnBeat Venue. The Venue is the big brother of this group, with a body that hides four speakers and 30 Watts of oomph.

JBL OnBeat Venue: Design and features

The OnBeat Venue looks as if it’s taken deportment lessons from the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air — a long, low, wide body with a central iPod dock and top-mounted buttons.

The dark grey fabric that covers most of the OnBeat Venue’s body looks good, as does the satin light grey and black plastic used for the chassis and buttons. The iPod dock that pops out from the centre of the base can also accommodate an iPad, and there is a small rubber foot on the centre of the speaker that your iDevice can lean on.

Buttons up top from right to left range from volume to power with three mode lights (for Bluetooth, the iPod dock, and the rear auxiliary connector), then a mode toggle and two equaliser modes — Movie and Bass, predictably.

Beyond the three status lights, there aren’t many visual cues to show the OnBeat Venu is active — there are soft white backlights for the buttons, but that’s it. The lack of a physical volume control dial might be annoying, since it’s possible to accidentally boost the volume to an excessively loud level before plugging in a device and starting music.

The iPod dock that the OnBeat Venue uses is the traditional 30-pin connector, so the newest iPhone 5 and iPad mini won’t be able to connect (although an adapter would fit with no problems). There’s no bundled remote control, so you’ll need to walk up to the hi-fi to change the volume or input.

JBL OnBeat Venue: Sound quality

We tested the JBL OnBeat Venue with an Apple iPhone 4, predominantly through the dock but also over Bluetooth.

Sound quality at low and moderate volumes is good, with well-balanced treble, mid-range and bass. If you’re listening to the OnBeat Venue in a small- or medium-sized room, you won’t have any problems with its sound quality — for the $279 price tag, there’s a good amount of detail and some reasonable bass response.

Larger rooms to begin to expose the OnBeat Venue’s main flaw, though, which is a small amount of distortion, especially in lower bass notes, in the upper half of the volume range. Play a particularly bass-heavy track at a loud volume, and you’ll hear the woofer drivers clip and struggle slightly. We wouldn’t run the OnBeat Venue at maximum volume unless it was at a party where the speaker has to perform against loud background noise.

Up until around half-way up the volume dial, the Bass equaliser does a good job of adding a bit more low-end oomph, although it does contribute slightly to the clipping problem at max volume. Chain the Bass equaliser up with the Movie mode and for music playback, the JBL OnBeat Venue has a wide and involving sound that’s pleasant to listen to.

Bluetooth range to the device is good, with a usable distance of just under 10 metres line-of-sight, with thin walls presenting only a minor impediment to the range of the OnBeat Venue. The synchronising process is simple, changing songs or volume happens quickly, and we didn’t have any qualms with the audio quality over the wireless connection.

JBL OnBeat Venue: Conclusion

The JBL OnBeat Venue is an uncomplicated iPod dock and Bluetooth speaker system. It’s not particularly expensive, and would suit small or medium-sized rooms well, with good sound quality.

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