The OnBeat Rumble isn’t short on features. It accepts Bluetooth streams, can dock a recent Apple portable on its Lightning connector, charges via USB and has a 3.5mm wired connection so you can play music from anything on the other end of an appropriate cable.
But the main focus of this JBL speaker is its fantastic sound quality. It’s just a big ball of energy that delivers any song you throw at it with pure enthusiasm.
We can’t remember the last time we had so much fun listening to a wireless dock.
Press the top panel and the cover opens to reveal the docking station. Unlike the B&W Z2, there’s space to dock the larger iPad and iPad Mini tablets as well as the iPhone 5 and iPod Touch. The controls are responsive, and the source button’s LED glows a different colour to indicate which source is being used.
Right from the start, the JBL grabs our attention with its powerful, punchy and agile sound. We docked a fifth-gen iPod Touch, and the JBL delivered all genres of music with a superb level of detail and dynamic subtlety.
The Rumble certainly lives up to its name, too. It thunders along happily while also sounding taut and full of impact. Most impressive is the huge sense of scale — the JBL easily fills the room without ever losing control — even when pushed to higher volumes.
It would be easy for the midrange and treble to get swamped by that bass, but the JBL delivers voices with warmth and detail. Jani Lane’s powerhouse vocals are expressive and unwavering amid the muscular rock performance of Warrant’s Mr. Rainmaker.
But the JBL’s natural enthusiasm doesn’t slow down for songs that need a more refined approach. There’s a slight hardness to the sound that shows up when playing slower, more delicate songs or classical tracks. As a result, the gentle piano and violin on the Amelie soundtrack have a slight edge, although the detail and dynamics are still enjoyable. The rival Geneva Model S offers a subtler, more transparent sound that’s closer to the music’s message.
Jump to the beat
The Rumble is happiest when playing upbeat tracks, so if you’ve a playlist full of heavy rock or poppy dance tracks then you’re in good hands. It’s also reasonably forgiving with low-quality recordings and Spotify streams.
Switching to Bluetooth frees up our smart device so we can change tracks more readily, but it’s not quite as open and solid-sounding as the dock connection. We’d also avoid placing the speaker too close to a wall, as the presentation starts to sound too boomy.
There are some bass-enhancing sound modes available. The Bass Boost does add another helping, but it sounds unwieldy and bloated, and the sound loses its punch and clarity. The ‘Club’
EQ mode adds a superficial surround sound, but at the expense of the Rumble’s natural cohesion and verve.
A real sense of fun
The Rumble is a chunky unit, and the curved shape with bright orange cloth peeking through the mesh grille brings to mind Geordi La Forge’s VISOR from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s a flamboyant design that’s in keeping with the spirit of its jubilant sound, and the build quality is solid.
This is a speaker that simply wants to have fun, and the detail, scale and clarity you get alongside that endless energy really blows us away. It’s well connected and versatile, and its price makes it superb value too. Its direct rivals, the Geneva Model S Wireless DAB+ and Libratone Zipp cross the £300 threshold so, for its talents, the JBL is starting to look like something of a bargain.
FOR: Big, energetic sound; open and dynamic; punchy, taut bass; agility and detail; good build
AGAINST: Slight hardness to sound; enthusiastic character won’t suit all songs
VERDICT: Its fun-filled sound means you’ll never want to stop playing this versatile JBL speaker
NEED TO KNOW
Consider if you like a lively and dynamic sound. Make sure you leave some space around it for more sonic clarity.
Avoid the Bass Boost: it’s boomy and overpowering.
You’ll need the JBL MusicFlow app to create playlists and get more EQ modes.
Highlight the Lightning connector dock for new generation of Apple products.
Adding the app JBL MusicFlow
Use this slick app to create playlists from the music on your smart device. It allows you to whip up a custom collection without setting up a new playlist via iTunes. The playback controls are intuitive to use as well.