CES 2013: JBL OnBeat Rumble shakes things up in Vegas

Just when you finally found the perfect home dock, Apple went and changed things up by eliminating the ubiquitous 30-pin connector with the new Lightning connector. JBL was right there to scoop into the market with the OnBeat Rumble boombox with a Lightning connection and Harman’s TrueStream Bluetooth capabilities. It charges the iPhone 5 or iPad Mini or other Apple Lightning devices when docked, and with an adapter, can handle the legacy devices.

The OnBeat Rumble comes in either black or a subdued rust color. It has a vibration-damping rubber base, and a rubber gasket on the top to keep your iPad from sliding around. There are simple controls on top for volume, Bluetooth pairing, Bass Boost and “Club” sound. Inside, there are two 2-1/2” drivers and a single 4-1/2” downward-firing subwoofer. The speakers utilize JBL’s Slipstream port technology, which is said to produce powerful bass without distortion. The system boasts 2 x 11 watts – not exactly a powerhouse, but decent for a system this compact. It would have been nice to see this available as a portable device, but alas, it is not.

In addition to the Lightning and Bluetooth connectivity, the OnBeat Rumble has an AUX input and USB to utilize the free JBL MusicFlow app, along with other DJ apps. The connectors and speaker ports are on the back of the unit.

I checked out the sound on the floor of the International CES, and while that’s obviously NOT the place to do any critical listening, I could tell that the OnBeat Rumble has promise. JBL claims a frequency response of 50 Hz – 18 kHz. With the Bass Boost engaged, it had an impactful sound in the upper bass, but lacked any seriously deep bass. There was surprisingly decent stereo separation. I’ll have to hold off any other judgments until I can do a real hands-on review in a more controlled environment.

While many manufacturers are playing catch-up with their outdated 30-pin connectors, JBL is showing off that they’re ready for Lightning devices today. It retails for $399.95 (MSRP).