JBL Radial Review

The Radial never fails to impress with its powerful sound and it can handle any genre of music thrown at it.
The Radial never fails to impress with its powerful sound and it can handle any genre of music thrown at it.
The Radial never fails to impress with its powerful sound and it can handle any genre of music thrown at it.

Highs

  • Great sounding; innovative design; remote control

Lows

  • Missing touch-sensitive controls; does not include iPod adapters; expensive

Summary

Apple’s ultra-popular iPod has been around for almost 5 years. That’s plenty of time for companies to come out with accessories like iPod docks in new and interesting designs. However, many come across as bland, mundane speakers that are good enough for your kitchen at best. This is not the case with JBL’s Radial iPod dock. Beautifully designed with an arch containing speakers, this is a serious docking station that can make your iPod experience more enjoyable. Is it worth the $299 price tag though? Read on to find out.

Features and Design

At first glance, the JBL Radial seems like a futuristic teleportation device (especially in Black) ala Quantum Leap. After reading the manual though, you’ll come to realize that it’s an audio/video dock for your iPod that sounds absolutely great. The dock area for the iPod is one-size-fits-all but does not include any adaptors like many other JBL docking stations do. Unfortunately, the lack of a snug-fitting dock sometimes allows audio to cut out when using the iPod. This occurs usually when you go to manually change tracks or settings on the iPod while it’s docked. Pushing firmly on the iPod makes it wobble and it almost seems as if the iPod is going to snap off the dock.

You also get a very sleek little remote with the JBL Radial. It comes with 6 buttons laid out in 2 columns that are easy to use and allow you to navigate your iPod’s content easily. The battery seemed to last forever and still wasn’t out of juice as the time of writing this article. It also gets pretty good range no matter where you are in the room.

Those of you with a 5G iPod Video can dock it and then play video through a TV with the JBL Radial. This feature is easy to setup and use and allows you to take your iPod’s movies onto a much bigger screen. You can also sync your iPod with your PC or Mac with the built-in USB 2.0 port; a handy feature if you have a laptop and don’t want to disturb your iPod.

You’ll also be able to use the JBL Radial with any other MP3 Player, Walkman, or Laptop via the Radial’s 1/8” jack adaptor; though it looks super cool when you dock an iPod of the same color in your Radial.

So what’s powering your music inside and flowing it into your ears? You get 60 watts of thumping bass, pounding mids, and high trebles that sound good no matter what the genre is. All music lovers should be able to agree that the Radial does an excellent job of handling bass-heavy songs as well as lighter, higher songs with distinct sounds. The Radial uses JBL’s Odyssey line of transducers which they claim gives this device its dynamic range.

JBL Radial
Image Courtesy of JBL

Setup and Use

Setting up the JBL Radial isn’t hard at all. Just pull it out, get used to the shape for a minute, then plug it in and dock your iPod. That’s all. People who receive this for a gift (such as college students) can set this dock up quickly and easily in no time.

Controlling your iPod is limited to the remote control and the volume controls on the Radial. The remote does a great job of navigating through your music and has a long lasting battery. However, the volume buttons on the Radial aren’t touch-sensitive. For the price of this unit, you should get the same touch-sensitive buttons found on JBL’s OnStage II iPod dock.

The JBL Radial also comes in both black and white flavors. This is a welcome feature to those of us with more than one iPod in more than one color!

JBL OnStage II and Radial Comparison
JBL OnTime and Radial Comparison

Comparison Pics
JBL Radial on the left and OnTime on the right

Performance

People who want to throw a party, have a decent all-in-one audio system, or just enjoy big, loud sound will absolutely love this docking station from JBL. The sound produced is of excellent quality with no distortion at higher levels. You can clearly hear every tone and sound on your iPod which is great for classical music. Those of you who enjoy dance music, trance, house, or hip-hop will be glad to know that the bass is responsive and loud. You could easily use the Radial during a party or event you’re having.

Using the Radial for watching video is nice, but not a necessary feature. You’ll be buying this for a high-end iPod docking station, not the ability to have video out. However it does work and works quite well for putting videos or photos on your television screen quickly. A great idea is to creative a slideshow with music and use the Radial next to your TV. Viewers can enjoy great sound and your photos all at once with one device.

This is a high-end audio device by all means, so you’d compare the JBL Radial to something like Bose’s SoundDock. The SoundDock and Radial have entirely different designs and shapes which of course affects the projection of the sound. Overall the Bose SoundDock tends to sound “warmer” which consumers may or may not like. The Radial is great all around and has better highs than the SoundDock. However if you’re not a fan of rock music, you’ll probably find the JBL Radial not to your liking and the Bose SoundDock more fitting.

Conclusion

This is yet another solid iPod dock from JBL. The Radial never fails to impress with its powerful sound and it can handle any genre of music thrown at it. At $299 it is a bit high for an iPod dock but the sound is well worth it if you have the money burning a hole in your pocket. Those of you looking for impressive sound at a lower cost could always check out the JBL OnStage II. Beautiful design and a nice remote add to the already impressive package of the Radial. If you’ve been searching for an alternative high-end iPod dock, this could be the one for you.

Pros:

• Great sound for all genres of music
• Comes in black and white
• Beautiful design

Cons:

• No touch sensitive buttons
• Sound cuts out occasionally due to fixed dock design
• Price a little high for the average consumer