JBL OnStage II Review

jbl onstage ii review on stage
JBL OnStage II
“You'll have a great listening experience using the OnStage II in your home.”
  • Supports all iPods; good sound quality; very affordable
  • Limited remote functionality; 3.5mm connector is too short; does not support battery power


Since the debut of the iPod, many companies have rushed to release speaker accessories to the masses. However, only a few companies have done it right by taking the time to manufacture a product with great sound, excellent quality, and top-notch features. One of these companies is JBL. Their OnStage II docking system is a great mix of style, design, sound, and clarity. Only crisp tones and full bass come out of the OnStage II, leaving almost every other docking station for the iPod in the dust. We’ll be covering the ins and outs of this great product to show you why it’s worth your money, so continue reading to find out more!

Features and Design

The OnStage II has a design worthy of the iPod name. The entire system comes in a nicely-sized box with only a few things: the OnStage II unit, an RF remote, an AC adaptor, an audio connector for devices with 3.5mm output, and multiple plastic iPod enclosures. Everything comes in a pearly white color to match the iPod, which is what this docking system is designed for. The docking station itself is a big circle that looks like a cone with the top cut off. There are two speakers on both the right and left sides of the circle and a docking port in the front with volume controls. The back of the station contains a power button, AC input, and a headphone/3.5mm jack for connecting devices other than the iPod.

One of the best features about this docking system has to be the included attachments for different iPods. Everything from the Nano to the Mini to the original iPod can be used with interchangeable plastic docks; just snap a dock into the OnStage II and your iPod fits perfectly. Though it is a bit annoying having all those plastic pieces lying around, it’s much better than not being able to attach a smaller-sized iPod.

The OnStage II also features an easy-to-use RF remote for controlling your music from afar. The remote is a simple white plastic device with 6 buttons that let you control tracks, volume, and pausing. It also features a clip on the back so you can keep it on your jeans pocket or wherever you want. A neat feature is the “hold” switch that allows you to lock the remote in case you don’t want to accidentally change tracks. The remote is simple, designed right, and gets the job done–especially since it cuts through walls without hassle. There are no extra features to get in the way, which makes this remote a great component of the OnStage II.

When using your iPod with the OnStage II, you’ll probably want to adjust the volume or switch tracks. The iPod docks seamlessly with the OnStage II and allows you total control (for the most part) without ever having to touch the iPod itself. You won’t be able to switch between playlists or browse menus, but you’ll be able to control basic playback functions and volume. If you don’t have the remote, the docking station has two little silver buttons on each side of the iPod. These control the volume and are touch sensitive, a nifty little feature that makes the OnStage II feel a bit futuristic at times.

JBL OnStage II
Image Courtesy of JBL

Setup and Use

JBL has made the OnStage II extremely easy to set up and get going. Out of the box, all you need to do is plug the unit in, hit the power button, and plug your iPod in. You can then go back and pick out the right docking piece for your iPod model to have the snug fit and uniform look attributed to your OnStage II.  If you’re not using an iPod, but instead your Walkman from 1991, no sweat. Instead of docking, you’ll just use the included 3.5mm adaptor to plug your device into the back of the unit. The cable provided is a little short though, so it’s probably in your best interest to buy one that is a bit longer.

Speaker systems for the iPod usually aren’t well-made; they can be cheap, too quiet, and not pack enough punch for the price. The JBL OnStage II is none of the above. When you plug your iPod in, it automatically starts charging whether the unit is powered on or off. This is a great feature that will keep you reassured that your iPod won’t be dying anytime soon. At first I would have liked to see the unit have the ability to be run off battery power, but my mind soon changed after spending some time with this docking system. It’s very powerful and chances are you’d be changing the batteries too frequently to justify the feature.

Speaking of powerful, this unit is not one to be reckoned with. When I received the OnStage II, I knew that JBL made quality speakers with great sound. Thus, I expected very good performance from this unit, but nothing astonishing. I was wrong. I tried out the OnStage II in my Master Bathroom to listen to some rock-and-roll while in the shower. I cranked up the volume and hit the “play” button on my iPod. Immediately, I thought I had gone deaf. This product has some serious sound with incredibly loud speakers that blast through walls and carry music all throughout the house. I had to turn the volume down quite a bit before I got to a comfortable level of listening.


The quality of OnStage II’s sound is excellent. Even at high volumes you’ll be hard-pressed to find distortion. The bass booms and other instruments are heard with ultimate clarity. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a $2000 home theater system, but for the MSRP of $170, you’ll discover it’s difficult to find sound this good for such a price anywhere else. The combination of portability and excellent sound make the OnStage II one of the best iPod docking systems available today.

The remote works well even from semi-far distances. I wasn’t able to go all the way upstairs and change songs while in the kitchen, but I was able to point the remote towards the wall in the direction of the bathroom where the OnStage II was and change songs. You won’t find many other remotes this size that work as well as a professional remote. It’s a nice feature that JBL included to maximize the use of your iPod.

But how does the OnStage II sound compared to other docking systems with speakers? I was able to listen to the Bose SoundDock and Altec Lansing inMotion IM7 speaker sets, and I found out that although both are quite a bit more costly than the JBL OnStage II they have similar features. The OnStage II sounds a little better than the IM7 set when in a small room, but the IM7 wins in a larger setting such as a store or backyard. The Bose SoundDock beats both and has excellent quality sound that you’d expect from Bose. However, at $300, the SoundDock is not affordable for everyone, making the OnStage II the best all-around choice for the average consumer. Audiophiles will obviously want something a bit better than what JBL has to offer, so perhaps the SoundDock would suit their tastes best.


JBL has really hit a home run with their OnStage II docking system. The easy-to-use features and high quality sound make it worth your time. You’ll have a great listening experience using the OnStage II in your home. The remote feature works great and the price you’ll pay for it won’t break the bank. Although not as high-end as some other docking systems available today, the OnStage II is the best choice for people looking for an affordable, yet quality iPod dock.


  • Great sound
  • Affordable for most consumers who own an iPod
  • Removable docks for all iPod models


  • Remote can’t control menus on iPod
  • Included 3.5mm connector is too short for most devices
  • No battery power available

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