JBL On Tour Plus

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The JBL On Tour Plus does a great job reproducing vocals, guitar, snare drum, and other moderate- to high-pitched instruments. But this wee powered speaker system has absolutely no bass response.

This ingeniously designed little box is supremely portable, measuring 7 inches wide and just 3.5 inches deep when closed; sliding the cover open to expose the speakers increases its depth by less than 3 inches. It weighs just 13 ounces, runs on either four AAA batteries or the included AC power adapter, and comes with a well-appointed hard-shell carrying case.

The “Plus” is a detachable bracket that will hold a Sony PSP securely; but we found it capable of propping up just about any player, including Apple’s iPod and Creative’s Zen Vision: M. You can even adjust the bracket to obtain the best viewing angle.

A miniature Class D amplifier delivers three watts to both of the 1.5-inch aluminum-domed transducers, which are driven by neodymium magnets. The speakers sound smashing with spare, vocal-centric recordings, including Leonard Cohen’s resonant baritone on “Hallelujah” and Tori Amos’ heart-rending soprano on her cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Angie.” But as it struggled to deliver Beck’s synth-and-bass-heavy “Nicotine and Gravy,” the teensy device conjured auditory memories of the bleeps and bloops of Mattel’s Intellivision.

And then there’s the price tag to consider: A $130 media-player speaker that can’t convey bass and doesn’t dock, sync, or recharge an iPod tickles our spleen-venting reflex; but we won’t slam it because it sounds so good with some types of recordings, it boasts supermodel good looks, and we dig that dandy player cradle.

Month Reviewed: November 2006
Verdict: 6
URL: www.jbl.com

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