Pros: As of the date of this review, the best 2.1 speaker system that we’ve heard for the price. Attractive white plastic and chrome combination matches full-sized iPods to a T. Full bass and treble adjustment allows you to calibrate the sound to your heart’s desire.
Cons: No iPod dock included for the (low) price. Intended to stay fairly stationary.
This review is reprinted from the iLounge 2004 and 2005 Buyers’ Guides, having originally appeared in November 2004, and been updated in March 2005.
iLounge has tested virtually all of the iPod-specific speaker systems released to date, and none compares in sound quality for the dollar to JBL’s Creature II Speaker System ($99.95, available for as little as $50.00).
We always emphasize that great iPod speakers should deliver clean audio across the frequency spectrum from high (treble) response through the mid-range to low (bass) response. Surround sound is unnecessary; the iPod doesn’t support it, so two-channel (left and right) audio suffices, so long as they’re adequate separated. While portability is a plus, most iPod speakers wind up sitting in one place and rarely being moved. And for most people, price is key.
The Creature II system almost perfectly meets our requirements. Two small white and chrome iPod-matching satellite speakers provide crisp treble and mid-range response, while a large white plastic subwoofer creates a rich bass sound. When turned on, cool blue lights glow underneath each of the satellites and next to the power button on the rear of the subwoofer. Silver knobs on the subwoofer let you adjust the bass and treble of the system, while silver touch-sensitive plus and minus buttons on the right satellite speaker adjust the volume. You can position the pieces wherever you want for a greater stereo effect; they’re connected by cables. And even if you don’t tweak the bass, treble, or speaker locations, the Creatures sound better than any of the other iPod speakers we’ve tested. But the adjustable bass and treble guarantee you’ll create sound you like.
Notably, the Creatures aren’t portable speakers – they come with a power cube, won’t run off battery power, and are only “portable” in that they’re neither too heavy nor large to occasionally carry from room to room in a house as necessary. But then, competing options either themselves aren’t practically portable, or trade audio quality for their portability, a bad compromise from our perspective unless you frequently use portable speakers.
The only thing really missing from the Creatures is an integrated iPod dock, which is featured in JBL’s On Stage and Altec Lansing’s offerings, but limits their use with the iPod photo. The Creatures are way cheap, include an audio cable, and work with Apple’s Dock ($39) or SendStation’s PocketDock ($29.95). Your total price will still be around $100, and we’re certain that you’ll love the sound.
As a brief note for the style-conscious: JBL now also makes Creatures in a black version, as well as a gray color that is today hard to find. The black Creatures look dark purple under bright lights, but are still attractive; however, we’re not fans of the gray. In late 2005, JBL introduced new silver and red metallic versions of the Creature IIs, which sell for several dollars more on sites such as Amazon.com, but look even more attractive than the standard colors. It would be hard to go wrong with any color you prefer.
Company and Price
Company: JBL/Harman Multimedia
Model: JBL Creature II 2.1 Speakers
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo, iPod shuffle