Duet II Two-Piece Desktop Speaker System – Review

Duet II Two-Piece Desktop Speaker System
Company: JBL

Retail: $99.99

There are more iPod speaker solutions out on the market than the entire Mymac.com staff could ever cover in a reasonable time period. Obviously, there is a market out there, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many solutions. So what does JBL have to offer with the Duet II Desktop Speaker System? Well, I’ve spent about 6 weeks trying to find that out.

So let’s get the errata out of the way. Testing for the Duet II was conducted using a 1st generation iPod Touch, a 1st generation iPod Shuffle, a 1st generation Sony PSP, and a 13″ Macbook. I tested the Duet II in an open room (both the bedroom and office) and in an enclosed space (bookshelf).

So first impressions: the Duet II is easy to set up and easy to use. Basically, there are only three pieces to the unit; the adaptor, the left speaker, and the right speaker.

Everything pretty much plugs into the left speaker and the system connects to the sound source with a 3.5 mm mini stereo jack compatible with just about every electronic audio device out on the market. There is only one control, also located on the left speaker. This is the power/volume dial located on the top of the left speaker. This control is well-integrated into the overall design of the unit, which is very sleek and modern. There is one LED power indicator light at the base of the speaker, in case you’re like me and forget to turn off the speaker power after you’ve unplugged your device. The speakers are about 4″ in diameter and 10″ high, and while not heavy, they could double as bookends if space is at a premium.

So how’s does it sound? For it’s size, I was very happy with the overall performance of the Duet II. I felt that the system delivered good performance over the entire sound spectrum, and I ran it through it’s paces using podcasts for normal speech, a couple of fiddle and violin concertos for the high end, and some trip hop for testing the low end base performance. In all cases the system delivered sound comparable to a good pair of headphones. More importantly, there was no distortion when the speakers were set to higher volumes, which is sometimes an issue with smaller speaker systems.

My wife, on the other hand, felt that the sound was kind of “tinny”, and at lower volumes (and depending on the equalizer setting on the sound source), I can’t deny that there was some of that “tinny” sound that you would normally associate with small/portable speaker systems. It was also more noticeable when the speakers were in an open environment. I found that I got the best sound performance when I had the speaker volume above mid-level, the equalizer on the sound source set to “bass boost”, and the speakers placed in a bookcase where I could get a little sound reflected from the bass output located on the back of each speaker.

So what are the drawbacks? Well, the main one is the cabling – there’s just enough for about an 8 foot separation between the left and right speakers. This is not a problem if you’re planning on putting them in a bookcase or on a desk, but you won’t be able to put one in each corner of a room (unless it’s a small room). The other issue may be price. While I feel the JBL Duet II delivers good performance for the price, there are other speaker options out there for iPod users that are cheaper and will also double as a charger while you listen to your music. Of course, the systems I’m referring to are limited to iPods only, and the Duet II offers more flexibility for those looking for a small speaker system they can use with almost any audio device.

Mymac rating: 3.5 out of 5

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