JBL Duet III review
While hi-fi aficionados may be willing to suffer bulky speakers in the quest for sound quality, few computer users are as willing to compromise. Indeed, the Holy Grail for any PC speaker manufacturer is to make beautiful music without swallowing acres of desk space in the process. JBL’s latest stereo set, the Duet IIIs, attempt to do just that.
Where many computer speakers solve the problem by combining dainty satellite speakers with a sub-woofer to create the impression of deep, tuneful bass, JBL steps up to the challenge without a sub anywhere in sight. The two slender speakers rise gracefully from the desk and look more like a set of modern designer vases than a traditional PC speaker set.
Audio is ferried via a single 3.5mm mini-jack connection, and a light, compact wall wart power supply means that there are no ugly PSUs trailing behind the desk. The rotary volume control, meanwhile, is cleverly integrated into the top of one of the speakers and also serves to turn off the speakers when they’re not in use.
JBL’s claims that the Duet IIIs provide an “extraordinarily powerful, yet smooth and accurate sound” are probably a little overblown, however. Acoustic music fares surprisingly well, with a wide, reasonably deep soundstage and an impressively crisp performance. Vocals emanate with clarity and presence, but while the detail at first serves to impress, extended listening reveals a harsh, digital sheen that soon begins to grate.
Up the ante with more dynamic material and the Duet III’s limitations become all too clear. Crank up the volume too high and the built-in 30W digital amplifier begins to struggle, with the music taking on a coarse, muddy quality that soon leaves you reaching for the volume control. And thanks to the lack of a discrete subwoofer, deeper bass is all but non-existent; a trait that leaves hip hop and dance music sounding lightweight and anaemic.
Be in no doubt, you’re paying a substantial premium for the Duet III’s sleek design. Were they substantially cheaper, we might have been able to overlook their aural inconsistencies, but at this price we’d expect them to do much, much more than just look good.
|Speaker power ouput||30W|
|RCA (phono) inputs||0|
|3.5mm audio input jacks||1|
|Optical S/PDIF inputs||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF inputs||0|
|USB audio inputs||0|
|Wired remote power/volume control||no|