JBL Spyro Speakers Hands On

JBL makes some of the best sounding iPod docks out there today. Its docks continue to impress me and it never ceases to create exciting new designs for its products. Recently, JBL released its Spyro series of speakers, which come in white or black. After spending some time with the black pair, it’s safe to say I’m impressed yet again. A bit costly at $130, these speakers may not appear to be worth the cash, but when you hear the quality of the sound they produce, you’ll be in heaven.

Let’s talk about design for a minute. JBL has been making products with Apple-esque designs for a while now. The designs compliment Apple computers and the iPod nicely and with the ability to choose quite a few JBL products in black, your PC can match too. The Spyro set is a round, half-sphere subwoofer with two satellite speakers that are shaped like four-leaf clovers. JBL played it smart and built touch-sensitive volume controls into the right hand speaker. JBL’s touch-sensitive volume controls are featured on its OnStage II iPod dock. They work extremely well, are responsive, and add a unique feature to an otherwise normal set of speakers.

If you’re looking for extremely clean and ripe bass, then JBL has you covered. The unique looking subwoofer looks like someone took a big plastic sphere and cut the top off like a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese. The hookups are on the backside of the unit and everything except for the right-hand speaker plugs in seamlessly. Since the right speaker controls the volume, it uses a proprietary cable that fits oddly into the subwoofer. It takes a bit to get it to fit right. Not a huge issue, but one worth mentioning.

Moving along to the two speakers included, you can tell JBL decided its tiny speakers really snazzy. You can check out the comparison of the Spyro speaker next to a JBL Duet speaker in the following picture. Also, instead of the usual wire that connects the speaker to the subwoofer, JBL has utilized a tight set of ropes. Aside from looking cool and being different, the rope actually provides more strength than the average set of wires. Feel free to give these a tug—nothing is going to snap or tear.

So by now we know that the JBL Spyro speakers look great, but the real question is, how do they sound for such a small and obscure package? The answer is simple: mind-blowing. Though $130 isn’t an absurd amount to spend on a three-piece speaker set, the price is higher than normal and may turn-off some customers. When you go and listen to these though, you’ll be impressed and will feel much better about your purchase.

I tried throwing every style of audio and music at these speakers. I’ve become a bit of an audiophile lately and make sure all my music in iTunes is encoded in either a high bitrate or FLAC. Cranking the bass up on the subwoofer, I tried out some trance, house, IDM, and various other electronic genres. The bass always sounded full and responsive. Acid sounds and highs come out super clear and nothing distorts no matter how high you crank this baby up.

Next, I gave all my hip-hop, rap, chopped & screwed, and similar music a go. Again, bass sounded great and vocals came out crystal clear. While listening to a Lil’ Jon song, I noticed it had a Slayer-riff sampled in the background. I realized that I had never noticed that on my $50 JBL Duet speakers. I switched back and forth between the two multiple times and sure enough, the difference was quite noticeable.

The hard part was done, so I moved on to rock, metal, hardcore, jazz, and other styles of music. Guitar sounds great and you’ll be able to keep a party going with a set of these speakers. On some songs, guitars have that “punch” to it that only musicians know of. Not all speakers give you that “punch” properly and as a result, the song you’re listening to sounds half-assed. Listening to bands from Brand New to Slayer to The Who all yielded that distinct sound in rock music that I was searching for. Now I’m tempted to never switch to another set of speakers when I listen to rock music.

All that’s really left to discuss is how these speakers compare to similar sets. The design and sound are both some of the best that JBL has yet to produce. As I mentioned earlier, these blow away my JBL Duet speakers, which don’t have a subwoofer but still sound decent. I also have a Sony Receiver with some Pioneer speakers hooked up which I used to use for computer use. Surprisingly, the JBL Spyro held its own and sounded better for both rock and rap.

So is there anything that can beat the Spyro in terms of design, sound, and price? Maybe. There are a few Bose models out there that sound just as good, if not better, than these speakers. Altec Lansing also makes some decent sets that can compete well with JBL. Your best bet is to go to a place like Best Buy with an iPod and ask if you can try out multiple sets with the music you’ll be listening to the most.

If your current set of computer/iPod/music player speakers are out of date or don’t have a subwoofer, then I recommend grabbing the new JBL Spyro. Incredible sound clarity and a beautiful, unique design are what make these worth the while. Plus, with JBL you know you’re getting some serious gear that will last a few years and won’t let you down. I have to say though, these are quite possibly the best JBL speakers that my ears have heard. For $130, you’ll be spending a little more than you may be used to, but the quality you get makes up for it.