Review: JBL Creature II

by on August 30, 2005

We’ve tested an array of speakers, both designed specifically for iPods and more generic systems that will work with almost any computer, audio player, TV, or stereo. The one problem we found with the latter is that many speaker systems failed to match current Apple products. Since the sound quality is the most important criteria, looks are only icing on the cake.

Creature II
Creature II Satellites

Creature II
Creature II Subwoofer

Creature II
Creature II Connections

JBL’s Creature II speakers were designed with Apple products in mind. They’ll look great near any currently-shipping Mac or iPod. At a price of around $100, they’re a bit more than some speaker systems, but if you do look around, you can find this 2.1 speaker system for as low as $60.

The Creatures are a fairly simple, but powerful speaker system. Each satellite plugs into the subwoofer, which is designed to sit on either the top of a desk or the floor. An audio cable connects the subwoofer to any stereo audio source. An fairly large AC adapter gets power to the whole system. On the subwoofer, there is a green LED on the back to indicate power, and silver, bullet-shaped knobs for bass and treble located on the front. Unfortunately, the power button is located on the back, and not the easiest to reach, but it seems JBL has taken Apple’s side of things by encouraging people to just leave things on. The right satellite features touch-sensitive controls for volume, and both satellites have down-pointing green LEDs to indicate power and give the speakers a nice glow.

The silver touch-sensitive “buttons” will be familiar to anyone who’s used a third-generation iPod or any of the other recent JBL products. One turns the volume up, while the other (not surprisingly) turns it down. Pressing both at the same time mutes the speakers. We found these to work quite well, despite many complaints about the older iPods.

These speakers sound good without any major adjustments, but the bass and treble controls let you adjust to your heart’s content. Since the iTunes and iPod (as well as many other programs) offer equalizers, the adjustments on the speakers could be ignored.

iPod users will want to add an iPod dock or similar product to allow the Creatures to get the better line-level audio and to keep the iPod charged, but the whole combination costs the same, if not cheaper, than some of the more-portable iPod-specific systems, like the Altec Lansing inMotion. The tradeoff for the better sound of the Creatures (or any large speaker system) is portability. The old laptop debates of the 1990s come to mind.

One of our only gripes is the power switch being in an inconvenient location (if you want to use your Mac, but not have sound blaring), but after a few weeks of use, just got into the habit of using the mute feature. The other is the lack of a headphone jack—although many other speaker systems don’t have one, even more do, and it just adds a bit of convenience. Of course, if it really was an issue, one could just get a cheap audio splitter cable.

The Creatures are available in white, grey, and black. We’ve heard reports that the grey is not as good as the previously produced silver, but you’ll have to see it in person to make your own decision. The Creatures represent a great value when you consider the aesthetic appearance, the sound quality, and the unique design.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

If you’re looking for a speaker system that will look and sound good next to any Apple product, but don’t want to spend too much, the Creatures will give you quite a bit of bang for your buck.

Pros: Excellent sound quality, simple controls, good looks

Cons: Power button located in the back of the subwoofer, no headphone jack

The Facts

4.5/5Product: Creature II
Company: JBL (part of Harman Multimedia)
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $99.95

Speaker Facts

Input Impedance: >5K
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >80dB
Frequency Response: 50 – 20kHz
Input Sensitivity: 400 mv rms for rated power output
Voltage Input: 120 VAC

Satellite Drivers: One Odyssey Plus transducer
Satellite Power Rating: 8 watts per satellite at 10% (THD+N)
Satellite Dimensions (H x W x D): 3 inches x 3 inches x 3 inches

Subwoofer Drivers: One 4.00 inch Magnum transducer
Subwoofer Power Rating: 24 watts at 10% (THD+N)
Subwoofer Crossover Frequency: 180Hz

This post has been filed in Reviews and Speakers/Audio