JBL Jembe Desktop Speaker review

These two-piece Jembe desktop speakers are ideal for amping up the output from your iPad or iPhone. They’re solidly built and we were very taken with their smart appearance. Although plastic, the cylindrical speakers are reassuringly tough and heavy. An aluminium grille on the outside of each speaker distributes the sound in two directions, while the ‘master’ speaker has a push-down-and-rotate volume switch in the form of a disc for a lid. Just glide the dial laconically to change the volume. You’ll find the sound bassy, rich and punchy. Exactly the balance we like.

When you aren’t playing an album, the only clue that the Jembe speakers are switched on is a tiny but bright white light underneath the JBL logo. We experienced none of the interference or crackling that some desktop speakers suffer, perhaps because JBL clads the cables from speaker to speaker and from the audio output in very thick plastic. Oddly, the cable to the power supply has a far weedier cable.

There’s no separate controller; instead one speaker has attachments for hooking it up to the other speaker and to the power and audio source via a standard 3.5mm jack. On an iPad or iPhone, just plug in the speakers via the headphone port – handily, this means you don’t need to worry about Lightning or 30-pin compatibility issues. It also means you can use these speakers with your Mac or PC too. If you’re mainly going to use the JBL Jembes with your iOS device, the sub-metre cable from power socket to speaker won’t trouble you. If you need to space out your speakers, opt for the Bluetooth version (£10 extra). Note, though, that we found a noticeable reduction in volume and impact when we placed the Jembe speakers half a foot further away from us. This rules them out as entertainment duties such as playing the audio from your Apple TV library.

Of course, it’s most likely that, once positioned, you’ll simply want to use these well-designed speakers to provide at-desk accompaniment while you work towards finishing that client brief or college project. At £49, we think these great-sounding speakers are well worth investing in. 

OUR VERDICT

The JBL Jembes are good-looking, compact speakers that take seconds to set up and don’t dictate what device you use them with: anything with a 3.5mm audio out is fine. We’d prefer longer cables or the convenience of the Bluetooth model, but have no argument with the lovely audio these two-piece speakers produce. A solid choice of desktop or laptop speaker.

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