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ver since the iSub debuted, Harman Multimedia has catered to the Mac audience with a line of uniquely styled audio products that look and sound great. That’s definitely evident in its new speaker system, the JBL Creature.
Although not explicitly designed for the Mac, there’s no question that the Creature owes a lot to the Mac for its styling cues. It’s available in three different finishes: White, which matches the finish on iBooks, flat panel iMacs and eMacs; Metallic Blue, which goes well with indigo-coloured CRT iMacs; and Metallic Silver, which matches PowerBook G4s and Power Mac G4s. Chrome embellishments for speaker grills and volume and level controls add a great touch, and go particularly well with the newest Power Mac G4s.
A 2.1 speaker system (that is, two satellite speakers paired with a single subwoofer), the Creature includes a 20W powered subwoofer and two 8W satellite speakers. Its styling is like a three-dimensional sine wave and is one of the most unique- looking sound systems I’ve come across.
Controls for the Creature are comprised of separate chromed bullet-shaped bass and treble dials on the subwoofer, and volume controls on the right satellite. The volume controls harken to the Power Mac G4 Cube’s power button – the Creature uses a “capacitance touch” design that enables you to raise or lower volume by simply touching a metal button.
Designed for use with computers, the Creature uses magnetic shielding to help prevent monitor image distortion.
The satellites are small, measuring a scant 3 inches on each side, but they’re quite hefty – each one houses a single Odyssey Plus transducer. The speakers cast a wide sound-field that’s easy to position, and the system handles a wide variety of music and audio well. The Creature handled DVD-movie playback, MP3s, CD playback and game audio with equal aplomb.
The subwoofer contains a four-inch transducer. That’s two-inches smaller than the subwoofer included with the SoundSticks, but it’s still got good bass reflex – fine for everything but the most bass-heavy music, and perfectly suitable for explosion-heavy action games.
Since the Creature uses audio output from a Mac’s headphone jack instead of USB, you don’t end up wasting a USB port. Headphone output might be old-school technology, but it’s simple, reliable and doesn’t create any overhead elsewhere on the system. It also makes the creature compatible with many more systems – you can use it on an old beige Power Mac, for example, or with an iPod. The package includes all the wiring needed to get hooked up, and everything is colour-coded for convenience.
With a smaller subwoofer and one quarter the number of transducers in each satellite, the Creature doesn’t have quite the same fullness of sound as the SoundSticks, but the system costs less money: £99 versus £129. To that end, the Creature is one of the better sounding and most uniquely designed speaker systems in its class. It’s definitely worth a look (and a listen).