It's not everyday that you come across suitable desktop speakers that pump out beautiful audio but won't burn a deep hole in your wallet. I mean sure, you could shell out for a studio monitor setup, but not many of us have the desk space or the need for such professional equipment. Besides, we shouldn't have to go through so much trouble for some quality music anyways. Good thing JBL has got our backs this time. The JBL Jembe are a pair of wireless desktop speakers that will produce excellent sound at a fraction of the cost. And to sweeten the deal, it's also Bluetooth compatible. The features and awesomeness doesn't stop there. Skip on past the cut for the full breakdown.
We've come to expect a lot from JBL now that the bar has been set by our previous reviews of their Micro II, Flip portable speakers. If they can produce clean sound with just one speaker, think about the possibilities of using two! Let me tell you guys now, they didn't disappoint.
Keeping it simple with the packaging, you'll find the typical items: the boring literature nobody reads, a power cord, a 3.5mm audio cable, and the Jembes themselves. You realize where JBL got the name considering how the speakers are shaped similar an actual Jembe, which is an old drum instrument from 1200 AD. Don't be fooled by the historical relationship though, the sound that comes out of these Jembe lookalikes is as modern as it gets.
The construction of the Jembe's is brilliant, despite the majority of plastic materials used. Every piece is seamlessly put together for an overall appealing aesthetic that wouldn't stand out or ruin your desk's look. On top of that, the speakers themselves have relatively small footprints so as to not take up an unreasonable amount of desk room.
On the Jembe speakers, you'll find a spinning top for power and volume on the main speaker and a headphone jack as well as another auxiliary port for daisy-chaining additional speakers of your choosing. The connection between the two speakers requires an additional cable that is included, however I would have liked to see a wireless connection there as well.
One of the new and convenient features the JBL Jembe's touts is its Bluetooth capability. The ease of wirelessly enjoying your playlists is awesome, at least the idea is, which JBL calls their HARMAN TrueStream technology. When the function is working properly, the Jembe's produce stellar sound quality that wouldn't be too far from the quality you'd get from a 3.5mm wired connection. But with that, there are always times when it doesn't work. While connected via my Mac, which took a tediously long amount of time, the sound was fantastic but would cut off every now and then, especially when changing to a new song.
This problem occurred while connected via my iPhone as well and would not fix itself unless you turned the Jembe's off and reconnected. The problem appears to be consistent through any Bluetooth connection and it's unclear whether it is an iOS issue or JBL's.
Another issue that I came across was the fact that there is no on/off switch for the Bluetooth function. By turning the speakers on, it automatically enters pairing mode and searches for the closest Bluetooth connection. The LED will turn blue if it is successfully paired and will be white if there are no connected devices or is in wired mode.
As we've already seen from JBL Micro IIs, they're making magic over there in the sound department and the Jembe's were a part of it. For something so small, its ability to handle the entire audio spectrum is surprising. Even when turned up to the max, you'll still hear the distinct highs and the clear mids with a nice thump of a bass. However, we strongly advise you to not turn it up all the way, especially in a small room; it has quite the boom.
The highs are clean and the mids can be appreciated while the bass is not loud and obnoxious that it overshadows everything else. This may be due to the fact that there is no dedicated subwoofer inside the enclosure, but it is still very capable. The overall sound quality is an awesome deal for what you're paying for and for general use with your laptop or iPhone, it does more than a decent job. Aside from the disruptions you'll get from a poor Bluetooth connection, these will fit the needs of most.
For everyday use, the JBL Jembe is a fantastic sound setup to use for enjoying your playlists on your computer or mobile device. If possible, I'd highly recommend using the 3.5mm headphone cable rather than the Bluetooth because for all the trouble you might have with the connection, it would just be easier to plug it in. If you think about it, you wouldn't really need to go wireless since these speakers will be set up on your desk anyways. The supplied 3.5mm cable is more than long enough to cover just about any sized desk. Comparing the Jembe's capabilities with its soft-on-the-wallet price of $99, you really can't go wrong. We recommend giving these a try and if you're not a professional mixer or require studio quality audio, the JBL Jembe will fit you just fine.