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Close Encounters of the 2.1 Kind
Blast Off with the JBL Encounter
The JBL Encounter 2.1 Speaker Review

Date Created: 04/08/2005 Last Updated: 04/28/2006 Authors: Spider

Take me to your leader!

(How many puns do you think I can stick in this review? PLACE YOUR BETS NOW!)

Great design is one of the things that unites us as Apple and iPod cultists. There's something admirable about slick, straightforward, and sexy design. Case in point, the iPod, where Apple broke the mold and changed history. Conversely, when it comes to the cold uninteresting world of external speakers, JBL seems to be on the same path.

In a world of boring shelf speakers that are as fascinating as the wires that connect them, the JBL Encounter draws people towards it with its innovative tongue-in-cheek design and then lavishes them with deep warm sound. JBL proves once again that they know how to box up a brilliant set of speakers that appear as though they were intended to be fine decor, while at the same time hold nothing back when it comes to pure crisp sound. Where most speakers seem to be designed to be hidden, the Encounter defies you to ignore them.

Space Monkeys, prepare for blast off.

SIGNS OF INTELLIGENCE
The Encounter is a smart device using it's own form of artificial intelligence by remembering the volume setting in use when the system was last shut down. Like the very popular JBL Creature Speakers, the Encounter uses JBL's simple touch volume pads. Just a touch increases or decreases the volume and a touch on both pads mutes or un-mutes the system. The JBL Encounter 2.1 audio system also incorporates a special interconnect technology for effortless user control over volume, treble and subwoofer levels.

SOUND
Most importantly, music enthusiasts can enjoy clean and powerful sound worth phoning home about. More design driven than their predecessor, the Creature Speakers, the bass and treble controls are located on the rear of the subwoofer. But there are important technological features at work in the Encounter. To begin, on the Encounter system, the bass control itself utilizes a technology JBL calls "FCS - fixed crossover shelving topology." This allows for a pure bass adjustment that does not affect the sound imaging as the bass level increases. The speakers also incorporate Harman Multimedia's Magnum™ Subwoofer Transducer pimped out with a 6-inch driver, optimized for extremely precise bass response. The spaceship-like subwoofer literally blasts off with a rich, deep, warm bass that works efficiently at preventing an ugly, guttural "bass thud."

Its alien looking satellites are super-naturally powerful despite their smallish size. Using JBL's "Odyssey Transducers," the satellites contain four aluminum-domed transducers driven by powerful neodymium magnets. This design provides a full, rich frequency response, from the mid's to the highest highs and the audio compression technology to ensure extreme accuracy at high output levels.

These speakers make a distinct wealth of difference occur between the various presets on your audio source's equalizer. "Bass Booster" is supported gorgeously, "Treble Booster" sounds surprisingly nice despite my very serious need for a bottom heavy sound, and there is added meaning to presets like "Dance," "Loudness," and especially "Deep." Even toying with the preamp on the equalizer at high volumes failed to arouse distortion. These are amazingly strong speakers, I have to say.

"Where most speakers seem to be designed to be hidden, the JBL Encounter defies you to ignore them."

The pictured Encounters above were tested in both a large open room, approximately 20' x 40' and a smaller room which measures approximately 15' x 20'. With the volume on the speakers set at one-third of the way up you will have disco-sized un-distorted volume with iTunes volume barely off the mute setting. I dare say, if you have cause to leave the volume set to "11" on these suckers, you should probably get a cat scan.

And to top it all off, they are ridiculously cool looking. The white and chrome toy-like design are simply camouflage for a very adult sound. If you turn them down once they are in your space you will hear the most beautiful sound they produce: the sound of people envying you.

TECH SPECS
  • Dimensions: Satellite: Diameter – 3-1/2" (90mm); Height – 6" (150mm); Subwoofer: Diameter – 7" (175mm) Height – 20" (250mm)
  • System Weight: 8 lb (3.6kg)
  • Manufacturer: Harman Multimedia
  • Model Name: JBL Encounter 2.1
  • Color: White With Chrome
  • Input Requirement: 1/8" (3.5mm) mini stereo jack
  • Drivers: Satellite – four Odyssey neodymium drivers; Subwoofer – Magnum 6
  • Power: Satellite – 13 watts per channel; Subwoofer – 34 watts
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz – 20kHz
  • Input Impedance: >5k ohms
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >80dB
  • Voltage Input: 120V AC US, 100V AC Japanese, 230V AC Europe
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
The JBL Encounter 2.1 comes in peace. Three pieces to be precise. Two powerful 13-watt Odyssey™ satellite speakers and a 34-watt Magnum™ subwoofer. Also inside the box are several connecting cables and a user's manual.
FINAL THOUGHTS
A mini stereo jack makes the speakers compatible with any desktop computer, laptop, iPod, MP3 player or any music source. Mac users can virtually take them out of the box, set their iTunes equalizer to any of the thumping EQ presets and the JBL Encounter transform any room or office into an enviable soundscape. And to top it all off, they are ridiculously cool looking. The white and chrome kid's toy-like design are simply camouflage for a very adult sound. If you turn them down once they are in your space you will hear the most beautiful sound they produce: the sound of people envying you. (Blue Egg chair, fireplace and Saarinen cocktail table sold VERY separately.)


This item is available for purchase from Amazon.com

Harman International is a leading manufacturer of high-quality, high-fidelity audio and video products for the consumer and professional markets and is the maker of many well-known audio brands including: JBL, Infinity and harman/kardon. It is a conglomerate of over 30 companies, all related to audio. Started by Sidney Harman in 1953, Harman International is the maker of best-in-class audio products for cars, theaters, recording studios, auditoriums and homes.

Rating:
Requirements:
Any audio device with a mini stereo jack
Manufacturer:
Harman Multimedia

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