The JBL On Stage IIIP is the third in JBL's series of ultra-compact, circular iPod speakers, letting you charge and play music from the iPod classic, iPod touch, iPod nano 3G, and iPhone. Portability is key to the design, since it's only 7.5 inches in diameter and 2 inches tall at its highest point, and it can run on AC or battery power. While it can't act as a speakerphone, the fact that you won't have to switch your iPhone into airplane mode means you won't miss a call while jamming to your tunes.
The IIIP looks a bit reminiscent of Darth Vader, with its partially domed, glossy black finish and black metal grille. On each side of the iPod dock, which sits in the center of the ring, are two 1-inch, full-range Odyssey transducers, pumping out 10W of audio per channel. Rather than facing forward, each pair of drivers aims straight out to the side, resulting in a slightly wider sound.
The speaker's only onboard controls are two small silver buttons in the front for volume and a button on the back for power. Ports include a power jack for the AC adapter and a 3.5mm stereo audio input jack for connecting devices that don't have an Apple dock connector. Two rubber stoppers close off holes shaped like a mini-USB port and a video output, but the holes are empty and not connected to any electronics. Considering that the IIIp accepts video-capable iPods, we wish that it could port video to a larger screen.
The package includes a stereo audio line-in cable, AC adapter, and several dock adapters for various iPod models, as well as an infrared wireless remote that gave us about 36 feet of reliable range. The remote lets you control playback, but you can also use it to browse your iPod's menus. We wish the remote's buttons were more brightly labeled, though, as the small gray icons are barely visible against the glossy black background.
The IIIP's drivers are tiny, and there's no built-in subwoofer, but the bass port on the back helps boost the low end a little. Even so, the IIIp would struggle to fill more than a small bedroom. We listened to some Bob Marley, and although the bass lines were clearly audible, the lowest notes lacked any impact. Snoop Dogg's "G-Funk" intro sounded better because the bass isn't as deep, so it came through loud and clear. The speakers really shone on acoustic jazz (such as Miles Davis' <i>Sketches of Spain</i>), with good detail in the mids and highs.
We're glad that the On Stage IIIP is shielded against the dreaded GSM buzz so you don't have to put an iPhone into Airplane mode. But the unit doesn't work as a speakerphone and won't play iPhone ringtones when a call comes in. As withAltec Lansing's T612, when a call comes in, your music will mute and you'll hear your ringtone. The call audio does not come out of the speakers, there's no built-in mic in the speaker, and the only buttons the speaker has are for power and volume. You can talk on the phone while it's in the dock, but you'll be using the iPhone's mic, which won't pick you up from very far away, and the audio will come from the iPhone itself.
The battery compartment on the bottom holds 6 AA batteries (not included), which give you about 12 hours of playback time. We wish the speaker had a built-in rechargeable battery instead, but you can always pick up rechargeable AA batteries.
At $169, this is a fairly expensive iPod speaker, but the JBL OnStage IIIp is small enough to be your primary audio system in a den or office, and it's easily portable. We wouldn't recommend using it outside (the bass almost disappears), but indoors the sound is good. JBL claims that the dock will work with even the newiPhone 3G.