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Manufacturer: Harman Multimedia
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: Minijack Audio Port

JBL Creature
January 16, 2003 | Patrick Leyden

The 2002 Macworld Expo in New York City saw the introduction of many great products, including a new offering from a company whose name has become synonymous with high-quality audio. Harman Multimedia unveiled its latest entry into the computer speaker market: the Creature. With an emphasis on eye-catching industrial design, the JBL Creature speaker system is positioned as a reasonably priced audio peripheral that is a perfect companion to any Mac.

Specs and Design
The JBL Creature is a 2.1 speaker system. In layman's terms, this means that there are two satellite speakers for high and midrange frequency sound, with a subwoofer added to reproduce the low end bass effects. This speaker configuration is easily the most common for Mac users, and the Harman/Kardon Sound Sticks, Apple Pro Speaker/iSub combination and the Monsoon PlanarMedia 9 are just a few examples of comparable systems.

With the main drivers coming in at a small 2-inches high and the subwoofer topping out at 8-inches, these speakers may be Creatures in name but they are anything but monstrous in size. Luckily for Mac gamers, these speakers have more than enough power to deliver killer sound. The two left and right channel satellite speakers pump out a total of 8-watts of audio power in a package that can easily fit into the palm of your hand. The 24-watt subwoofer fills out the sound but does not overpower the smaller satellites.

The speakers are encased in a smooth, rounded plastic shell that calls to mind the peaks of a far-off mountain. Available in white, silver and blue, the Creature system looks as though it is hiding the fact that it is a speaker system and not some work of modern sculpture.

Getting Started
Like the design of today's Macintosh computers, their head-turning style of the Creature speaker system is combined with real-world usability. Improperly configuring the Creature speakers is practically impossible. Not only are the included audio cables color-coded, but there are also tiny colored lights on the bottom of the left and right channel speakers. These only turn on when the 1/4 inch mini audio cable is correctly plugged into the subwoofer. This simple visual cue provides the user with immediate verification that all of the system?s cables are plugged in and ready to go. Plus, it makes the speakers look all the more cooler when they are turned on.

Once everything is set up, the next step is to set the sound to your liking. The Creature speaker subwoofer acts as a kind of base station for many of the important audio controls. Besides the power switch, the subwoofer is the home of two silver knobs that allow the Bass (low frequency sound) and Treble (high frequency sound) to be adjusted. These controls are not hidden on the back of the subwoofer; rather, these bullet-shaped controls appear as though they are bursting through the front edges of the device. This is a blending of form and functionality that Apple?s own industrial design wizard, Jonathan Ive, would be proud of.

The right channel speaker also does double duty as a volume control mechanism. The buttons on its face are touch-sensitive. What this means is that there are no clumsy switches to press, you simply glide your fingers across the volume up and down controls to correspondingly raise and lower the level of the sound. If that weren't enough, by touching both volume controls at the same time will instantly mute the sound, which is a great feature to have if the telephone rings while you are in the middle of taking out an army of Orcs in Warcraft III.


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