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

JBL Encounter 2.1
May 5, 2005 | Tim Morgan

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Breathe easy. There’s no need to call the National Guard, nor do you require that radiation suit you’ve got. Aliens have not landed — it’s Harman Multimedia’s latest stylish offering from another planet, the JBL Encounter.

Harman Kardon (otherwise known as Harman Multimedia) has crafted the sexy Encounter, and it’s descending slowly onto desktops as a glistening new 2.1 speaker system. And while Harman’s name may have some small identity issues, their product line is carved from a singular theme, originating from worlds far from our own.

The Encounter is a 2.1 speaker and subwoofer system whose alien appearance makes for a welcome change from the land-lubbing cookie-cutter styles of other speakers. But looks can be deceiving; did HK put form before function? A two-week trial by fire would allow me to determine that (at least, once the speakers were freed from the quarantine room). So put away the radiation suit and hop in the craft for a ride, Navigator, to determine if these speakers can sound as sweet as they appear.

Houston, the Eagle has landed
First Contact with the Encounter was tentative; I was awestruck at the suave shape of the subwoofer and its space-borne orbiting satellites, but the novel design made setup only slightly more difficult than usual. It was a small amount of time plugging the satellites, computer, and power into the sub.

Now, mind you, simple plugs are far to uncool for the Encounter — HK provides you with their own cables whose plugs interlock perfectly with neighboring plugs and dials, like a jigsaw puzzle that when put together makes a waterfall of cables emanating from the back of the sub slash spaceship. The advantage to these jigsaw-puzzle plugs is that they are wide enough for their names to be printed on them: “Audio In” or “Lt Sat,” for instance, in the event that the subwoofer’s position is such that reading labels above the jacks is inconvenient.

As a side note, you can’t use your own plugs; I tried and I got only distorted monaural audio coming from the speakers.

The subwoofer is a tall conical contraption, standing upright upon silver landing struts as if freshly descended upon our soil, with a driver pointing into the ground to deliver bass tones and an air intake on top. The speakers, white alien orbs with enormous grille eyes standing atop stout bases, have two drivers facing out in either direction. They seem friendly enough, if you don’t mind the fact that they stare at you at all hours.


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