JBL’s Creature II consists of tiny satellites (3″ x 3″) that look like, well, little creatures, and a subwoofer that looks like their very big creature brother. Chrome-looking knobs on the subwoofer allow you to fine-tune the bass and treble, and touch-sensitive volume controls on the right satellite are, no pun intended, a nice touch. Perfect for smaller rooms, desks, and other locations where volume isn’t the ultimate goal, The Creature II’s biggest “drawback” is that the subwoofer looks so nice you won’t want to stick it out of sight on the floor — our evaluation unit ended up occupying precious desk space just so we could show it off.
But the Creature II isn’t just nice to look at; it also provides surprisingly good sound quality. Nearly everyone who auditioned the Creature II was shocked at the sound such a tiny system could produce. It won’t play as loud as many bigger systems, its relatively small subwoofer can’t produce the lowest notes, and overall the treble is a bit “tinny,” but the Creature II provides some of the best bang-for-the-buck sound of any system we’ve tested and a combination of sound quality and killer design unmatched in the under-$100 market. We wish the Creature II featured an additional input jack on one of the satellites or the sub, but even with this minor shortcoming, the system easily earns our Playlist Pick designation.–Dan Frakes