Review: Jensen’s Banshee JISS 330 and JISS 550 docking speakers for iPod - Macenstein

Review: Jensen’s Banshee JISS 330 and JISS 550 docking speakers for iPod

Banshee speakers

Banshee is about to release their JISS 330 and JISS 550 speakers for the iPod, and we managed to get a sneak peak.

The JISS 550 and its little brother the JISS 330 look remarkably similar to Banshee’s 5.0 surround sound speakers we reviewed back in July of 2006. We’ve found the Banshee’s “unique” styling is either a big hit or a big miss with most people, but after having seen so many similar-looking iPod speakers, we still appreciate its futuristic, hair dryer aesthetics.

While on the outside it might appear that not much has changed, inside it’s a different story. Banshee has contracted with Jensen to retool the Banshee from the inside out, and the difference in audio quality is noticeable.


Jensen made a number of improvements to the circuit board of the Banshee to allow for less variation in sound output and filtering than its predecessor. The Banshee now does not distort when the iPod is at maximum volume, something we noticed began to happen on the original over time. Additionally, The Banshee is now one of the few iPod speakers out there (and the only under $250 we’re aware of) to use porting to improve air flow and bass quality.

The sound is perceptibly cleaner, and the unit feels “tighter” – more solid than the original. Also to Jensen’s credit, the Banshee’s now sport the official “Made for IPod” badge meaning you needn’t worry about frying your iPod.

Banshee speakers
Above: The JISS 550 uses an external docking cradle to connect your iPod.


At first look the outside of the Banshee seems more or less unchanged from the original, but there have been a number of small improvements, and all of them for the better. First, the JISS-550’s (the big guy) external docking cradle now charges your iPod (or iPhone), something the original cradle inexplicably did not do. The JISS-330 (the little guy) has a built-in charging dock on the top of the speaker. Second, both units now include a remote which lets you turn on the devices, skip songs, and pause the music.

Perhaps the most surprising addition (given the Banshees’ price points) is the added video out ports (both composite and S-Video) to both speakers (both sets of cables included). I’m not sure how many adults find video out useful on their iPod speakers, but I know of quite a few 10-20 year-olds who do, and I think that age bracket is a target audience for the Banshee.

Another small but welcome change is the addition of a blue power light that lets you know when the Banshee is on (it also makes it look a bit cooler in the dark).

Banshee speakers

Both speakers ship with the requisite dock adapters to make sure your iPod fits (both nano and regular). Shuffle owners will be happy to know you can also connect other non-dock MP3 players or computers to the new Banshees via the mini-stereo line in plug.

JISS 330 vs the JISS 550

Looking at the two units, you can probably guess that the main difference between them is size, both physically, and acoustically. The 25-Watt 550 (with its 5 speakers) has the ability to give a pseudo surround-sound effect, and delivers much better bass response than the 330. While not sounding nearly as good as the 550, the 10-Watt 330, with its smaller form factor, more or less identical feature set, and lower price ($99), does not embarrass itself audio-wise, and is still a good choice for a tween/teen’s bedroom. I found on both speakers some fiddling is required with the iPod’s EQ to get the best sound. My new favorite iPod speaker preset for small speakers is “Latin” which lowers the mid range a bit, and I found it to work well with both models of Banshee for most types of music.

Banshee speakers

In a toss up between the two, (assuming the $30 price difference is not a deal breaker), I would definitely go with the 550. The audio is noticeably better, and the bass is worlds above the 330. The 550’s 5 speakers combine to produce a pseudo surround sound effect that the 330 does not. Plus the 550 is not exactly a space hog (measuring just under 13-inches wide) so there are few situations where the extra 4.5 niches of width over the 330 would rule out the 550.

I also like the 550’s external docking cup design. Most iPod speakers with docks go the “dock on top” route (like the 330). I like that the 550 can be hooked to a computer, TV, or home stereo and stand on its own with no empty iPod dock marring the design. I also like that I can place the 550 on the shelf above my monitor, yet still have the docking cup on the desk next to me for easy access.

Banshee speakers
The JISS 550’s docking cradle connects via this unique plug that allows for other MP3 players to be used as well as the iPod.


Perhaps since I have the original Banshee, the fact that the basic physical design remains unchanged is more of an issue for me that others. When I first saw the Banshee, I thought, “Wow, that’s kind of a cool design!” – I had not seen anything quite like it. Now nearly 2 years later, I would like to have seen some sort of sprucing up of the design. I’m a bit surprised that with this refresh that the Banshee does not come in multiple colors, for instance. I could absolutely see a hot pink, electric blue, or brushed metal/gray Banshee looking quite cool and going over well with the Circuit City/Best Buy/Target crowd where the Banshee will be sold this holiday season (Target in particular seems to produce pink versions of many iPod accessories).

As far as actual technical issues, I only have a couple minor gripes as both systems provide a great value for their price. First, the remote, while very comfortable in the hand, is a bit big (especially so for the 330). There are only 6 buttons on the remote, and I would have tolerated a smaller, less comfortable remote (after all, how long is the remote actually in your hand on a speaker system?).

Banshee speakers
The back of the JISS 330. Notice the small “iPod” switch on the far right.

Second, on the 330, there is a small switch in the rear which you need to switch when moving from a line-in audio source to the iPod dock. The 550 seems to sense this automatically, and does not require this switch. This may or may not be annoying to you depending on how often you have the Banshee hooked up to a DVD player or other audio source and need to switch back over to the iPod.

Banshee speakers
That’s one big honking plug.

Another small annoyance of both speakers is the power adapter. Given a choice between a giant AC plug and an in-cord power brick, I will take the brick anytime. Both Banshees sport the giant outlet-blocking AC plug that the Turbo Squid was built for. This isn’t really a design flaw or anything – just a personal preference of mine.

The last complaint I have may seem a little odd, as I am complaining about a feature the systems HAVE that I want taken AWAY. Both systems sport a low frequency output for a subwoofer (as did the original Banshee). Honestly, this seems a little useless to me. To my mind, folks wanting to buy a $99 to $129 iPod speaker are not going to shell out an additional $80-$150 on a stand alone subwoofer. Additionally, Jensen does not make a subwoofer that compliments the Banshee’s unique design, so odds are if you do want some extra bass, you’ll have to go with a blocky 3rd party subwoofer such as the horrible Sonic Impact Maxx, which will nearly double the size and cost of the Banshee. If you already own a compatible mini sub then perhaps the built-in LF out support is a bonus selling feature, but if removing it would lower the Banshee’s cost a couple bucks, I’m all for it.


Jensen’s Banshee JISS 330 ($99) and JISS 550 ($129) docking speakers for iPod both deliver above average sound and a wealth of extra features. To my mind, the 550 is the clear winner between the two, and would receive my buying recommendation.

Both systems sport the “Made for iPod” certification tag, include a remote, video out, docking station, and LF sub-woofer out support, leaving very few features wanting. Priced between $99 and $129, these are not $300-sounding speakers, but the 550’s sound comes close to many $175-$200 speakers, and offers more extras.

JISS 550

Price: $129

Pros: Great sound given its price (delivers “surround sound” effect), compact, external docking cradle, video out, remote, cables included

Cons: Design could use a little updating, remote a bit large, audio a bit mid-rangey

JISS 330

Price: $99

Pros: Good sound given its price, small form factor, docking cradle, video out, remote, cables included

Cons: Lacks the bass of the 550, remote a bit large, audio a bit mid-rangey

15 Responses to “Review: Jensen’s Banshee JISS 330 and JISS 550 docking speakers for iPod”
  1. Ethan says:

    Got to be the ugliest speakers being sold.

  2. Mr. turnaround says:

    great products. Have the 550 at home and my son wants the 330 for his room. The 550 is used both on my iPod and on my computer. The sound is excellent and the quality of the products is on par or better to the Altec and Logitech product I have purchased in the past. Highly recommend this product.

  3. ass ugly says:

    Can you say “ass ugly”?

  4. Will says:

    The Banshee is by far the best iPod speaker system i have ever had. I have had numerous speaker systems and even though they were bigger, they had less sound. I can hear my music from my room when its in my basement when its playing at full volume. Its a great, cheap system and i recommend buying it.

  5. Bob says:

    i use the 550 in my living room as my main audio player. Its really an eye-catcher. Nearly everyone has something to say about the units radical looks and they are always surprised that the music they are hearing is coming from such a compact unit. I originally bought the unit based on its aesthetics but the audio quality is incredible. as the review says it maintains perfect audio clarity at all volumes and it really fills the room with sound.

    If you want something that performs great and looks unique then i would recommend the banshee speakers

  6. chewy says:

    I think these look really awesome. I have been looking for something that was different style with good sound. I am at an Apple store as I am writing this and wish they carried the Banshee. The speakers here for the same price range seem very lame.

  7. Rev13 says:

    gotta say, I have the original as well as the new one.
    and the new one ( I agree) is a solid upgrade!
    Sounds fantastic, looks cool and i love the remote.
    I’ve found – shutting off the EQ on your iPod gets a great sound, but I’ll try the “latin” setting you described.
    the best iPod speakers I’ve had so far (returned 2 other lame ass brands before I got my first one)

  8. drewsdg says:

    i think the thing looks awesome when seen in person. It really caught my eye when i saw it. i was even more impressed when my friend turned it on.

    great product

  9. dabears says:

    Its nice to see a company put something different out on the market. They really do produce amazing sound

  10. alex says:

    have them on my desk at work. while some have said that they sound great at high volumes, I think it produces surprisingly rich sound at low volumes too

  11. Frank says:

    My older daughter has the original model and she loves it . . . it sounds great and all of her friends think it’s “funky” and cool. Now my younger daughter has heard the new model at Meijer’s and says that the sound is even better. It looks like I’ll be buying another Banshee this weekend.

  12. onesweetdude says:


  13. lee says:

    I have owned both the original banshee 5.0 and I currently own the new banshee 550 system. I absolutely love them, and I don’t think their is a better ipod docking sound system for under $250.

    First of all the sound is amazing, it sounds unbelievably clear but at the same time it have a decent amount of bass coming from the air induction hole spaces on the sides of the banshee instead of a circuit that fakes a bass sound. There is absolutely no distortion in the sound in first 97% of the volume range. Also the banshee is not afraid to get loud either unlike most systems that limit the volume to a very low limit where the banshee is only 50% of its sound volume. The detail of the sound blows me away with very clear lows to great clarity at the highs. I think the sound surpass anything I heard for $250 or less (I work at circuit city in the mp3 department) and I think it matches the Bose sound dock in terms of sound quality at half the price and has the most watts of any of the systems I’ve seen in its price range.

    The banshee stands out in a crowd of all look alike ipod docking sound system and it just plain looks awesome I my opinion. The docking cradle with built in charging dock connector is a very nice touch along with very cool looking wireless remote that controls the system. The developers at banshee audio definitely did their homework when it came to thesecond generation banshee 5.0. it has a A/V out and a s video out which is nice to be able to plug it into the tv to watch your video ( at the price who else has that feature) and a plug for a separate sub woofer.

    all in all a great ipod docking sound system

  14. VonSevered says:

    Folks, let me say Mr. AssUgly up there has his head up his….

    These things are awesome, I have the 550, and love it.
    I’m glad they added the recharging dock and the remote

    Looks great on my desk at work and sounds better!

  15. Alexander says:

    hey,can you use it for a psp

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