Product Review (September 2016)
JBL Bluetooth Speakers
Charge 3, Pulse 2, Flip 3, & Clip 2

By Rita Nakano

JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Bluetooth SpeakerBluetooth speakers have flooded the market, yet not all designs have the same level of sound quality. Many of the better designs provide amazingly good performance and that has been our experience with the new JBL Bluetooth speakers. We had the opportunity to review four different models ranging from the least expensive Clip 2 ($60) to the more costly Pulse 2 ($200) and took them into real-world environments to see how they performed. We started out with the Charge 3 and put it into a robotics shop where we build our competition robots for the FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition).

JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Bluetooth SpeakerThe JBL Charge 3 ($150) is available in five colors (grey, blue, black, red and teal) and is designed to provide high-powered portable Bluetooth stereo sound along with a power bank to charge phones all in one package. The larger size (approximately 8.5" x 3.5") of the Charge 3 allows it to produce higher levels of sound even in large open areas. JBL even made these speakers splash-proof, so that you can take them to places where you might otherwise worry about it. The high-capacity 6,000mAh battery provides up to 20 hours of playtime with spare energy to charge your smartphones and tablets through the USB connection. Another nice feature is the built-in noise and echo-canceling speakerphone that provides users with clear calls at the press of a button.

JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Bluetooth SpeakerPerformance
Our robotics team (TorBots) has a fairly large working facility with plenty of background noise (motors whirling, welders running, kids talking, etc.), so it was a great place to see how well the Charge 3 speaker performed. Let's face it, kids like to listen to music, so I had them connect it to their phones and put it to the test. We also used the Bluetooth interface when presenting videos from our laptops to a broader audience. We found that the Charge 3 has great sound quality and is capable of filling a good sized room with full range music. We played a lot of music in the robotics shop and the bass was impressive from this speaker. The bass is obviously enhanced (maybe even a bit too much in some cases), but it sounded good in the shop. I have become accustomed to hearing weak bass from smaller players, but the Charge 3 delivers in this area. The low frequency response changes when placed vertically, but a lot of this has to do with the way the bass is being transferred to the surface it is sitting on. In many cases this works very well. The built-in microphone for handling phone calls is a handy feature that works great. The speaker comes with a charger and long cable.

What's in the box (Charge 3)
- JBL Charge 3

- 5V 2.3A USB Adapter
- Micro USB Cable
- Safety Sheet
- Quick Start Guide
- Warranty Card

JBL Pulse 2 Bluetooth SpeakerPulse 2
The JBL Pulse 2 ($199.95) is another larger Bluetooth speaker, slightly smaller than the Charge 3 (measuring around 7.7" x 3.3"), that offers great sound along with a unique interactive light show with glowing, multi-colored themes. The Pulse 2 includes JBL's Prism Color Sensor Lens, which at a push of a button, scans the color in front of it and mimics that color as part of the light show. When the color button is pressed, a white colored LED is used to illuminate the area in front of the sensor so the unit can take a color reading. The surface needs to be fairly close to the sensor for the system to work properly. There are some colors that seem to work better with the unit than others

Like some of the other JBL models, the Pulse 2 has a splash-proof design making it great for outdoor use and includes the noise and echo canceling speakerphone. In addition, this speaker has the JBL Connect technology that can wirelessly link multiple JBL Connect enabled speakers together. This speaker provides up to 10 hours of playtime thanks to the built-in 6000mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery. The Pulse 2 also includes the ability to wirelessly connect up to 3 smartphones or tablets so users can take turns playing music.

JBL Pulse 2 Bluetooth SpeakerPerformance
The Pulse 2 offers a colorful way to express your music while providing great sound from the larger housing. For me, I would rather put all my money into sound performance and less into the light show, but it is a unique addition to the JBL Bluetooth lineup. My daughters absolutely loved the feature and felt that the color add a whole new dimension to playing music through a bluetooth speaker. They especially liked the ability to match a color scheme using the Prism Color Sensor. In outdoor environments, it was difficult to see the benefits of the Pulse 2 colors as the bright sun had a tendency to make it difficult to see, but shaded or indoor settings worked well.

Audio performance was similar to the Charge 3, but will a bit less capability in the lower frequencies. The speaker projected sound well and had no problem providing a satisfying music experience. Don't let the colors distract from the great sound produced from this compact bluetooth speaker design. The Pulse 2 speaker comes with a charger and long USB cable.

What's in the box (Pulse 2)
- JBL Pulse 2
- 5V 2.3A USB Adaptor
- Micro USB Cable
- Safety Sheet
- Quick Start Guide
- Warranty Card

JBL Flip 3 Bluetooth SpeakerFlip 3
The JBL Flip 3 ($89.95) is the latest generation in JBL's award-winning Flip series. This Bluetooth speaker has a reputation for delivering great sound from a compact package (approximately 6.7" x 2.5") and is capable filling a fairly large room with great stereo sound. The Flip 3 is smaller in size than the Charge 3 and Pulse 2, but does a respectable job when it come to audio performance. The Flip 3 is an example of balancing between speaker size and sound quality. The 3000mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery offers up to 10 hours of continuous playtime. With it's waterproof housing, the Flip 3 is ideal for pool areas as well as a tabletop. Like the other offerings from JBL, the Flip 3 also features a built-in noise and echo canceling speakerphone for clear phone calls. JBL's Connect technology allows users to wirelessly link multiple JBL Connect enabled speakers together to increase the sound levels, improving the overall listening experience in larger spaces.

JBL Flip 3 Bluetooth SpeakerLots of Colors
The Flip 3 offers durable and splash-proof fabric that is available in 8 vibrant colors (teal, red, black, blue, pink, grey, yellow, and orange). You can't say that JBL doesn't have a lot of colors with this model. In fact, it is likely that the Flip 3 is one of their best sellers given the relatively low price and the great audio performance.

The sound quality of the Flip 3 is certainly impressive given its size. The unit can be placed horizontally or placed on one of its sides. However, we found that the bass response is best when one of the side ports is not covered. However, in some cases (depending on the surface the unit is placed on) the bass is nicely coupled to the surface and can make the bass more pronounced.

JBL Flip 3 Bluetooth SpeakerThe back of the Flip 3 has an auxiliary port for a standard 3.5mm plug and the micro USB jack is used to charge the unit. A 5-level indicator shows the battery charging level.

What's in the box (Flip 3)
- JBL Flip 3
- Micro USB Cable
- Quick Start Guide
- Safety Sheet
- Warranty Card included

JBL Clip 2 Bluetooth SpeakerClip 2
The JBL Clip 2 is an affordable ($59.95), compact (approximately 5.6" x 3.7" x 1.7"), light-weight (0.4 lbs.), rugged and powerful portable Bluetooth speaker that is designed to be clipped and placed where you want music. The size and weight allows it to be placed in locations where the larger Bluetooth players may not fit. The Clip 2 is available in teal, grey, black, blue, and red. The spring loaded clip makes it easy to hang from various locations, especially with its lightweight design.

JBL Clip 2 Bluetooth SpeakerThe Clip 2 is completely waterproof (IPX7) and provides up to 8 hours of playtime, whether your riding on a bike or sitting near the pool. The design allows you to wirelessly connect two Clip 2 speakers together to enjoy louder sound to cover a larger area. Like the other JBL Bluetooth designs, the Clip 2 can be used to make clear, noise and echo free phone calls. This can be really convenient when you don't want to have your phone near the water. The JBL Clip 2 is covered with durable waterproof fabric.

The back of the Clip 2 has a tethered 3.5mm plug with cable that can be connected to audio devices that do not have Bluetooth. I found this to be less useful since most audio players support Bluetooth.

The Clip 2 is a great design that is small and portable. However, this comes with a price (a low price in this case), where the audio is not as punchy and loud as the bigger brothers. Sure you can connect two of them, but I would prefer the sound of the larger Pulse 2 or Charge 3 if space permits. Don't get me wrong, this Bluetooth speaker sounds great, but won't fill a room the way the larger, more expensive units do.

Package Includes
- JBL Clip 2
- Micro USB cable for charging
- Quick Start Guide
- Safety Sheet
- Warranty Card

JBL Charge 3 with TorBotsConclusion
JBL offers a good variety of excellent sounding Bluetooth speakers at virtually every price point. Many of the models share similar features with the larger units offering substantially better bass response than the less costly designs such as the Clip 2. The Charge 3 was our favorite, with big sound in a solid package. The picture to the right has the Charge 3 sitting on a table in our robotics shop. This unit provided hours of high quality music and the teens absolutely loved it. The Flip 3 came in close second with it's more compact size and excellent sound quality and is likely the most popular model given its price and performance. JBL has a full range of Bluetooth speakers at every price point that will surely please its customers.

- Rita Nakano

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Review - At a Glance

JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth Speaker Specs

JBL Flip 3 Bluetooth Speaker Specs

JBL Pulse 2 Bluetooth Speaker Specs

Company Information

HARMAN International
400 Atlantic Street
Stamford, CT 06901, USA

Customer Service (800) 336-4525
Mon - Fri: 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. (ET)
Sat - Sun: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (ET)

Source: Manufacturer Supplied
MSRP: $149.95 (Charge 3)

MSRP: $199.95 (Pulse 2)
MSRP: $89.95 (Flip 3)
MSRP: $59.95 (Clip 2)


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