Review: JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth Speaker

JBL is no stranger to the speaker market and equally so, no stranger to the Bluetooth speaker market. In fact, regardless of your Bluetooth speaker requirements, there is a good chance that JBL has a speaker to match your needs. Their selection ranges from big and powerful, to small and portable and just about everywhere in between. Including those like the JBL Pulse range which offer a bit more of a party atmosphere along with your audio output. The JBL Charge range however, is one of their bread and butter ranges which looks to offer a mid-level of power and at a mid-level price point. The JBL Charge 3 is the latest addition to this lineup and is one which is priced at the $149.95 marker.

Specs

The JBL Charge 3 comes equipped with a two 50 mm full range drivers and is rated to offer 10-watts RMS per channel. This is a speaker which is also rated as being able to make use of a frequency range of 65 Hz-20 kHz, as well as a Signal-to-Noise Ratio of 80 dB. In terms of connectivity, the JBL Charge 3 which makes use of Bluetooth 4.1, which does mean that it should easily and reliably be able to establish and maintain a wireless connection up to a distance of 33-feet away from a connected device. In terms of battery life, the JBL Charge 3 comes packing a 6,000 mAh rechargeable battery (which also doubles as a power bank) and is said to be able to offer as much as 20-hours of continuous playback between charges, although JBL does specify that this will vary depending on volume and content. The downside of a large internal battery is that it does need longer to be fully recharged, with JBL listing 4.5 hours as the official charge time from empty to full. In terms of its physical properties, the JBL Charge 3 is IPX7 waterproof certified, which means it can be fully submerged in water and for as long as 30-minutes and to a depth of 1-meter. The JBL Charge 3 measures 213 mm by 87 mm by 88.5 mm and weighs in at 800 grams. The JBL Charge 3 comes with a listed $149.99 retail price and is available in a selection of color options including black, blue, grey, red and teal

In the box

With this being a JBL product, you would expect the presentation and general unboxing experience to be good and it is. The JBL Charge 3 comes packaged within a fairly typical and highly-identifiable JBL-branded box. In addition to the actual JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth speaker, you can also expect to find a same-colored microUSB charging cable, a matching colored 2.3-amp USB wall plug adapter, as well as the various paperwork including a quick start guide, warranty card and a safety sheet.

Design & Hardware

Generally speaking, much of the JBL Bluetooth speaker ranges adopt a very similar persona and general level of presentation. So when you opt to pick up any of the mainstream lines like the Xtreme, Charge, Pulse or otherwise, you will be picking up a fairly identifiable product. The JBL Charge 3 follows in that tradition nicely and does very much resemble much of the JBL Bluetooth offerings including the predecessor range speakers like the JBL Charge 2 and the Charge 2+. Although, this one is a little bit bigger in size overall.

This is a speaker which is available in a whole host of color schemes including black, blue, grey, red and teal. Color aside though and the JBL Charge 3 comes with its trademark textured exterior. This includes rubberized sides (which house the JBL branded passive radiators) and base, mixed in with a mesh-type material. Consistent with most of the JBL range, this results in a very durable overall speaker as the internals are pretty much encased within this shell. So like the predecessors from this range, this is a water-resistant speaker. Although, the JBL Charge 3 takes the resistance further than ever before, with this one able to be completely submerged in water (for a short period of time) without incurring any damage.

The front of the speaker is where you will find all the controls which run vertically down the center (in the upright position) and this is one of the major design changes between this version and the JBL Charge 2. On the previous model, these controls also did run down the side of the device but as part of a rubberized cutout which spanned the entirety of the side of the device. On this model and consistent with some of the other recent JBL Bluetooth products, the buttons now come included within the woven mesh type exterior.

Buttons on offer include play/pause, volume up/skip forward, volume down/skip back and a Bluetooth pairing button. This is as well as the power on/off button and the JBL Connect button - which allows up to connect the JBL Charge 3 to other JBL speakers for an increased level of output by using the JBL Connect Android app which is available from the Google Play Store.

Moving to the back of the device and a substantial portion of the back is made up of a rubberized base. The first thing to note about the base is that it does flatten out from the general circular design on offer with the Charge 3. Which means this is a Bluetooth speaker which can just as easily be positioned horizontally as well as vertically. Down one side of the base is five small LED indicators which keep you abreast of the current power level.

On the other side of the base is where you will find the connection plate. Under which, you will find the main power port, as well as a micro USB and standard USB port. It is worth keeping in mind that this speaker does have the ability to double as a power bank, so using these USB ports will charge your external devices like your smartphone.

Besides these design points, the rest of the speaker largely remains untouched barring the inclusion of the JBL branding plaque which rests dead center when the speaker is positioned in the horizontal position. Overall, the design will not come as much of a surprise to those who are used to JBL branded Bluetooth speakers. This is a very typical looking JBL branded product now and one which is sure to fit in nicely with any existing-owned JBL Bluetooth speakers that you might have.

Sound Quality & Performance

It is to be expected that the sound quality on offer with any JBL product will be of a certain level. After all, these products do command a certain minimum price and that does mean they command a similar expectation of quality. In particular, the JBL Charge range is a specific type of speaker which looks to offer extra added value by compacting a big sound into a small form factor and the JBL Charge 3 continues this ethos well. Especially in terms of volume.

This is a pretty loud speaker and certainly louder than you will likely get from a similar sized speaker from another manufacturer. Therefore, those looking for a powerful sound will quite like what is on offer here with the JBL Charge 3. As this speaker is a little larger than its predecessor, another notable difference between the Charge 3 and those that came before it is the bass output. This is a very bassy little speaker which combined with the increase in volume (compared to past Charge devices) makes it is clear that the JBL Charge 3 is largely designed to be loud and bass-focused.

However, this is where a criticism can be raised as the combined volume increase and the firmer bass does mean that this is a speaker which verges on being too bass-heavy. That is, the rest of the frequency range can at times feel a little overwhelmed. For some this won't be an issue and might actually end up being a selling point, as it is loud and it handles bass well - for its size. But, if played at a lesser volume, the output is just not as balanced as it could be. More to the point, as balanced as one might expect from a JBL product. So the best way to understand the sound you are getting is to know that the high frequencies feel a little overwhelmed by the power of the bottom end. Mids are less problematic as they do come through more dominantly than the tops, which in itself does further add to the high frequencies sounding less obvious.

Of course, this is not necessarily a negative and certainly will be the preference for those who prefer a more bottom-heavy sound. However, for those that are looking for a balanced all-round sound, the JBL Charge 3 is slightly skewed in the bottom region. One benefit though, is definitely the volume. If you are looking for a big sound with a decent bass output and from a relatively small sized speaker, then the JBL Charge 3 might just be the ticket.

Battery Life & Connectivity

As already noted, one of the big improvements with the JBL Charge 3 is the actual battery life on offer, with this one rated to offer up to twenty hours of continuous playback. Which does seem to be a very good measurement of battery life you should expect. During testing, it was particularly difficult to drain the battery out completely. Even at higher volume, the JBL charge 3 does offer an impressive level of playback and certainly more than enough to make it through any one sitting. It is fair enough to assume you can expect upwards of 15 hours of playback at the very highest of volumes and while listening to more bass-heavy content. Lowering the volume will extend the battery life and push you closer to that 20-hour limit. Although, either way battery life was not considered an issue with the JBL Charge 3. In particular, it is worth pointing out that when in 'off' mode it seemed as though there was no battery drain at all. You can simply leave this speaker for prolonged periods without turning on and know that when you do turn it on, it will have power and be ready to use. Which is not the case with a number of alternatives that do deplete when turned off and not connected to the wall. In terms of charging, officially the JBL Charge 3 is listed to take about four and a half hours to be recharged fully. However, in testing, the Charge 3 always charged much quicker than this and when charging using the official cable and wall adapter, you should expect a full charge in about three and a half hours.

As to be expected with JBL Bluetooth products in general, there is very little to complain or note in terms of connectivity. This is a very solid speaker which is easily able to establish and maintain a connection with a Bluetooth streaming device. During testing, the JBL Charge 3 never once failed to maintain the connection and was able to keep the connection going even at a distance, reliably. Likewise, when the battery does start to reach depletion, this is not a speaker which will become intermittent in any respect and will maintain a solid connection until the speaker physically turns off due to power loss. So you can count on a reliable connection right to the very end.

Overall, the JBL Charge 3 is a very effective speaker in terms of its battery life and connectivity, which is particularly impressive considering its size. While this is slightly bigger than its predecessors, it is still a small speaker in the grand scheme of things. Although, the smallness is not something that is defined by its battery life which is big, or its ability to connect which is solid.

Wrap Up

When it comes to summing up the JBL Charge 3, there are some very clear determinations which can be made. For its size, this is a very loud, bassy and good sounding speaker. If you are new to the JBL range and are looking for a very decent Bluetooth speaker which offers a good sound, excellent battery life and connectivity and at an affordable price, then the JBL Charge 3 is definitely worth considering and it is well worth the asking price. The only issues will be for those who already own the previous model. Whether there is enough of an upgrade in this version to warrant upgrading to this model remains to be seen. Yes, it is louder, but how much louder is another issue. Not to mention, while it is bassier, this does seem to have a knock-on effect for the rest of the frequency range. If you thought the previous JBL Charge was not bassy enough or not loud enough, then these are points that will play to your needs when upgrading. Although, the one benefit of picking up the JBL Charge 3 when you already own a JBL Charge Bluetooth speaker (or any other JBL speaker for that matter) is that it does flawlessly connect to those speakers and this will always result in a much improved and varied sound overall.

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About the Author
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John Anon

Editor-in-Chief
John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]
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