JBL describes the JBL Charge 3 as a “waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker with a high-capacity battery to charge your portable devices.” Available in black, blue, grey, red and teal, the speaker puts out serious sound, can go pretty much anywhere you want to go and doubles as an external battery for your smartphone. At $149.95 it’s a bargain.
The other day we took a look at the JBL Clip 2. It is a small but impressive speaker that puts out larger-then-expected sound, has a built-in carabiner clip and, surprisingly, is waterproof. Imagine what would happen if you took the JBL Clip 2, added a substantial amount of fertilizer and planted it in a “speaker garden.” Let the Clip 2 get plenty of sun and water it regularly and you end up with the JBL Charge 3. The Charge 3 has a simple design and a cylindrical shape that looks like it means business. If you imagine one thick slice of a tube of ready-to-bake cookies is the JBL Clip 2, the JBL Charge 3 is the entire tube. It doesn’t have the most interesting industrial design but it gets the job done.
Inside the box you will find:
- The JBL Charge 3
- A 5V 2.3A USB Adapter
- A Micro USB Cable
- A Safety Sheet
- A Quick Start Guide
- A Warranty Card
My review sample came in black although, as noted in the introduction, the speaker is available in a variety of colors.
A small JBL logo on the front adds some interest and, of course, makes it immediately clear that this speaker comes from one of the most respected companies in the audio industry today.
Above the JBL logo are a series of buttons. Since this speaker is waterproof the buttons are sealed and “baked” into the speaker itself. The result is a series of buttons with tactile feel that makes it easy to determine functionality without looking at the speaker. There is a Bluetooth pairing button, the volume down button, the power button, the JBL Connect button (more on that in a bit) the volume up button and the play/pause/track control/voice control button. The raised, rubberized design makes the buttons easy to select and activate.
On the back of the speaker is a thick rubber door that prevents water from getting inside.
Behind the door is the 3.5mm Aux-In port for creating a wired connection to the audio source, the microUSB charging input and a USB charging port that lets you use the speaker as an external battery for smartphones and other portable electronics.
On the bottom of the speaker is a flat rubberized are that lets the speaker sit flat on a surface without sliding around. Hidden into the front portion of this base is an array of five LEDs They pretty much disappear but light up briefly to indicate how much battery life is left in the speaker. This is key since the speaker doubles as an external battery and is a feature common to dedicated external batteries.
On each end of the speaker are passive bass radiators with the JBL logo. When playing music at loud volumes these passive radiators move enough that the air being displaced by them can be felt when a hand is placed near them.
The entire speaker is covered with a thick, waterproof cloth that feels thick and durable. In all, the speaker has a clear look that looks thought without trying too hard. When gripping the speaker it really looks and feels like a small version of a black football. You are, in fact, almost temped to toss it to someone else.
- IPX7 Waterproof: No more worrying about rain or spills; you can even submerge the speaker in water.
- Bluetooth Connectivity: Allows you to wirelessly stream music through any Bluetooth enabled device.
- Built-in Microphone: The built-in microphone allows you to answer calls without skipping a beat.
- Passive Radiators: Passive radiators field enough bass for you to actually see them trembling from the outside.
- Rechargeable Battery: Features a rechargeable battery for convenient portability and extended playback time.
- Recharges your Media Device: This speaker charges your device so you can listen longer and be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- JBL Connect: Build your own ecosystem by connecting multiple JBL Connect enabled speakers together to amplify the listening experience.
As you can tell from the feature list, the JBL Charge 3 is a fully featured speaker. The fact that it has an MSRP of under $150 is a bit of a surprise. That pricing becomes a little bit less of a surprise when one takes into account the fact that this speaker sits between the JBL Flip 3 and the current models of the JBL Pulse and Extreme.
Here’s what JBL has to say about the speaker:
JBL Charge 3 is the ultimate, high-powered portable Bluetooth speaker with powerful stereo sound and a power bank all in one package. The Charge 3 takes the party everywhere, poolside or in the rain, thanks to the waterproof design, durable fabric and rugged housing. Its high-capacity 6,000mAh battery provides 20 hours of playtime and can charge your smartphones and tablets via its USB output. A built-in noise and echo-cancelling speakerphone gives you crystal clear calls with the press of a button. Wirelessly link multiple JBL Connect-enabled speakers to amplify the listening experience.
A 6,000mAh battery that delivers up to 20 hours of music playback? A built in microphone so this speaker is also a hands fee device? The ability to charge your phone while listening to music? A truly waterproof design? Tell me you aren’t impressed. And then, of course, there is JBL Connect.
This last feature is, perhaps, one of the more intriguing aspects of the speaker. The JBL Connect functionality lets you connect two JBL speakers sporting the Connect feature so you get even bigger sound. That means I can connect my JBL Flip 3 or my JBL Pulse 2 speaker to the JBL Charge 3 and get huge sound from two locations. It is a fun feature that, if you opt to dive into the JBL audio ecosystem, you are sure to love.
As for sound… I have no complaints about the audio from the JBL Charge 3. It gets loud and sounds great. There is plenty of bass and the sound is crisp and clean. Honestly, if you listened to this speaker with a blindfold on you would not think you were listening to something that is less than $150.
The only two downsides to this speaker are fairly nit-picky. First, then you turn the speaker on and off there is a loud indicator sound. This can be a bit jarring and if there is someone taking a nap nearby they may be displeased by the disturbance. Second, since this speaker is truly waterproof- it is not water-resistant like the current JBL Flip and JBL Extreme but is truly waterproof- it is designed to go with you on your adventures. That noted, it would have made sense for the speaker to ship with a protective case and some system for hanging it from a tree or a sailboat railing. It doesn’t… And it doesn’t… And that is a small bummer. Still, for $150 I think this speaker is nearly perfect. Get one and you won’t regret it! Check it out and order yours here.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth speaker
What I Like: Waterproof; Excellent sound; JBL Connect; Charges phone; Looks as powerful as it is
What Needs Improvement: No protective bag included; No way to hang it