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The Best JBL Speakers

June 30, 2016
Product Comparisons, Shopping
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Portable speakers — either tube- or disc-shaped — are easy to carry and stow in a backpack. There are plenty of devices to pick from, but choosing the right speaker can be tricky because you want to consider lots of features beyond portability.

JBL’s line of portable speakers is a good example of how companies have figured out how to produce reasonably high-quality audio from a small package.

With models such as the Flip series, JBL strikes a good balance. All three are easy to transport and pack a punch, although the bass component tends to fall short with more bass-heavy music — you can only fit so much into a 1-pound device.

When JBL gets the bass right, these speakers are hard to ignore, visually and audibly. The JBL Xtreme is a bigger device and can deliver the deep, thumping bass that users may miss in their portable speakers. The Charge and Charge 2+ are midsize speakers and provide more bass than the Flip, but not quite as much as the Xtreme.

In some cases, JBL puts the priority on portability, with models such as the Micro and Clip+. Lightweight, portable and compact, both of these speakers can be thrown in a backpack or clipped for travel or outdoor excursions.

Whether you want to provide a soundtrack for your hikes, beach trips or backyard parties by the pool, or just listen at home, the odds are good that a JBL speaker can fit the bill. Read through our roundup to see which one best fits your speaker needs.

Our analysis: Based on 12,844 analyzed reviews

NerdWallet’s scoring of the best JBL speakers is based on our analysis of the opinions of experts and shoppers like you.

We looked at opinions from industry leader review sites such as CNET and Good Housekeeping to create a list of the most popular speakers on the market. Then we analyzed actual user reviews to see what shoppers were saying about each speaker’s best — and worst — attributes.

Our scores range from a low of 1 to a high of 10. Here’s how we devised them:

Overall score: This score shows reviewers’ overall satisfaction level with the speaker across 16 criteria, including important aspects such as sound quality, features, battery life and durability.

Sound: This score reflects reviewers’ satisfaction with the sound output the speaker produces. In addition to sound clarity and volume, we also accounted for factors like bass and treble.

Ease of use: This score indicates reviewers’ satisfaction with how easy the speaker is to use. Since convenience is a top factor for many speaker users, we looked at several criteria, including features, design, charging and setup.

Let’s see which speakers made our list and how they fared. These are our top picks, ranked in order of overall score.

The speakers

1. JBL Flip 3

Its tough exterior, splashproof material and 10-hour battery make the JBL Flip 3 the go-to, all-weather speaker. Though it lacks a little bass, the Flip 3 provides stereo-quality sound that can be taken anywhere. Users did experience some distortion when the speaker was pushed to higher volumes, but it was able to fill a room with clear, loud sound at moderate levels.


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JBL Flip 3

  • Overall score: 9.10
  • Sound: 9.4
  • Ease of use: 8.3

Buyers Like

  • Good sound balance, especially with instrumental music.
  • Long battery life.
  • Durable build.

Buyers Dislike

  • Distortion at high volumes.
  • Tube design tends to roll.
  • Doesn’t come with carrying case or charger.

2. JBL Charge 2+

JBL managed to squeeze two subwoofers into the splashproof Charge 2+, so users don’t miss the bass thump in their music. The Charge 2+’s battery also holds enough juice to power your phone and play music at the same time. Users said they experienced fluctuations in volume: Some said the volume range depended on what music source was plugged in, whether it was a laptop, tablet, iPhone or Android device. The speaker can hit decent volume levels, but users said that it isn’t ideal in large group settings.


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JBL Charge 2+

  • Overall score: 9.09
  • Sound: 9.1
  • Ease of use: 8.8

Buyers Like

  • Two small woofers for deep bass.
  • Can charge phone.
  • Water-resistant.

Buyers Dislike

  • Volume range not suited for parties.
  • No “feet,” tends to roll.

3. JBL Micro

Lightweight and pocket-sized, the JBL Micro packs good sound levels and quality for a petite, disc-shaped speaker. It’s a simple speaker with no frills: Users can connect via Bluetooth or the attached auxiliary cord and charge via a micro USB port. Although it doesn’t come with a wall charger and has a short battery life, the Micro functions well both indoors and outdoors, in short bursts.


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JBL Micro Wireless Ultra-Portable Speaker

  • Overall score: 8.84
  • Sound: 8.7
  • Ease of use: 8.9

Buyers Like

  • Light and portable.
  • Loud for its size.
  • Carrying case.

Buyers Dislike

  • Doesn’t come with wall charger.
  • Not waterproof.
  • Not enough bass.

4. JBL Xtreme

The Xtreme is the largest and the loudest in JBL’s line of wireless speakers. The speaker is still lightweight although over 4 pounds and comes with a carrying strap to keep it portable. It has subwoofers on both ends, so the bass comes in heavy beneath the clear midrange and high frequencies. Some users don’t like how the woofers aren’t covered, however, and while it’s supposed to be durable and splashproof, many expressed concerns over the exposed radiators.


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JBL Xtreme

  • Overall score: 8.60
  • Sound: 9.4
  • Ease of use: 8.1

Buyers Like

  • Carrying strap.
  • Clear highs, mids and heavy bass.
  • Doesn’t distort at high volumes.
  • Splashproof.

Buyers Dislike

  • Bulky.
  • Subwoofers exposed on ends.
  • Bluetooth connection can be spotty.

5. JBL Charge 2

One of the midsize speakers in JBL’s wireless line, the JBL Charge 2 comes equipped with two bass radiators, a built-in microphone and a battery capable of playing music and charging your phone at the same time. Users said the Charge 2 produced clear, crisp sound but the quality was largely dependent on the genre of music. Some said the speaker struggled with more bass-heavy, complex music and experienced a dropoff in clarity and bass.


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JBL Charge 2

  • Overall score: 8.53
  • Sound: 8.5
  • Ease of use: 8.3

Buyers Like

  • Rich midrange and highs.
  • Long battery life, can charge phone.
  • Lightweight.
  • Durable build.

Buyers Dislike

  • Distortion at high volumes.
  • Lacks bass.

6. JBL Flip 2

Although lightweight and durable, the Flip 2 has a short battery life that puts it at a slight disadvantage as a portable speaker. It still boasts nice sound clarity and can reach decent volumes, especially in small spaces. For a smaller speaker, it can push out a sizable amount of bass, but it can sometimes drown out the treble at higher volumes.


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JBL Flip 2

  • Overall score: 8.52
  • Sound: 9.3
  • Ease of use: 8.9

Buyers Like

  • Good volume for size.
  • Clear, crisp sound.
  • Comes with carrying case.

Buyers Dislike

  • Short battery life.
  • Bluetooth connectivity troublesome.
  • Charging ports wear down quickly.

7. JBL Clip+

Similar to the JBL Micro, the Clip+ is disc-shaped and can fit in the palm of your hand. The clip at the top of the speaker is handy for attaching to a backpack while on a hike or a day at the beach. For its size, it can deliver good volume and sound quality, though it falls short on the bass. The device’s battery life is very short, and it ends to drain more quickly if playing music at higher volumes.


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JBL Clip+

  • Overall score: 8.13
  • Sound: 9.0
  • Ease of use: 8.8

Buyers Like

  • Portable and waterproof.
  • Good sound and volume.

Buyers Dislike

  • Lacks bass.
  • Battery dies quicker when played at high volume.

8. JBL Pulse

The JBL Pulse is the brightest of the bunch, and users liked the colorful LED-light display wrapped around the Pulse’s body. Users can customize and apply light themes to the display via the JBL Connect app. The app also controls the speaker’s equalizer, which allows listeners to adjust the audio levels. The Pulse offered crisp sound at high volumes, but users said it’s missing a heavier bass component.


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JBL Pulse Wireless Speaker

  • Overall score: 8.11
  • Sound: 7.6
  • Ease of use: 9.2

Buyers Like

  • Playful light display.
  • JBL Connect app.
  • Clear sound with wide range.

Buyers Dislike

  • Lights drain battery faster.
  • Doesn’t come with wall charger.
  • Needs more bass.

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JBL Flip 2 vs. JBL Flip 3

Nina Tabios is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ntabios@nerdwallet.com.