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JBL Charge 3 Review: The Best of Both Worlds

Aug. 3, 2016
Product Comparisons, Shopping
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Bass and portability: For many who listen to Bluetooth speakers, you can have only one at a time. But the JBL Charge 3 takes a stab at capturing both. By making it slightly larger, JBL improves the bass component in its latest speaker while preserving its mobility.

If bass power and portable size are listed as your top speaker priorities, the Charge 3 might be what you’re looking for. Read through our review to help determine whether this device fits your needs.

Design

The JBL Charge 3 is the biggest speaker in the Charge line and packs the most audio power. At a little under 2 pounds, it isn’t exactly heavy, but is still bulkier than its predecessor, the Charge 2+.

The Charge 3 is a little over 8 inches wide and about 3.5 inches in depth and height. It’s still small enough for travel, and its water-resistant, rubberized housing helps the speaker withstand physical shocks, rain, dust and whatever else the outdoors throws at you.

JBL says the open bass ports at both ends of the device allow users to “hear the bass, feel the bass, see the bass” on the speaker. 

The Charge 3 is available in black, blue, gray, red and teal.

Features

JBL’s Charge 3 is built for more boom, with a few additional features to give it an extra boost:

        • JBL Connect: With JBL Connect, users can pair other JBL Bluetooth speakers together to amplify the sound and build their own audio ecosystem.
        • Waterproof: Previous JBL speakers were splashproof, whereas the Charge 3 is fully waterproof and can be submerged for a short period of time.
        • Power bank: The Charge 3’s battery has a life nearly double that of the Charge 2+, providing juice for longer play time and phone charging.

» MORE: JBL Charge 2 vs. Charge 2+

Battery and connectivity

The Charge 3 is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It takes about 4.5 hours to fully charge and can deliver a playback time of 20 hours. That battery life, however, depends on volume and whether you’re charging your phone off the speaker’s battery while playing music.

Users can pair their smartphones or tablets wirelessly via Bluetooth or with a cord, although JBL doesn’t include an auxiliary cord in the Charge 3 packaging. Up to three devices can be paired with the speaker at one time, including phones, tablets and other JBL speakers.

Price

The Charge 3 retails at $149.95, though you might be able to find it for less at retailers such as Amazon.

Reviews

JBL calls the latest model in its Charge speaker line “the ultimate, high-powered portable Bluetooth speaker,” but does it live up to the hype?

We analyzed expert opinions from review sites such as The Sweethome, CNET and Good Housekeeping. We also looked at user reviews to see what buyers had to say about the speaker’s various attributes.

Because of its larger size, the Charge 3 is expected to deliver on volume and bass. And though it does indeed produce room-filling sound and booming low ends, the sound quality is very much akin to the previous Charge 2+. Vocals and instrumentals still come through clear and crisp with minimal distortion at high volumes. But at times the speaker’s bass can overpower the other components.

The Charge 3’s large body gives the speaker more power, especially outdoors. And the rugged, waterproof build makes it durable for a variety of open-air activities.

Making a sound decision

If you’re looking for a speaker that’s built for the outdoors, the Charge 3 might be a good option for you. With a good listening range, full-bodied bass, long battery life and waterproof, rugged design, this all-conditions speaker is made for your nature-bound excursions, even if it’s a little bulky.

Overall, while the Charge 3’s size and features are the most notable improvements, the more nuanced aspects of its sound output stayed the same, which you may or may not consider a bad thing. Shoppers might be able to purchase the Charge 2+ for less and receive the same audio grade sans extra bass power.

More from NerdWallet
The best Bluetooth speakers
JBL Xtreme: A powerful, portable speaker
JBL Flip 2 vs. JBL Flip 3

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