If it isn’t already, JBL is becoming one of the best audio companies for the average person. Their products are relatively affordable and you usually get a pretty good sound out of them. Not to mention that basically they’re entire line of Bluetooth speakers are waterproof now, from the small JBL Clip to the Xtreme. The newest speaker to join the party is the Charge 3. It now shares the same fabric covering as its brethren, but what else has changed?
In the box you get the Charge 3, a charging block, a micro USB cable, and the warranty information and instruction booklet.
Build and Design
The previous Charge 2 was splash proof, but JBL took it a step further with the Charge 3. This new model is IPX7 waterproof, meaning that you can submerge it completely in water. The shape of the speaker is similar to plenty of the other speakers in the JBL line-up. It’s cylindrical and also has exposed bass radiators on either end which definitely helps push out some sound. Up top you’ll find the familiar set of buttons that JBL puts on all their speakers. They’re made of a soft plastic and are slightly raised above the speaker. The only buttons that aren’t raised are the power and JBL Connect buttons which are flush with the speaker.
Not only does the fabric protect the speaker, but it also gives it a good grip. This can come in handy when the speaker is wet because — you know, waterproof. On the very front of the speaker is the only place you’ll find the JBL logo. I’m normally not a big fan of obvious logos, but this one isn’t that bad.
On the bottom of the speaker there is a small stand built into the design of the speaker with five small indicator lights on it that let you know how much battery is left. On the back of the speaker is where you’ll find the USB output, which is the feature that gives the Charge line of speakers their name. It’s hidden under a secure rubber flap along with the 3.5mm input and micro USB input.
If build quality is good then the connection is amazing on this speaker. With no walls I was able to get a strong connection up to about 50 or 60 feet. Once you throw a few walls in the way the range does jump back down to 30 feet, but it’s still very strong with no skipping. As far as playback controls go there are few options here. You can pause/play music, control the volume, and also skip to the next song if you double-tap the play button. That said, there’s no returning to the previous track if you need to.
Battery life is spec’d at 20 hours, and that’s more or less what we got during testing. But keep in mind that charging your devices will likely shave a few hours off that.
Even though it has a 3.5mm input, we did all of our testing wirelessly using mobile phones.
The Charge 3 makes good use of it its size with a strong low end. It’s definitely a little more powerful than some audiophiles will like, but I found it was perfect for bringing it outside. The Charge 3 was basically made for being poolside considering how loud it gets.
The mids were my least favorite part of the speaker, but they weren’t bad. They do sound a little muddled which could be because of the waterproof fabric, but vocals and lead instruments still have great detail. It’s just in the background elements where things get a little weird.
Though the speaker does get plenty loud, highs never become harsh even when indoors. Crashes and hi-hats in “Give life back to music” by Daft Punk sound fine and never become piercing.
With the Charge 3, JBL really finds what I think is the perfect compromise between sound and size. Though it’s still pretty portable, the Flip 3 is hands-down a better option if you want to take it with you everywhere. If you want the biggest sound possible then you’re better off with the JBL Xtreme. But if you want the perfect mix of both, I have no problem recommending the Charge 3. It’s big enough to have a full sound, but it’s not so big that it’s a burden.