JBL Playlist

A Sonos ri­val with party sound

Mac|Life - - REVIEWS -

$150 From JBL, jbl.com Fea­tures 2x 2.25-inch woofers, 2x 15W power rat­ing, Google Cast, Blue­tooth

You prob­a­bly know JBL from its Blue­tooth speak­ers, but the Playlist is some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent for the com­pany. Rather than a sim­ple Blue­tooth-equipped and bat­tery­pow­ered speaker, the Playlist is wall-pow­ered and equipped with Google Cast (more usu­ally known as “Chrome­cast built-in”).

You can still use Blue­tooth if you’d pre­fer, but Google Cast al­lows the speaker to become part of a multi-room home setup. Much as with air­play, you stream your mu­sic over your home’s Wi-Fi, and you can pair the speaker with oth­ers to fill your whole house with mu­sic.

There’s a set of play­back con­trols on top of the speaker, which give you lim­ited con­trol of play­back from the Playlist it­self, while the en­tire front of the de­vice is given over to its bul­bous speaker grille. At the rear is a two-pronged power port and a 3.5 mm jack. We don’t imag­ine you’ll use this phys­i­cal connector much, but it’s a help­ful in­clu­sion if you ever want to con­nect a non-Blue­tooth de­vice.

Un­der­stand­ably, Ap­ple’s own mu­sic and pod­cast­ing apps don’t sup­port Google Cast, but nu­mer­ous oth­ers avail­able on the App Store do, in­clud­ing Spo­tify, Ti­dal, and Deezer – while Pocket casts can be used for pod­cast lis­ten­ing.

The Playlist might be smarter than JBL’s standard Blue­tooth speak­ers, but its sound qual­ity will be in­stantly fa­mil­iar from those other mod­els. How­ever, big, chunky bass is un­for­tu­nately not matched with much tre­ble and mid-range pres­ence, lead­ing to a speaker more at home with a house party than a din­ner one. Our only other is­sue was that the sta­bil­ity of the au­dio play­back varies de­pend­ing on the qual­ity of your home’s Wi-Fi sig­nal.

It might not have the sonic abil­i­ties of ri­val Sonos speak­ers but the Playlist is nev­er­the­less an af­ford­able way into mul­ti­room lis­ten­ing, so long as you use the right mu­sic apps.

the bot­tom line. JBL’s speaker has the smarts, but any­one look­ing for a more re­fined sound should look else­where. Jon Porter

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