A Sonos rival with party sound
$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