JBL Charge 3

FOR Weighty, bal­anced sound; de­sign; build; fea­tures; AGAINST Lacks a lit­tle open­ness and subtlety

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

It doesn’t take a sleuth of Sher­lock Holmes’ stature to un­cover the killer fea­ture of the JBL Charge 3. The clue is in the name. This por­ta­ble Blue­tooth speaker is blessed with a 6000mah bat­tery, which doesn’t only al­low the speaker to tick over for the best part of 20 hours, but can also be used to re­sus­ci­tate a flag­ging smart­phone or tablet.

As long as you have the rel­e­vant USB cable to hand, you can con­nect your de­vice to the USB socket on the back of the speaker and piggy-back the built-in bat­tery. The fea­ture is by no means unique to the JBL Charge 3 but, while it isn’t a gamechanger, it isn’t the only string to this speaker’s bow.

Right in the mid­dle

The JBL Charge 3 has been de­signed with porta­bil­ity in mind and fits neatly into the com­pany’s ex­ist­ing speaker range. It’s larger than the pe­tite JBL Flip, but not as hefty as the JBL Ex­treme. This makes the Charge 3 a good size for fling­ing in a ruck­sack and tak­ing on your trav­els. And thanks to its rugged de­sign, the Charge trav­els ex­tremely well. The speaker looks ro­bust and sturdy – and feels just as tough and hardy in hand. This is def­i­nitely a speaker that could quite hap­pily cope with an ac­tive camp­ing week­end or beach hol­i­day.

The JBL is wrapped in a spe­cial pro­tec­tive fab­ric, avail­able in a range of colours, which isn’t too dis­sim­i­lar from that used on ri­vals such as the UE Boom 2.

This ma­te­rial, com­bined with the rest of the Charge 3’s de­sign, re­sults in an IPX7 (an in­ter­na­tional stan­dard of wa­ter­proof­ing)-cer­ti­fied speaker, which should sur­vive 30 min­utes un­der wa­ter at a max­i­mum depth of one me­tre. Handy to know if you’re cruis­ing along in your kayak and it hap­pens to fall over­board.

The speaker sits on a built-in rub­berised stand, which is punc­tu­ated by a small row of LED lights, in­di­cat­ing bat­tery life. The more lights lit, the more charge left. On the back of the Charge 3 you’ll see a rub­ber panel. Stick your fin­ger­nail in the gap, pull it away and you'll see a se­lec­tion of in­puts.

There’s a 3.5mm socket for a more sta­ble con­nec­tion to your phone, a mi­cro USB socket for charg­ing the speaker, and a Type C USB socket for charg­ing smart­phones and the like. Make sure the panel is put se­curely back in place, or you could com­pro­mise its wa­ter-re­sis­tance.

The fea­ture count doesn’t stop here, though. There’s also a built-in mic, which works with the speaker’s noise- and echo-can­celling tech­nol­ogy for hands-free calls.

Con­nect to other speak­ers

You can also team up with other com­pat­i­ble JBL speak­ers to su­per­size your set-up. This is done by press­ing the JBL Con­nect but­ton and hook­ing them up us­ing the JBL Con­nect app, avail­able for Android and IOS.

Press and hold the Blue­tooth logo on top of the speaker and the Charge will set about the job of pair­ing with your smart­phone.

Given the JBL’S rugged build, you won’t be sur­prised to hear that it sounds nei­ther shy nor hes­i­tant. It’s an en­thu­si­as­tic, pow­er­ful sound, high­lighted by the pas­sive ra­di­a­tors puls­ing vig­or­ously at ei­ther end of the speaker. They’re quite a mes­meris­ing sight, but drag your at­ten­tion away from them for a sec­ond and you’ll be able to ap­pre­ci­ate the Charge’s en­er­getic na­ture.

Stream Del­phic’s Ppp over Blue­tooth and the JBL Charge 3 has no is­sue with drive, as the tune pulses and pounds along.

The track’s floaty in­tro is han­dled with greater open­ness and subtlety by the likes of the Award-win­ning Au­dio Pro Ad­don T3 (£165), but this is a slightly dif­fer­ent style of speaker. The JBL’S clos­est ri­val is some­thing like the UE Boom 2. Here, the JBL sounds more sub­stan­tial and gives more weight and body to voices and bass kicks.

Find­ing a voice

Switch to The Hills by The Weeknd, and the Charge 3 gets the emo­tion and pace of the vo­cal just right. Lows sound weighty and ex­tremely pow­er­ful – the bassline ex­tends and reaches down, with the speaker show­ing an im­pres­sive level of con­trol.

The UE equiv­a­lent sounds a touch more ex­pres­sive in the midrange, but just isn’t ca­pa­ble of the same scale and author­ity that lends it­self well to a por­ta­ble out­door-friendly speaker.

There’s no rid­dle where the JBL Charge 3 is con­cerned and the ev­i­dence speaks for it­self. This is a ver­sa­tile wire­less speaker with a fine fea­ture set and very good sound qual­ity for the money.

“It’s an en­thu­si­as­tic, pow­er­ful sound, high­lighted by the mes­meris­ing pas­sive ra­di­a­tors puls­ing vig­or­ously at ei­ther end of the speaker”

Ef­fort­lessly por­ta­ble, the JBL de­liv­ers a weighty sound that suits out­door lis­ten­ing

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