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Hands-on Gear Review
JBL Charge 3 ReviewPrice: $150 List | $109.88 at Amazon
Pros: Incredibly powerful bass, waterproof
Cons: Fairly large and heavy, booming bass overpowers many tracks
Bottom line: Good for bass lovers that don’t need a particularly portable speaker
The JBL Charge 3 is a powerhouse. It delivered both the loudest volume and the boomiest bass in our testing. However, that bass also tended to make songs sound muffled and bottom heavy. The Charge 3 is also quite large, and is one of the least portable models we tested. It is great if you need a powerful boombox to lay down a backbeat for a dance troupe, but in most other situations it falls a bit short. If you want something with more clarity the Bose SoundLink Color II costs about the same and has much better sound quality.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The JBL charge 3 lives up to its marketing claims of being a "bass radiator" but does little else. Its overall sound quality isn't great, and it is quite heavy and bulky. This is a great speaker for the bass loving music listener, but all others will probably be somewhat disappointed
The JBL Charge 3 was one of the worst overall performers in our testing, as you can see in the graph below.
Below we further detail the Charge 3's performance in each of our individual testing metrics.
The Charge 3 earned an average score of 6 in our sound quality testing, putting it right in the middle of this metric, as scores ranged from 3 to 10. The biggest plus to the Charge 3's sound is its booming bass. We didn't expect such power to come from a wireless speaker, but the Charge 3 delivered forceful bass lines that might almost convince you that you're sitting in a techno club. This powerful bass comes at a price, however. The speaker doesn't have clear enough treble to really balance out the bass, so the overall sound of most songs ends up being somewhat muddled. The bottom heavy style of the Charge 3's sound also works well for some types of music, like rock and hip hop, but doesn't work so well with more acoustic sounding styles. The Bose SoundLink Color II is a good option if you're looking for a more well rounded sound at a similar price.
Bulky and heavy are accurate descriptors for the Charge 3. Accordingly it scored near the bottom of our portability testing, earning a 5 out of 10. This bested the low score of 2 (which went to a behemoth 4.5 pound speaker) but was far off the top score of 10. Tipping the scales at 28 ounces definitely has some heft to it, though it wasn't too much heavier than a lot of the other speakers we tested. Where it really lost points was its size. It is larger than all but one of the speakers we tested and all but filled most of the small backpacks we put it in. The one thing that saved it from a worse portability score was its IPX7 rating, which guarantees it will survive complete submersion in water of up to one meter, a claim that we verified in our testing.
The Charge 3 is loud. It shared the top score of 9 out of 10 in our volume testing, a metric which saw scores as low as 4. It retains all of its thumping bassiness even when you crank the volume of to full. That sound can easily fill a large apartment and would be plenty to fuel a raucous dance party.
The Charge 3 lasted an incredible 30 hours in our battery life testing. This was 50% than its claimed 20 hour battery life and the second longest battery life that emerged from our testing. It earned a score of 9 out of 10 in this test.
The JBL Charge 3 lists for $130. This is a decent value if you like your music bass heavy and don't mind its large size. However, the Bose SoundLink Color II has the same list price, is more portably, and has better overall sound. So for all but bass loving listeners the Charge 3 is a relatively poor value.
The JBL Charge 3 is a large, heavy speaker with incredibly powerful bass. If you're most concerned with a powerful backbeat than the Charge 3 is for you. If you don't fall into that category there are a number of better options available.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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