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JBL Charge 3 Review

Good for bass lovers that don't need a particularly portable speaker
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Price:   $150 List | $98 at Amazon
Pros:  Incredibly powerful bass, waterproof
Cons:  Fairly large and heavy, booming bass overpowers many tracks
Manufacturer:   JBL
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Apr 5, 2017
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 21
  • Sound Quality - 40% 6
  • Portability - 25% 5
  • Volume - 20% 9
  • Battery Life - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The JBL Charge 3 is a powerhouse. It delivered close to 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, making it 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.


Compare to Similar Products

 
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JBL Charge 3
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $150 List
$97.77 at Amazon
$300 List
$299.00 at Amazon
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$150 List
$149.99 at Amazon
$100 List
Star Rating
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Pros Incredibly powerful bass, waterproofExcellent sound quality, very loud, long battery lifeExcellent sound quality, water resistant, great battery lifeGood overall sound, great volume, great battery life, waterproofGood sound quality, waterproof, long battery life
Cons Fairly large and heavy, booming bass overpowers many tracksExpensive, relatively large and heavyExpensive, relatively heavyNot the strongest bass, a bit priceyNot the best sounding nor most portable
Bottom Line Good for bass lovers that don’t need a particularly portable speakerTop notch sound quality and volume in a somewhat heavy packageThe best portable speaker for audiophilesA good mix of sound qaultiy/volume and durabilityA great balance of sound quality, portability, and price
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Rating Categories JBL Charge 3 Bose Soundlink... Bose SoundLink... UE Boom 3 JBL Flip 5
Sound Quality (40%)
10
0
6
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
7
Portability (25%)
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Volume (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
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9
Battery Life (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
Specs JBL Charge 3 Bose Soundlink... Bose SoundLink... UE Boom 3 JBL Flip 5
Dimensions (in x in x in) 8.4" x 3.4" x 3.5" 4.1" x 4.1" x 7.3" 5.97" x 3.24" x 3.24" 2.9" x 2.9" x 7.25" 3.64" x 3.6" x 8.5"
Inputs 3.5 mm auxiliary input, Micro USB port Charging port, Micro-USB, 3.5mm auxillary input 3.5 mm auxiliary input, Micro USB port Micro USB port none
Reported Weight 29 oz 34 oz 24 oz 24 oz 19.04 oz
Measured Weight 28 oz 34 oz 24 oz 22 oz 19 oz
Wireless Range (feet) 16 30 feet 30 feet 150 feet Not Listed
Reported Battery Life (hours) 20 16 12 15 12
Measured Battery Life (hours) 30 24 18 24 27
Warranty 1 year limited 1 year limited 1 year limited 2 year limited 1 year limited
Receive Phone Calls Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and 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


Performance Comparison


The JBL Charge 3 was one of the worst overall performers in our testing. Below we further detail the Charge 3's performance in each of our individual testing metrics.

Sound Quality


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.

The Charge 3 lasted 30 hours in out battery life test  and was the only model that could even come close to the performance of the Anker SoundCore.
The Charge 3 lasted 30 hours in out battery life test, and was the only model that could even come close to the performance of the Anker SoundCore.

Portability


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 one of the larger speakers we tested.
The Charge 3 is one of the larger speakers we tested.

Volume


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 to full. That sound can easily fill a large apartment and would be plenty to fuel a raucous dance party.

Battery Life


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.


Value


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 portable, and has better overall sound. So for all but bass loving listeners the Charge 3 is a relatively poor value.


Conclusion


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