JBL Pulse 3 Bluetooth Speaker – REVIEW

The most visually stunning lightshow I’ve seen on a portable Bluetooth speaker, the JBL Pulse 3 is the ultimate ambiance machine.

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Hey everyone, Jimmy with JimsReviewRoom. I have been waiting for months until this was released.  It’s been delayed several times, but as soon as I saw this go on sale, I bought one right away.  Guys, I present to you the brand new JBL Pulse 3.  I personally paid for this at the retail price of $199.  As always, I’ll place my affiliate links in the above – click on my links, and they’ll give you the most updated prices in real-time.  You never know when these things might go on sale.

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Going over the physical features, this thing is now massive.  If you’re looking for portability, the size and weight might deter you from buying, but you do get the lights – we’ll see how they perform shortly.  Starting at the ends, you have the iconic JBL passive radiators on either side.  They flex and move when music is going, but I know many are concerned if they’ll ever rip or break since they’re exposed.  Although it’s recommended not to press on them I gave them a firm push and they’re perfectly fine.

Now, two-thirds of the speaker is this transparent plastic, almost glass-like.  It’s severely fingerprint-prone when looked at certain angles, but straight on, you really can’t tell, especially when the neon lights are going. The nylon braided grill is back, but unlike the JBL Charge 3, Flip 4 and JBL Xtreme, the Pulse 3 gives off a claimed 360-degree experience.  With my testing, although there are ports and buttons on the rear, the speakers behind the fabric grill go right up to the edge.  I did confirm audio is experienced all the way around when the speaker is in the center of the room.  The only caution I would throw is, if you have crazy kids or crazy pets, it’s not the most stable speaker, and having this drop on concrete or tiled floors most likely would crack or break the LED area.

Moving on, what intrigued me and I’m sure this is why there was a delay in manufacturing, the speaker is now IPX7 certified, meaning this can be submerged under water.  After dunking this speaker into my water bucket in the studio, it’s still functioning fine.  Also on a positive note, the speaker does float which gives peace of mind for those by the pool or those bringing this speaker to the lake.

Going over the extra features, functions, and buttons, the top houses 5 white LEDs for battery indication…  Buttons are straightforward, but oddly, volume with pause and play are not backlit, making it hard to distinguish between them at night.  Having them slightly raised would have helped as well.  What is unique and for those who are new to JBL,  you can pair and mix-and-match over 100 JBL Connect Plus speakers, and have them all play at the same time.  UE and their Boom speakers are able to do something very similar, and Sony, with the XB30 and Sony XB40 Bluetooth speakers, you can only pair up to 10.  I’m sure not everyone will have an opportunity to pair that many speakers, but if your friend has one, or a neighbor or relative bringing their’s over, allows you to pair all of them together.  And for my fans who currently have JBL speakers, you can always pair two of them together and have dedicated left and right audio separation, which tremendously helps.

Moving onto the LED Lights, I loved this feature.  The lights move according to your music, to the beat, or you can customize it to the way that you want.  When I plug the speaker into the Pulse 3, it gives me a green battery level indicator, and when pairing to Bluetooth, the entire speaker glows blue.  Little things like that make the speaker experience interactive and unique.  More interesting, through the JBL Connect app, you can take a photo and have that color shown on the Pulse 3 – think of it like a color scanner.  Color accuracy is pretty close, it’s not 100%, but it definitely suffices. I’m scanning all sorts of textures and fabrics with great reproduction on the speaker.  Also through the app, you can select display presets, like “fire” which is my favorite, as well as an equalizer, and such, and although they’re preset, you can customize the colors on those also.

The newest feature, and I don’t recall if this was on the previous Pulse 2, but you can customize the light display instead of using presets.  Lights can band from the center, swipe up, down, et cetera and you can select up to three at the same time.  It’s pretty intense, and if you’re on something, you’re gonna wig out.  Overall, I loved the lights – they’re bright, interactive, and this is the first JBL Pulse speaker to not have visible individual LEDs.  It’s one seamless, lava-lamp-looking display.

But back to those buttons, the Light button allows you to cycle through those presets I mentioned in the app, and last on the far-bottom-right is the play button.  You can program this button to pause and play your music or, you can have it open Google Assistant or Siri.

Last are those physical connections.  A 3.5 mm port is behind the water-sealed flap, along with a Micro-USB 2.0 port for charging.  Oddly and sadly, USB Type-C once again is not here.  Recharging this thing takes forever, about 4.5 hours from a dead battery to full.  And regarding use, JBL is claiming up to 12 hours.  With my testing with the lights flashing and volume at 50%, I was able to achieve 7 hours and 8 minutes.  Not as good as other $200 Bluetooth speakers on the market, and possibly worse than the JBL Pulse 2, but considering this is one of the few, maybe only speaker on the market that displays this many lights, it’s honestly a trade-off.

The Pulse 3 is using Bluetooth 4.2.  I tested the wireless range with my Samsung S8+ and Pixel XL, two phones just to confirm.  I was able to get between 64 to 66 linear feet respectively with the signal going through two walls.  One feature I did see missing, was the lack of NFC or Near Field Communication for easy pairing.

During my speakerphone test, I stood 3 feet, 5 feet, 10, and a full 20 feet away, with all distances, thankfully there’s no bathroom echo or reverb, there’s none of the loud amplified voices and super quiet moments.  It still sounds like a speakerphone, it’s not crystal clear, but from 3 to 10 feet away, you can clearly hear what people are saying.  At the full 20, you can still hear me, but it cuts out here and there.  Overall, very good performance.

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So, to the moment you’ve been waiting for: the sound review. The last two Pulse speakers I’ve tested have improved with each model.  Same with the JBL Pulse 3.  It gets loud for small to medium-sized rooms.  For large rooms, specifically 16 to 17 linear feet (about 5 meters) away from the speaker, even at maximum volume, the immersion starts to dissipate a bit.  You obviously still get audio, but it’s more casual listening versus you jamming out.  Another tip, if you’re playing this right out the box, the speaker – at least in my experience – was flat, very neutral, and the first time I played this a maximum volume, bass fluttered, it sounded horrible and underwhelming. But, after three to four songs, and several at much higher volumes, practically maximum for me… the speaker broke in, the drivers stretched their legs you can say… and now, it sounds appropriate. Starting with bass, it’s slightly above neutral and slightly below being bass boosted.  The bass levels do sound better than the UE Boom 2 speaker and comparing to its own, the JBL Charge 3, the Charge has a smidgen more depth and resonance, while the Pulse 3 performs very close.  I would say, if you’re into Hip-Hop, EDM, pop music where bass and the beat in the background is key, you won’t be disappointed, but there is a small trade-off for those LED lights.  If you don’t care for the visual display, the Sony XB30 and again, the Charge 3 will be your best bet.

As for the mid-range, it’s clean and clear with a more neutral presence.  For some pop songs, and more specifically artists strong in vocals like Adele, Alicia Keys, piano work like John Legend, those sort of artists will do well here.  At medium volume, the speaker sounds almost equivalent and sometimes better than the Charge 3, but at maximum volume, the Charge 3 gives off a much brighter sound.  Because of the 360-degree audio, the speaker arrangement is not as directional, so the midrange is not as forward.  Again, a minor trade-off, but you get the 360-audio experience.

The same can be said for the highs frequencies.  Snare drums and cymbal crashes do have presence and listening to rock and classical music is satisfying.  There’s no listening fatigue experienced since the speaker isn’t sharp on the upper end – there’s no tinging and ear-ringing. Regarding audio separation and soundstage, it’s not apparent here because you’re getting the 360-degree sound.

Overall, the JBL Pulse 3 is well rounded, but you can say it plays it quite safe.  You still get a very good performing speaker, but if you want the best audio experience, there are others out there.  If you value the lights, this is hands down highly recommended.  It’s going to be a conversation starter, it’s going to compliment your decor, and the customization is seriously fun to play around with.  Let me know in the comment section below – even if you didn’t have the money, which one would you prefer to have:  JBL Charge 3, JBL Pulse 3, or one of the competitors out there.

So, that’s it for my review.  As always, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.  Again, I’m Jimmy with JimsReviewRoom, and I’m here to help you make that purchase decision. You guys take care, I’ll see you on the next one.

[table id=2 hide_columns=”all” show_columns=”a,b,k,q,w” /] Specs from manufacturer. If incorrect, please contact us.