If you have been around any electronic stores or have ever researched to purchase a portable Bluetooth speaker, the JBL brand should be a familiar name to you. Afterall, the JBL Flip and Charge series of portable wireless speakers are arguably the one of the best selling products in the market.
The JBL Pulse 3 – as its name suggest – takes things to the next level by integrating a customizable 360° lightshow. While this isn’t the first time JBL has included a light show in its speakers (we first saw them in the Pulse and Pulse 2), could third time be the charm for JBL?
|JBL Pulse 2||JBL Pulse 3|
|Output power||2 x 8W||20W|
|Frequency response||85Hz – 20 kHz||65Hz – 20kHz|
|Battery life||up to 10 hours||up to 12 hours|
Right out of the box, you get everything you need to get started with your speaker. I must say JBL has put in a lot of effort in designing the accompanied accessories and has even included international plug heads incase you bring the speaker along with you on your travels. So instead of getting the generic boring black accessories that come with most products, the power adaptor and USB charging cable are all color coordinated to match the packaging. While most consumers would not base their purchase decision on this, it does make a good unboxing experience for the user!
The Pulse 3 has retained JBL’s iconic cylinder shaped design. A good 3/4 of the speaker is taken up by the hard plastic that houses the LED lights for the lightshow display. At the bottom of the speaker is where you would find the 3 x 40mm drivers hidden behind JBL’s patented cloth fabric which makes it IPX7 certified. On the whole, the speaker has a good weight to it and feels like a premium product with its build.
When connected to a smart device like your mobile phone or tablet, you would be able to control most of the playback and lightshow settings via the capable JBL Connect App (iOS/Android). But JBL has also thoughtfully included an array of controls at the back of the speaker. It features a power button with 5 light indictor for battery life display, a Bluetooth pairing button, JBL Connect + button (to link up with other PULSE 3), a lightshow button (to change the lighting mode), Volume +/- and lastly a Play/Pause button which also double up as a voice assistant button.
I like the fact that the Power, Bluetooth and Lightshow buttons are backlit to help you see them in the dark but it’s a tad strange that the company didn’t implement the same treatment to the other buttons like for the volume and play/pause control.
At both the top and bottom of the Pulse 3 are the passive bass radiators which gives the speaker the lows for the bass. The base of the speaker is slightly raised to the bass radiator space to bounce of the air against the floor to create deeper bass – which I think is a pretty smart design.
By now, I think it should be fairly obvious that the main selling point of this speaker is its lightshow function
if not, may god help you. By simply connecting to the Pulse 3 and firing up the JBL Connect App, you can choose from a variety of lighting effects for the speaker.
The JBL Connect App is the universal app for all of JBL’s portable wireless speakers like the Flip, Pulse and Boombox series. The app allows you to name your speaker, connect multiple JBL wireless speakers together and playback in Party/Stereo mode, update your speaker’s firmware and also customize the Play/Pause button on the Pulse 3 itself.
JBL would also like you to know that with its JBL Connect + technology, you can link up to 100 JBL speakers wirelessly and playback in sync. But then again, if one has the money to own 100 JBL speakers, one probably should spend it on a higher end Hi-Fi system.
Where the Pulse 3 really shines in (pun alert) is in the lightshow. From the app, choose from 8 different lightshow mode ranging from Wave, Rainbow, Equaliser, Explosion, Jet (my personal fav), Fire, Rave or even customize your own pattern. While the previous generation Pulse 2 used strips of LED lights, the Pulse 3’s lightshow is a nice diffusion of lighting effects behind the plastic case – much like the lava lamp that we are familiar with. Once cool feature is the color picker which allows the Pulse 3 to replicate the color that you have physically captured with the smartphone’s camera.
Having a bold design like the Pulse 3 can be double-edged sword; you either love it or you hate it. Most people that I showed the Pulse 3 to were genuinely intrigued by the lightshow and its effects. Having this in your home or bringing it to a pool party would definitely make this a talking piece. However, some friends didn’t care about the lights as they felt a speaker should just do its main job of sounding good
with one even commenting that he would “smash it if he sees it again lol.
Personally I love the Pulse 3’s lightshow. I am not sure if it is because the combination of RGB lighting and music reignited my inner-beng but there is something really mesmerising about the way the lights dancing along with your music. And hey, if the lights ain’t your cup of tea, you can simply turn it off, though that would really defeats the whole point of this speaker.
Take a look at the below video to get an idea of the various lightshow modes. Heck, even tay tay would approve! #Lookwhatyoumademedo
With all that has been said about the lights, I was expecting the speaker to sound above average at best. But honestly, this guy exceeded by initially low expectations of it in the audio department.
Overall the speaker sounds really good over most genres. You get your well balanced mids and highs and the Pulse 3 doesn’t distort even at very high volume (though you can hear it struggling, much like Mariah Carey at Christmas) but few would max out the volume as the Pulse 3 is really loud even at 50%. What the speaker lack is in the lows. You could hardly feel the bass at low volume, only when you turn it up to at least 40% do you get a decent amount of bass. So if you’re a bass head, there are better options in the market with better bass even at low volume.
The portable wireless speaker category is now saturated and commoditised. To stand out from the crowd, JBL has implemented an impressive lightshow array. While some might question the usefulness of it, I found myself being mesmerised by it – sometimes even turning the speaker on as an ambience light for my room.
The Pulse 3 is also well built and deliver solid, 360 degree room filling audio. Yet at SGD$339, there are arguably many other cheaper alternatives with similar or even better audio quality.
But then again, once you have seen the Light, there’s no turning back is there?