The Charge 3 ($149.95) can look familiar, but pack few surprises for anybody who’s used a recently available JBL Bluetooth speaker. But that isn’t a bad thing, as the business has been pumping out a number of the better speakers available to buy. Accordingly, the Charge 3’s audio tracks performance is impressive-it will get quite loud without distorting, and gives laudable bass response for the purchase price. It may be somewhat on the bulky side for a lightweight speaker, but if you wish solid low-end response and crisp highs on the run, the Charge 3 is an excellent option and earns our Editors’ Choice award.

Design
Measuring 3.5 by 8.4 by 3.4 inches (HWD) and weighing in at about 1.8 pounds, the roughly cylindrical Charge 3 is somewhat larger and bulkier than a lot of competing lightweight Bluetooth models. The downside, obviously, is that it weighs down bags and is somewhat more of a pain to take with you. The upside may be the audio tracks performance, but more on that within the next section. The Charge 3 emerges in black, blue, gray, red, and teal, with an IPX7-rated water-resistant shell.

Sound is projected forward through the speaker grille via dual 50mm, 10-watt drivers, while passive bass radiators on both left and right ends of the cylinder assist in providing bass response. A rubberized base keeps the speaker from rolling around and allows the drivers to provide sound at an upward angle.

A range of controls located along the very best panel offer dedicated buttons for Bluetooth pairing, volume control (these buttons work together with your mobile device’s master volume level), play/pause, and power. Gleam JBL Connect button for pairing two speakers with one sound source. The playback button doubles as the decision management button, and can even be tapped twice to skip forward a track, but can’t be pressed 3 x to skip backward-the speaker lacks any backward track navigation, a puzzling omission.

A snap-shut cover on the trunk panel protects a 3.5mm aux input, the micro USB connection for charging the speaker, and a USB connection for charging cellular devices using the speaker’s battery. A USB cable and AC adapter ship with the speaker, but there is absolutely no included 3.5mm audio, that is a disappointment as of this price. Actually, the speaker ships without accessories at all, only the fundamental charging cable and adapter-a carrying pouch or music cable could have been nice inclusions.

JBL estimates the Charge 3’s battery life to be about 20 hours, however your results will vary together with your mixture of wired versus wireless playback, your volume levels, and obviously, whether you utilize the battery to charge your cellular devices.

Performance
On tracks with powerful sub-bass content, just like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Charge 3 offers some impressive low frequency response. At top, impressively loud volume levels, the Charge 3 will not distort upon this challenging track. It isn’t so powerful that you will be searching for a concealed subwoofer in the area, however the bass response the Charge 3 will be able to achieve using its two drivers and two passive radiators is approximately as effective as it gets in a speaker this size and price.

Hearing Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with much less deep bass in the mix, Callahan’s baritone vocals get a healthy dose of low-mids that enhance the richness, but thankfully in addition they get yourself a solid high-mids occurrence that helps maintain things clear and defined. The drums upon this track have a good low-end presence-nothing like they do on some subwoofer-based systems that raise the bass dramatically, but a lot more than they might through many speakers this size. The sound here’s rich through the low-mids, and clear and defined through the high-mids and highs, allowing the vocals and guitar strumming to have a lot of definition.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the open,” the kick drum loop’s attack gets slightly less high-mid occurrence than we are being used to hearing-thus, the attack is somewhat overshadowed by the richer low frequency sustain, and the beat has more thump to it than snap. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat have significantly more low-mid and high-mid occurrence than anything in the truly sub-bass realm, nevertheless they sound powerful enough, and the vocals receive lots of high-mid occurrence aswell, without ever sounding sibilant or overly sculpted.

On orchestral tracks, just like the opening scene in John Adams’ The Gospel Based on the Other Mary, the bigger register strings, brass, and vocals rule the mix, however the lows are boosted way more than they might be on a set response system. The effect sounds excellent for a lightweight Bluetooth speaker-a vibrant, bright sound where in fact the lower instrumentation gets some added body and richness but never sounds unnaturally boosted.

Conclusions
For $150, the JBL Charge 3 is a fantastic Bluetooth speaker. If you are searching for a smaller sized speaker that may still deliver solid bass response, we enjoy the Sony SRS-XB3 (which is merely slightly smaller, but less cumbersome in form) and the Bose SoundLink Mini II. If you are hoping to invest less, the EcoXGear EcoCarbon and the JBL Clip 2 are solid options, but won’t deliver the same volume levels or bass response. Because of its price and size, the Charge 3 produces very good audio tracks and has few flaws to talk about, earning it our Editors’ Choice.