Announced at CES in January but only now hitting stores, the Pulse 3 is JBL’s latest Bluetooth speaker that produces an LED light show to go with your music. Unlike the Pulse 2, which delivered colorful dancing LEDs across a mesh-like grid, the $199.95 Pulse 3 includes a smooth, cloud-like lighting effect over its surface. Regardless of the lighting, the Pulse 3 is waterproof, and from an music perspective, it provides a solid output. Nonetheless it sounds similar to a speaker in the $100 to $150 range, so you’re paying somewhat of reduced for the (admittedly cool) lighting.

Design and Lighting
Measuring 8.7 by 3.6 inches (HW), the two 2.1-pound cylindrical Pulse 3 stands upright, with almost all of its outer panel serving as the LED lighting panel. In the bottom of the outer panel, speaker grille houses the three 40mm drivers firing everywhere, and at the very top, facing up, is a passive radiator that increases bass response. Another, down-firing passive radiator is hidden by rubberized feet that keep carefully the speaker stable. The Pulse 3’s IPX7 rating means it could withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter for thirty minutes, provided its snap-shut connection panel cover is securely closed.

In the bottom of the trunk panel you will find a power button with a battery life LED above it. This area also houses a play/pause button (that also skips tracks with multiple taps, answers or ends incoming calls, or could be programmed in an iphone app to summon Google or Siri voice controls), plus/minus volume buttons, and controls for Bluetooth pairing, speaker linking, and switching the many light modes. The quantity controls together with, not independently of, your device’s master volume levels.

The Pulse 3 could be linked with several other JBL Connect speakers using the JBL Connect app, and when you can link another Pulse 3, you can sync their lights or keep them intentionally varied. Even alone, the lights are very entertaining.

The application permits you to control the brightness, and also select from various patterns, including Wave (simple ripples), Jet (which looks as though several flashlights of varying colors are shining from in the speaker), Explosion (a far more sporadic version of Jet, with larger bursts), Equaliser (which pretty much syncs up together with your music), Rave (a spotlight-inspired effect that also seems to sync to music), Rainbow (a straightforward ROYGBIV scrolling effect), Fire (a noble try to recreate the movement of flames), or a custom setting which allows you to combine together various parameters. The LEDs also provide a cool visual indicator, such as a cup filling with glowing vapors, when you raise or lower the quantity

Most of these patterns may differ in color predicated on whatever hue you decide on in the app, or the colour can be predicated on a photography you take making use of your paired phone’s camera. Brighter colors seem to be to are better with the camera trick, like oranges or blues. Going for a picture of my iced coffee or a green glass bottle didn’t net the most accurate or compelling results. Regardless, the light show is quite cool, and even smoother than on the prior Pulse 2, rippling like alien clouds. You can even transform it off if desired.

The mic offers average intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos iphone app on an iPhone 6s, we’re able to understand every word we recorded, but there have been some audio tracks artifacts that made things sound just a little fuzzy, which is typical for some mics on Bluetooth speakers.

JBL estimates the Pulse 3 gets roughly 12 hours of battery life, however your results will vary together with your mixture of wired and wireless play, your volume levels, as well as your make use of the LEDs.

Performance
On tracks with strong sub-bass content, just like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Pulse 3 gives a good thump, and doesn’t distort at top volumes, if you will surely hear the DSP (digital signal processing) thinning out the deep bass at higher volumes in order to avoid distortion. At more moderate volume levels, the lows sound thicker and more intense, nonetheless it should be noted that is neither a subwoofer-level bass experience, neither is it a speaker that gets exceptionally loud because of its high price.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with much less deep bass in the mix, gives us an improved sense of the Pulse 3’s overall sound signature. Bass-forward speakers could make the drums upon this track sound overly thunderous and unnatural; through the Pulse 3, the drums are neither thunderous nor thin. However they do have a backseat to Callahan’s baritone vocals among the more prominent forces in the mix-the vocals get yourself a strong, rich low-mid occurrence that jumps out at you a lot more compared to the drums do. There’s a good amount of high-mid existence to provide the vocals some treble edge and clarity. Your guitar strums get some good added punchiness within their attack from the high-mid sculpting, aswell.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the open,” the kick drum loop receives an excellent degree of high-mid presence, making its attack sharp and and can cut through the layers of the beat among the prominent sounds in the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are more implied than delivered-the sustain of the drum hits pack more thump compared to the synth does, and we hear the synth’s raspy top notes but nothing beats the sub-bass depth that some speakers can conjure. The vocals upon this track get solid clarity, though sometimes it appears like they have just a little added sibilance and that the force of the drum loop might overpower them.

Orchestral tracks, just like the opening scene in John Adams’ The Gospel In line with the Other Mary, get a modest boosting in the lows and low-mids that pushes the low register instrumentation forward in the mix a bit, however the spotlight still is one of the higher register brass, strings, and vocals. The entire sound signature here’s balanced, with some prominent high-mid crispness matched by rich lows-but there is no sub-bass depth to talk about, whatever the genre.

Conclusions
The JBL Pulse 3 is priced such as a speaker that might involve some sub-bass capacity to it, nonetheless it sounds similar to a speaker that costs about $50 less for the reason that regard. That extra cost money switches into the design-those dancing LEDs aren’t free, and neither may be the waterproof housing. So it is only fair to call this speaker overpriced unless you value the LEDs and the outdoor-friendly design. If those factors are essential to you, then your Pulse 3 actually sounds quite good, with that said. If you like sub-bass to lights, browse the Marshall Kilburn. For less, the EcoXGear EcoSlate is a good outdoor-friendly option, and the Sony SRS-XB3 and Bose SoundLink Color II deliver comparable audio tracks for less money.