JBL Pulse 3
Announced back in 2017 at CES, the JBL Pulse 3 made it to India later in October. It was launched with over two dozen audio products from Harman International. Unlike the previous models, the third iteration of Pulse gets more powerful drivers and waterproofing.
The Pulse 3 is the company’s premium grade Bluetooth speaker that has an LED light show that synchronises with the tunes that you play on it. In comparison with the Pulse 2, the new one has a smoother cloud-like lighting and instead of the mesh-like effect. The Pulse 3 costs Rs 15,999, where it competes against Sony SRS-XB40, which ships with similar light show features.
If you want an ultra-portable speaker, get the tiny JBL Clip 2. If you want bass without breaking the bank, get the JBL Charge 3. But if you are looking for something louder and more attractive, then consider the costlier JBL Pulse 3.
We have been using the Pulse 3 for quite long now, and here's the answer to 'if you should buy it or not' -
The JBL Pulse 3 retains the cylindrical shape similar to its siblings, with the company's signature cloth cover wrapped at the bottom and the lights on the top. The lights cover 70% of the body, where there's smooth plastic that diffuses the light from built-in LEDs to give a liquidy effect.
It has a IPX7 certified waterproof body, that means it can be submerged in water up to the depths of one metre.
Despite of its resemblance to the JBL Charge 3, it can only be listened to while it is propped upright. More so because there are big bass radiators on the top and bottom of the speaker, which aren't guarded.
Ideally, it's unsafe to keep the radiators open as you could end up damaging them by touching, but it's quite well built and we didn't hurt them. It's fun to look at them vibrating with the music though.
The Pulse 3 controls are placed around the back. You get basic buttons for power, volume, Bluetooth pairing, play/pause/voice assistant, JBL Connect+ and a dedicated light toggle button. It also has five-point battery indicator light on top of the power button. Right below is a rubber flap that covers the microUSB port and 3.5mm audio jack.
Ergonomically, the design looks good enough to give this speaker a fixed spot in your room, but it's not compact enough to be carried in a small bag. To help you understand – it can easily fit in a laptop bag occupying the space of two water bottles.
The body is durable until you decide to go a little crazy on it. The plastic on top doesn't scratch, it's easy to clean and the build quality is pretty solid.
JBL Connect app
The Pulse 3 can be linked to multiple JBL connect-supported speakers using the JBL Connect App. Not just sound, but you can also sync the lights if you pair another Pulse 3.
The app allows you to control the patterns and brightness levels of the lights. There are numerous patterns that keep you entertained — Wave (ripples), Explosion (looks like bursting colour bombs inside the speaker), Fire (looks like flames) etc.
These patterns can be colour changed based on whatever hue you select in the app. It also gathers colours from the photos you click using the camera app, which is not always accurate, but fun to play with.
Also, if you are concerned about battery life, you can turn the lights off by long pressing the light button.
Audio performance on the JBL Pulse 3 is fit for outdoor listening, thanks to the rich 360-degree sound. Given the gimmicky nature of the speaker, our expectations were low in terms of audio experience.
Upon listening we found out that the 20-watt Pulse 3 isn’t altogether unpleasant, but it is not the best sounding speakers you’ll get at this budget. The highs lack clarity and the lows fail to impress. What's worse is the low and loose bass, even on bass-heavy tracks like the 'Sound of Silence' by Disturbed or the popular drum and bass number 'Valley of shadows' by Origin Unknown.
The highs are slightly rolled off but instruments like violins are still well represented. Bass is full-bodied and offers decent slam but bleeds into the mids a little. The good thing is that it's loud enough for a party in a closed hall or room.
Having 360-degree audio is excellent for environments where you’ll be moving around like at a party, beach or next to the pool. This ensures everyone gets the same listening experience.
Microphone and battery
Using the mic on this is not the best idea when it comes to taking calls, unless you are close to the speaker. You have to be louder than usual to be clearly audible at the other end.
Battery life is mediocre, 11 hours with the lights turned on, which is quite short compared to other speakers. For example, the UE Boom 2 gets 14 hours and even JBL’s own Charge 3 offers 24 hours of battery life.
Sure, you can extend the battery life quite a bit by disabling the light show but it's fair to assume that folks will use it with the lights turned on most of the time. That said, if you’re going to be blasting tunes all night, you may want to bring a charger with you.
The JBL Pulse 3 offers an attractive party light feature, which might be enough to convince many. JBL has also added waterproofing and the speakerphone feature to make it more legit for the price. But all this comes at a price which is just too much for the audio performance it offers.
If we ignore the fun factor for a minute and look at it as a speaker, then we would recommend you to go for cheaper alternatives like the Megaboom from UE or JBL’s own Charge 3.
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