JBL Charge 3 Speaker Review

Price: $150 MSRP – Check Price on Amazon
Noel’s Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars 4.6 out of 5 stars
Pros: Powerful! Great sound quality, impressive battery life, waterproof, able to charge devices
Cons: Size/weight not ideal for lightweight travel, exposed subwoofers
Weight: 28.2 oz (800 grams)
Lighter/Smaller Option: UE Boom 2: 19 oz (539 grams)
Budget Option: Anker Soundcore 2

Overview: JBL Charge 3

JBL Charge 3 Speaker wet with water

JBL Charge 3 Speaker Review

 

My first Bluetooth speaker purchase was back in 2009. I opted for an entry-level dud that, after a few months of light use, seemed to rattle, buzz, and cut out more than it would play music. It was cheap – in more ways than one – and I’d made a mistake. Never again.

The time had come to do some research. I painstakingly studied a wide variety of speakers and visited my local Best Buy to test them. After a night of sleep and deliberation, I pulled the trigger and ordered the JBL Charge 3. It now accompanies me on every trip I take.

While the Charge 3 is bulkier — at 28.2 oz (800 grams) — than I’d like for a travel speaker, it puts out high-quality sound at a rich and robust volume. Its 20-hour battery life, ability to charge devices, and waterproof design prove that it’s worth every ounce in your bag.

Sound Quality

The Charge 3 delivers clean and bright sound, whether it is played at a whisper or a roar. It’s crisp trebles and deep, booming bass are capable of lighting up a crowded room, beach, or campsite.

The durable waterproof fabric of the speaker does, ever so slightly, muffle some mids and highs when played at a low volume, but I will gladly sacrifice a tad of sound quality for waterproof capabilities.

If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker with slightly better sound quality, check out the Bose SoundLink Revolve. It produces crystal clear audio at any volume, yes, but is also more expensive, less powerful, and far more fragile.

Sound Quality Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Volume

A kitten yawning behind the JBL Charge 3 Speaker

Kitten for scale

 

This speaker is seriously powerful.

The JBL Charge 3 truly fills a mid-sized room with rich, well-balanced audio. The sound quality stays sharp as the volume increases. No distortion or rattling.

I play most of my music at 40-50% volume, which is sufficient for casual listening. I have, however, maxed this speaker on more than one festive occasion and it always delivers booming, room-filling output. It’s hard to believe that a speaker its size can emit such powerful and clean audio.

Sound Volume Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Features/Design

Don’t worry about where you leave your Charge 3 – it is waterproof. Bring it to the beach, listen to it in the rain, spill a drink on it, it’ll be fine. I’ve personally put the Charge 3’s waterproof capabilities to the test on more than one occasion and it always comes out unharmed.

There’s a reason it’s called the ‘Charge 3’ – it’s capable of charging a device through its inconspicuous USB port. This handy feature prevented my phone from dying several times in transit, which, as any traveler knows, is a big deal.

If 20 hours of battery life sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Because of this, charging the Charge 3 has become a fairly rare occurrence. Yes, powering your mobile devices through the speaker will reduce the battery life noticeably, but that’s a fair tradeoff in my eyes.

My one (minor) gripe with the design: occasionally I will accidentally graze the power button and turn the speaker on through its soft-sided case when in transit. Not a big deal, but a bit annoying nonetheless.

Features/Design Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Portability

If this speaker were a touch bigger, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. At 28.2 oz (800 grams) and 8.3 inches (46.5 centimeters) long, the Charge 3 is about as big and bulky as I am willing to pack for a travel speaker. It weighs about the same as my 3-person tent, so you can see my concern.

I would never bring it along on a long distance trekking trip. That would be silly. Headphones are all I (or anyone on a shared hiking trail!) will ever need.

That being said, I make sure there is always room in my travel bag for this impeccable piece of audio engineering. It is simply worth the weight.

Check out the JBL Flip 4 if you want a scaled-down version of the Charge 3.

Portability Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Durability

Closeup of the JBL Charge 3 subwoofer dripping with water

The JBL Charge 3 delivers in any conditions

 

The JBL Charge 3 is a sturdy speaker. It is not fragile or easily damaged — it is built to be tossed around, splashed with water, and played at high volumes.

This speaker still looks and performs like it did the day I bought it — and I haven’t been easy on it by any means. It has been dropped, spilled on, and jammed into bags repeatedly with no harm. I do use a thin but effective case (mostly to protect the dual subwoofers) while I travel.

I suppose either the subwoofers could be damaged if dropped on a sharp edge at the perfect angle, but they are readily protected by thick plastic casings around the edges of the speaker.

Durability Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Value

Priced at $150 MSRP (check price on Amazon), the JBL Charge 3 can seem a bit spendy at first glance, but its quality, performance, and features more than justify its price tag.

For my money, there is no other speaker I would rather have. If I lost my Charge 3 tomorrow, I would purchase another without hesitation.

Value Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

The Final Word: JBL Charge 3

The JBL Charge 3 has been my loyal travel companion across the continents. It has masterfully played my favorite music all over the globe: on humid beaches, in lonely hotel rooms, on the high desert plains, and everywhere where quality music is in demand.

For my minimalist, ‘count every ounce’ style of travel, the JBL Charge 3 has become the guilty pleasure of my travel pack. It’s a tad bulky and luxurious for me, I’ll admit it, but believe this: it’s worth every ounce and every dollar.

The JBL Charge 3 has livened up countless ordinary days on the road. It puts out bright, vivid, and powerful sound in a wide array of settings. Its durable, waterproof frame, ability to charge devices, and undeniable sound quality have earned this speaker a spot in my travel bag for years to come.

View JBL Charge 3 on Amazon