JBL Pulse 3 review: The JBL light show returns with waterproofing

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Pulse 3

The sound on this speaker is clean, crisp, and very balanced in the mids and highs but it is lacking some low end.

TA-ratings-89We’ve reviewed a variety of JBL products in the past and they’ve seemed to live up to their reputation for great sound. The company’s Pulse series of speakers have been a hit with buyers for their mini light show. The JBL Pulse 3 is looking to kick up the experience with a new design and a few new features. Let’s dive into the full review of the JBL Pulse 3 and see how JBL did its third time around.

Specifications

The JBL Pulse 3 has the following features and specifications:

  • Output Power: 20W
  • Transducer: 3 x 40mm
  • Frequency Response: 65Hz – 20kHz
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: ≥80dB
  • Battery Type: Lithium-ion polymer (3.7V, 6000mAh)
  • Battery Charge Time: 4.5 hour @ 5V 2.3A
  • Battery Life: up to 12 hours
  • Dimensions: 223mm x 92mm x 92mm
  • IPX7 waterproof

What’s In The Box

  • JBL Pulse 3
  • MicroUSB to USB-A charging cable
  • Power adaptor
  • Quick start guide
  • Safety information
  • Warranty card

Design

The Pulse 3 design retains the same cylinder shape of its predecessors but with some modifications. Gone is the mesh covering around the entire outer shell. Now it’s just a solid glossy piece of hardened plastic with just about a quarter of the bottom covered in mesh. The JBL logo is nicely placed at the bottom in its familiar burnt orange and white.

Around the back, you’ll find the Micro-USB port and AUX port covered with a dust and water resistant flap as well as all of the speaker’s controls. Of course, this includes all the playback functions as well as JBL Connect, Bluetooth, Power, and the light show toggle. The Pulse 3 is not very heavy so it lends itself well to portability. I could see throwing this in a backpack for a trip to the pool or the beach.

Like its predecessors, the Pulse 3 is designed to offer up a light show when playing music through it. The upper three-quarters of the devices (the plastic part) is where all of that takes place. There are seven preset light shows to choose from and one custom option within the JBL Connect app. You don’t need the app to cycle through the seven options since there is a physical button on the back that will allow you to do that. You will need the JBL Connect app to access the custom option.

Pulse 3

Fun multi-color light show.

The light show is certainly a fun part of owning the Pulse 3. It’s colorful and bright and acts as a conversation piece to any party. However, I didn’t find that the lights matched the music all that well. I’m not sure if it’s JBL’s intention to sync to the music or not but I was expecting that to be the case. It is not. The closest it came was in the Equaliser option but it still wasn’t very synced. So don’t expect a perfect sync when playing music, but do expect a vibrant and fun light show.

The glossy plastic attracts fingerprints and is prone to scuffing and minor scratches if you tend to throw your things around. Overall, it’s a nice design. I certainly like it better than last years design and the IPX7 waterproofing is really a plus.

Pulse 3

Playback and other controls.

Ease of Use

Bluetooth devices have become super simple to use over the years. There was a time when Bluetooth could be finicky and multiple attempts to connect would frustrate users. The Pulse 3 is straightforward and easy to connect. All of the needed controls are on the back of the device which is mapped out really well. The included JBL Connect app doesn’t do much but mirror the controls of the speaker so you don’t even have to use it if you don’t want to.

Although the one feature in the app you may want to use is the customize light show. The feature allows you to customize the pattern and colors of the light show. You can even use the camera to pick a color from objects nearby. It works well enough but I don’t feel it’s that intriguing and the built-in presets look good enough.

JBL Connect allows you to connect multiple JBL Bluetooth speakers for stereo sound. Again, this can be done in the app, or simply on the speaker by pushing the Connect button. I found the app was useful only when I was too lazy to walk over to the speaker to change settings. Overall a very simple device to use.

Pulse 3

The top of the Pulse 3.

Sound

Having reviewed the JBL Charge 3 previously I was hoping for the same robust sound from the Pulse 3. Let’s start off with the good. The speaker sounds really nice, mids and highs are well balanced, music from all genres sound really nice here. There is no distortion at even the loudest volumes and the drivers seem to handle things well. The sound output is pretty good for a speaker of this size, it fills a nice sized living room pretty well. Connect a second Pulse 3 via JBL Connect and you’d have a nice party going.

The sound on this speaker is clean, crisp, and very balanced in the mids and highs but it is lacking some low end. If you’ve read some of my past reviews, you know that I am not a huge fan of thumping bass but I do like some bottom end. I didn’t feel the Pulse 3 provided enough low end for my own taste. While I don’t need the subwoofer jumping out of the speaker, I do think the bass is the foundation of the music and a good low end is important. Android users may be able to compensate by using an EQ app, iPhone users can use the EQ in settings but it doesn’t help very much.

Overall the speaker sounds good, I knocked off some points in this category simply because I don’t think the low end is robust enough. Your tastes may be different and the bass here may suit you well. I will most certainly say that if you’re a heavy bass lover, this is probably not for you.

Pulse 3

IPX7 waterproof.

Reception/Call Quality

The Bluetooth reception was industry standard 30-40 feet from source before a loss of signal. Call quality was good, but don’t stray too far from the speaker mic or your caller may not hear you so well.

Battery Life

Advertised battery life is 12 hours. I was able to squeeze out just over 12 hours a few times but generally got in the 11.5-hour range between charges with the volume at around 60%. Battery life will vary depending on your use.

Price/Value

JBL is selling the Pulse 3 for $199.95USD which isn’t a bad deal given the fun light show the speaker provides. You can get one of these on Amazon right now for $179.95USD, which is a better deal.

Wrap Up

This is a great speaker with a fun light show. It sounds really nice but does lack the low end that I prefer. I would recommend this to those who aren’t in need of heavy bass and prefer a more flat sound.

*We were sent a sample of the JBL Pulse 3 for the purposes of this review.

JBL Pulse 3

$199.95USD
JBL Pulse 3
8.9

Design

9/10

    Ease of Use

    9/10

      Sound

      9/10

        Reception/Call Quality

        9/10

          Battery Life

          9/10

            Price/Value

            9/10

              Nailed it

              • Nice sleek design
              • Great build quality
              • Fun light show
              • Waterproof

              Needs work

              • Lacks some low end
              • Light show doesn't really completely sync with the music
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