JBL Link Music Smart speaker review: Pretty good things in a pretty small package

    The JBL Link Music is a brilliant speaker in each design and market positioning. It’s an incredible worth for the one that doesn’t need to pay so much for a good-sounding sensible speaker. Be forewarned, nevertheless; JBL’s app is clunky and startup might be sluggish. Hey: you give, you get.

    The Link Music is the entry-level mannequin in JBL’s sensible speaker line, but it surely doesn’t compromise a lot when it comes to sonic efficiency. Especially ripe for placement out within the open, this little factor abides by basic JBL signature sound-shaping: assume heat, shiny and ahead. And it delivers the products in an evenly dispersed 360-degree sample, due to a downward-firing, high-excursion 2.5-inch spherical driver powered by a 20-watt digital amplifier with digital sign processing, and two oval-shaped passive radiators dealing with left and proper.

    With only one energetic driver, the speaker’s output is strictly mono. While a combo-punch would most likely sound tremendous, you possibly can’t pair two Links for stereo.

    This overview is a part of TechHive’s protection of the best smart speakers, the place you’ll discover critiques of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options it’s best to take into account when purchasing.

    Jonathan Takiff / IDG

    The JBL Link Music (left) is about the identical measurement because the lately discontinued Google Home (proper), but it surely sounds considerably higher.

    Step again a number of toes from the Link and the sound subject actually opens to fill the room, with particular zing and stability when cranked to a medium-loud degree. The aural presentation isn’t as phat-sounding as a Sonos One or Bose Home Speaker 300, however at lower than half the $200 worth of these rivals, it comes shut sufficient for pleasurable rock, folks, jazz, hip hop, and even hoity-toity classical music leisure.

    JBL’s typical midrange bump pushes vocals and throaty brass soloists ahead. Citizen Cope’s rap/rocking political rant “Contact” truly struck residence with higher readability on the Link Music than it did on a Sonos One, and he emoted virtually as articulately on the JBL as on the brighter-barking Bose Home Speaker 300.

    Playing the last word (106-track!) Bruce Springsteen live performance set “The Live Series Collection” (newly found on Napster), I used to be struck many times by how a lot I felt (and miss) Clarence Clemons’ in-your-face live performance saxophone wailing. There’s additionally sufficient backside finish extension (right down to 60Hz) in a Link Music to make the room sway on an electro-dance pop thumper like Dua Lipa’s “Hallucinate,” discovered on a Spotify contemporary hits record.

    jbl link music top Jonathan Takiff / IDG

    Get used to utilizing voice instructions, the JBL Link Music has minimal bodily controls.

    Now being repeatedly discounted to $79.95 (down from the unique $119.95 MSRP), this mighty mite additionally ticks a bunch of the characteristic containers you could be hoping for in a wise speaker. Connecting wirelessly to a house community by way of dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac, however no ethernet port), a JBL Link Music runs on the Google Home platform, takes cues from an iOS 11.0+ or Android OS 5.0+ app, and from Google Assistant-aided voice instructions. So, it’s designed to do much more than pull in music, web radio, information, and podcasts. You also can ask the Google Assistant to serve up a recipe; reply a burning query; or command the lights, thermostats, window shades, and door locks in your sensible residence to do their factor.

    The speaker design is non-controversial, mixing in with any décor. It’s a boxy however rounded-at-the-corners enclosure measuring 4.1 inches in diameter by 5.3 inches excessive, wrapped in acoustically impartial black or grey textured speaker fabric. A row of LEDs blink on the entrance if you wake the factor up with a “Hey Google” command Flush plus/minus buttons on the speaker’s rubbery high management the amount, whereas a critical, center-mounted Google Assistant button controls playback and alarms and timers. A rubberized backside saved this factor from creeping throughout the counter even when the Springsteen crew was in soul-shaking, earth-quaking revival mode on “The Detroit Medley” and “Higher and Higher.”

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