JBL Pulse 3: A Great Bluetooth Speaker with RGB. The sound quality, battery life and build quality are not the best, but it won't let you down. During my testing, the light show that you can customize was the highlight of my party.
We like this
Amazing, custom-made light shows
Sound quality is solid and 360 degrees
Avoid scratches and scuffs
Fast charging or Bluetooth 5 are not available.
JBL Pulse 3 is as loud as it gets. You'll love the lights, but you will be captivated by the speaker's solid performance.
- Durability and build quality
- Connection and setup
- Sound Quality
- Battery life
- Software and Additional Features
- Final Verdict
JBL Pulse 3 Bluetooth Speaker is stunning, not only for its sound quality, but also because it looks great. Sitting somewhere between a portable Bluetooth speaker and a digital lava lamp, the Pulse 3 is meant holistically as a party machine—a small speaker you bring out to the pool during the summer or use during campfire gatherings. This portable speaker is the most flashy option on the market. It features app connectivity and an RGB customizable light show that syncs with your music.
It's not the most practical device, and it was tempting to laugh at the Pulse 3 but I was constantly impressed by its capabilities from the first time I switched it on during the week of testing.
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This is it: The Pulse3's most distinctive feature is its LED light show. From the 1970s psychedelic concert to the Stock 'visualizer on Windows Media Player in the early aughts, we've all witnessed lights sync to music. It's not a new idea to have light shows that sync up with your music. JBL is able to create something new here.
The glossy light diffuser shell makes up about 2/3rds the chassis of Pulse 3. It looks almost like a dark grey opaque piece of glass when the speaker is turned off. This speaker comes alive when the speaker is turned on. Because the diffuser cover is so thick, the columns of RGB LED lights underneath don't look distinct—they're more like soft orbs that blur together. JBL can create stunning patterns with the'screen'. These range from subtle rainbow gradients that ebb/flow with your music to cool EQ visualizations, which feel almost like EDM.
The rest of the design feels very JBL—pulsing subwoofers on either side of the unit, the tight-knit cloth grille around the bottom, that bright metallic orange JBL logo, and a small set of controls on the back. This speaker is quite larger than the Flip Series (roughly double its width, and several inches higher). It has practical implications for portability but also makes the speaker appear bulky. Visually, this shouldn't be an issue, particularly at night. It's likely that JBL has made this trade to make room for all of the technology under the hood.
The opaque diffuser which softens LEDs feels extra thick, so I don't worry about it cracking. However, the glossy exterior makes it susceptible to scratches and scrapes.
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These cylindrical-shaped Bluetooth speakers feel dense. The speakers are small and simple, so they can be carried in a backpack. It is a lot larger than the Flip Series, but it's still quite portable. The Pulse 3 measures nearly 9 inches high and 4 inches wide. It is almost 9 inches tall and nearly 4 inches wide. This makes it smaller than many other speakers of this type.
It's surprising to learn that the speaker, despite being bulky and heavy, weighs in at 2 pounds. It actually seems lighter than it looks. Either way, this isn't the speaker to leave in your bag just in case—it's the one you intentionally bring as a visual focal point.
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The Pulse 3, unlike other speakers, looks and functions are just as important as the sound. You will experience a decrease in enjoyment when there are small scratches and marks on the exterior. This is why I treasured this speaker so much.
The opaque diffuser which softens LEDs feels extra thick, so I don't worry about it cracking. However, the glossy gloss finish makes it susceptible to scratches and scrapes. These scuffs can affect the smoothness and quality of the light show. The Pulse 3, with its thick rubber at the ends and sturdy chassis, is as robust as any other JBL speaker. I advise being careful.
This speaker can withstand rough treatment. It seems like the diffuser acts as a buffer for the internal workings. You'll need to abuse the speaker to inflict any damage. JBL also included its rugged grille along the base of the 3-speaker array, which protects your cones. It also has IPX7 water resistance.
There are many pictures of people diving into the speakers for some pool fun, just like other JBL marketing. Although technically this is fine (IPX7 refers to the ability to submerge an item for up to three meters and for as much as thirty minutes), the tests were done in a laboratory so I wouldn't recommend submerging it for entertainment. The paradox is that the Pulse 3 can feel very powerful, but it's easy to abuse.
All of the JBL products I have used, including Bluetooth headphones and speakers such as this one, were great to connect. They are ready to pair and appear in the Bluetooth menu within seconds. You can enter pairing mode by simply pressing the Bluetooth button again.
Bluetooth 4.2 is perfect for outdoor use as it can reach up to 30m as long as the line of sight remains intact. Bluetooth 5.0 might have provided a more enjoyable experience, and allowed for multiple sources of devices to be connected to the device. However it's not a major issue. The Pulse 3, as a speakerphone, was also a great use case. It allowed for clearer and more detailed phone conversations. With a category like this, no news is usually good news, and I can confidently say that the connectivity here is great because it just works—nothing more, nothing less.
This Bluetooth speaker is the most powerful in JBL's Bluetooth range. It's not. It sounds great with most music, and all applications. Yes. It is louder than most portable speakers at 20W, but it has a great sound quality. It has a frequency range of 65Hz-20kHz. This gives you plenty coverage but lacks a lot of bass.
It is not the loudest portable speaker, at 20W, but it's still impressive in terms of how loud it can get and how it keeps its sound quality even at higher volume levels.
The resonance is carried nicely at the lower end thanks to JBL's clever porting and side-firing subs. The only thing that is odd about this speaker is its tendency to sound a little muddy when it is placed upright on a desk. This is due to the fact that it has a lava lamp-style design. Although you can get an evener sound by placing it flat on your side, the light shows will look weird. This is something you should consider.
The Pulse 3 has a unique selling point that you may not have thought about: it offers a substantial, '360-degree sound. While many speakers of this type claim to be omnidirectional, they only fire one speaker in each direction. This means that you will need to use directional porting techniques to create the effect of surround sound. Actually, the Pulse 3 has three 40mm drivers that point outwards along its outer edge. The speaker truly fills the room with sound. This is an impressive product.
Three separate 40mm drivers are found in the Pulse 3. They point outwards along its outer edge. The speaker truly fills the room with sound. This is an impressive product.
JBL claims that the battery life of the 6,000mAh battery will last for 12 hours. Although you might think that a 6,000mAh battery would give more playback, I find the 12-hour time impressive considering how many leds this device has firing and what patterns they can fire. Twelve hours is the standard estimate for many of JBL's portable speakers, so to see it here isn't actually disappointing—it's a selling point.
I will say that after using this speaker in dark environments with the light show on full display, it felt a little closer to 10 hours of use—especially at louder volumes. These are estimates as with all battery life estimates. Keep in mind, however that you will see a variation in your battery life especially if there is a lot to listen to. The micro-USB charging port charges your device in approximately 4 hours. This is slower than what you would expect from a USB C port.
You can cycle through different light patterns by using the button outside the speaker. This is an obvious feature of the Pulse 3. The Pulse 3, like all JBL flagship speakers, is compatible with JBL Connect, which gives you additional control.
You can first connect the speaker to other JBL compatible speakers in Party Mode. This allows you to include up 100 speakers into a large soundscape or as a stereo pair. The firmware can be updated and you can change the function of some buttons.
Lighting is the real control function of the app. The app allows you to easily cycle between the presets, and can be customized so that certain colors are highlighted. JBL also added a feature that allows you to use the phone's camera and take photos of colors in real life to map them to your RGBs. A custom light show can be created by selecting from a range of colors or patterns.
The light show may seem a little slick, but the Pulse3 feels well worth it. It is built to a high standard, it sounds great, and you can customize the light show through the app.
The Pulse 3 speaker is technically older than the Flip 5. This means that it can be purchased for $149. That's almost the same as the Flip 5 which does not have any lights options. You can also get the Pulse 4, which has a slightly longer battery life and a more robust form factor. However, it will cost you $250. This is an excellent time to grab a good deal on a premium device.
As most Bluetooth speakers do not offer an LED lighting option, there aren't many direct alternatives to the Pulse Series. Because the Pulse 3 gives you a great value, I actually think it compares well to the Soundcore Flare+ (view on Amazon)—a premium offering from Anker.
A great-sounding, high quality device for $100. However it doesn't offer as much lighting customization or is as robust. It's Soundcore so the battery handling and sound quality should be much better. JBL is worth the $50 extra, if you're willing to spend.
JBL Pulse 3 was a great choice for someone like me who is very proud of their audio quality. Although it isn't the most powerful speaker, it sounds amazing. Although it doesn't have the longest battery life, it can get through any party. It is a great party centerpiece. When you want a light show, it'll provide a ton of entertainment on a picnic table, and it will get plenty loud with its omni-directional-firing speakers. It does all this for an affordable price.
- Product name Pulse 3
- Product brand JBL
- Prices from $149.99