Google Home powered speakers are breeding like rabbits. The JBL Link 10, 20 and 300 are the first to have waterproof and portable speakers.
JBL makes some great gear – as it should being owned by Harmon Kardon and Samsung. Our current absolute favourite (non-Dolby Atmos) soundbar is the JBL Bar 5.1. It is so popular that it sold out within days of release and new stocks won’t arrive until September. JBL Linkl products will be just as popular.
Because of different price ranges and features, it is important to review this within a distinct band. Because it has Bluetooth and a $349.95 price tag the other contender in the Upper 1.0 class is the LG WK7 ThinQ.
Not to rain on JBL’s parade but LG WK7 got it so right with the WK7 sound, Hi-Res 24-bit/192kHz audio, and $299 price that ‘comparisons are odious’. In fact, it is on sale right now for $235 (shop around) and that blows all 1.0 contenders out of the water.
There is nothing wrong with the JBL Link 300 except that at $349.95 it is paddling in the big pool. Sorry, that is for its waterproof siblings, Link 10 and 20.
Looks wise it is a black or white, rubberised ‘squashed barrel’ design. At the rear is a large, circular bass port. We test all speakers on a large open-sided, benchtop so this port does nothing for the sound. Place it near a wall or bookshelf where it can resonate the bass more.
We can say you would not be disappointed if a) you like the design and b) bag a bargain closer to $300.
So how does the Link 300 sound?
JBL claims 55Hz-22kHz frequency response and it is right.
We ran the tone generator test first. Bass kicked in around 60Hz (nice and low), peaked at 130Hz where it was then relatively flat to 600Hz. Mids then kicked in were good to 5kHz. Upper-mids and treble went to about 18kHz. A tone generator tells you what the real sound signature is (warm and sweet), but not how it sounds.
We played Beach Boys (vocal and instrumental) and it performed well. Mid-bass kicked in later as expected at 160Hz. The frequency response was reasonably flat to 15kHz. The Gold line represents peak and the white line minimum over a three-minute sample. Good!
We played the Peter Gunn Blues Brother Theme and it was unpleasant. Bass kicked in at 100Hz, and it was harsh throughout the three-minute track. Don’t blame the audio track quality (I love Blues Brothers so don’t blame the music). The Google Home equaliser (basically Bass and Treble +/-6dB) is to blame. We adjusted this, but it did not make a lot of difference.
I hope JBL are listening and release an Android and iOS app to fine-tune this otherwise excellent speaker.
The clear winner sound and price-wise here was the LG WK7, Meridian tuned speaker. Its tuning settings reside on the speaker and it does not need Google Assistant EQ tweaking.
First a caveat. These are portable, battery-operated, Bluetooth speakers. The closest competitor would be Ultimate Ears Amazon Alexa based BLAST or MEGABLAST. Looks-wise they are both water resistant cylinders.
The Link 10 and 20 share the JBL sound pedigree. But it is impossible for a sealed waterproof speaker to have a decent frequency response. Neither has a 3.5mm aux-in port. The Link 10 is $229.95, and the Link 20 is $299.95.
We tested both speakers and they are almost identical. Link 20 has a bigger battery and slightly more Watts. For convenience, we have used one set of graphs. The white line is the Link 10 and the Gold is the link 20.
JBL claims 65Hz-20kHz. The tone generator shows test agreed. But depending on the content, it is more likely to deliver 100Hz-15kHz.
What the white line shows is the Link 10 has some issues delivering a flat frequency response. The Link 20 has a smoother delivery. Both show more of a mid-sound signature. While that is good for clear voice it is not the best for general music.
Using the same Beach Boys track the Link 20 produced a good smooth response and dropped off markedly around 3kHz. It was pleasant enough but lacked that upper register.
The Link 10 could not sustain the mids and then dropped off at 3kHz. While it would be wrong to say the sound was bad, it had a certain thinness to it that left you wanting more.
The Blues Brother track, full of bass and little treble, sounded better on the Link 20. Even though bass only kicked in at around 100Hz frequency response was relatively flat until it dropped off ant 5Khz. The Link 10 sounded almost as good as the Link 20 despite a certain harshness.
GadgetGuy’s take. Reviewing ten OK Google speakers at the same time sucks.
What I have learned is that you decide to use Google Assistant first. Then it is more about your sound needs.
The JBL Link 300 has its place in the home but it’s a little overpriced with no 3.5 aux-in. Sorry, the LG WK7 wins here with the best 1.0 sound of any OK Google device.
The Link 10 and 20 are fine water-resistant speakers and deliver sound commensurate with that. Compared to the Amazon Alexa Ultimate Ears Blast at $279.95 and MegaBlast at $379.95 they are a bargain for this type of speaker. Just don’t expect audiophile class sound.
Specifications JLB Link 10, 20 and 300
45mm x 2 2 x 8W (16W)
50mm x 2 2 x 10W (20W)
1 x 89mm woofer 1 x 20mm tweeter Circular bass port 2 x 25W (50W)
24-bit/96kHz SDC HE-AAC, LC-AAC, MP3, Vorbis, WAV (LPCM), FLAC, Opus
2 x Far-Field Voice Recognition with Google Assistant
Smart Home Control
4,000mAh 5 hours play, 5V/1A 4 hour recharge
6,000mAh 10 hours play, 5V/2.3A 4.5 hour recharge
240V brick 19VDC, 3.0A
Wi-Fi AC 2.4 and 5Ghz Bluetooth 4.2
Google Home App
169mm (high) x 86mm (round) x 710g
210mm (high) x 93mm (round) x 950g
236mm x 134mm x 154mm x 1.7kg
YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Philips Hue, tp-link, wemo, Samsung SmartThings
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