Tech reviews for the average consumer in under two minutes!
The JBL Charge 3 falls into the category of mid-tier consumer Bluetooth speakers. There are cheaper options for certain (JBL Clip 2 comes to mind) and there are much more expensive options (I’m looking at you Sonos and the upcoming Apple HomePOD). JBL makes quality speakers that focus on solid all-around sound without killing your pocketbook. This speaker is about 8 inches in height, and has great sound even at high volumes. I chose this speaker because it is wide range Bluetooth (100 feet without walls), waterproof (you can dunk this sucker), and it works with the Amazon Echo series of speakers (I pair this one with a Echo DOT). The sounds quality between this speaker and it’s younger brother the JBL Flip 4 was basically the same, at least to my ear (I’m no audiophile though). I chose the Charge 3 mainly because of it’s larger battery (20 hours) and it’s ability to charge devices on the go (it has a built in USB to charge your phone/tablet).
The only downside I’ve found with this speaker is pairing. I was able to pair 2 different phones (as advertised), but not consistently. Perhaps it was a fluke, but something to consider. Also pairing to my Amazon Echo DOT has been challenging, as it keeps losing the connection. As a bluetooth speaker, this thing rules. As a “smartspeaker” jerry-rigged with a DOT, there’s work to be done to make that experience smooth.
Design: Cup Half Full
Ease of Use (Bluetooth Speaker): Cup Half Full
Ease of Use (with Echo DOT): Cup Half Empty
Sound Quality: Cup Half Full
Cost: Cup Half Full
Overall: Cup Half Full
Long-form reviews to consider, when you have more time:
It’s official. I now own the entire Amazon Echo family. It started almost two years ago with the beta version (by invite only) of the Echo Speaker. Last Spring I added the micro version, Echo Dot, to the mix. And finally I caved and bought the Wireless Bluetooth version, Amazon Tap. This purchase was much debated. It even resulted in buying a different Bluetooth speaker, which I don’t regret getting, but that purchase did highlight what was missing, and why the Tap was “needed”. I’ve had the Amazon Tap for five days, and these are my First Impressions…
It’s Alexa with a Tap
I’ve been a fan of the Echo Speaker for years. Check out my early reviews HERE and HERE. The Amazon Tap has all the same functionality of the more expensive Echo, just without the “always listening” element. For some, that might even be seen as a good thing. To access the Alexa element of the Tap you just “tap” the button on the side, and the mics activate. Ask for a song, the weather, the news, a timer, an Uber, or the Capital of Turkey. Everything the Echo can do, so can the Tap. As this is a portable speaker (read wireless), the always listening element would most certainly kill what is actually very good battery life (9 hours of playback).
It’s a Speaker on the Move
This is the first of the Echo Speaker family that is cordless. So now whichever room of your house that needs some music can have it. Basement? Garage? You’re covered. In my first week with the device, I’ve found it my constant companion as I move around the house. I look forward to taking it out on the road as well, as it’s much smaller form factor makes it ideal for tossing in my bag. And I dropped some extra coin for the “sleeve” which lets me clip it to my bag as well, along with a little cushion for a tumble (though I don’t place much stock in that element). When you’re done moving for the day, you simply place the device on it’s cradle, in any alignment, and you get your charge back. Super easy experience!
It’s Got New Features for the Echo Line
There are now more buttons on the top of the device. This is a big deal for me. Your have “play/pause”, track advance in both directions, and volume in both directions. These options are missing from the other two Echo speakers. They both have a “turn the top part for volume” element, but the physical buttons for tracks and play/pause are great. Sometimes I don’t have want shout “Alexa NEXT!!!” And having a button to push is handy. For those who don’t want an “always listening” device, this is definitely the speaker for you, as it only listens when you push that “tap” button. The TAP also features a “line in” to plug the device into speakers or receivers to make your old tech smart (to be fair, the Echo Dot also has this feature).
It’s (of course) Missing a Few Things
The same feature could be seen by others as a missing element. Without constant listening, you will have to move to the device to get it to listen. Hands free is pretty awesome, and that button is sometimes a pain. The sound quality is not on par with the big Echo speaker, but it still blasts pretty decently. Though I wouldn’t choose this as my primary home speaker. While it has that line in, it only works for attaching to speakers, it is not a headphone jack, which could come in handy when you want to keep the tunes to yourself, and save your smartphone battery.
The Whole Cup Summed Up
The Tap is definitely a speaker worth considering. If you dig the idea of voice activated speakers, the Echo line is one of the few choices out there. Since the Echo Dot seems to have been a short lived (buy with Echo only) device, you are left with two choices, that offer very different experiences. The large Echo offers better sound and always listening voice activation. And that comes with a high price tag ($179 vs 139) and a power cord (which for many isn’t a big deal if this is their “stereo”, like it is in our house). Then there’s the Amazon Tap. You get everything in terms of functionality of the larger Echo but skip the cord and the always listening. And a lower price tag. You sacrifice some sound quality, but for a portable speaker it’s still a good bet for most.
UPDATE 9/15/16: My reference to the “short-lived” Echo Dot has proven false. This week Amazon released a 2.0 model of the Echo Dot. It’s shorter, it comes in white, and has some nice enhancements. And it’s $50. Definitely worth considering if the $100+ price tag is to high. Check it out HERE.
The market for “smart speakers” is sure to get more interesting as Google and Apple are rumored to be getting into the game soon. But in the meantime, the Echo line of speakers are great and worth considering for your home music (or on the go music) needs. Happy Listening!