JBL Pulse 3 Review
It’s been two years since the announcement of the Pulse 2. Now, JBL finally released its successor, the Pulse 3. It was unveiled during CES 2017 back in January, then made its way here to the Philippines in September. With an improved look and sound, is this speaker worth getting? Find out in our full review.
Design and Construction
JBL’s Pulse lineup became the brand’s most visually appealing Bluetooth speaker thanks to built-in LEDs and a water-resistant body. That trend continued with the Pulse 3, and it’s even better than before.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Pulse 3 is its design. Gone is the metal mesh found on the original Pulse and Pulse 2, and instead now features a glossy plastic. This has a drastic effect on its light show as it is now fuller and brighter.
Found below is the speaker with a textile mesh covering, that is similar to the JBL Charge 3. The metallic JBL badge is placed right in the middle.
Looking at the back are the buttons and controls. There’s an LED indicator for the battery level, the buttons for the power, Bluetooth, Connect+, light presets, volume up, volume down, and Play.
Found under the flap are the 3.5mm audio port and the micro USB port. What’s missing here is JBL Prism color sensor lens which has been replaced with a software feature found in the JBL Connect app.
At the top and bottom are the bass radiators with a glossy plastic exterior. Unlike the Pulse 2, which you could place upside down, the Pulse no longer recommends that for obvious reasons.
Another thing you’ll notice about the Pulse 3 is its size, as it’s way bigger than the previous Pulse speakers. It’s heavier too at 960g compared to the 775g Pulse 2, but still very much portable and can easily fit in a backpack.
As for its build, the Pulse 3 feels more premium and less rugged. The glossy plastic that encases the lights is prone to fingerprints, although you won’t notice them when the lights are on. We’re also concerned that it would easily get scratched if it gets toppled or placed on its side.
Lastly, water-resistance has been improved. While the Pulse 2 is only splash-resistant, the Pulse 3 is now IPX7-certified meaning it can be submerged in water up to 1 meter in depth.
Setup and Features
Setting up the Pulse 3 is easy, as you just need to turn it on then pair it with your mobile device via Bluetooth. If it can’t be discovered right away, you may press the Bluetooth button to initiate pairing, which is handy if you’re switching devices.
Once paired, you can start playing your tunes, but if you want to tinker with its features, we highly recommend installing the JBL Connect app. From here you can adjust the brightness of the Lightshow as well as upgrade its software. You can also initiate Party mode by connecting multiple JBL Connect+ compatible speakers (unfortunately it doesn’t support our Pulse 2), or put it in stereo mode by connecting two of the same speakers as L/R channels
Going back to the Lightshow, the JBL Connect app features 8 presets: Wave, Jet, Fireworks, Equaliser, Rave, Rainbow, Campfire, and Customized. You can change the color of these presets by picking a color from the color wheel or by using the phone’s camera to pick a color from any surface. However, the Pulse 3 will not be always accurate when reproducing the colors you picked as they often appear faded or lacking in saturation, but it’s a cool feature nonetheless.
We’re expecting bigger and better sound on the Pulse 3 considering its overhauled look and increased sized compared to its predecessors. True enough, it is louder and more powerful than the Pulse 2 with crisper trebles and deeper bass. The sound is also thrown evenly around the speaker which is good as we can put it in the middle of the table and everyone will experience the same sound quality regardless where one is seated, unlike the Pulse 2 which sounds weaker from behind.
However, don’t expect it to fill big party environments, as it is only loud enough for a bedroom, living room, or by-the-pool parties. If you want to go beyond that, that’s where the JBL Connect+ feature comes in but you’ll need two or more speakers.
Those who are into Hip hop music will like the Pulse 3 as it can deliver those solid thumps without sacrificing clarity, however, the sub-bass feels subdued and left us wanting more. Still, tracks like The Weeknd’s Starboy and The Hills, and Post Malone’s Congratulations and Rockstar, still sound good. If you’re into club music, the Pulse 3 has enough oomph to get your head bobbing to the beat.
Listening to rock music like Beastie Boys’ Sabotage and AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill was also great as the Pulse 3 was able to deliver that grunginess and detail while keeping vocals strong and clear. Sibilance is present, but controlled. Jazz bar music sound great as well as each instrument are emphasized yet balanced. Overall, it feels balanced and can handle a wide variety of music.
Powering the Pulse 3 is a 6,000mAh battery which is the same capacity as the Pulse 2. JBL claims up to 12 hours of playback which is better compared to the 10 hours on the Pulse 2. So far we’re getting the same amount of battery life, around 11 to 12 hours before we have to recharge. Although this can vary depending on the volume level and how much you play with the Lightshow.
The Pulse and Pulse 2 were considered as one of the most exciting Bluetooth speakers when they came out. JBL continues that trend with the Pulse 3 with a new look and improved quality. It sounds good and is definitely better than the Pulse 2, but compared to other speakers in the same price range, it doesn’t offer anything ground-breaking.
What you’re probably paying for here is the Lightshow, which makes the Pulse 3 as one of the most visually-appealing Bluetooth speakers on the market. It comes with a price though, at Php10,995, which is Php1K more expensive than the Pulse 2 when it came out. If you’re looking for a good-sounding speaker that also doubles as a digital lava lamp, this is it.
The JBL Pulse is now available at A. Refinery Stores.
JBL Pulse 3 specs:
Bluetooth version: 4.2
Support: A2DP V1.3, AVRCP V1.6, HFP V1.6, HSP V1.2
Transducer: 3 x 40mm
Output power: 20W
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
Music playing time: up to 12 hours (varies by volume level
and audio content)
Bluetooth transmitter power: 0 – 9dBm
Bluetooth transmitter frequency range: 2.402 – 2.480GHz
Bluetooth transmitter modulation: GFSK, n/4-DQPSK, 8DPSK
Dimensions (H x W x D): 223mm x 92mm x 92mm
What we liked:
* Nice looking design
* Solid build
* Mesmerizing Lightshow feature
* Better sound
What we didn’t: