It’s summertime and that means the arrival of new outdoor Bluetooth speakers from all your favorite brands. JBL has been at the top of the chain in terms of quality, design and sound for the last couple of years. Today, we’re taking a look at its latest release, the Charge 3. Much like its predecessor, this speaker is made for outdoor fun with an IPX7 splashproof rating and compact footprint. An improved internal battery brings a whopping 20 hours of playback. We loved the Charge 2+ last summer for its top-notch sound and this rendition follows that trend…

Unboxing and Design

The Charge 3 follows the familiar trend of JBL’s Bluetooth speakers with a simple design and large controls on top. It ships in familiar packing that opens to reveal the speaker, a few charging accessories and some documentation. JBL has slightly tweaked the overall look on this year’s Charge release. It is much more in-line with the larger Xtreme, thanks to a textured fabric covering and a slightly elongated look. The Charge 3 comes in at just over 8-inches in length and 3.5-inches around. An oval-shaped flat area on the bottom helps to keep it from rolling over.

The controls on top of the unit basically remained in-tact from the previous generation: Bluetooth connection, volume up/down, play/pause and party mode. There is a charging area on the backside that provides access to a microUSB port, USB port (for charging) and a 3.5mm line-in jack. JBL has made sure that the plug covering these ports snaps into place, aiding its IPX7 rating. A five LED indicator on the front displays how much battery life remains.

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Features

When looking at JBL’s lineup, most shoppers are likely to opt for the Charge 3. It has a nice blend of size and functionality that is perfect for most. The standout feature is its incredible battery life. A built-in 6000mAh power supply is rated for 20 hours of use when fully charged. On top of that, the USB port on the back will charge your device when it is plugged in. When comparing to other speakers, the Charge 3 stands out with its impressive all-day battery life. The previous generation only supplied 12 hours of playback, so we’re seeing a significant jump here. That’s enough time for at least two days of partying, even for the biggest DJ.

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Another key feature of the Charge 3 is its IPX7 rating. This stands for International Protection Marking but essentially tells us how much water it can take on before damage occurs. Officially, that’s good for three feet of water at up to 30 minutes (the same designation as Apple Watch). I didn’t submerge the Charge 3 but I gave it a pretty good bath without any issue. I recommend watching the video above to get a feel for how well this product is designed. When attempting to demonstrate its splashproof qualities, I accidentally pushed the speaker of a ledge, causing it to tumble some 20 feet to a garden below. To my surprise, it continued playing without issue. Although the speaker isn’t rated for drop distance, that was a pretty impressive endorsement for its build quality.

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Additional features include speakerphone capabilities with a new noise and echo cancellation system that cuts down on background interference during calls. Multiple speakers can be paired together thanks to JBL’s Connect function, so listeners can create a true stereo setup if so desired. This goes along with the Charge 3’s DJ mode which allows multiple devices to be paired with the speaker at once.

Sound

The Charge 3 has a classic JBL sound, it’s rich in bass and continues the tradition of a well represented mid-range. I think we’ve moved past the stage of a heavy low-end presence being desirable by consumers and this speaker accurately represents that trend. It did a fine job of accurately representing most of the songs that I played. Overall, I’d say that high-end was not as strong in comparison but that was fine with me. The Charge 3 is meant to be a punchy speaker, used in outdoor settings. You’re not going to be able to distinguish the top of Mariah Carey’s vocal range at a cookout full of people.

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That said, the Charge 3 technically has a stereo design but I’d say that it’s virtually unrecognizable. It’s simply a byproduct of the speaker’s small footprint. The two drivers are just too close together to really enjoy any left-to-right changes in music. But then again, is that what this speaker is really for? If you’re after a true stereo experience, you’re likely to buy a two-channel setup anyways. Overall, the sound quality is as good as we’ve heard from an outdoor Bluetooth speaker.

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Conclusion

If you are after a new solution for enjoying your favorite music, the JBL Charge 3 is a great buy. It’s the perfect summer speaker with solid sound and killer battery life. It’s a nice option for enjoying your tunes inside and the best we’ve seen for outdoor activities. The build quality is top-notch, too. At $149.99, the Charge 3 is this year’s pick for the best active lifestyle speaker.

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