I’ve been testing out JBL’s Pulse 3 Bluetooth Speaker for the last couple weeks which features a cool 360-degree lightshow, waterproof design, nice sound quality, and good battery life. Keep reading after the break for our full review of this fun and functional portable speaker.
The Pulse 3 sits in JBL’s lineup of portable Bluetooth speakers as larger than the Clip 2, Flip 4, and Charge 3 and smaller than the Xtreme and soon to be released Boombox. I was looking forward to giving the Pulse 3 a try after enjoying the Flip 4, and also the fact that you can link the speaker with the JBL Connect+ feature.
Materials & Build
The Pulse 3 comes in two colors, black or white. The speaker uses a nice quality nylon fabric for the bottom quarter of the speaker and the rest is plastic which allows the LEDs to shine through for the lightshow feature. Even though there’s a decent amount plastic, this speaker has a nice weight to it and feels well-constructed.
Included in the box you’ll find the Pulse 3 speaker, a USB A to micro-USB charging cable, a 12W power adapter, and documentation.
The Pulse 3 sports an IPX7 rating, so it can handle submersion in water up to 3 feet (1m) for up to 30 minutes, making it especially great for use at the pool or beach (JBL notes to rinse off its speakers with fresh water, then dry it off if you happen to take it for a dip in salt water or a chlorine pool). A small waterproof rubber door covers the micro-USB port for charging and a 3.5mm aux input.
There are seven buttons all found on the rear of the speaker, including play/pause, volume, Bluetooth, JBL Connect+, light mode, and power. There’s also a 5 LED battery status indicator above the buttons.
Dimensions and Battery Life
The Pulse 3 weighs in at just over 2 pounds (960 grams) with dimensions of 8.78 x 3.62 x 3.62-inches (223 x 92 x 92 mm). It stands about as tall as two pop cans. While it’s definitely easy enough to take with you on the go, it takes up a bit more room in a bag than something like the Flip 4 (pictured below).
The Pulse 3 has a 6000mAh lithium-ion battery that provides about 12 hours of playtime and takes about 4.5 hours to charge from empty. In my testing I’ve gotten just over 13 hours of usage at about 70% volume and it really does take almost 5 hours to charge up from empty to full. If you’re planning on using this speaker on the go regularly, a portable power bank would be nice to have.
JBL offers a one year warranty as well as a 30-day money back guarantee on The Pulse 3.
The Pulse 3 appears to use two 50mm drivers and two external passive radiators (the spec sheet doesn’t mention). Just like what I experienced with the Flip 4 (our review), I found listening to music to be best at around 60-70% volume, with distortion becoming an issue past that point. I think the Pulse 3 does a nice job of filing a couple of rooms with quality audio.
What makes these speakers even more useful is pairing multiple speakers with the JBL Connect+ feature. It’s super simple and fast to do with the dedicated button found on any compatible JBL speakers. I have a large open basement and have been using the Pulse 3 and Flip 4 together to fill up the space with sound.
The Pulse 3 is also a really fun speaker to use outside (and on the go), especially at night with the lightshow feature. This speaker reminded me how much I used to enjoy using the visualizer in iTunes when listening to music on my Mac. The slick thing is with the Pulse 3, you’ve can bring a funky, colorful visualizer anywhere you want.
With the lightshow button on the back of the speaker, you can choose between 8 different modes or opt to turn the LEDs off by pressing and holding the button if you’re not in the mood. You can also create a synchronized lightshow if you pair two Pulse 3 speakers.
Other features like a built-in speakerphone with noice cancellation and the option to customize the speaker’s play button to invoke Siri make this speaker a great product.
One of the downsides to this speaker is that the top plastic portion attracts smudges and fingerprints quickly. However, when the LEDs are on I didn’t notice them at all, and it’s easy to clean.
The Pulse 3 will likely be a great portable Bluetooth speaker for you if the light show, good sound quality and waterproofing are appealing. Alternately, if the light show is something you can pass on and you’d prefer something a bit smaller and less expensive, JBL’s Charge 3 offers 20 hours of battery life and a USB A port to charge your smartphone or other device for $129.