JBL Pulse 3 Review

Looking for a speaker that combines sight and sound? Look no further than the JBL Pulse 3. Released in 2017, this portable Bluetooth speaker is sure to turn heads with its unassuming display. It also may be your perfect companion during parties or gatherings. But how does it sound? Read on for the review of the Pulse 3.

[Disclaimer: We reached out to JBL Malaysia and they were kind enough to send us a Pulse 3. This is not a paid review. All views expressed in this review are solely of the writer. We would like to thank JBL Malaysia for sending us this unit. ]

 

Setup

Setup is straightforward. You have two options after turning on the Pulse 3. First is to download the JBL Connect app and follow instructions from there. If you want the faster route, pair it straightaway via Bluetooth with your phone or tablet. And you’re good to go.

JBL Connect app on the Play Store.

 

Looks

This thing is hefty.

A giant capsule. Measuring at a height of 8 inches and a diameter of 3.6 inches, the Pulse 3 resembles a giant capsule. Bass speakers line the top and bottom while the main speakers fire at all sides. Taking about 70% of the body, is the 360 degrees display. I’ve a feeling the display isn’t made out of glass but another durable material.

Concaved bottom to let sound out.

The bottom is designed in such a way that it’s concaved. Thoughtful enough design to let the sound escape. Also if you look closely, you’d think that the mesh is made from metal, but it actually feels like some kind of high quality fabric.

3.5mm audio jack and a Micro USB port for charging.

Nestled between the buttons is a flap. Open it and you’ll find a Micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm audio jack for other audio sources like a phone or tablet.

Button layout.

As for the buttons, they’re recessed and have a nice click to it.



Features

Lights
There are 8 different light patterns for you to choose from. For each pattern, you can set any colour from the colour wheel and also it’s intensity. There’s also one for you to create by mixing 3 present patterns. Very nice indeed. The 8 patterns are: Wave, Jet, Fireworks, Equaliser, Rave, Rainbow, Campfire and Customized.

Above: Some of the lights you can choose from. Below: Video of Wave, Jet, Fireworks and Equaliser


Connectivity
To listen to music, connect via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm audio jack. The bluetooth version used here is 4.2 although it would’ve been nice to have APTX for better sound quality. With the 3.5mm audio jack, you can connect your phone, tablet or even a Chromecast Audio. Mine however, wasn’t working so I couldn’t test this feature. I presumed that the unit that was sent to me was faulty. No biggie. Why would you connect a Chromecast Audio you ask? One, cause you can. And two, for improved sound quality.

The Pulse 3 connects via Bluetooth.

JBL Connect+
JBL Connect+ is pretty cool as it allows you to connect multiple JBL Connect+ speakers together. Think of it as JBL’s way of multiroom speakers but using Bluetooth. I didn’t get to test this feature as I only had a Pulse 3 with me.

Got another spare JBL speaker at home? Connect it all with the JBL Connect+.

Voice Assistant
The Pulse 3 supports Voice Assistants with a caveat; It must first be connected to your phone. To get voice assistant to work, launch the JBL app and assign the function to the ‘Play’ button. After that press once to trigger it.

Select Voice assistant on the app.

IPX7
Having IPX7 rating allows you to submerge the Pulse 3 up to 3 feet (1 metre) underwater. Why would you want to do that? I’ve no idea. But essentially it means that it’ll be safe at pool parties.

From the JBL website.

 

Usage and Performance

With lights accompanying sound, the JBL Pulse 3 is a bluetooth speaker that’s meant to entertain. First let’s talk about the sound quality. Before having the Pulse 3, I had minimal contact and experience with non-stereo speakers. The reason for that is because I did not see the value that these type of speakers bring to listeners. My philosophy is, if you’re serious about sound, then invest in a good pair of speakers such as bookshelf speakers. However, coming into this review, I realized that the Pulse 3 has a market for itself and there is demand for portable speakers. I also couldn’t compare it to stereo speakers because it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Those considerations in place, I was ready to put it through its paces with an open mind.

Music tested: Bebel Gilberto, Ivy Sole and Panama Wedding.

The sound from the Pulse 3 is good considering it’s size. Where it shines is the bass and mids whereas the high notes sound a bit muffled. Top and bottom firing bass speakers add volume to any music. First up was a Brazilian tune called Novas Idéias by Bebel Gilberto feat. Seu Jorge. Their vocals came through clearly and was supported by the minimal-but-noticeable double-bass instrument. Next up was You don’t know my name – Ivy Sole. Ivy Sole’s voice was punchy but the bass was a bit harsh. Lastly was Panama Wedding’s Feels like summer. This, a more upbeat song was commendable. It was well balanced overall save for also a harsh bass. A note though, don’t read too much into the sound performance as you will see later below. I went ahead to share my experience anyway because well, it’s a speaker.

Next, let’s talk about the lights. As mentioned, the Pulse 3 has 8 different patterns to choose from and the lights light up the full 360 display of the speaker. I don’t quite know what is powering the lights, but it’s impressive. Every single area from top to bottom, left to right is fully lit up depending on the pattern that you choose. Don’t like the colour? Not a problem, just open up the colour swatch in the app and choose another one. There’re even preset patterns which you can mix and combine to your own liking.

Taking all of these into account, I’ve come to the conclusion that the sound quality assumes a much lesser weight. This is because the Pulse 3 is meant to entertain; Be it in parties, in small gatherings or even by yourself. Take the first two settings for example. With crowd noise and other ambient sound, people won’t be focused too much on sound quality but as long as the music is recognisable, that’s all that matters. What has more weight in my opinion are the lights. That’s where it steals the show. I bet you that most people will be mesmerized the moment they set eyes on the Pulse 3. For myself, I have used this at home during my unwinding time after work. The Wave pattern really did set the mood while being accompanied with some chill and relaxing music.

 

Where to buy

The JBL Pulse 3 is going at the retail price of RM1299. It’s available on the JBL Official store in Lazada. You can also check out the major electronic stores.

 

Final Thoughts

After a few weeks with the Pulse 3, I came away with mixed feelings. The primary area that kept bugging me was the price. At Rm1299, you have a product that’s more of sight than sound. The sound isn’t that bad actually, but if you’re gonna spend RM1299 for a speaker, I think the Sonos Play 1 is a better proposition. I guess the question to ask is, why does the JBL Pulse 3 interest you in the first place. If you’re looking for a conversation starter, or a piece of hardware that will be the centre of attraction in your home, then the Pulse 3 is your best bet. Also, if you spend alot of time outdoors like BBQs or parties, then the Pulse 3 is sure to add to the atmosphere. However, if you’re after something that’s purely for the sound, then look elsewhere. All in all, the Pulse 3 is a cool speaker. The display is rather gorgeous and to my knowledge, there isn’t a comparable product in the market right now.