JBL Charge 3 review

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If it isn’t already, JBL is becoming one of the best audio companies for the average person. Their products are relatively affordable and you usually get a pretty good sound out of them. Not to mention that their entire line of Bluetooth speakers is waterproof, from the small JBL Clip 3 to the larger Xtreme. The last speaker to join the waterproof party was the Charge 3. Now that there are newer speakers available, how does the older Charge 3 hold up to Father Time?

Editor’s note: This article was updated on December 30th, 2019 to reflect changes in pricing. 

What’s comes with the speaker?

Pictured are the contents of the JBL Charge 3.

In the box you’ll get the charging brick and cable along with the speaker and manuals.

In the box you get the Charge 3, a charging block, a microUSB cable, and the warranty information and instruction booklet. Pretty standard stuff, though the orange color is definitely a nice touch especially with this teal color option.

How tough is the JBL Charge 3?

Pictured is the teal JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth speaker with the JBL logo on the passive radiator facing up on a white background.

Both sides of the cylinder feature JBL branding.

The previous Charge 2 was splashproof, but JBL took it a step further with the Charge 3. This new model is IPX7 waterproof, meaning that you can submerge it completely in water. The shape of the speaker is similar to plenty of the other speakers in the JBL line-up. It’s cylindrical and also has exposed bass radiators on either end which definitely helps push out some sound. Up top, you’ll find the familiar set of buttons that JBL puts on all their speakers. They’re made of a soft plastic and are slightly raised above the speaker. The only buttons that aren’t raised are the power and JBL Connect buttons which are flush with the speaker.

Pictured are the playback buttons of the teal version of the JBL Charge 3.

The playback buttons are slightly raised out of the fabric along the top.

Not only does the fabric protect the speaker, but it also gives you a way to get a good grip on it. This can come in handy when the speaker is wet because, you know, waterproof. On the very front of the speaker is the only place you’ll find the JBL logo. I’m normally not a big fan of obvious logos, but this one isn’t that bad since it’s nice and small.

On the bottom of the speaker, there is a small stand built into the design of the speaker with five small indicator lights on it that let you know how much battery is left. On the back of the speaker is where you’ll find the USB output, which is the feature that gives the Charge line of speakers their name. It’s hidden under a secure rubber flap along with the 3.5mm input and microUSB input.

How’s the connection strength?

The LED battery indicator lights on the bottom of the JBL Charge 3.

Along the “stand” on the bottom are small indicator lights that let you know how much battery life is left.

If build quality is good then the connection is amazing on this speaker. With no walls, I was able to get a strong connection up to about 50 or 60 feet. Once you throw a few walls in the way the range does jump back down to 30 feet, but it’s still very strong with no skipping. As far as playback controls go there are few options here. You can pause/play music, control the volume, and also skip to the next song if you double-tap the play button.

What’s the battery life of the JBL Charge 3?

Pictured is the teal JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth speaker on its side showing the flap protecting the ports.

You can find all of the input underneath a small, rubber flap that keeps the water out.

Battery life is spec’d at 20 hours, and that’s more or less what we got during testing. But keep in mind that charging your devices will likely shave a few hours off that. Under the flap on the back is where you’ll find the input for charging, so it goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway. Try to keep the speaker away from water as you’re charging it since the only seal will be exposed.

Does the JBL Charge 3 sound good?

Pictured is the passive bass radiator on the side of the Charge 3.

There are passive bass radiators on either side that help to push air.

Even though it has a 3.5mm input, I did all of my testing wirelessly using mobile phones since I figure that’s how most people are going to be using this speaker anyway. The Charge 3 makes good use of it its size with a strong low end. It’s definitely a little more powerful than some audiophiles will like, but I found it was perfect for bringing it outside. The Charge 3 was basically made for being poolside considering how loud it gets.

The mids were my least favorite part of the speaker, but they weren’t bad. They do sound a little muddled which could be because of the waterproof fabric, but vocals and lead instruments still have great detail. It’s just in the background elements where things get a little weird. Though the speaker does get plenty loud, highs never become harsh even when indoors. Crashes and hi-hats in Give Life Back to Music by Daft Punk sound fine and never become piercing.

What you should know

There is a new version of Charge speaker available

All good things must come to an end, and so has the Charge 3’s reign as JBL’s midrange Bluetooth speaker. Not much at all has changed from the Charge 3 to JBL Charge 4, but the newer model uses a USB-C charging port for all you new-phone-havers out there. If you can find the Charge 3 for less money, you won’t be disappointed, but chances are good this model is going away for good soon.

The Charge or the Flip? Which one is best for you?

So if you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker there’s plenty of options you can choose. Two of the better options come from JBL in the Charge 3 and the Flip 4, so knowing which one to go with can be a bit confusing. But there are some key differences to help you choose which speaker is right for you that you can read all about here as we put these two speakers head to head.

IP rating

The JBL Charge 3 has an IPX7 certification which makes it completely waterproof, but what exactly does an IP rating mean? We have an entire explainer but this chart should help explain the main points. The last digit, or the seven, in this case, refers to water submersion. So something that has an IPX7 can be submerged for 30 minutes in up to one meter of water.

  Water-resistant Waterproof Can withstand
IPX0 Not water-resistant
IPX1 Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
IPX2 Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
IPX3 Sprays
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
IPX4 Splashes, omnidirectional
IPX5 Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
IPX6 Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
IPX7 Complete submersion
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
IPX8 Complete submersion
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min

You might also like these similar options:

  • UE Boom 3: The main competitor to JBL is probably UE, and the best that the company has to offer right now is the UE Boom 3. Full review
  • Sony SRS-XB42: The best Sony has to offer right now comes in the shape of the XB41 Bluetooth speaker. It’s more expensive than the Charge 3, but it also sounds better.
  • Anker Soundcore Flare: What if you just want a waterproof speaker that’s cool, sounds decent, and won’t cost hundreds of dollars? Then check out the Anker Soundcore Flare which is well under $100. Full review

Final thoughts

With the Charge 3, JBL really finds what I think is the perfect compromise between sound and size. Though it’s still portable, the Flip 3 is hands-down a better option if you want to take it with you everywhere. If you want the biggest sound possible then you’re better off with the JBL Xtreme. But if you want the perfect mix of both, I have no problem recommending the Charge 3. It’s big enough to have a full sound, but it’s not so big that it’s a burden. Even when compared to the newer Charge 4, it’s still a great option if you can get a good enough discount. Currently the speaker is just $89 which is a great deal while it lasts.

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