The 8 Best JBL Speakers of 2021

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
JBL Flip 5 at Amazon
Pairs bold sound with bold design to deliver room-filling sound and powerful bass
Runner-up, Best Overall:
JBL Boombox 2 at Amazon
If you have some money to spend, the JBL Boombox 2 is unmatched in terms of sheer power.
With an affordable price tag, ultra-compact design, and solid audio performance, the JBL Go 3 lets you take your music everywhere.
JBL’s Xtreme speakers fall into an interesting middle ground in the product lineup.
Best Smart Speaker:
JBL Link Portable at Home Depot
The Link Portable adds some fun new features to a classic JBL speaker design.
Best Party Speaker:
JBL Pulse 4 at Amazon
The JBL Pulse 4 can bring the music and the ambiance to your next party.
The JBL PartyBox 310 is your ticket to rich, booming sound even in large spaces.
Best for Kids:
JBL Jr Pop at Best Buy
The JBL Jr Pop speaker is affordable, kid-friendly, and designed to hold up to the rigors of everyday use.


JBL is well known for its colorful Bluetooth speakers and ultra-portable designs. The brand’s distinct, bass-heavy audio profile makes it a go-to for party speakers and personal speakers alike, delivering rich sound and surprising volume even in the most compact designs. Many of the most popular JBL speakers are rugged—almost all of them are splash-proof if not fully waterproof—and designed to be carried or clipped onto backpacks and bikes. 

Whether you’re in the market for something pocket-sized or powerful enough to shake the room, JBL’s diverse lineup is sure to have something your speed. We’ve done the research to pick the best devices from the brand for all kinds of uses, so you can start by checking out our guide to setting up Bluetooth speakers, or dive right in with our list of picks below.

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • PartyBoost pairing feature

  • 12 hours of battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Older Bluetooth specs

The JBL Flip 5 pairs bold sound and bold design. Available in a dozen different colors and prints, this speaker can be oriented both vertically and horizontally, delivering room-filling sound with powerful bass. It can go wherever you go—at 7.1 x 2.7 x 2.9 inches and only one pound, this speaker is travel friendly and can play for 12 hours between charges. Plus, the IPX7 waterproof rating means you can take it to the pool, the beach, or out in the elements at your next outdoor gathering. 

The Flip 5 also features JBL’s PartyBoost feature, which allows you to pair it with other JBL Bluetooth speakers for even bigger sound. The one downside is the slightly dated Bluetooth 4.2 technology, which has a slightly weaker connection than the newest Bluetooth 5. But this is still our favorite JBL speaker based on sound, design, and pure versatility. 

Runner-up, Best Overall: JBL Boombox 2

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Very loud

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If you have some money to spend, the JBL Boombox 2 is unmatched in terms of sheer power. This speaker is definitely on the expensive side for a device in this category, but it’s also on the loud and powerful side. If volume and bass response are your top priorities, the Boombox 2 is the way to go.

This speaker is also pretty big—it weighs 13 pounds and measures almost 22 inches on its longest side. While it’s designed with a nostalgic boombox-style carrying handle, it’s portable but not exactly travel-friendly. That being said, the IPX7 waterproof rating makes it an excellent poolside or outdoor party speaker, and the battery lasts for a full 24 hours between chargers so you won’t need to bring along a charging cord. Bluetooth 5.0 technology supports a stable connection to your music streaming device and lets you pair the Boombox 2 with other PartyBoost-compatible JBL speakers (if you decide you need even more audio immersion).

What We Like
  • Waterproof and dustproof

  • Very portable

  • Fun color options

What We Don't Like
  • 5-hour battery life

With an affordable price tag, ultra-compact design, and solid audio performance, the JBL Go 3 lets you take your music everywhere. Whether you’re on the beach, on your bike, even in the shower—this little speaker has an IP67 rating that means it’s both dustproof and waterproof, even when submerged. It’s also small enough to fit in a bag or jacket pocket without weighing you down.

Even if you aren’t on the go, this speaker still looks great sitting out on a table. And despite its compact size, the audio performance is solid and surprisingly loud. Its main weakness is battery life. Five hours of playtime isn’t bad, but it doesn’t stack up particularly well against other Bluetooth speakers. If you don’t mind charging up every night, then the Go 3 is a durable and fun little speaker that won’t break the bank. It’s available in blue, teal, grey, red, and black.

 

Best Portable: JBL Xtreme 3

JBL Xtreme 3
What We Like
  • Waterproof and dustproof

  • Included carrying strap

  • PartyBoost compatibility

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

JBL’s Xtreme speakers fall into an interesting middle ground in the product lineup, bridging the gap between the brand’s larger and more expensive speakers and their ultra-portable offerings. The Xtreme 3 is still on the pricier side, but it packs the power of JBL’s more high-end speakers into a portable design. The result: big sound from a compact device. And like many other speakers on this list, it includes JBL’s PartyBoost speaker syncing feature.

The Xtreme 3 weighs a little over four pounds and measures 11.75 x 5.35 x 5.28 inches. There are two metal rings built into the top of the speaker and a fabric strap in the box, allowing you to carry it over your shoulder or across your back like a bag. It’s also built to withstand a variety of conditions and is both waterproof and dustproof. The 15-hour battery life is good but not great for this price range.

Best Smart Speaker: JBL Link Portable

JBL Link Portable
What We Like
  • Voice control

  • Stream directly from music services

What We Don't Like
  • Sound profile is not as rich

If you’re looking for something a little more high-tech or hands-free, the Link Portable adds some fun new features to a classic JBL speaker design. This speaker is a smart hub, an internet-connected speaker that can play music directly from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music without having to connect to a smartphone or computer. It’s set up using the Google Home app and responds to voice commands through Google Assistant. It’s also compatible with Chromecast and Apple Airplay for when you do want to stream from your devices. 

The Link Portable is made up of two parts: the cylindrical speaker and the charging cradle. The speaker can be removed from the cradle and carried around on its own. It’s waterproof and has an eight-hour battery life, so you can take it with you on the go and then drop it back in the cradle when you get home. Just note that the internet-enabled smart features will not work if it goes out of range of a Wi-Fi signal—at that point it would behave like a regular Bluetooth speaker. 

Best Party Speaker: JBL Pulse 4

What We Like
  • Light show feature

  • 360-degree speaker

  • PartyBoost compatibility

What We Don't Like
  • Older Bluetooth specs

The JBL Pulse 4 can bring the music and the ambiance to your next party. Its customizable light shows automatically sync up with your music, displaying a brilliant array of colors on all sides of the device. Just choose a theme in the JBL app or create your own lighting sequence from scratch, and you instantly have a centerpiece for your room. The 360-degree lights are accompanied by 360-degree sound—powerful drivers and heavy bass make this a fantastic party speaker. You can even connect it to another JBL speaker using the PartyBoost feature to enjoy stereo sound (or twice the light show, if you happen to have a second Pulse 4). This speaker also functions as a colorful mood lamp even when the music is turned off, so it’s truly a two-in-one device. 

Best Splurge: JBL PartyBox 310

JBL Partybox 310
What We Like
  • Light show feature

  • Powerful sound

  • Can run on battery or plugged in

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Very large

Planning to host some outdoor gatherings? The JBL PartyBox 310 is your ticket to rich, booming sound, even in large spaces. This speaker features 240 watts of JBL Pro Sound that brings the club to you. With 18 hours of battery life and an included power cord, you don’t have to worry about running out of juice. The built-in light show feature is an added bonus that provides some extra ambiance while the music plays. Customizable settings let you choose a light show that matches the mood.

The PartyBox 310 is built a bit like a rolling suitcase, with a telescopic handle and built-in wheels. It’s transportable, but still weighs about 40 pounds and measures 12.8 x 27 x 14.5 inches, so it’s a serious piece of equipment. That being said, it’s also quite durable. The PartyBox has an IPX4 rating, which means it can withstand splashes and spills and won’t get ruined by an unexpected rain shower.

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Waterproof

  • Fun color options

What We Don't Like
  • Middling battery life

The JBL Jr Pop speaker is affordable, kid-friendly, and designed to hold up to the rigors of everyday use. Its waterproof rating and all-plastic design means it can survive getting dropped, spilled on, or dropped into something that’s been spilled. It also comes with a snap-on carrying strap that can be easily fastened to a backpack or car seat. And if something happens to it anyway, the budget price tag makes it a relatively minor investment.

Kids will love the eye-catching features that JBL has managed to fit on the Jr Pop. The color options are playful and bright, and the speaker has a ring of multicolored lights that put on a show whenever music plays. JBL even includes a pack of stickers in the box so kids can customize their new device. The only downside is the five-hour battery life. The JBL Jr Pop may need to be charged a bit more than your typical Bluetooth speaker, but its tough build and playful design still make it a clear winner for kids.

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the versatile JBL Flip 5, which delivers rich sound in a durable and portable design. If you really want the cream of the crop (and have extra money to spend), then we recommend the Boombox 2 for its huge volume and long battery life. 

About our Trusted Experts

Emmeline Kaser is a former editor for Lifewire’s product round-ups and reviews. She is an experienced product researcher specializing in consumer tech.

FAQs

Will the distance of my speakers from the audio source affect my sound quality?
Yes, while it's not always possible, for the best audio quality, you'll want to keep the length of cable tethering your speakers to your receiver as short as possible. Although your sound quality won't suffer very much unless they're 25 feet or more from your receiver. For any wired speakers, you should use a 14-gauge cable, and potentially use a 12-gauge cable for any speakers extending past 25 feet from the receiver.

Where should I place my speakers?
This can be a little different depending on if you're using a stereo, 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1 setup. However, there are a couple of evergreen rules to follow regardless of how many speakers you're using. This will obviously depend on your room layout, but you should try and have your speakers equidistant from each other with surround speakers placed in the corners around your listening area. You should also try to keep your speakers free of obstructions and if you can safely mount them on a wall, even better.

How many subwoofers do I need?
This all depends on the size of your room, more subwoofers give you a better bass quality and offer you more flexible placement when looking for the best spot for optimal sound quality. However, having more than a single subwoofer in a small listening area may be overkill. Also, some single speakers provide enough bass as standalone options that an additional woofer isn't required.

What to Look for

Sound Quality - There’s no single spec that can tell you how a speaker will sound, and that’s one of the trickiest things about buying this kind of device online. Many JBL speakers will mention the brand’s “signature sound profile” somewhere in the product description, which refers to the way they tune their speakers. For JBL, that sound profile tends to be punchy with a powerful low end. The brand is known for making speakers with a strong bass response, so they’re a great choice for people who listen to bass-driven music. Like several other audio brands, JBL has a companion app for its speakers that allows you to make adjustments to audio equalization.

Design - Choosing the best wireless speaker design depends entirely on your needs. Several of the speakers on this list look very similar in terms of shape, but some are much larger than others and therefore a lot less portable. Think about where you’ll be using it: Are you planning to leave it in one place? Carry it in a bag? Use it outside or in the shower, where it could potentially get wet? JBL makes lots of interesting travel speakers that include clips, carrying handles, and straps for easy portability or actual on-the-go listening while hiking or cycling. If you want powerful sound and don’t need to transport your speaker very far, you may want to look into something bigger and heavier—JBL has a few models that trade portability for premium audio quality and extra features like Wi-Fi connectivity and charging ports. Make sure you get something waterproof (IPX7 rating) if you plan to use it near the pool!

Battery Life - It may not be the most glamorous or interesting feature, but let’s be honest—needing to recharge all the time is annoying. Subpar battery life is frustratingly common with cheaper wireless devices, and it can really take the fun out of a new speaker. So what is considered “good battery life?” That largely depends on how often and for how long you typically use your speakers. If you work from home and have music playing all day, then you’re going to want something that can last for at least 10 or 12 hours between charges. It’s the same for people who host parties or events and don’t want their speaker dying in the middle. If you tend to use speakers in shorter bursts, then you may not need that kind of battery capacity. But as a general rule of thumb: longer battery life is better.

Syncing Features - Some JBL speakers have syncing features like JBL Connect+ and PartyBoost that let you play your music out of multiple speakers at once. Connect+ has you link your speaker or speakers to an app on your phone, and you can control and synchronize the connected speakers from that app. PartyBoost, on the other hand, directly connects speakers together. You can use it to listen to your music in stereo or link several together for a big volume boost. Syncing features can be lots of fun because they allow you to quickly create a multi-speaker setup, but there are restrictions about which speaker models are compatible with each other. If you already have a JBL speaker and want to buy another in a different model, you’ll need to double-check to make sure they can be synced with one another. For example, an old JBL speaker that has JBL Connect cannot be synced with a newer speaker that has JBL Connect+. A speaker with PartyBoost can only be synced with other speakers that have PartyBoost. If the syncing feature is important to you, look into this before you buy so you don’t get stuck with incompatible speaker models.

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