Price: 9/10 (₹1,700)
Build Quality: 10/10
Sound Quality: 7/10 (by portable audio standards)
- Outstanding form factor
- Loud and clear
- Battery lasts forever
- Inbuilt microphone for phonecalls
- Lanyard-loop (no lanyard or clip included)
- Sub-bass is totally missing
- Bluetooth feed gets interrupted easily
- No carrying case
In The Box
- JBL Go
- USB to micro-USB wire
The market for portable speakers is mushrooming and can at times be utterly confusing. We all have a budget, and finding a device that delivers bang for your buck – while also staying portable and light – is usually a game of compromise. Enter the JBL GO.
Few speakers marry portability, audio and sturdy design as well as this one – the Holy Trinity of portable audibles. At first glance, the Go is an unassuming little black box, with no obvious speaker characteristics – apart from the massive JBL logos on the front and back. This can be a little bit of a turn off for minimalists, but one has only to turn it on to dispel all initial notions of cosmetic gimmickry.
Sound & Performance
The JBL Go is crystal clear till about 80% volume, and only minor distortion occurs at full volume. But 70% volume is more than enough to fill a normal sized room, and at 100% it can be heard all over a moderately sized 2 bedroom house. The quality is not nearly audiophile level, but is definitely perfect to set the mood or add a background soundtrack to your roof-top gathering.
This speaker sounds best when playing alt/progressive metal, rock, and soft rock. Artists like Tool and TTNG sound excellent, while vocals are crystal clear so Bollywood tunes also sound good. It does not, however, perform well when playing songs that rely heavily on bass or sub-bass. The speaker struggles to reproduce anything below 200 Hz, but bass punches and kicks are strong and won’t leave you wanting. And thanks to it’s strong mid-range and vocal capabilities, this is also a good speaker to pair with movies and videos on your laptop or tablet. Dialogues and voices are it’s forte.
There is, however, only a single speaker inside the box, which takes care of everything from lows to highs. So if you’re playing a song with more than 4 or 5 instruments or layers, don’t expect great results. Limited by its single channel, it also doesn’t have a stereo Left-Right effect, meaning more intricate music like Porcupine Tree or Alt-J won’t sound as good as on your headphones or a 2.1 system.
JBL officially claims that the battery lasts 5 hrs, but in our tests we recorded – and this is truly extraordinary – more than 8 hours of non-stop playtime on bluetooth at around 70% volume. Other manufacturers are envious of this juicy statistic, and reviewers like ourselves are amazed that JBL manages to squeeze out that sort of efficiency only to underplay what could be the best-selling feature. But it’s always better to undersell and overperform.
The speaker charges from 0 to 100% in 90 minutes, all while playing music. The LED inside the front-grill indicates whether the speaker is charging or low on battery, but there’s no way to figure out how much charge is left.
Design & Features
JBL got it right on the money in this department. No fancy buttons, no expanding tubes, no moving parts. Just a solid black rubber box with a heavy-duty metal grill on the front. A blue/red LED is clearly visible through the grill, and this tells you when the device is charging, paired, searching, or low on battery, along with a couple of loud,audible bleeps. The whole thing is smaller than your palm and weighs a reasonable 220 grams. It feels incredibly classy.
There are 5 buttons on the top: Power, Bluetooth, Volume +, Volume -, and Phone. There is no backlight, but the buttons are raised and can be felt even in the dark (which is also a great feature for the visually-impaired). The charging port, aux port and mic are all on the left, and there is a lanyard loop on the right to attach a clip or lanyard. Put in a carabiner and you can hook it to your belt or backpack. You can see this in the photos attached.
At this price point there’s barely any cause for complaint, and consequently we have almost no gripe with this speaker. Sometimes songs will glitch if the device does not have line-of-sight connectivity for Bluetooth, and perhaps a carrying case should be included, but there really isn’t any deal-breaker. Paisa vasool ki guarantee.
– Verdict –
The JBL Go is the best portable speaker for budget shoppers under ₹3,000. If you want a speaker to take along on a hike, picnic, or train journey, this speaker will not disappoint. It also makes for a great gift for loved ones.
If you’re looking for a better speaker with a higher budget, check out my review of the Bose SoundLink Mini 2.
Ankur Borwankar is an author, lawyer, motivational speaker & entrepreneur. He is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Indus Dictum.
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This article first appeared in Indus Dictum.