The JBL Charge 3 is slightly bigger and weighs more than its older brother the JBL Charge 2+. The design is heavily inspired by the JBL Xtreme, I sort of see it as the smaller version of the Xtreme now!
It's covered in a thick Hydrophobic Acoustic fabric and is waterproof for up to 30 minutes submerged 1 meter underwater. On top of the Acoustic Fabric, the buttons are raised and easy to find even in the dark.
Aside from that it's pretty similar in features to the previous version. It still has 2 big bass radiators at the sides with a couple of front racing drivers, a speakerphone and the JBL Connect App which could pair up 2 separate Charge 3s in Stereo or Dual Mono (Party) mode. Some things to note, the Charge 3 has 20 hours battery life compared to the 12 hours of the Charge 2+. I definitely got 20 hours battery life playing at 50% Volume, looping different kinds of playlists over a few days! (Estimated Total Battery Life tallied - 20 Hrs 20 Mins)
Wireless Connection range is rated at 30m but in a typical HDB home situation, you can't go beyond 2 concrete walls.
Overall the speaker retained its clear treble and tight bass, with pretty great mid-range. When I played 'I Took A Pill in Ibiza' by Mike Posner, the speaker faithfully reproduced the airiness and reverb of his vocals, with great track separation and tight bass. The best thing I love about the Charge 3? It is very very loud! It's at least 25% louder than the Charge 2+ which makes it more perfect for outdoor use, it can cover a wide area! For home use, even 50% volume is too loud for bedrooms, but okay for living rooms. I usually leave it playing at about 25-35% while I'm doing my chores. Yes, I do chores, unlike 99% of you! (Lifts up bucket and scrubbing brush, and walk out of frame)
When listening to it in stereo mode they sounded very loud, with an open and airy soundstage, making it sounds like much larger speakers. Stereo separation is excellent.
That was the light, fluffy part, now before I get to the meat, I would like to highlight that I'm someone who auditioned and loved the sound of the Charge 2+ which wasn't waterproof, so I'm going to touch more on what's different about the sound quality now.
Now I don't know if this is because of the compromise they had to make to waterproof this speaker, wrapping speakers in hydrophobic fabric has been known to affect sound quality and the speaker must be tuned to cope with the change. When I played some of my favourite tracks, I immediately noticed that the speaker sounds slightly muffled compared to the charge 2+. The bass sounds quite restrained, treble is not as crystal clear too. Bass performance can reach quite low but it does not project forward at the listener so much, having not much kick, which I blame on the side firing bass radiators.
If you can live with its pretty basic feature set, the JBL Charge 3 is one of the best portable speakers you can buy right now, retailing for $279 in stores. It might not please audiophiles like the Bose SoundLink III ($499), or have UE Megaboom's ($399) cool features like remote On/Off and PartyUp, the Charge 3 is much better value if you want something very loud and very portable. I highly recommend!
Available in Black, Red, Blue and Mint colours.