JBL Pulse Hardware Review

JBL Pulse Hardware Review

Jan 31, 2014

We had an opportunity to check out sound maven JBL’s Charge Wireless Speakers, and it was a pleasant experience. As such, we were happy to check out its sibling, the JBL Pulse Wireless Speakers.

Like your run-of-the-mill brothers, the Charge and the Pulse bear plenty of familial similarities. They are both cylindrical, but the latter has more deliberately tapered ends. The black exterior underscored the solid feel, with mesh-like surface (a departure from the fused finishing of the Charge) mostly preventing the accessory from looking cheap. On one end are buttons: pairing, power and light control. The other is bare and serves as the base when upright. Along the body are ports for coaxial and micro-usb cables. For comparative purposes, the Pulse is just a shade taller than the Charge, coming in at 7 inches tall and less than a pound and a half in weight.

Powering it up is as simple as connecting the included adapter/cable combo to an electric source; powering it on, I daresay, is almost the coolest part. The specs sheet boldly pronounces LED lights, but the actual display is pretty surprising. It boasts scores ofpulse2 LED lights that run around and along the base. When the device is on, those lights all come on in a dizzying explosion of color that is as once a bit gimmicky and inexplicably commanding at the same time. The light patterns can be toggled or turned off by the button at the top, and most sequences react to volume. It’s an interesting feature, and one that I actually enjoyed more than I would have envisaged. Additionally, the JBL MusicFlow app allows the lights to be controlled as well as providing an easy way to adjust sound performance from Android devices.

As soon as bluetooth pairing was attempted it connected seamlessly in seconds, and it’s also NFC-enabled.

The sound doesn’t have the high level of bass some people dearly crave; compared to the Charge, it gentler in that aspect, but it still holds it own sound quality-wise. It does provide great volume, and in our informal testing, it actually beat the advertised 5-hr usage time. It worked just as well as a wired speaker.

I did miss the portable USB charging feature from the Charge; I also think the app could be a bit more intuitive. All in all though, it falls just within what I would term acceptable limits of reasonable portability, and the overall value is hard to ignore.

The Pulse is available from Amazon for $199.

JBL Charge Hardware Review

JBL Charge Hardware Review

Aug 30, 2013

Wireless audio is a must-have, almost. When companies with JBL’s rep spit out stuff like the Charge Bluetooth speakers, it generally pays to take heed.

First, the hardware itself: the review piece was the blue colored unit, which was a pleasant change from the sometimes drab black that most electronic pieces seem to come in nowadays. For those weird folks that are not enthralled with everything Carolina Blue, there is grey and green.

It’s a deliberate item, likened to a well-hewn cylinder with somewhat shaped edges. The speaker grills cover a good portion of the body, and the ones on the one end hint at the possibilities with regards to placement during use. There are charging spot and a 3.5mm aux-in ports at the back of the unit, and a covered USB slot at one end.charge1

What the Charge claims to do well is transmit music. The pairing prices was seamless for all the Android devices I paired it with; it’s a simple matter is discovery and selection. On my main device, it reconnected easily enough as long as I hadn’t paired anything else to it in the interim. It also connects well with my laptop.

I’ve said it before: I don’t rate orchestras in my spare time, but I think the sound quality from the unit is impressive. It handles  audio files with reasonable aplomb, from Brit pop (don’t judge me) to audio translations from YouVersion. It’s nice to be able to test equalizer and actually hear the difference in the rendering of music. There isn’t really an explosion of bass, but I am okay with that.

I really like the extras; the charging cable and pouch are nice. The Charge can be placed upright, can be used while charging and, with the included USB cable, can also trickle charge devices. Not bad. Especially nice is the ability to plug in devices via male-to-male 3.55 mm cables.

In my testing, I was able to play music and podcasts continuously for about 9 hours straight; I did notice some static and connectivity issues when tethered via bluetooth short of a several dozen feet away. Unlike it’s stablemate (the JBL Flip), this one doesn’t have a speakerphone toggle, and a dedicated app would have been an acceptable form of vanity.

It was a surprisingly nice item, and competes well with similarity priced speakers and docks.

The JBL Charge is available from the JBL site and/or Amazon for $149 at the time of this review.