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JBL Go 3 review

How does this soap-sized speaker scrub up for sound? Tested at £30 / $40 / AU$90

JBL Go 3 review
(Image: © JBL)

Our Verdict

JBL’s newest soap-sized speaker sounds good – but the finish and battery life won’t wash with today’s class leaders

For

  • Sensible treble
  • Fuller bass
  • More volume

Against

  • Poor battery life
  • Not very durable finish

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

JBL’s newest soap-sized speaker sounds good – but the finish and battery life won’t wash with today’s class leaders

Pros

  • + Sensible treble
  • + Fuller bass
  • + More volume

Cons

  • - Poor battery life
  • - Not very durable finish

JBL’s most popular and pocketable speaker is so-named to invoke a call to action – to ‘Go’ out and seek adventure. One look at the latest version, the JBL Go 3, however, and we want to head for a shower; it really does look like a soap on a rope. 

As you can see above, our red sample (the Go 3 is available in eight colourways) is more of a red and blush mix, where the chord loop, rubberised accents and logo are all a pinkish hue. While its dimensions and likeness to a bar of soap place it squarely in Go territory, the Go 3 has clearly had a design overhaul over its Go 2 predecessor.

Build

That means that the metal grille is now swathed in fabric. Though it is still a small speaker, it’s almost 1cm thicker, 30g heavier and has a more rounded feel.

JBL Go 3 tech specs

Bluetooth version 5.1

Battery life 5 hours

Finishes x8

Dimensions (hwd) 8.8 x 7.5 x 4.1cm

Weight 210g

It now has a chord loop on its left side when looking at the branding, which is a useful addition despite not being able to stretch or detach. Underneath that, you’ll find the USB-C charging port, which no longer needs a cover to boast an IP67 rating for dust and water ingress.

Across the top curve of the unit are three nicely tactile play/pause and volume controls, and on the right panel there is a circular power button, a Bluetooth pairing button and an LED light. The Go 2’s LED light shone out from the grille to let you know it was on, but that is no longer here.

The bottom panel and the underside of the unit have been given new rubber reinforcement panels too, allowing you to place it flat or stand in it either portrait or landscape mode. The Go 2’s 3.5mm port for wired listening and the mic for speakerphone duties are no longer found on the Go 3, but we don’t really miss them in such a small and portable design.

Our only real gripe is the finish on the Go 3’s new fabric jacket. It’s a solution seen in many affordable Bluetooth options, but where it joins the rounded edges of the rubber panels on our sample, it has frayed slightly in several places. It still feels relatively rugged and durable, but given the strength of the previous iteration – and JBL’s rich heritage of rock-solid designs – it is a little disappointing.

JBL Go 3

(Image credit: JBL)

Features

The Go 3 features Bluetooth 5.1 instead of 4.1, plus a maximum power output of 4.2W, up from 3W in the Go 2. The one specification that hasn’t changed, though, is the battery life. It takes 2.5 hours to charge fully, and you can still only get five hours of playtime from it from a single charge. This was a complaint when we reviewed the previous model, and it’s a shame JBL couldn’t eke out a little more stamina in this update.

There’s still no app support, so PartyBoost daisy-chaining with other JBL speakers is not possible, nor can you pair two Go 3s in either mono or stereo mode. At this price, it’s perhaps unreasonable to expect such features, but then again, the affordable Tribit Stormbox Micro can create a mono or stereo pair, and that five-star model also boasts a mic and eight hours of playback on a full charge.

Sound

We're glad of some improvements in the sound department, mind. We cue up The Waterboys’ The Whole Of The Moon on Apple Music from our iPhone and immediately we can tell that the update has resulted in some sonic enhancements. JBL hasn’t disclosed any information about the driver under the hood, but it’s entirely possible that the extra power and overhauled design can be attributed to the more integrated, rounded, balanced sound over the JBL Go 2. 

Mike Scott’s vocal is central but not as forward as in the second-gen model. The upright bass passages are more weighty and impactful in direct comparison, too. You’ll also get more volume from the new Go 3. Crank it up to near its maximum and it will easily fill your living room or kitchen. 

JBL Go 3

(Image credit: JBL)

We then play Has It Come To This by The Streets, and find the JBL Go 3 a more musically pleasing listen thanks to the easier upper frequencies, a balance that allows sonic nuances through the mids to step into the spotlight. The keys in the track are sparkling but underpinned by a snappy dance beat through the low end that never intrudes on the melody or comes off bloated. 

Throughout Koffee’s Toast we find much to enjoy about the Go 3’s timing, accuracy and emotive vocal presentation too. Though it isn’t perfect – there’s a limit to the bass clout a product this size can provide, of course – JBL has done a great job here. The bass feels fuller in this latest model and the treble just a shade smoother, thus producing a slightly better sound overall.

As our playlist continues to R U Sleeping by Indo, we try the Go 3 in direct comparison with the Tribit Stormbox Micro and find its rival offers just an extra ounce of detail within a more spacious mix. It is a slightly more expensive product, but you should know that investing an extra few pounds will net significant gains. 

JBL Go 3

(Image credit: JBL)

Verdict

We like the updated JBL Go 3, but we say ‘like’ rather than ‘love’, because since the Go 2 was unveiled in 2019, a virtually unknown brand called Tribit has produced a five-star Bluetooth belter called the Stormbox Micro for just a little more cash, and that has altered the game at this price point.

If you can deal with a five-hour battery and lengthy charging time, you don’t want a mic for speakerphone duties and you’re prepared to overlook some minor concerns about the build quality, the JBL Go 3 sounds musically pleasing and surprisingly loud for the money. While there's just a few too many ‘ifs’ for a five-star review – even at this affordable level – we like it very much.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 3
  • Build 3

MORE:

Read our guide to the best Bluetooth speakers

Read our Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro review

Read our JBL Go 2 review

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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  • Mr. C Nation
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    JBL’s new GO 3 still looks like a soap on a rope, but is the sound as clean as the design?

    JBL GO 3 : Read more
    I have a Go 2. I think this new design looks hideous. Obviously pink makes that worse but the clean lines of the 2 were a problem that did not need solving. The design dept has been let out to play and they have come up with a dud.

    More battery life would be nice but my Go 2 is permanently plugged into a USB port on this laptop and wired into the phones socket because this ex-corporate l/top does not have B/tooth, for some reason. Being the speaker for phone calls can be useful. My Motorola G6 has rather feeble call volume.

    In short, I'll stick with my 2
    Reply