JBL Link 20 Google Assistant smart speaker

The JBL Link 20 is a Google Home speaker. It will get you all the advantages of the unique Google Home, however provides battery-powered portability, nice water resistance and JBL’s personal sound signature.

At £199/$199 it’s not low-cost, although. 

If you don’t care an excessive amount of about portability, the Sonos One sounds considerably higher. However, the JBL Link 20 remains to be a stable smart speaker with higher sound than some, and is value contemplating if you happen to see it offered at worth. 

Design

The JBL Link 20 is a mid-size wi-fi speaker. It’s in all probability too large to only hold in your rucksack each day, “simply in case” it’s wanted, however remains to be simply sufficiently small to hold round the home. It weighs 960g: not heavy. 

This is a hybrid speaker of types. The Google Home assistant is its most evident characteristic, one thing you’ll virtually definitely use solely at house. But the JBL Link 20 additionally has the design, the Bluetooth streaming and built-in battery wanted for all-terrain speaker. 

Similar to the UE Megaboom, the JBL Link 20’s prime and backside are rubbery plastic, the edges a curved column topped with robust nylon weave. 

This is extra resilient than the painted aluminium grilles of some options. While we don’t are inclined to torture the merchandise we assessment, the Link 20 feels prefer it may stand up to some tough remedy and the odd drop off a desk. 

One different a part of its ruggedisation doesn’t need to depend on our hypothetical anecdotes both. The JBL Link 20 is rated to IPX7, that means it might probably stand up to rain, water jets and even being submerged in water. 

You may even put it on a bathe shelf for some tunes when you wash. To do with a Sonos One can be a foul transfer. Trailing energy leads into the bathe isn't the neatest of concepts. 

A rubber flap close to the underside of the JBL Link 20’s rear must be in-place for the water resistance to depend. This covers the microUSB port used to cost the battery. 

In some methods the JBL Link 20 is a really feature-rich, versatile speaker. However, not like most pure Bluetooth fashions there is no such thing as a aux enter. It’s a disgrace, however in our opinion nowhere close to as a lot a problem because the telephones that omit a headphone jack. We could have a Bluetooth-less iPod Classic within the cabinet, however can’t bear in mind the final time it had a time out. 

The JBL Link 20 can skip between roles as a house and transportable speaker. However, its appears are these of a transportable Bluetooth one, and the design isn’t optimised for cramming right into a bookshelf between your well-worn Harry Potters and John Grishams. The drivers sit on the edges of the Link 20’s column, so positioning it like this may partially block them. 

It’s not a speaker that screams “front room centrepiece”, however this driver array does make it ship 360-sh diploma sound. 

Turn it on utilizing the facility button on the again and a bit of LED array alongside will present you the way a lot of the battery is left. A full cost lasts as much as 10 hours, which is ok in sensible phrases for many events, however under, for instance, the Bluetooth-only UE MegaBoom. That speaker lasts as much as 20 hours. 

Once setup utilizing the Google Home app you’ll be able to merely say the same old “Hello Google” immediate to activate the speaker. This makes an LED array on the entrance mild up, to indicate it’s listening. When enjoying again audio these lights additionally act as a quantity indicator. 

Thanks to a twin microphone array on the highest plate that’s much more delicate than your common Bluetooth speaker mic, you’ll be able to discuss from any path and don’t have to be too shut. We had been in a position to discuss to the JBL Link 20 from 5m away at a standard, pretty quiet, talking quantity and it understood the command. 

When you’ve music enjoying at a good quantity you do want to talk up a bit of, although, and the JBL Link 30 predictably doesn't work all that properly from one other room. However, microphone sensitivity is well adequate to make this appear a “correct” smart speaker. JBL hasn’t simply crammed Google Home into considered one of its current fashions.

We’re glad there are bodily controls on prime, thoughts, as a result of saying “Ok Google” on a regular basis will get outdated fast, faster than saying “Alexa”. Four syllables could also be an excessive amount of. 

Pressing the central button up prime enables you to converse your command with out the wake phrase: most welcome. There are additionally quantity and playback controls, and a button to modify to the Bluetooth mode. For these but to make use of a Google Home speaker, it’s additionally value noting you’ll be able to “Cast” to the JBL Link 20 utilizing many telephone apps, and stream straight by the Spotify app. 

Google Home can also be a multi-room system.

In our expertise no less than, the JBL Link 20 works flawlessly. No points with setup, no points with Wi-Fi streaming, and none with Bluetooth both. Faster charging would have been smart, although. The 5V, 2.3A charger delivers much less juice than that of most fast-charging telephones, and due to this fact a full recharge takes a number of hours. 

Sound high quality

The JBL Link 20 sounds pretty good. It makes use of two 2-inch full-range drivers that sit in the direction of the underside of every aspect of the tower, presumably utilizing the remainder of the house for electronics and cupboard house. 

Given the dearth of bass radiator, utilized in many wi-fi audio system however surprisingly few smart house ones, low-end energy is reassuringly stable. The sound’s decrease frequencies are full and respectably highly effective given the dimensions. Sonos’s One has considerably higher very low bass energy, however the Link 20 embarrasses the Amazon Echo, which simply doesn’t have the low-bass punch to make kick drums sound correct. 

Unlike another JBL audio system, the bass can also be not murky. It’s not super-taut both, however that is largely one thing we’ve solely observed in direct comparability with the perfect on this class. 

This is an pleasant speaker that we discover notably stable for digital and instrumental music. There’s no harshness, and it sounds proper at low or excessive volumes. However, there are some clearer points with the mids and treble which means the JBL Link 20 is the best-sounding £200/$200 wi-fi speaker. 

The treble is barely delicate, missing the chew and readability of a speaker with a separate tweeter, or one which makes use of a radiator to tackle the duty for the bass.

It’s the JBL Link 20’s mids that make the speaker sound a league under the Sonos One, although. They are comparatively low on element don’t have nice presence. As a end result, the Link 20 can’t challenge vocals wherever close to in addition to the perfect small wi-fi audio system. 

A comparability with the less expensive (if additionally less complicated) Jam Heavy Metal is revealing. Vocals leap out of this £69/$60 speaker, sounding far more alive and important than they do by the JBL, notably at low and mid-level volumes. 

Comparing with the smallest Sonos is extra worthwhile, although, because the Jam Heavy Metal additionally doesn’t fairly maintain up as properly when attempting to fill giant rooms. It is a smaller speaker, in any case. 

The Sonos One’s extra refined mids lend preparations far more house, leading to a extra dynamic and well-rendered sound that’s nearer to that of a correct hifi. At instances vocals can appear constrained inside the JBL Link 20 tower’s dimensions. 

Prepare you expectations. While it is a fine-sounding speaker, it’s higher at delivering energy than constancy. 

Verdict

The JBL Link 20 is a wi-fi speaker that flips with a button press between roles as a smart house unit and a transportable Bluetooth music unit you’ll be able to take wherever. 

It’s robust, water-proof, and has microphones delicate sufficient to allow you to discuss to it casually, not like somebody caught on an automatic financial institution telephone line.

Sound high quality is sweet, though because of a barely congested soundstage and restricted mid-range projection, it doesn’t problem one thing just like the home-tethered Sonos One.

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