Buy it for the light show, not the sound.
**Sound**: The speaker sounds great in its own category. It gets loud (fills up a mid-size room or a small backyard), and the sound quality is better than the speakers that are currently available on the light show speaker market. Most people cannot even tell a difference between this and the JBL Charge 5. However, the sound quality and power this speaker offers cannot be compared to what you get with JBL's other models in this price range. In my opinion, it lacks the JBL Signature sound with thick bass and clear tones in highs and mids. The passive bass radiator does its job perfectly. You can feel the bass through the floor if you place it down but it's not as punchy to the ear. The bass can be felt but not heard. The design is definitely worth pointing out in this case. The speaker provides a 360-degree light show but not sound! It has an up-firing sound design, so the sound comes out from the top and then bounces off the sealing to expand to the entire room if you're indoors. The JBL Original Pro sound can be heard when you are near the speaker, and it is directly firing the sound at you (which is a rare occasion). As I stepped away from the speaker, the sound got worse. This could be said about many speakers, but the difference is out there and audible when it is compared to a Flip or Charge speaker. There is an equalizer (EQ) in the JBL Portable app so the user can tweak a few settings but it's not as intense as what we get in the JBL Headphones app for headphones/earbuds. I tried to max out the bass in the app and although it did add some punch, it still wasn't as powerful. I also noticed some sound distortion at the highest volumes and the kicks sounded blown out/fuzzy in some songs when bass was maxed out in the EQ. The same applies to mids and highs, they felt noisier and thinner. Based on my experience, I would place this (sound-wise) in between JBL Flip 6 and Charge 5 at an above-satisfactory level. It's loud, the bass and customizability are there but it could sound better at this price point.
**Light Show & JBL Portable App**: Phenomenal!!! They look fantastic and everything about them is well-thought and designed. It looks like this infinity 4K light that you can control. The JBL Portable app must be downloaded to fully enjoy and customize the lights and the app works great as well. There are 26 different light modes/themes to choose from and you can set them to play one after another or completely take out the mode you don't enjoy. The brightness level, colors, and motion of the lights (fast/slow tempo) are all adjustable from the app. There is an option to turn off the lights entirely and then options to turn off the body or the bass radiator (bottom) lights. The passive bass radiator lights blend in perfectly with the light show on the body, making it more seamless and synchronized. In addition, the Ambient Sound feature allows the user to play nature/relaxing sounds with a timer. It has ocean waves, night/bird, fireplace/campfire, morning forest/bird, and puddle/rain sounds to choose from. They are extremely useful and relaxing when combined with the right light show. The speaker can be used as a night lamp in the bedroom or a desk lamp when working in the living room which is exactly what I have done. Another great touch is the volume adjustment lights. The lights automatically transfer to a virtual/dreamy-like window with violet/pink/yellow hues when the volume buttons are used. So, when the button is pressed, the currently playing light show disappears and a special volume light show appears for three seconds. Once it detects that the volume will not be adjusted any more, it switches back to the user-assigned light show. I thought this was very cool. Moving on, the lights are sound-responsive but pretty much only in one light show mode called "rhythm". The response time is spot on in this mode and it adds a lot of value to the track while playing. The front and sides (JBL logo area) mostly displayed the response to the highs and mids while the back side moved with the lows. It's very enjoyable and gets the party going. However, the rest of the modes just move randomly. For instance, if you have the tempo set to low and the big drop arrives in a techno track, the visuals stay the same when there should've been a more powerful response. This is minimized when the tempo is set to high, but the delay is still visible. You have to be lucky if you're not using the rhythm mode. The feeling is like being at an electronic dance music festival with a great sound and light design, but the lighting production is not synchronized with the beat, so they fire randomly (no lighting designer or operator). This applies to all the six main modes, not just the Party mode. The rest of the modes are Nature, Spiritual, Cocktail, Weather, and Canvas. It also would have been nice to star/favorite light show options out of the 26 and have it switch between them. Instead of being forced to choose what is available under one of the six main modes. Lastly, although the RGB lights reflect most of the colors accurately, I couldn't achieve very saturated and deep green and purple hues. The secondary colors within the modes are also not customizable. For instance, if you choose the color red from the color wheel in the app, it automatically pairs it with yellow. It pairs yellow with green, purple with blue, orange with pink, and so on. Everything is aesthetically pleasing and blends well together, but it would have been nice to have the option in case the user does not enjoy a specific color combination. Overall, the range of color and light show modes, customizability, and quality of the lights are incredible. It's extremely bright, there is a light show available for any scene/mood, and considering that this is the selling point of this speaker, it lives up to the hype and it is absolutely worth it (though some features can be slightly improved).
**Side Note Regarding the App for Android Devices: Although the connection is stable and audio is playing properly, the app cannot detect the speaker sometimes. You have to turn off the speaker and switch off Bluetooth on your device in order to use the Portable app and customizability features for the speaker. It might not happen to everyone, but it was worth mentioning here because it got me frustrated multiple times.
**Build Quality & Weight & Buttons**: It feels very high quality to the touch and the design is structured well. The body is made from a very firm plastic that does feel and look like glass. Since it's transparent and plastic, the body picks up a lot of fingerprints. However, the fingerprints can easily be wiped with a simple microfiber cloth, and I started putting the speaker in a small cloth case to prevent accidental scratches when moving it around. Of course, dust/dirt or rain/splashes are not an issue since it is IP67 water and dustproof. The speaker is heavy and considering that it is hard to carry due to its size, a small flap is available on the back. This is a great addition because this makes it safer to carry and it prevents fingerprints. At the same time, the power, Bluetooth, mode switch, and PartyBoost buttons, as well as the battery indicator are all squeezed together in the back. Adding the carrying flap on top of that blocks two centimeters of the light show from top to bottom in an opaque strip. One can argue that the JBL logo in the front also blocks the light show. That is true, but the logo blends in nicely and still lets light out. Meanwhile, the back is completely blocked which makes the light show not so enjoyable if it's facing a listener from the back. The battery indicator works great as well, and the main light show modes can be effortlessly switched with the dedicated button. However, it would have been nice to have volume control buttons on the speaker like on the Pulse 4 for easy controls.
**Overall, although the iconic JBL sound is missing from this speaker, the sound quality is still top tier, and the light show feature makes up for the loss. I would rather have this instead of a Flip or Charge speaker in the backyard or at a pool with friends or at home. I believe that having the light show will add more to the listening experience than having more bass or clarity at a gathering or in the living room. However, this is definitely not a portable or on-the-go type of speaker despite the carrying flap. It is heavy, hard to take care of, and is not loud enough for mainly outdoor or large uses. Every speaker from the JBL lineup has its own uses and this is that unique party/mood enhancer with great features and lights.
This review was collected as part of a promotion