There’s no beauty contest for outdoor Bluetooth speakers, but if there were, JBL’s Pulse 4 would win. The cylindrical Pulse 4 has many LEDs distributed all over and around its single curved vertical/longitudinal surface that can distribute patterns of light through 360°. And it sounds good. It might seem costly at a list price of $249.95 USD, but it’s more than a portable Bluetooth speaker—many would consider the Pulse 4 a work of electronic art.
JBL continues to upgrade and update its models of portable Bluetooth speakers. The new Clip 4 offers some welcome new features while omitting some of the attractions of its predecessor, the Clip 3. At $69.95 USD it’s a bit pricey for its tiny size, but it can be found online for considerably less.
Incorporating extra storage space into a portable Bluetooth speaker is nothing new for EcoXGear, but their EcoJourney offers the most room yet. The 65W amplifier that serves its three drive units also makes it one of the most powerful speakers of its size. And while its list price of $199.99 USD is already a lot lower than that of any competitor, I found it for sale online for as little as $178.
JBL is sticking with its original models, tweaking them and assigning them new version numbers. A recent example is the Xtreme 3, the latest version of the original Xtreme, a medium-size Bluetooth speaker primarily designed for partying. It has USB-A and USB-C ports for charging USB devices, and an improved adjustable strap. Specified IP67, it’s waterproof and dustproof and, with one big caveat, has robust, well-balanced sound. But it’s pricey at $349.95 USD. (However, JBL’s website often offers even new models at 50% off.)
With this innovative product, EcoXGear takes another step toward making sure you have music wherever you go. Their EcoLantern ($129.99 USD) gives you sound or light or both—perfect for campers, it can also be used in the back yard.
Grace Digital’s EcoXGear brand of sports and outdoor speakers includes some of their most innovative concepts and designs, and has become the company’s biggest moneymaker. The EcoExtreme 2 is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker and a waterproof case in which you can safely store your smartphone or music player, along with a good assortment of accessories. Rugged as a bulldog at its attractive price of $79.99 USD, it seems ideal for the sports enthusiast who wants everything in one place.
iHome makes a wealth of Bluetooth speaker models, many of them including light shows. I ordered the Playtough Pro iBT158 ($79.99 USD) for its intriguing light-show rings and because it’s waterproof and dustproof.
JBL’s new Go 3 portable Bluetooth speaker, attractively priced at $39.95 USD, is no mere update but instead a virtual redesign of their popular Go 2.
Powered and active loudspeakers continue to grow in popularity. They offer an inexpensive way to set up a high-quality music system without having to assemble separates: a receiver, integrated amplifier, or preamp and power amp. Audioengine has had great success with its larger A2+ stereo speaker system ($269/pair, all prices USD). Now they hope to repeat that with the less expensive A1 ($199/pair).
JBL’s Link Music Wi-Fi speaker is a handy listening device with built-in Bluetooth and Chromecast, and it’s AirPlay 2 compatible. It also includes Google Assistant -- it responds to verbal commands -- and it can serve as the hub for a home’s worth of smart appliances, controlling lighting and much more. At its current low price of $69.95 USD, it seems a winner -- but how does it perform?