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REVIEW: JBL Link 300 – A Great ‘No Frills’ Smart Speaker

Harman and Samsung owned subsidiary, JBL, has further expanded its local smart speaker family, with the release of its “most powerful” and “immersive” offering yet – the Link 300 (A$349.95).

Building on the success of predecessors (Link 10 & Link 20), the new Link 300 claims to deliver “room filling” sound, with integrated Google Assistant functionality.

Unlike the portable and waterproof Link 10 or 20, the new Link 300 requires a power point connection. As such, the speaker incorporates a larger body for larger sound, in lieu of portable freedom.

Equipped with 24-bit audio, the Link 300 features built-in Chromecast, and supports 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi.

Harnessing this, the 300 is capable of connecting with its older siblings and creating a multi-room system.

JBL’s new Link 300 (A$349.95) takes on the likes of Panasonic’s GA-10 (A$379), Apple’s HomePod (A$499) and Sonos’ One (A$299) with Amazon Alexa.

[JBL Australia]

[JBL Link 300]

Design & Usage

Bigger than the Link 10 and 20, the new Link 300 remains consistent with its predecessors’ looks, however, is much larger in size – an indication of boosted sound capabilities.

Personally, I find the Link 300’s size to be ‘just right’. It’s big enough to infer it’ll produce great sound, however, doesn’t take up too much room [a gripe I had with the Panasonic GA-10]. For an AC speaker, its size is versatile enough to place in compact spaces.

Compared to rivals, I don’t think it looks as modern or contemporary. However, that’s largely the JBL way – strong, robust products which favour function over style.

It’s an all black, largely oval device – a mix of fabric and rubber, and a large JBL logo on the back.

Calling upon Google, the Link 300 displays a flicker of LED lights, informing the user the Assistant has been activated – i.e. similar to rival devices such as Panasonic’s GA-10.

[JBL Link 300]

Performance

Like other Google Assistant integrated speakers, set-up is relatively easy and best done via the Google Home app.

Similar to predecessors, the Link 300 has integrated Google Chromecast. This provides connectivity to any Chromecast-supported audio device, and creates a multi-room Wi-Fi connected system.

The feature works as claimed, and is especially useful when you’re having a party, and are trying to connect a haphazard collection of speakers together.

Many iOS and [most] Android apps facilitate audio streaming via Chromecast.

 

In contrast to Apple’s HomePod – with Siri – or [currently] Sonos’ One – with Alexa – there’s significantly more connected freedom, courtesy of Google Assistant’s headway in Australia.

For those who suffer from frequent Wi-Fi network issues (my sympathies) or are a little less tech savvy, the Link 300 does offer Bluetooth connection, which is robust and reliable.

Something to note, there are no wired connection options.

Concerning sound quality – I am impressed.

To be clear, JBL’s Link 20 is one of my favourite smart speakers in terms of sound quality. The new Link 300 goes above and beyond, and certainly produces wide spread sound. For someone who enjoys house and alternative music, bass produced by the Link 300 is striking and deep, albeit not super subwoofer-esque. Treble is good and balanced, and makes pop songs sound great.

Overall, tunes are crisp, clear and vibrant – largely a joy to listen.

The Link 300 caters to “room filling sound” courtesy of an ~89mm woofer and ~20cm tweeter.

Overall, the Link 300 delivers compelling sound, especially for its price range.

Truth is, every smart speaker has different nuances which favour some music genres over others. My advice is to generally buy something ‘middle of the range’, with versatility for all genres. The Link 300 is one of those speakers.

Voice control responsiveness is also impressive. JBL’s Link 300 incorporates two microphones on the top, and had virtually no problems recognising and responding to voice commands.

There were minimal response delays, with performance largely the same as a Google Home.

Unlike the Google Home, however, you can’t make phone calls through the Link 300.

For those who prefer touch controls, the Link 300 has a dedicated Google Assistant button which you can touch to trigger, and forgo uttering the prefix ‘Okay Google’ etc. Personally, it’s not a feature I really use, as I’m more partial to voice control.

However, like the Panasonic GA10 you do have to raise your voice/shout at the speaker, when playing music at high volumes. On those instances, touch buttons are useful (e.g. volume up/down).

Unlike Sonos’ One, JBL’s Link 300 is powered by Google Assistant, which for the Australian market means you can [currently] connect to more devices than Alexa – e.g. most smart light bulbs.

Music streaming is an effortless endeavour, triggering playback with one voice command e.g. hey Google, play some music. The Link 300 triggers playback from Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube Red and more.

Overall

All in all, JBL’s Link 300 is a robust and reliable device. Google Assistant integration is largely effortless, and at this price point is a compelling offering.

Despite a rather ‘masculine’ and ordinary exterior, the Link 300 favours function over style, and delivers impressive sound.

Although its lost the portability of the Link 10 and Link 20, the new Link 300 opts for a big body, and even bigger sound.

If you’re in the market for a no-frills smart speaker which performs as it claims, and is super user-friendly, I’d have little hesitation recommending the Link 300.

I’d especially recommend the 300 to ‘older’ [for lack of a better phrase] users. It’s a perfect introduction to smart speakers for my parents, without inducing a ‘new age technology’ freak-out.

The nostalgic JBL audio brand will likely also trigger heartfelt emotion within individuals of previous generations.

Complimenting its internal smarts, the Link 300 has great size dimensions, and is versatile enough for compact rooms.

Performance 8/10

Design 8/10

Value 8/10

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