- Great audio quality
- Google Assistant and Chromecast built-in
- Streaming via Chromecast provides multiple advantages (see below)
- Far-field mics do good job of picking up commands
- No hands-free calling feature
- Big and bulky
The JBL Link 300 offers great audio quality and tons of smart features but it’s too expensive for us to recommend.
Voice-activated smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular. It seems like every other week an audio company is announcing some new speaker and now JBL has joined the party as well. It’s new Link series of smart speakers have Google Assistant built-in and are available in three different sizes. Today, we’ll be checking out the JBL Link 300, the largest and most powerful speaker in the lineup.
Design & Setup Process
The JBL Link 300 is designed to be a speaker for your home in that it’s not portable – you can’t unplug the speaker and take it with you outside. It’s meant to be more like the Amazon Echo, Google Home or Sonos One – always plugged in and stationed in your kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc. It is a bit larger than those three smart speakers though, coming in at around 9.3″ x 5.4″ x 6.0″. It’s also a bit heavier than most smart speakers at around 3.7 pounds. It has an elongated oval design – I don’t think it looks bad by any means, but it’s also not very sleek – it just looks like a larger JBL Bluetooth speaker.
It has six touch sensitive buttons on top – Bluetooth, mute microphone, Google Assistant, volume down, volume up and pause/play. The Link 300 also has far-field microphones to make sure the speaker picks up your commands even when you’re far away. And I have to say, they work pretty well – the Link 300 had no issues hearing me even when I was giving commands from another room.
As far as setup, it’s pretty straight forward. I’m not going to go through every detail. It shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes total. You’ll just need to download the Google Home app (iOS and Android) and then follow the directions on screen. You might just want to have all your passwords ready (Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music, etc.) to expedite the process.
SEE ALSO: Amazon Echo Dot vs Echo 2 vs Echo Plus
As I mentioned earlier, the JBL Link 300 has Google Assistant built-in as well as Chromecast. So Google Assistant, what does that mean? Basically, it means you can use the Link 300 just as you would a Google Home [see on Walmart]. Here’s a few of the things you can do, just start by saying “Ok, Google”:
- Play music obviously (Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc.)
- Ask questions about sports, weather, traffic, finance
- Translate languages
- Use the speaker as your calculator
- Create reminders
- Add items to your shopping list
But unlike the Google Home, the JBL Link 300 does not support hands-free calling – you can’t just say, “Ok Google, call Jeff cell”.
On the positive side though, Google Assistant is compatible with a number of other third party smart home devices. Some of the major partners include Philips Hue, Honeywell thermostats, Nest thermostats, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT and more. You can see the full list of compatible devices here.
Now getting back to the whole Chromecast thing. This is a Bluetooth and WiFi speaker. So if you want to pair your smartphone with the speaker via Bluetooth and stream music that way, you can – that option is still available. Or you can use Chromecast – basically from your phone, just tap the cast button within your preferred music app to start streaming directly to the speaker. Chromecast uses WiFi, which provides a number of advantages:
- Better audio quality – streams from the cloud rather than Bluetooth where audio is re-compressed
- Calls do not interrupt what’s being played
- You can control the speaker from anywhere within your WiFi network vs having to be within Bluetooth range
- Doesn’t drain battery on your phone as quickly
- Multiple devices within the WiFi network can connect and control the speaker
Also, if you have multiple speakers with Chromecast built-in, it’s pretty easy to setup multi-room audio via the Google Home app. So that’s nice to have if you’re throwing a party or hosting Thanksgiving at your house. If you don’t already have another speaker with Chromecast, you might want to check out the JBL Playlist [see on JBL.com] as your secondary speaker – it has Chromecast built-in and it’s about $100 less than the Link 300. On the downside, you cannot setup the different speakers to play in stereo-mode – just multi-room mode.
JBL has a pretty solid reputation within the industry when it comes to audio quality and the Link 300 definitely carries on that tradition. The Link 300 and Sonos One are probably the two best sounding smart speakers we’ve tested thus far. The audio is very clear and rich and the speaker gets pretty loud – it can definitely fill up a room. It’s also pretty bass heavy, there’s almost too much bass at times. Solid mids and highs – overall the Link 300 delivers very good audio.
Now here lies our biggest issue with the JBL Link 300 – its price. It retails for $250 [see on JBL.com]. We thought the $199 price tag of the Sonos One [see on Amazon] was bad so you can imagine how we feel about the price tag of the Link 300. It’s a little too high for our blood to say the least.
What About the JBL Link 300 vs Google Home?
Yes, the audio quality with the JBL Link 300 is better than the Google Home but the price is still just too high in our opinion. Bottom line – the audio quality is not enough to justify the $120 difference between the Link 300 and the Google Home [see on Walmart]. Plus, with the Google Home there’s the hands-free calling feature and I think the Google Home just looks nicer anyways.
JBL Link 300 vs Amazon Echo 2 (2017 version)?
Same story here. I think the 2nd generation Amazon Echo look nicer and it’s $150 cheaper [see on Amazon]. Yes, the audio quality isn’t as good but $150 is nothing to sneeze at – that’s a big difference. And of course, you have to be okay with using Alexa rather than Google Assistant but that shouldn’t be an issue for most people. For the most part, both the Amazon Echo and Google Home do the same things.
SEE ALSO: Harman Kardon Invoke vs Sonos One