JBL Link Series
Go shopping for a wireless speaker and it won’t take long before all the specs read the same: Bluetooth connectivity, long battery life, often a waterproof build, and sometimes with Google, Siri, or Alexa baked in. The newest trend are speakers that pair together for whole house sound without having to get a Sonos.
I tested the JBL Link Series to see if it might just be the only speaker system you need. The Link lineup consists of four speakers, each of a different size—I tested the smallest Link 10 and the larger Link 300—that all have the same main attribute: Google Assistant inside. That means you can ask any of the speakers questions, but also use them to control your smart home tech like a thermostat and lights. Adding the internet giant inside the speaker means the setup is easy and familiar, thanks to the Google Home app. I’ve used JBL’s older speakers, which rely on a proprietary Bluetooth connection to beam music from one speaker to the next, but it wasn’t always reliable even if the units were in the same room. But with the Link you pair the speakers through your home network, so streaming content from something like Pandora, YouTube, or from any Chromecast device is simple.
I left the larger Link 300 near an outlet, since it has to be plugged in (with a rather large transformer, unfortunately) and set the cordless Link 10 outside, where it’ll run five hours on a full charge. Provided the speaker is within your home’s network, the two microphones on each unit do a reasonably good job of listening for the “Okay Google,” prompts even through ambient noise. Both speakers include a Google button you can press to ask questions too. The sound between the two was consistent and clear, and they never dropped the signal.
The sound was good, though there are louder models on the market if maximum sound is more important than multi-room connectivity (to me, it’s not.) What I like about the wireless speakers is you can also simply Bluetooth to them when you’re away from your network—say at the beach or tailgate. And since both of the smallest speakers, the Link 10 and 20 are cordless and water and dust proof, you can take them anywhere. — Sal Vaglica, Senior Editor
[From $100 to $300, depending on the size of the speaker; jbl.com]
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