JBL Link Music smart speaker review

A high-quality smart speaker for less.

JBL Link Music smart speaker
JBL Link Portable Bluetooth Speaker
4 out of 5 stars
  • pro
    Fantastic sound quality
  • pro
  • con
    Limited Google Home app functionality
Georgia Dixon
Feb 24, 2021
Icon Time To Read3 min read
Our verdict

The JBL Link Music sounds great and can reach unbelievable volumes for its small size. While it’s missing a few features, it’s still a great value smart speaker for those looking for high-quality audio with plenty of connectivity options and an intelligent voice assistant thrown in. The best part? You can grab it for less than $70.

What we like
pro Fantastic sound quality
pro Nice design
pro AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity
pro Affordable
What could be better
con Few physical music controls
con Limited Google Home app functionality

I’ve been a longtime fan of JBL products, particularly their portable Bluetooth speakers, which pack booming, crisp sound into small, easy-to-carry packages. With that in mind, I had high hopes for the JBL Link Music. It sounds good on paper: The smarts of Google Assistant paired with the high-quality audio JBL is known for. While there are a few small issues, overall, JBL has delivered a pretty solid little smart speaker.

JBL Link Music price

Good value, thanks to a massive price cut.
JBL Link Music
JBL Link Music smart speaker
  • pro
    AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity
  • pro
    Nice design
  • con
    Few physical music controls

“Overpriced” is not a word I would usually apply to JBL products. While their speakers are typically of a high enough quality to go toe-to-toe with Bose and Sonos, their prices are typically hundreds of dollars less. Value for money is JBL’s thing, which is why the Link Music is such an outlier. When it launched last year, it was priced at $169.95. That’s not exactly expensive, but considering its low-cost competitors like the Google Nest Mini and Amazon Echo Dot (hell, even the Apple HomePod Mini is $20 cheaper), it’s not ideal, either.

Thankfully, it seems JBL quickly recognised the error of its ways, slashing the price by more than half to just $69. That brings it below even the Nest Mini and Echo Dot, which makes it a far more attractive proposition, and a lot easier for us to score above three stars.

JBL Link Music sound quality

Great as ever.

The JBL Link Music isn’t the chunkiest thing in the world, but for its small stature, it certainly punches above its weight when it comes to producing thumping bass and volumes so high that I worry my neighbours may complain to strata. Overall, music sounds well-balanced and remains that way even when at neighbour-hate-inducing levels. Compared to the similarly-priced Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot, it’s got the best audio quality by far. But then again, that’s to be expected since JBL is a company that literally specialises in audio products.

However, you may want to opt for one of Google or Amazon’s baby speakers if you’re hoping to get a stereo pairing up and running - unfortunately, you can’t do it with two JBL Link Music speakers.

Strangely, Google Assistant is even clearer than I found it to be on the Google Nest Audio and Nest Mini, but hey, I’m not complaining. The mics were good enough to pick up my voice even when speaking quietly or with loud surroundings, so you shouldn’t have any problems there.

JBL Link Music design

A sleek little package, but physical controls need work.

Smart speakers tend to look pretty similar - even when they’re completely different shapes - thanks to that mesh fabric that seems to be standard on every damn model. As such, the JBL Link Music is just as inoffensively designed as any other smart speaker and can blend in to pretty much any decor.

If you were hoping to have the option of physical controls, you won’t find it on the JBL Link Music. Instead, you’ll find just three buttons on top: one to increase the volume, one to decrease the volume, and one to trigger Google Assistant. While it’s all nice and minimalistic, it would have been great to have at least one other button for basic play/pause controls.

Around back, there are two more buttons (one to turn off the microphone, and one to begin pairing your speaker with another Bluetooth device. Both of these are useful, but would be far better located on top with the other controls.

JBL Link Music features and smart assistant

Hope you like Google.

Outside of Google’s Nest speakers and Amazon’s Echo products, most third-party smart speaker manufacturers offer you a choice between smart assistants. Unfortunately, if you were hoping for both Alexa and Google Assistant to make an appearance on the JBL Link Music, you’ll be disappointed - you’re stuck with the latter.

That said, Google Assistant is largely the superior voice assistant for most users (though regular Amazon shoppers may disagree), and works like a dream on the Link Music. As you’d expect, this smart speaker can answer all your burning questions about the weather, headlines, who the star of that obscure ‘90s movie was… oh, and your assistant can also help you control your smart bulbs, security cameras, doorbells, robot vacuums and whatever other clever companions you have around the home.

Perhaps the only real letdown with the JBL Link Music is its poor Google Home app functionality. Unlike Bose and Sonos, which have their own apps for adjusting equaliser settings and music discovery, there’s no such app for this smart speaker. Instead, you’ll have to make do with Google Home, which offers very few options and nowhere to adjust bass and treble. It’s a real shame.

On the plus side, the speaker does include AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, so if you’re not feeling chatty, you can control this bad boy through any compatible device.

Is it worth it?

At the new price? Yes. At the old price? Hard pass.

It really is a good thing JBL has lowered the price of the Link Music, because I probably wouldn’t recommend it for the original $169.95 asking price. At $69, however, it represents fantastic value with great audio quality, plenty of connectivity options and the best smart assistant currently available. It doesn’t play the best with Google Home, and we’d like to see more physical controls, but at such a low price, it’s too good a bargain to pass up.

Georgia Dixon
Written by
Georgia Dixon
Georgia Dixon has over seven years' experience writing about all things tech, entertainment and lifestyle, with bylines in TechLife magazine, 7NEWS and Stuff.co.nz. In her spare time, you'll find her playing games and daydreaming about good food, wine, and dogs.

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