JBL makes plenty of large, powerful Bluetooth speakers, but the Go 3 isn’t one of them. At $39.95, the Go 3 is about as portable (and affordable) as it gets—it’ll fit in any backpack or tote without issue. It’s also fully waterproof, making it ideal for outdoor use. There certainly isn’t any powerful bass depth coming out of a speaker this size, but the Go 3 does its best to muster some rich low-end presence at higher volumes. It could have longer battery life, but for the price, this a very solid value.
Available in black, blue, gray, red, or teal models, the 2.7-by-3.4-by-1.6-inch (HWD), 7.4-ounce Go 3 is tiny enough to fit in just about any bag and even some pockets. Its rectangular body has rounded edges and is covered mostly in cloth grille, with rubberized feet on the bottom. The JBL logo is emblazoned in large letters across the front panel, and a stylish, sporty lanyard is built into the left panel, next to the USB-C port for the included charging cable.
There are buttons up top for volume up/down and play/pause. Pressed twice, the play/pause button skips forward a track. There’s no track backward navigation, which seems like an oversight, and there’s no speakerphone functionality, which would be annoying if the price weren’t so low. The right side panel houses a power button and a Bluetooth pairing button.
Internally, a single mono 1.5-inch driver delivers 4.2 watts of audio. Obviously, this speaker isn’t here to deliver powerful output or thunder, but for its size, it does project some respectable volume. It’s compatible with Bluetooth 5.1.
The Go 3’s best feature is its IP67 rating, which indicates a fully dust-tight and waterproof build that can be submerged up to a meter in water for up to 30 minutes. Yes, it’s true that a Bluetooth signal won’t do well underwater, but the point is that the speaker can get soaked without issue, which also means you can clean it off under the faucet or use it in the shower.
JBL estimates battery life to be roughly 5 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels. Regardless, 5 hours is pretty short—the similarly sized Sony SRS-SB12 ($50) gets roughly 16 hours.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Go 3 delivers decent thump for its size. Unsurprisingly, the most significant bass depth we get here comes from the first hits of the drum loop, whereas the far deeper sub-bass hits that come in at 15 seconds are reduced to thin taps. The speaker manages not to sound thin overall, however, with some reasonable bass response and body to this track. At top volumes, the driver manages not to distort even when the enclosure vibrates powerfully.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Go 3’s general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound thunderous on bass-forward speakers, but through the modest Go 3, the sound is fairly tame and unexaggerated. It’s Callahan’s rich baritone vocals that seems to carry the most bass presence, while also receiving plenty of high-mid presence to keep things nicely defined. The acoustic strums are also bright, and generally speaking, this is a balanced sound signature for a speaker this size—there’s not much bass depth, but the low-mids are full and the high-mids and highs are crisp. The speaker can get impressively loud for such a diminutive frame.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives plenty of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are more implied than actually delivered—we hear their raspy top notes, but not much else. The beat itself has some added thump, however, and once again the enclosure vibrates dramatically at top volumes, creating the sense of more power than the speaker actually possesses. The vocals are delivered cleanly and clearly, and at top volumes, the speaker doesn’t distort.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, have a bright, crisp presence through the Go 3’s driver. The lower-register instrumentation gets some subtle richness here, but the stage belongs to the mids and highs.
A note about the Go 3’s build, which can be placed flat on a surface or upright: When flat, tracks with deep bass can seem to distort. It’s not distortion, but the vibrations created by the speaker reacting with the surface it’s sitting on. So for what will sound like cleaner, clearer bass response, you want to place the speaker upright or hang it from the built-in loop so the back panel isn’t making contact with any surfaces.
A Powerful Portable Speaker for $40
For $40, you can’t expect audio fireworks, but the JBL Go 3 certainly gets the job done, with clean, relatively loud mono audio from its compact frame. It’s a reliable option for outdoor use considering it’s waterproof and safe from dust, so it can be rinsed off if you drop it in the dirt. Limited controls and the lack of a speakerphone are slightly annoying, but for this price, we can’t complain much. If you’re looking for more power, you’ll need to spend more money and get a larger speaker—we’re fans of the $130 JBL Charge 4 and the $80 Sony SRS-XB23. We’re also slightly partial to the aforementioned Sony SRS-XB12 in this price range, but the Go 3 delivers solid audio from a tough frame for $10 less, making both worth your consideration.
The Bottom Line
JBL’s Go 3 speaker delivers solid wireless audio performance in a waterproof, easily portable design for a low price.
JBL Go 3 Specs