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Today we’re going to be comparing some of my favorite mid sized speakers. I actually like each of these speakers for different reasons, and depending on your needs and budget one of these is going to be better suited for you. We have the brand new JBL Charge 4, the also brand new UE Boom 3, the Sony XB31 and one of the coolest looking speakers out there… the JBL Pulse 3.
Money wise, the JBL Charge 4, Sony XB31, and UE Boom 3 all retail for $150. Where as the JBL Pulse 3 retails for $200… but its typically on sale now for $170. So, if you want to pick either of these speakers up I’ll have links in the description below and if you use the links it really helps out the channel. I highly suggest you check them out cause Sony’s and JBL’s speakers routinely go on sale so you’ll might get lucky. And if you want to learn more about either of these speakers then please watch their full reviews.
First lets get the basic stuff out of the way, most premium portable speakers these days have a few things in common. They all have a fabric body cause a fabric body does a much better job of standing up to bumps and scrapes than a cheaper plastic body, and most premium portable speakers these days also have an IPX7 rating which means they’re water proof. But if you want a really durable speaker that you can take with you almost anywhere then the Boom 3 or XB31 will might be more up your ally. Since these speakers are fully enclosed, they’re both rocking and IP67 rating and they’re both shock proof. So you really don’t have to worry about them if you cram them into your back pack. The Charge 4 is also pretty durable, but due to JBL’s trade marked exposed passive radiators you really want to be careful to not push them in or you risk breaking them. And finally theres the JBL Pulse 3, even though it is water proof… its objectively the most fragile speaker here. Due to its acrylic top you do risk scratching it or cracking it if you drop it, and again you also have to be mindful of those exposed radiators. So for those reasons I’ve always said the Pulse 3 is a great at home speaker.
Now I also quickly want to go over ports cause they’re pretty different and significant depending on your needs. The Boom 3 only has a micro USB port thats used for charging. There is no audio jack, and there is no USB A out port so you cant charge your own devices. The Pulse 3 also doesn’t have a USB A out port but it does have an audio jack and charges via a micro USB port. The Sony XB31 also charges via a micro USB port and has an audio jack. And since it has a USB A out port you can charge your own devices. And finally theres the JBL Charge 4 which has a slightly more updated set up than the XB31. It has a USB C port which is strictly used for charging and it keeps the Audio jack and USB A Out Port so you can also charge your own devices.
But now let's talk about battery life. The Charge 4, XB31 and Boom 3 will all have no problem lasting you at least one full day of playing music at 80% volume from a full charge. But the Charge 4 has the longest real world battery life here of about 11 hours of playback time. Where as the Boom 3 has the shortest real world battery life here of about 7 hours of playback time. Even though the XB31 has an advertised battery life of 24 hours, with its extra bass mode and light feature turned on and with the volume set at 80% this speaker is good for about 9 to 10 hours of playback time. So if you want the speaker with the longest real world battery life here then the JBL Charge 4 is your guy.
Where as the JBL Pulse 3 has the worst real world battery life here. Even though it has an advertised battery life of 12 hours, due to its light feature and what brightness you have it set at, its battery life is all over the place. If you use a less intensive light mode like jet you’ll be able to squeeze out about 8 hours playback time or if you use a more intensive light mode like rainbow then you’ll be lucky to get 5 hours of playback time. But you also have the option to use the Pulse 3 with its light feature turned off but whats the point? So regardless, like I said earlier I feel the pulse 3 is a good at home speaker cause its mostly going to live on its charger.
When it comes to bluetooth connectivity, all of these speakers have stable connections that don’t cut out and they can go through multiple walls. And since these are premium speakers they better. But if you’re an iPhone user looking for a mid sized speaker to listen to music with and watch videos with then the Boom 3 is your best bet. This speaker has the least amount of latency compared to all of these other speakers. And its also good for watching videos if you’re using an android device.
The Sony XB31 is also good for watching videos but only if you’re using an android device cause it has zero latency. But if you have an iPhone then there is going to be some latency. And unfortunately, both of JBL’s speakers just aren’t suited for watching videos cause they both have latency whether you’re using an iPhone or Android. And I find that weird cause the clip 3 doesn’t have latency, but it also doesn’t have JBL Connect plus. So maybe therye coralted some how.
But now let's talk about speaker set ups. The Pulse 3 is a 360 degree 20 watt speaker with a total of 3 transducers all under the fabric portion of its body and it has dual passive radiators. Think of the pulse 3 as a slightly sup’d up Flip 4 with an extra transducer. The Boom 3 is also marketed as a 360 degree speaker but its really not. It has a dual transducer and dual passive radiator set up… but since the boom 3 shoots all of its music out of its sides there is a major dead zone on the front and rear of the speaker if you use it out doors. But if you use the Boom 3 indoors since the music is able to bounce of walls then it creates that 360 degree effect. Where as since the pulse 3 has a triple transducer set up you still get that 360 degree effect even out doors. So keep that in mind if you’re trying to choose between the Boom 3 and Pulse 3.
Now the Sony XB31 is a 30 watt speaker and has a very traditional frontward firing dual transducer set up and dual passive radiators in its center that shoots out the front and back of the speaker. Where as the JBL Charge 4 is also a 30 watt speaker but has a new single oval transducer thats been offset to the right and dual passive radiators that shoot out its sides. Now before you get all up in arms saying that the Charge 4 is obviously worse than the XB31 and is a down grade from the Charge 3 cause its moving from a dual transducer set up to a single one… its hasn’t negatively affected its performance in any way. Since the dual transducers on both the XB31 and Charge 3 are always working in sync they aren’t giving you any left and right channel separation anyways. So thats why the larger single transducer on the Charge 4 isn’t a big deal. But now we’re going to jump into a sound test, just so you know the Boom 3 is using its “the standard” EQ setting and the XB31 is playing with its extra bass mode turned on.
All of these speakers sound good for mid sized speakers. Now even though both the Pulse 3 and Charge 4 have the same neutral sound signature with just the right amount of bass and treble to keep most people happy… the charge 4 does have significantly more bass than the pulse 3. And the Pulse 3 also has the least amount bass here compared to these other speakers.
Even though its the smallest speaker here, the boom 3 does have more bass than the Pulse 3. And thats why I like the boom 3 so much. Even though it's very small it has no problem keeping up with larger speakers like the charge 4 and XB31. And UE also gives you the ability to adjust its EQ settings so you can make it sound how ever you want depending on the type of music you listen to. Sony also allows you to adjust the XB31’s EQ settings and even though it does have as much bass as the Charge 4… it does struggle a bit when it comes to clarity. So if I had to rank these speakers from best to worst it would go as follows. I like the Charge 4 the most here cause it has the best clarity and bass here. The Boom 3 comes in second cause it has better clarity than the XB31 but not as much bass. But remember the boom 3 is only worth using indoors. The XB31 does come in third cause even though it does have good bass I do think clarity could be better… and sound wise the Pulse 3 comes in last cause I feel it has the least amount of clarity and the least amount of bass here.
But when it comes to max loudness, even though the UE Boom 3 sounds pretty good it is the quietest speaker here at max volume. But all of these speakers have no problem filling a large room with music. The pulse 3 does get a little louder than the boom 3 and its almost up there with the XB31 and Charge 4. But the Charge 4 and XB31 both get considerably louder than the Pulse 3 and suffer from less distortion at max volume.
And if you plan on pairing multiple speakers together on a regular basis I still highly advise you invest into JBL’s eco system. And easiest and fasts way to pair multiple speakers together. You just press the JBL connect plus button on each speaker and thats it.
UE’s pairing method is also pretty simple cause all you have to do is drag and drop the speakers through the app, but objectively JBL’s method is easier cause you don’t even need to open an app. But both methods still work pretty well. Unlike Sony’s pairing method were you have to press the WPC button on each of their speakers, hope that all of your stars are perfectly aligned, open up their app, click on the chained speakers tab, and grab your lucky rabbits foot and hope they you don’t get an error message. And sometimes even when you do manage to successfully pair your sony speakers together sometimes you get an echo effect that can only be fixed by turning all of the speakers off and pairing them back up again. What im saying is, Sony’s pairing method is not always easy and its not as fool proof as other pairing methods.
So for those reasons, I feel that Sony’s speakers are great if you only want a single speaker. The Sony XB31 brings a lot of bang for its buck… its very durable and rugged cause of its enclosed fabric body, it has a much improved light feature from the previous Sony XB30, and it has a pretty descent battery life. Even though it does get pretty loud and sounds descent I do feel its clarity could be a little better. Where as the boom 3 is all about clarity in a very small package. If you need a small rugged speaker that gets louder than it actually is the boom 3 is a good option. And the boom 3 is also my speaker of choice when ever im going to watch videos on my iPhone now cause of its low latency. But if you want the all around best sounding speaker here than the Charge 4 is the way to go. Even though it's not all that different from the Charge 3, it does have more bass. And like I said, it does sound clearer than the XB31 while having the same amount of bass. But if you do plan on taking the Charge 4 on the go with you, then you do have to be mindful of those exposed radiators. But if you plan on getting more JBL speakers in the future then you’re going to have the best and easiest paring method out there. And finally theres the Pulse 3… the Pulse 3 is cool and all but its mostly about looks. Like I said earlier its a sup’d up Flip 4 with without a doubt the best looking light feature on the market. And the Pulse 3 is going to look awesome in any bed room or dorm room. But don’t expect it to sound like the Charge 4. But the Pulse 3 isn’t going to have a problem filling a large room with music, and since the pulse 3 has a triple transducer set up you’re still going to get the 360 effect even out doors.