Get Them Here
Its obvious Sony is gunning for JBL with their new XB21 XB31 and XB41 portable bluetooth speakers. Specifically, the XB31 is a refined XB30 that looks much sleeker, is way more durable and still sounds great. But the real question is, how does it compare to the JBL Charge 3 and my personal favorite the JBL Pulse 3… lets find out.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a full review on either of these speakers… I’m just trying to point out the most important difference between them so I can help you with your purchase decision. If you want to learn more about either of these speakers then watch their full reviews. The Sony XB31 is the newest speaker here and it currently retails for $149.99, the JBL Pulse 3 was released in the summer of 2017 and retails for $200 but can usually be found on sale… and the JBL Charge 3 is the oldest speaker here and also retails for $149.99 but can usually be found for about 120 bucks. If you want to pick either of these speakers up ill have a link in the description below and if you use the links it really help out the channel, check them out cause you never know when these speakers might go on sale.
First up lets talk about aesthetics cause these speakers look very different from one another. The JBL Charge 3 is the most tamed looking speaker with its pilled shaped fabric mesh covered body, what does give it some style points are the exposed passive radiators on the sides. The Sony XB31 also now has a fabric mesh covered body and a new and improved light feature. The light feature on the XB31 looks much better than the one on the XB30 and its also much easier to see in brighter environments. And you also have a few lighting modes to choose from, theres rave, chill, a rave mode without the strobe lights, and strobe. Although the light feature on the XB31 looks cool, customization options are still pretty limited. The JBL Pulse 3 on the other hand has 7 different lighting modes too choose from and you can even make your own. Personally I like jet and fireworks the most, but no matter which light mode you choose, the pulse 3 is going to get a lot of attention anytime someone sees it. The JBL Pulse 3 also lets you customize the color of any of the light feature either with your phone’s camera or you can just use the color wheel.
All three of these speakers are also water proof, but technically the XB31 is more durable than the Charge 3 and Pulse 3 cause its IP67 rated and shock proof while the JBL speakers are both only IPX7 rated. This means all three of these speakers can be submerged under water but only the XB31 is rated to be dust and dirt proof. I don’t see dirt being too much of a problem for the charge 3 but you do have to be carful when traveling with the Pulse 3 cause its acrylic top can get scratched up or if you drop it, it could crack.
When it comes to battery life, things start to get very different… the Pulse 3 has the worst battery life here. It advertises a battery life of 12 hours and I’ve manage to get more than that with a less intensive light mode like Jet set at a low brightness and with the volume set at 50%. But if you have something like Equalizer at max brightness with the volume at 85% then you’ll be lucky to hit 4 hours of playback time.
The XB31 advertises a battery life of 24 hours and I can get that with the light feature turned off and with the volume set at 50%. With the light feature turned on and with the volume set at 80% I can get anywhere between 8 to ten hours.
The JBL Charge 3 advertises a battery of 20 hours, but under real world use this speaker has the best battery life here cause it doesn’t have a freaking light feature to power. With the volume set to 80 percent I can get about 12 hours of playback time on this guys.
Ok, now lets talk about sound… both the Sony XB31 and JBL Charge 3 are directional speakers. They both shoot the majority of their sound out the front, they both have dual passive radiators, and they both have a pair of very similarly sized transducers. The transducers on the XB31 have a diameter of 48 mm and the transducers on the Charge 3 have a diameter of 50 mm. Basically the same. But the Pulse 3 is a 360 speaker, just like the Charge 3 it has dual passive radiators but the pulse 3 has 3 40 millimeter diameter transducers hidden underneath the fabric portion of its body.
All three of these speakers sound very different. The charge 3 puts an emphasis on the mids and has a lot of trebble, but it dosnt have too much kick in its bass. The XB31 is a very warm speaker that pushes the vocals back and puts an emphasis on the bass. And then theres the Pulse 3 which I feel is right in the middle. For the most part its pretty neutral, vocalists don’t get muddled out but theres still a surprising amount of bass.
But if you go into Sony’s music center app you will find a sound setting called Live sound, and when this is turned on the XB31 starts to sound very similar to the Pulse 3. Mids and vocals are pushed forward and the bass gets tamed a bit. I just wish you could turn this setting on directly from the speaker instead of having to go through the app every single time. But if you wanted to you can also just adjust the EQ directly from the app as well. Something that JBL’s app doesn’t let you do. Now when it comes to loudness, at max volume the ranking is as follows… XB31, Pulse 3, and in last place is the Charge 3.
Last year if you asked me to choose between the XB30 and Charge 3 I would say pick the XB30 for sound and pick up the Charge 3 for durability. But now with the Sony XB31 I feel its the obvious choice when picking between the XB31 and Charge 3. The XB31 is more durable than the charge 3, still sounds great, and I really like the new sleek design and light feature. But when choosing between the XB31 and Pulse 3 things get a little different. The JBL Pulse 3 is great if you just plan on leaving it at home and you want that wow factor associated with the light feature. It still sounds good, but due to its variable battery life its not the best for taking it on the go. Personally I don’t think you can go wrong when choosing the Sony XB31.