CNET First Look
JBL Pulse: One flashy portable Bluetooth speakerWith its own built-in LED light show, the $199 Pulse is the wireless speaker to watch -- and listen to.
Hi, I'm David Carnoy and I review many of the portable wireless Bluetooth speakers here at CNET. These days, it's a very crowded market and a lot of products aren't all that different from one another. It's nice, then, to come across a product like JBL's Pulse, which attempts to shake things up by throwing a multi-LED light show into the mix. The Pulse says a similar design to JBL's highly rated Flip and Charge Bluetooth speakers, but it plays a little louder and sounds a little better with slightly better bass response. However, it doesn't offer as much battery life as the Charge, which incorporates a USB Port for charging mobile devices. The Flip is a $99 speaker while the Pulse is a $199. You're not gonna get double the sound quality, but you are getting a much flashier speaker, literally. Of course, not everyone is going to love the visual element. But I found the light show fairly mesmerising, even without smoking anything. As far as the lighting goes, there are a few different pre-programed modes to choose from. And you can also go with the custom light theme, or just turn off the LEDs all together and listen to the Pulse like you would a standard wireless Bluetooth speaker. What's also kind of cool is that when you raise and lower the volume, you'll see it reflected on the speaker. I'm happy to report that JBL has fixed one key shortcoming of its earlier portable Bluetooth speakers. The Pulse charges via standard micro-USB connection instead of using an AC adapter, which is easy to misplace. Battery life is rated at 10 hours per audio only, and five hours if you fire up the light show. There's no speakerphone capability, but you do get NFC, the tap to pair option for devices that support it. And JBL has an iOS and Android app that gives you a little more control of playback, though the app isn't required to use the product. In this price range, you'll find the UE Boom and Bose Soundlink Mini. Both of which are very good portable speakers. I wouldn't say this JBL sounds better than those speakers, but it does sound quite decent for its size and the light show is a killer feature; and maybe a gimmick, but it's a good one. It makes the Pulse a worthy contender in a crowded market. I'm David Carnoy, thanks for watching.