I don't know if JBL is clearing out inventory or what, but in recent weeks the company has offered some damn good speaker deals. The latest: The JBL Link 500 smart speaker for $149.95 with promo code CNET500. It lists for $449.95, though it was $399.95 when CNET reviewed it. The best deal I've seen elsewhere: $249.95. Update: This deal is no longer available publicly, but for a limited time, Cheapskate readers can still take advantage of it using the aforementioned code.
This is a big speaker, on par with the likes of the
Google Home Max
. It offers both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as
for linking with similarly equipped speakers. (Hello, multiroom audio!) The "smarts" come courtesy of baked-in Google Assistant, bolstered here by dual-microphone, far-field voice recognition. (Here's the complete list of Google Assistant commands if you want to learn more about this feature.)
I was able to test-drive the Link 500 for a few days and came away impressed. It's in my basement right now, which has a decent amount of contiguous space, and it's easily loud enough to deliver tunes from one end to the other. To my ears it sounds terrific: big and warm, with oodles of bass.
Maybe too much? I agree with David Carnoy's JBL Link 500 review, which notes that some listeners may be put off the by the bass-heavy sound.
But let's put this in perspective. The Apple HomePod costs $299, as does the Google Home Max. The forthcoming Amazon Echo Studio (which CNET has yet to test) will run $200. If you're looking for a big speaker, and prefer (or at least don't mind) the Google ecosystem, the Link 500 is awfully tempting at $150.
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