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JBL Charge 3 review: Waterproof Bluetooth speaker plays louder, but sound quality takes a step back

The speaker is fully waterproof.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The big question, of course, is does this sound better than the JBL Charge 2+, which we loved at $150 and is now available for less? The short answer is no. The new model plays louder and delivers more bass, but the Charge 2+ sounds a little tighter -- and by that I mean it's a better balanced speaker with better bass definition and smoother sounding treble.

However, using this Charge 3 outside in a big open area such as a patio, its bigger sound will be an asset; it will carry further.

The bottom line is I'm not sure how much of an upgrade the Charge 3 is over the Charge 2+. It does play louder, is fully waterproof, and has strong battery life, so it has a lot going for it. But my reservations about its sound quality are a relative disappointment, given the fact is a larger and newer speaker should sound better than its predecessor.

The Charge 3 is available in multiple colors, including this blue version.

David Carnoy/CNET

It's worth noting that when JBL first released its Charge 2 speaker (the 2014 predecessor to the 2015 Charge 2+), it had some issues with its sound quality. The company quietly released a firmware upgrade after a few months that significantly improved the sound, but didn't really tell anybody about it.

It wouldn't surprise me if it did the same thing this time. If that happens, we'll update this review accordingly.

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