JBL Clip 3 review: A top-notch waterproof travel speaker

The JBL Clip 3 is fully waterproof.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Clip 3's integrated carabiner does come at the cost of the Clip 2's integrated 3.5mm cord, which fits into a slot around the perimeter and bottom of the speaker. That said, the Clip 3 has a 3.5mm input next to the charging port, so it will work with wired audio sources -- you just need to supply the cable.

Thankfully, the size tradeoffs pay off: The Clip 3 clearly sounds better than the Clip 2. Not only does it sound a little fuller, with slightly better bass, but it also plays louder. These little speakers have their limitations, but for its size, the Clip 3 impresses. (It also sounds fuller and plays louder than its sibling, the JBL Go 2 -- though you can snag that one for as little as $30 to $40).

Some of the other color options.

David Carnoy

The JBL Clip 3 doesn't have quite as much bass as the Bose SoundLink Micro, which plays louder and sounds a little fuller. It's not a huge difference, especially with simpler, acoustic tracks -- these small speakers are always strongest in the midrange -- but the Bose is superior when it comes to tracks that feature more bass and more instruments playing simultaneously, especially at higher volumes. However, it does cost $40 more. (The Bose was available for $30 off during Amazon Prime Day, but that deal has now lapsed.)

As for the Clip 3's extra features, it has a built-in echo- and noise-canceling speakerphone along with playback and volume control buttons on top of the speaker. Unlike the Clip 2, it isn't compatible with the JBL Connect+ app and can't link to other Clip 3 speakers to augment their sound. I'd guess that not many people used that linked speaker feature so JBL decided to leave it off.

Battery life for this speaker is rated at 10 hours at moderate volume levels. That's up two hours from the Clip 2, which is still on the market and available for around $40. At that price, we still like it a lot.

Is the $60 Clip 3 worth the extra dough? That depends how much you value sound quality and battery life. In terms of performance, I'd say the Clip 3 is about 20 percent better, for about $20 more. Whether that's worth it is up to you.

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The stronger carabiner wraps around the perimeter of the speaker, which adds extra protection for drops.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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