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JBL Link 300 review: A HomePod competitor that sounds almost as good and costs less

The Link 300 delivers impressive performance for a Wi-Fi, voice-enabled speaker with Google Assistant.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
5 min read

One of the great things about both the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice-assistant platforms is that they're both open. It's easy for third-party companies to make compatible smart home devices that work with both of them. In fact, companies can also make their own smart speakers to compete directly with those manufactured by Google and Amazon.


JBL Link 300

The Good

The Google Assistant-enabled JBL Link 300 has Google Chromecast built in and can be linked to other Link and Chromecast speakers to create a multiroom set-up. It delivers excellent sound for its size and has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The Bad

There's a little bit of presence boost, aka treble push.

The Bottom Line

For the money, the JBL Link 300 matches up well against the Sonos One and Apple's HomePod.

One of the latest companies to take up the Google Assistant smart speaker mantle is JBL, which released a new line of voice-enabled speakers in late 2017 under its new Link sub-brand. The Link 300 ($250, £200, AU$350) competes with such products as the Alexa-enabled Sonos One and the Siri-powered Apple HomePod. It may not look quite as sleek as those speakers, but it is attractively designed and seems well built. It does share some similarities to JBL's Playlist ($150, £90 or about AU$160), an affordable Chromecast speaker we liked that lacks the voice-control option.

The Link line also features a combination of two fully waterproof battery-powered portable speakers -- the JBL Link 10 and Link 20  -- as well as two AC-only models, the Link 300  and Link 500. The upcoming Link View, meanwhile, is one of a new wave of Google Assistant devices with a screen built into it.

In addition to using Google Assistant for its voice commands, all Link speakers are equipped with Google Chromecast , which enables them to join up not only with other Link speakers but any Chromecast-based audio device to create a multiroom audio setup over a Wi-Fi network. (All Android apps and many iOS apps can send audio to Chromecast speakers at the touch of a button.) The speakers are also equipped with Bluetooth , which offers universal compatibility. 

While you can debate which speaker sounds best, particularly for the money, there's no doubt that the Link 300 sounds impressive for its relatively small size. It hangs tough against the competition, with a wide soundstage and deep bass. In fact I liked it more than the Link 500 , which has more bass but gets a little too boomy for my taste.

JBL Link 300
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JBL Link 300
Sarah Tew/CNET

Setting up the speaker is relatively simple. You use the Google Home app on iOS and Android devices to log into the speaker with a direct Wi-Fi connection. Then you log onto your chosen network to get the speaker on it. You can then give it a label for a particular room and link it with other Chromecast-enabled speakers if you have them.

The Link 300 has two microphones at the top along with some physical buttons, including volume controls. You can access Google Assistant by pressing the middle button on top of the speaker and issue commands without having to say "Hey Google" or "OK Google" first.

Alternatively, you can call out to the speaker by saying, "Hey Google." A set of LEDs, which double as a battery-life indicator, lights up to tell you that speaker is ready to take your command. Thanks to the dual mics, I had no problem issuing commands from several feet away (across a medium-size room) in a normal voice. If the speaker is playing music at higher volumes, you will have to raise your voice for it to hear you over the music. 

JBL Link 300
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JBL Link 300

The bass port on the back.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can argue over which voice assistant is the best. Alexa is currently dominant in the wireless speaker market with Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, Microsoft 's Cortana and Samsung 's Bixby all playing catch-up. And while the arrival of Apple's HomePod may shake things up, that speaker is comparatively costly and feature-challenged: You can only access Apple-based music services via voice, and it needs an iOS device living on the same network to perform basic tasks like reminders. 

Google Assistant performs as well (and perhaps better than) Alexa for basic tasks such as accessing music services (including Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn), getting the latest news and weather, and setting timers for cooking. It's also arguably superior for answering general questions because it's tied to Google's renowned search engine. 

Where it falls short compared to Alexa is in the smart-home realm, where Alexa can control more products. Needless to say, like Alexa, Google Assistant will grow even more robust with time. (This list of Google Assistant commands will give you an idea of all the options for controlling this speaker with your voice.) 

Strong sound for a compact speaker 

The Link 300 delivers strong sound for its relatively compact size. It easily bests Amazon's much smaller (and more affordable) second-gen Echo and fills a small to medium-sized room with sound. 

I put on David Byrne's new album, "American Utopia," and pitted the Link 300 against the Sonos One. It was immediately clear that the Link 300 was the fuller-sounding speaker with more forward sound. It sounds like a bigger speaker, its bass goes deeper and it has more punch to it. The Link 300 also sounds more refined and bigger than JBL's Playlist speaker. 

The Link 300 does have some presence boost, which is another way of saying that there's a bit of treble push that helps deliver a little extra clarity and excitement. There are times when the speaker sounds a little bright, especially when you crank the volume, and there are moments when I preferred the sound of the more reserved, less pushy Sonos One. But overall I liked the sound of the Link 300 better.

Next up was the HomePod. While the JBL goes deep, the HomePod's bass is a little tighter and the speaker sounds slightly more refined overall. It's not a huge difference, but there is a difference. The HomePod wins, but it costs at least $100, £100 or AU$150 more. 

JBL Link 300
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JBL Link 300

This model has no battery and requires an AC adapter.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In conclusion, I think the Link 300 is one of the best speakers of its kind. Yes, if you're looking for a speaker that you can use to kick out dance music for a party, the bigger Link 500 is going to do a better job at that. But its meatier bass lacks a little definition and is a little thumpy at higher volumes. It will be overkill for a lot of people.

I do think the Link 300 would do better at $50 less, matching the Sonos One's $200 list price. But it does get discounted to $200 occasionally, and if you do see it at that price it's definitely a good bargain.  


JBL Link 300

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Sound 9Value 8