CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

JBL Playlist review: Multiroom audio at a Bluetooth price

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12

The Good The JBL Playlist is the most affordable Chromecast speaker I've seen and it offers the most open sound we've heard in a product of this kind. Setup is easier than with most other Wi-Fi speakers thanks to the Google Home app, which also lets you have a multiroom system on a budget. The ability to use Bluetooth or auxiliary adds a lot of convenience.

The Bad The speaker isn't as convincing with bass-heavy material like dance or pop music. The build quality isn't as impressive as its rivals'. There's no onboard battery so it's stuck in one spot.

The Bottom Line If you're looking to build a multiroom audio system based on Chromecast, you really should consider putting at least one JBL Playlist in there.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 10

Wi-Fi speakers have huge advantages over Bluetooth-only units, but affordability isn't one. One case in point: the $200 Sonos Play:1 ($199 at Amazon) is still one of the most affordable of the breed. Speakers powered by Wi-Fi just haven't come down to Bluetooth speaker prices yet.

Sonos is the best-known name in multiroom audio, but its biggest challenger could be Google with its $35 Chromecast Audio dongle. We love the Chromecast ecosystem, which lets you easily stream from just about any audio app on your phone, but it needs a genuine speaker, not just a dongle, to compete. 

At $150/£149, the JBL Playlist is the cheapest Chromecast speaker we've seen to date, and based on its performance it could do for Google what the Play:1 did for Sonos. Its main benefit over the dongle is integration. With the dongle you need to make sure your hi-fi or speaker is turned on and set to the right input. With the JBL, all you need to do is press Play in your favorite app and it just works.

The Playlist looks very similar to the JBL Boost TV, albeit a bit bigger at 12.4 inches by 5.8 inches by 5.2 inches (316mm by 147mm by 131mm). It looks like a black football. The Playlist doesn't boast the most luxurious finish with a thick, plastic mesh covering and an orange, rubber base. It's fairly light at 4 oz (120g) but be aware that it's not a portable speaker -- it doesn't run on batteries and you'll need to plug it in, just like the Sonos. The cabinet houses a pair of 2.25-inch woofers and a passive bass radiator at the rear.

The connection options are relatively simple with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a 3.5mm auxiliary. Of most interest to future-proofers is the Chromecast built-in function under Wi-Fi. Setup is easy using the Google Home ($130 at QVC) app -- a pop-up within the app should appear informing you of the Playlist's presence and then it walks you through connection. It's one of the most streamlined setup sequences out there, a rival to Sonos for simplicity.

Chromecast brings with it dozens of native apps -- the big ones being Spotify, Pandora iHeartRadio and YouTube Music -- plus the ability to stream anything from an Android phone or Chrome browser (though this is less reliable). Tap the Cast button in your favored app and after a brief pause it begins playing. Like the Chromecast Audio, the JBL also supports hi-res music up to 24-bit/96kHz over your network. Using a Google Home, users can group compatible speakers together for multiroom listening. 

Hot Products

More Best Products

All best products