JBL Pulse 2 review: A great-sounding Bluetooth speaker that really lights up a room

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The Good The JBL Pulse 2 is a compact splashproof wireless Bluetooth speaker that delivers strong sound for its size and distinguishes itself with an integrated light show that's far improved from the original model. The built-in rechargeable battery offers 10 hours of battery for sound only and 5 hours with the light show in effect.

The Bad There's no carrying case included.

The Bottom Line JBL has improved both LED light show and sound in the Pulse 2, making this flashy Bluetooth speaker a stand-out product in a crowded market.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

Compact portable Bluetooth speakers tend to be fairly similar these days, which is why a speaker like JBL's Pulse 2 is refreshing. Not only does it offer very good sound for its size, but it has the added value of offering a very cool "interactive" light show thanks to its built-in LED lights. You can buy it for about $170 in the US, £165 in the UK and AU$329 in Australia.

You press a button on the speaker itself to toggle through 12 different light show options, including fire, rain and fireworks, holding that button down to turn off the LEDs completely. The speaker has a companion app for iOS and Android devices that also allows you to adjust the light show remotely from your phone and perform firmware upgrades as they become available. (As we finished this review, the latest update added two more light shows.) I didn't see a button to turn off the light show in the app, but it would be useful.

The JBL Pulse 2 with its companion app.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Additionally, you'll find a prism sensor embedded in the speaker that allows you to hold a colored piece of paper or colored object up to it and press a button on the speaker and have the LEDs change to that color. It's a bit of a gimmick and didn't always work the first time, but hey, it's kind of fun to play with.

As you might expect, the light show plays off your music and matches its mood. You can also download ambient sounds via the app, such as waves, fire, rain and stars to enhance the light themes and create some white noise. And finally, you can wirelessly link two of these speakers together to augment the sound if you happen to have two of them.

The 1.7-pound (775-gram) speaker seems pretty durable. It's splashproof, though not waterproof, and there's a gasket that covers the Micro-USB charging port and audio input to keep moisture out.

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