A few months back I grabbed myself a Google Home, dreaming of being able to queue up music from anywhere within earshot. After spending a week with JBL’s new LINK Series speaker with Google Assistant built in, I wish I had saved my money.
JBL’s new flagship portable speaker brings the sound quality of an actual audio specialist to Google’s hard-to-top voice activation software, and the result is all but flawless.
After one week spent with the new JBL LINK Series, it’s hard to imagine a home speaker without the ease of voice activation.
For those unfamiliar, Google Assistant is a feature built-in to Google Home devices and many Android smartphones. “Ok Google”… you know the one. A more functional cousin to Apple’s Siri, the Assistant can answer basic questions, set reminders, make calls… the list goes on.
In this case, the feature we’re concerned with is playing music without having to get out of bed. Cue voice activation.
Interacting with Spotify, Google Play Music, Apple Music, or whatever your choice of streaming service may be, JBL’s new speaker can be brought to life by talking to it. As odd as asking a small cylindrical DJ to take the reins may feel, you can’t argue with how easily it plays out.
I tried out a few commands, ranging from general ideas like “Ok Google, play me some music” to the more specific “Ok Google, play me some Daft Punk“. I could even ask for specific songs, which as guilty pleasures I’m not at liberty to specify.
Each time, the speakers would intelligently prioritise music I had already saved on my linked Spotify account, rather than something chosen at random. If your library is stacked with Drake, asking for “diplomatic immunity” will get you this. If you’re a Client Liaison fanboy, it will queue up this album instead. So, as an added benefit you can screen your mate’s Spotify accounts without nabbing their phone.
The series also come waterproof, so if you’re like us and silly enough to keep it in the garden… don’t sweat it. This thing’s good to soundtrack a lightning storm.
We were working with a LINK 10, the cheapest of the series coming in at $229 (though on sale now for $197). All three speakers sample audio at 24bit/96kHz, the main difference being output power. The LINK 10 boasts two 8W speakers, the LINK 20 has two 10W speakers, and the more robust LINK 300 is a 50W model.
The 8W speakers were more than powerful enough to fill out an office with six people working in it, and the sound quality was excellent at all volumes. Given that the Google Home’s sound is basically unbearable without an external speaker, I’m guessing this will be a huge selling point for the LINK Series.
JBL’s assertion of a 5-hour battery life on the LINK 10 was accurate, so we’re assuming the 10-hour label on the LINK 20 is also accurate. All LINK series speakers also operate with Bluetooth, so you can even use them without Google Assistant if that’s your jam. Same goes for Google Cast functionality.
A full-sized Google Home retails for $130-$180 depending on where you look, so to get that plus Bluetooth, Cast, and more in a high fidelity speaker of the same price is a no-brainer. You can’t even unplug a Google Home from the wall (and look at our LINK 10 up there, getting back to nature).
It’s a bullseye for the LINK Series, and JBL have hit a gap in the market with pinpoint accuracy.
Grab a JBL LINK 10 for yourself here.