JBL Link 20 Speaker Review
The JBL Link 20 features two 10W drivers and can get loud enough to fill a large room with music without distortion. As is typical with many JBL products, the sound quality is very good with crisp mids and highs and adequate bass, although I was expecting a stronger bass response from a speaker this size. That’s not to say the bass is bad: the lows are enhanced nicely and do not muddy the sound. But it won’t give you a strong “thud” like the bass-enhancement feature of the Sony SRS-XB30. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any type of EQ setting or bass enhancement feature for the speaker.
The JBL Link 20 sits tall (8.3 x 3.7-inch) and can easily be carried from room to room, although holding it is a little awkward due to the wide size. A fabric mesh surrounds the speaker. The power and mute buttons are located on the back of the speaker while the Google Assistant and volume controls are located on the top as well as two microphones.
Four white LEDs on the front of the speaker indicate when Google Assistant is listening. Near the bottom of the front, 3 white LEDs in the shape of the classic WiFi symbol show you the signal strength (and seem to flash if it temporarily loses connection). There are also 5 white LEDs located on the back of the speaker, directly above the power button, to show you how much power is remaining.
The most notable feature of this speaker is that it is powered by Google Assistant. The Google Home app guides you through the setup process of connecting it to your WiFi, giving the speaker a name, learning your voice and connecting it to your speakers. The Google Home app also installs JBL’s software updates to the speaker, which is nice as you do not need to download a specific JBL app to manage the speaker.
The Google Assistant does an excellent job of hearing my “Hey Google” command from across the room, even if it is already playing music. You can ask Google to play music from supported services such as Google’s own music service, Pandora and Spotify. Unfortunately, Slacker Radio (one of my favorite streaming music services) is not directly supported by Google Assistant, so I can not activate Slacker Radio by voice. However, the JBL Link 20 acts as a Chromecast Audio receiver, so if I have the Slacker Radio app open on my phone, I can cast the music to the speaker without needing to pair via Bluetooth. Slacker Radio will continue to play on the Link 20 via WiFi, even if I kill the Slacker Radio app on my phone. The JBL Link 20 can also be linked to other Google Home speakers for multi-room sound.
Google Assistant can also do things like check your Google Calendar, play the news and control smarthome devices. However, the JBL Link 20 cannot make phone calls at this time like the Google Home speaker.
Battery Life and Portability
The built-in 6000mAh battery gives you up to 10 hours of sound and portability, allowing you to carry it around the house or even out in the yard, if your WiFi extends that far. For times when you’re away from home, you can pair the speaker via Bluetooth to your phone to play music. However, without a WiFi internet connection, the Google Assistant will not operate. It can not “tether” off your phone’s mobile internet connection via Bluetooth (but it could if you set up your phone as a mobile hotspot and used another phone to configure the JBL Link 20 to connect to that hotspot… a somewhat convoluted process). The battery can be recharged in about 4.5 hours using the included 2 amp Micro USB charger.
The JBL Link 20 is an excellent speaker based on sound quality alone, but the built-in Google Assistant feature makes it even more of an excellent value. It lasts up to 10 hours on a single charge and can play music directly from Pandora, Spotify and Google Play Music via WiFi by using voice commands.
- Great sound performance
- Google Assistant Built-in
- Long 10-hour battery life
- No EQ settings
- Google Assistant music services are limited at the moment