JBL Link 10 Review
One of the big advantages of Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants is that they’re open platforms. As a result, any third-party brand can leverage them to create voice-controllable connected devices.
JBL is one of the latest brands to adopt the Google Assistant with a full range of speakers unveiled at the end of 2017 under Link; the Link 10 and Link 20 waterproof portable speakers; the Link 300 and Link 500, fixed speakers for the home. In addition, JBL will soon release a screen version called Link View, competing with Amazon’s Echo View.
In addition to using the Google Assistant, all Link speakers feature Chromecast streaming, allowing them to be paired with other Link models and any Chromecast-enabled audio device to create a multi-room set over a Wi-Fi network. Additionally, all Android and iOS apps can stream audio to Chromecast systems. In addition to Wi-Fi, the Link 10 also has Bluetooth.
Aesthetically, the JBL Link 10 and 20 resemble larger cousins of the cylindrical models (Flip, Charge, Pulse) offered by JBL. Moreover, from a purely audio point of view, the Link 10 plays in the same category as the Flip 4 with a battery life of 5 hours. The only problem with the Link 10 is that its big sister, the Link 20, offers richer sound and double the battery life, and more. But that does not mean that JBL Link 10 is a bad speaker; it is even quite correct for its size. The sound feels tighter compared to the larger Link 20.
For us, the Link 20 is currently the best voice-activated portable speaker. Let’s admit, however, that the competition is not the toughest. Only UE’s Blast and Megablast and Amazon’s Tap are serious rivals. But they use Alexa and not Google Assistant.
Setting up the Link 10 is relatively simple through the Google Home app on Android or iOS. The speaker is connected to the home Wi-Fi network; it can be assigned a room in the house and possibly associated with other Chromecast speakers.
The only inconvenience we encountered was the slow ignition. Once the power button is pressed, it takes 10-20 seconds for the network connection to occur and the speaker to be ready to receive voice commands. The Link 300 and 500 models plugged into the mains are always on and do not have this problem.
We would also have appreciated that JBL offers an optional charging station, as with UE for the Blast and Megablast and the Tap from Amazon. It’s not annoying, but each time you want to charge the speaker, you have to open the cover of the USB port to connect the cable. A charging station would be much more practical for those who use the speaker mainly at home.
Like the other models in the range, the Link 10 uses two microphones located on the top, volume control, playback, and Bluetooth connection buttons. In addition, you can request the Google Assistant by pressing the central button without pronouncing the key phrase “Ok Google.”
Of course, you can also call the Assistant out loud. LED indicators also show the battery level light up to let you know that the Assistant is listening to you. The microphones work well. We had no problem being heard in our normal voice, even from several meters away in an average-sized room. Of course, if the loudspeaker is playing music, the tone must be raised.
One can argue about which is the best voice assistant. Currently, Alexa has a good head start on Google Assistant, Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), and Bixby (Samsung), which is hot on its heels. Apple’s HomePod may shake things up a bit, but this connected speaker is expensive and close to the brand’s ecosystem.
The Google Assistant works at least as well, if not better than Alexa, for basic tasks like accessing streaming music services (Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn), viewing news, weather, or creating timers for the kitchen. He is also better at answering general questions because he relies on the power of the Google search engine.
On the other hand, Alexa regains a clear advantage in home automation, where it can control more products. But the Google Assistant, like Alexa, will continue to grow in muscle over time. Check out our list of commands available in French for the Google Assistant to get an idea.
- Compatible with the Google Assistant and the Chromecast system
- It can be associated with other Link or Chromecast speakers to make multiroom
- It’s correct for its size
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Fairly slow start
- Some distortion at high volume
A good speaker but performance limited by the size
The JBL Link 10 offers a rather powerful sound given its compact size. It’s a bit larger than the UE Blast, which is a little easier to carry. Unsurprisingly, the JBL speaker doesn’t perform well as larger wired models like the Sonos One, Apple’s HomePod, or the Link 300 and 500.
Like Link 20, the ten performs best at around 75% volume. Beyond that, we are entitled to distortion, especially on songs rich in bass or involving many instruments. However, the sound is better than that of the Blast, which is more expensive (not yet available in France). However, you should know that these wireless speakers use audio signal processing processors (DSP), all of which have their particularities, leading to performance differences.
Ed Sheeran’s track “Perfect,” the JBL seemed more natural and pleasant to listen to while the Megablast forced a little on the treble. On the other hand, the latter was more convincing on Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” with better dynamics and a clearer sound, while the bass of the Link 10 seemed less precise to us.
It’s also worth pointing out that these speakers don’t sound the same indoors or outdoors. For us, models like the Link 10/20 and the Blast and Megablast are more suitable for outdoor use. They’re designed to disperse sound in an open space, so your ears won’t pick up on their sonic imperfections.
So, Link 10 it’s a good value for money. Of course, we’d spend a little more to buy a Link 20. But if you’re looking primarily for a compact speaker, the Link 10 is a good option.