The JBL Playlist is a wireless speaker that is equipped with bluetooth and Google Cast. You play music from a smartphone, tablet or PC. The Playlist costs 179 euros. Does the speaker deliver a nice sound and is it worth its price?
JBL Playlist – design
The JBL Playlist is a fairly wide wireless speaker of about 31 centimeters. The height is 14 centimeters, the depth is 24 centimeters. Therefore, the speaker may not fit wherever you want to put it and that is quite a shame: the Playlist does not have a rechargeable battery. That means that you have to place the device somewhere near an outlet. Do you have room for a speaker of 31 centimeters, which is also 24 centimeters deep? Then you have to shift a few things at home.
The speaker looks like an American football , which is slightly less rounded. The design is quite striking, but not very special. Other than you may be used to from wireless speakers. At the top there are five buttons, from left to right: on and off button, volume down, play and pause, volume up and bluetooth. The buttons do not stick out enough to be able to control the speaker blindly – if you have placed it on a higher shelf, a direct operation can sometimes be a little awkward.
The front is a gigantic speaker grill. We have received the blue version, so in our case the front is completely blue. At the bottom of that grill is a wifi icon. This indicates whether a Wi-Fi connection is sought (flashing) or when there is a connection to a Wi-Fi network (if the icon is on and does not flash). On the back you will find the reset button, as well as the audio-in connection and the power supply opening. You can also see and feel the bass module here.
JBL Playlist installation
The JBL Playlist can be used in three ways: as a bluetooth speaker, Wi-Fi speaker or as a speaker connected to a music source via an audio cable. You do not necessarily have to use a wireless music source if that is not possible at that moment. Connecting that audio cable is simple: you stop one side in the speaker (there is only one opening for it, so you do not have to search) and the other can be in a music player or computer and you can immediately start listening.
Linking via bluetooth has also happened. You turn on the speaker and press the bluetooth icon on the right. This then goes on, after which you get to hear the familiar bluetooth search tune. On your smartphone, tablet or computer you set up the bluetooth connection, after which you can choose directly for the JBL Playlist in the list of available bluetooth devices. Click on it and accept the speaker and you can immediately start streaming. You can also immediately set up the speaker as a familiar device on Android (using Smart Lock).
You do not have to look far for the Wi-Fi functionality. You do not need an app from JBL (or parent company Harman) and you can get started with Google Home. That app is also used for the Google Chromecast and Google Home- speaker (the latter is unfortunately not yet available in the Netherlands at the time of writing). If you have not yet downloaded the app, the application will explain you step-by-step how to connect to the Wi-Fi network, how to log in with your Google account and how to find a Cast speaker.
Finding and registering a Google Cast speaker is almost automatic. All you have to do is read carefully what is on the screen and do what is asked of you. For example, it is important that the smartphone or tablet is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the speaker is, and you need to have the location service on, otherwise Google Home can not find the speaker. If Google Home has found the speaker, then you press connect and you have to wait.
JBL Playlist – use
We have already mentioned it: the buttons at the top do not expand enough to be able to physically control the speaker. So you will always have to have a look at the buttons that are on the top, you want to use them. If you want to change the speaker from Wi-Fi to bluetooth connection, you have to make sure that you can see where you are pressing. We had the speaker on a high shelf, so we sometimes had to take it off that shelf to see which button we had to press exactly.
That is a minor criticism and of course only applies when you place the speaker in a high spot. In other areas, the JBL Playlist fortunately does not disappoint. There is a notch in the back, so you can get to the two openings and the reset button. In addition, the speaker feels incredibly sturdy and high-quality. In addition, there are anti-slip strips at the bottom, so the speaker does not just slide away from anywhere or falls down. With that kind of small details you can win the consumer for you.
You can control the Playlist with the buttons at the top, but you can also choose to have that operation entirely on your PC or smart device. That might be a little more convenient, since you can also consult the majority of the functions. It does not matter which music streaming service you want to use: as long as there is support for Google Cast, as with Google Play Music to give an example, you can use it as a Wi-Fi speaker. And otherwise you are surrendered to the bluetooth connection, also not a disaster.
Unless of course you use a music streaming service that does not support Google Cast , but would like to have an (affordable) set of speakers in your house where you can play the same music, regardless of your location at home. Of course you can go for a system like Sonos – which supports all kinds of services – but those speakers are (undeservedly) expensive. Google Cast makes the market affordable and JBL responds to that with an affordable speaker, which can also display a nice sound, as you can read below.
That way you play music through Google Cast
Playing music via Google Cast, from a smart device to a suitable speaker, is very simple. If you have completed the installation process and Google Home indicates that the speaker is ready, you can start immediately. The screenshots below are made with Google Play Music, but in principle it works for all Cast apps. In the picture you see a Cast icon (in the middle, at the bottom). Tap it once. Then you choose the speaker you want to cast to. That’s it! At the bottom you now see that the speaker is connected.
JBL Playlist – audio quality
The JBL Playlist sounds like a very capable stereo speaker. Amazingly good, if we are honest. The sound sounds a bit better than we heard on the Teufel Bamster Pro. The sound always sounds warm, but not so warm that it becomes woolly. If sound becomes too woolly, it may well be that details drop out. Instead, the sound is deep, but also clear. Broad, but certainly nuanced. You hear with ease the different musical instruments and the difference in tones in the music that you play through the speaker.
Also the higher tones are certainly not unpleasant. You can easily raise the speaker a bit, without those high tones becoming shrill. But we also have nothing to complain about at lower volume levels, although there seems to be a clear lower limit. If you put it too low, it can happen that the bass line in the music does not come into its own. If that is the case, you will notice that soon enough and you can put it a little bit harder. Fortunately, that does not have to be on such a level that the neighbors call and ask if something may be softer.
The Playlist does need the space to do its best. That is not only because he is so wide and deep, but also because he needs to get rid of his sound. Do not place it too close to a wall or the like, because that could be at the expense of the delicious bass lines. At a normal volume level, the Playlist can easily fill a room of around twenty square meters with more than pleasant sound. If you see the speaker, you hardly expect this sound to come from that device.
JBL Playlist – conclusion
Do not underestimate the JBL Playlist. The shape may look a bit strange and the color may look a bit childish (if you do not go for the black version), but that does not mean that the Playlist is not a capable stereo speaker. Everything except even. For less than the price of a Teufel Bamster Pro, a speaker that we sit high, you get a product with in our eyes (and ears) a slightly better music reproduction. The speaker has a wider, deeper, but also slightly more clear sound field.
There are some small disadvantages. For example, the buttons on the top do not expand enough to be able to operate the speaker blind, so you have to free up some space because of its shape. It is also very unfortunate that there is no rechargeable battery present, but that is the trade-off : do you go for a compact speaker with a wide music reproduction or would you prefer to enjoy good tunes while on the road, display? If you choose the first option, then you choose for us the JBL Playlist.