JBL's Link 300 may not have the portability of its smaller siblings, but it does boast the best sounding audio of any Google Assistant smart speaker we've tested.
- Superior audio quality for a Google Assistant speaker
- Full Google Assistant experience
- Dedicated buttons for most functions
- Voice detection could be better
- External power brick
JBL is one of the first audio companies to jump on board the smart speaker revolution with its Link family of speakers. While the Link 10 and Link 20 are both portable, battery-powered speakers, the Link 300 is a larger, premium model designed to fill a room with sound.
With dedicated buttons across the top of the speaker and Google Assistant functionality baked in, the Link 300 is a premium speaker worth consideration for anyone looking to expand their home with Google Assistant.
If you look at the first suite of smart speaker products that hit the Australian market, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there was some kind of legal obligation for companies to design their speakers to be cylindrical in shape. From the Amazon Echo to the Sony LF-S50H and even to Google Home, smart speaker design tends to follow the rough idea that round is better. Even the smaller JBL Link speakers follow this ethos.
But the Link 300 is a different beast altogether. Football shaped and wider than it is tall, the speaker looks more like a traditional boom box than any of the smart speakers that have come before it, which is no bad thing.
Underneath the speaker is a small alcove that houses the power slot and a micro-USB port for servicing. The front and sides of the Link 300 are all speaker grill, while the back houses the obvious and large subwoofer, complete with impressive JBL branding.
On top, you get a full suite of physical control buttons, including buttons to activate Google Assistant, to mute the microphone and to control the volume. There is also a Bluetooth sync control button. The two microphones are placed at either point of the football shape.
Speak the hot word or press the Assistant button and you'll see four LED lights appear under the grill at the top of the front side of the speaker. This is your visual indication that the assistant is listening to you, though it also shows up when you adjust the volume.
There's also a white Wi-Fi LED light at the bottom that shows up when the speaker is connected to your network... which it needs to do to work as a smart speaker. It's quite bright and doesn't really make sense on the 300 model.
The same light appears on the Link 10 and Link 20, and given their status as portable smart speakers, a visual indicator that you're connected to Wi-Fi and able to use Google Assistant makes sense. The Link 300 is always plugged in, so it should always have a Wi-Fi connection, so an indicator light isn't a necessary inclusion.
As one of the biggest Google Assistant smart speakers to hit the Australian market, it's no surprise that it also boasts some of the biggest sound we've heard from any smart speaker.
The integrated woofer gives the Link 300 plenty of bass, and pumping up the volume of the speaker to 100% doesn't distort the sound in any way, although the speaker does a better job with the lower frequencies than it does with the mid to high frequencies.
Everything from Pearl Jam's Daughter to Cat Steven's Father and Son sounds great on the Link 300. It's definitely better suited to rock music than purely vocal or orchestral music, though it does a solid enough job with the latter.
In fact, its sound reproduction is easily the best we've heard on a Google Assistant speaker in Australia. The Apple HomePod is still the speaker to beat when it comes to audio quality in the smart speaker market, and the Sonos ONE sounds equally as good, though doesn't quite have the same strength in the bass end. The Sonos One does have the added benefit of being able to get tied together in a stereo pair though.
Given we're still waiting on the Google Home Max to arrive in Australia, and Sonos hasn't activated Google Assistant support in its line-up of speakers, this is the best option for premium audio on the Google platform.
Digital assistant performance
If you're planning on using the JBL Link 300 to primarily stream music from the likes of Spotify or Google Play Music, then you're destined for a great experience thanks to the audio reproduction. For those looking more for a first generation version of Iron Man's JARVIS, the Link 300 may not be the best option to choose from.
To be clear, the Link 300 does a pretty solid job of answering your questions. Its Google brain gives you exactly the same responses as you can expect from every other Google-powered smart speaker, with the same functionality to control smart devices and get news and weather updates.
The Link 300's microphones aren't its best selling point. While it can pick you up and understand you easily enough from across the room if it's quiet, you will need to speak up significantly if the speaker itself is playing music at any volume above 40%.
That's not an uncommon limitation – Sony's LF-S50G has the same challenge. But because the Link 300 gets so much louder, it does feel like a bigger challenge.
If you want better audio than Google gives you from Google Home and are stuck on the idea of a Google Assistant device, then the JBL Link 300 is impossible to beat right now. It may not have the best sound quality we've heard from any smart speaker (that honour goes to the HomePod, funnily enough), but it's far superior to the bulk of Google-powered devices on the market.
As a smart device, the Link 300 does a perfectly good job, but its dual-microphone performance is lacking against the six microphone setup in the Echo devices and the Sonos One.
Overall, this is a standout product in an increasingly competitive market.
Pricing and availability
JBL Link 300
Google has created a powerful digital assistant platform, but if you want powerful sound to match, the JBL Link 300 is the best sounding Google speaker we've tested.
JBL Link 300 specs
|Name||JBL Link 300|
|Wireless Network||802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz)|
|Speaker Information||1 x 89mm woofer, 1 x 20mm tweeter|
|Min. Frequency Response (Hz)||55|
|Max. Frequency Response (Hz)||22,000|