The term “Smart Speaker” is one that went out of use almost as quickly as it came in. From day one people ignored the real title and started calling them Google Homes or Alexas (which isn’t even the name of the device!) regardless of whether they were even made by Google or Amazon in the first place. However, in our ever-more connected world, these devices are more and more being referred to as Speakers. The Smart label isn’t necessary anymore as increasing numbers of audio devices have some kind of Smart function built-in. My girlfriend and I recently had a conversation as to whether we’d be an Echo household or a Google Home household and, in the end, we settled on Google. That discussion was helped along by the lovely JBL Link Music that I received from our friends at The Sound Dome. It’s the best smart speaker experience I’ve ever had and I’m here to tell you why.

Out of the Box

Setting this speaker up isn’t unique to the device itself. It runs on Google’s Home platform and they are the ones to thank for the seamless, near-automatic process. I literally plugged the speaker in, saw a notification pop up on my phone (I’m using Android, Apple users may get different mileage) and I was away. The only thing I had to do was change the name and assign the speaker to a particular room in my house. In contrast, trying to set up an Amazon Echo device is an involved process that takes quite a bit of time to get to grips with. Even a side-by-side comparison of the home screen for the two ecosystems shows a clear winner in terms of useability. With Google, everything you need is right there, whereas Alexa hides all your devices and commands in sub-menus.

They say the room that adds the most value to a house is the kitchen and a similar principle can be applied to Smart Speakers. That’s where you’ll get the most value from them. They were made for the kitchen counter. Whether you want to set timers for cooking, play music or podcasts while doing the dishes, or use the kitchen as the central nervous system of your lights and appliances, you’d be hard-pressed to finds a room where they are more appreciated. That’s where I set up the JBL Link Music and it works a treat.

Everything Just Works

Something the JBL Link Music offers over our old Echo is its sensitivity to voice commands. Even while playing music, all you need to say is “Hey Google” and it responds without any issues. The timers are simple to name and set up, and the alarms are always clear and easy to recognise. In comparison, if an Echo is playing music at any volume above a whisper you have to practically shout at it to get it to respond. It’s funny the first time you jokingly get angry at Alexa for ignoring you, not so funny the 20th time. There have even been times when our Echo will acknowledge our request but refuse to carry out a command. “Alexa, turn off the lamp” “Ok”, the lamp remains on. I’ve never had that problem with any Google device.

While not a deal-breaker for many, it’s always nice when your devices look well and fit with the rest of your home’s aesthetic. Gone are the days when a guest would see your sound system and assume your speakers are good because they’re big. The JBL Link Music has a beautiful, modern design that screams “Premium”. Even the experience of taking it out of the box is a joy. Soft padding and individual compartments let you know straight away that this is a top-of-the-line gadget. If you feel it’s a little too grown up for you, check out our latest review of the JBL Pulse 4.

How does it Sound?

Of course, the most important aspect of any speaker is the sound. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how Smart or good-looking a device is if it can’t produce high-quality audio. I’m happy to report that the JBL Link Music is one of the best speakers I’ve had the pleasure to use. Its size really lends itself to deep earthy basses without crackling and the highs are crystal clear. The Google Home app also lets you set your own EQ balance as well so you can fully optimise the speaker to its environment.

This thing is loud too. Living in an apartment complex we’re always conscious of our noise levels so the JBL Link Music has rarely been over 50% volume. Even then it’s more than enough to hear throughout our home and even when we’re outside on the balcony. Again, even at high volumes, the sound performs wonderfully with no breaking of the signal and no overload on the internals at all. In comparison, if an Echo Dot is above 50% volume, it will noticeably struggle to get the sound out of its speakers. It will crackle and vibrate until there’s a not-insignificant amount of loss in quality.

The Goosed Verdict

This speaker will blow you away. If not with sound, then with just how much better it is over its non-Smart counterparts. The audio range is phenomenal for a speaker of its size and it never struggles whether you’re listening to podcasts, lo-fi hip hop, or the latest Royal Blood album. The Google Home integration makes it the ultimate “plug and play” smart speaker. You can find it online from our friends at The Sound Dome right now.

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Alex
With passions ranging from video games and emerging tech to superhero movies and fantasy TV, Alex is always up to date about what's happening in the nerd world and ready to bring the news to the masses.