The $119.95 Link Music is JBL’s smallest, most affordable smart speaker. With support for AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Chromecast, and Google Assistant voice commands, it offers no shortage of features. Sonically, you can expect surprisingly high volume levels for its size, with rich bass and a decent balance between lows and highs. That said, this is ultimately a mono speaker with a single driver, so if you’re in search of booming bass, you’ll have to spend a bit more.
Measuring 5.3 by 4.4 inches (HW), the cylindrical Link Music weighs in at 1.6 pounds and is available in light or dark gray models. The outer panel of the speaker is covered in cloth grille, and the top panel houses pinhole mics for Google Assistant control, as well as plus/minus buttons for volume control and a central Google Assistant button for controlling playback and alarms/timers. Holding the button down for two seconds activates Google Assistant if you don’t want to use voice commands.
The speaker’s back panel houses a Bluetooth pairing button, a mic mute button (when the mic is muted, amber LEDs appear behind the clothe grille on the front panel), and a connection for the included power cable. The bottom of the speaker has a rubberized coating to stabilize it on flat surfaces.
Setting up the Link Music to use Google Assistant requires the Google Home app. Other than entering your Wi-Fi password, the app handles just about everything else for you, after which you’re ready to stream audio or control Google Assistant with hands-free vocal commands. If the Link Music needs a software update, the Google Home app will automatically install it.
We found the voice control features to work quite well. The mics picked up our voice commands even when music was playing at relatively high volumes, and there were never any command misfires.
Behind the grille, the Link Music employs a single 20-watt driver delivering a frequency range of 60Hz to 20kHz. It’s compatible with Bluetooth 4.2, and works over 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless networks.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the speaker delivers laudable low-frequency response for its size and price. The thumps are robust, and there’s no distortion at top volumes—though at maximum volumes, the DSP (digital signal processing) thins out the bass hits notably.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Link Music’s general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound unnaturally thunderous on bass-forward speakers, but through the Link Music’s mono driver, the drums sound more modest. Instead, it’s Callahan’s baritone vocals that get the bulk of the bass presence—they sound even richer than usual, and if there weren’t decent high-mid presence here as well, the mix would risk sound muddy. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits receive enough high-mid and high frequency presence to keep the mix balanced, but interestingly, even in a speaker this size, this is a lows-leaning sound signature. The Link Music cannot reproduce super-deep lows, so the focus is on moderate lows and low-mid frequencies, and they get pushed forward more so than the highs.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence in its attack to retain its punchiness, but what seems to receive more boosting is the vinyl crackle and hiss that’s usually relegated to background status. Here, it’s pushed forward, indicating some sculpting in the highs. The drum loop’s thump is also intensified a bit with some low and low-mid boosting, but the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are more implied than delivered—we hear their raspy top notes and not much of the ominous deep bass that can often overtake the mix. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid clarity, and perhaps a smidge of added sibilance.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get some added low-mid push, bringing the lower-register instrumentation somewhat forward in the mix. The higher-register brass, strings, and vocals sound a bit less bright and crisp than usual—the sound signature feels subtly shifted to the lows, with less detail in the highs. It’s not a muddy sound, but it’s less bright than we’re used to hearing.
For its size and price, the JBL Link Music delivers some palpable bass thump paired with enough balance in the highs for things to sound full and rich without veering into muddiness or lacking in detail. For a speaker in your kitchen or office, it’s probably got more firepower than you would expect from its modest frame. At $120, it’s a solid value, though you can get the Amazon Echo (3rd Generation) for less. And if you’re looking for a little more power and bass depth in a smart speaker, the $130 Sonos One (Gen 2) and the $200 Amazon Echo Studio are strong alternatives.
JBL Link Music Specs
|Voice Assistant||Google Assistant|