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JBL Clip 3 review: Not as good as the Clip 2

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
50

Save your money and buy the JBL Clip 2 instead

Pros 
Improved battery life
Waterproof
Cons 
No daisy chaining
Lacks 3.5mm aux lead
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At first glance, the JBL Clip 3 doesn’t look too different from its predecessor, the Clip 2. Its carabiner has been redesigned and the button arrangement tweaked, but beyond that, you’d be justified in wondering what’s new.

For all intents and purposes, it is still a small, waterproof Bluetooth speaker that you can clip to a backpack or belt loop to accompany you on your travels. The question, then, is should you buy the newer version or go for the cheaper Clip 2 instead?

JBL Clip 3: What you need to know

The biggest difference between the JBL Clip 2 and Clip 3, at least in terms of appearance, is the clip itself. Where the older model employs an orange carabiner attached to a rubber loop, the Clip 3’s carabiner has a fully integrated design – in other words, the clip effectively surrounds the entire speaker.

READ NEXT: Best Bluetooth speakers

As you can see from our photographs, this looks great, not least because the colours of all the speaker’s different elements – the casing, grille and carabiner – are all carefully coordinated. Indeed, even the volume and play buttons, which have been moved from the side of the speaker on the Clip 2 to the front on the Clip 3, are the same colour as its grille.

Flip the speaker over and you’ll notice that the Clip 3 has a flat, grippy rubber base, and omits the 3.5mm aux cable that’s built into the Clip 2. While it’s disappointing to see this feature dropped, few people purchase a wireless speaker to play music via a cable, and its absence does at least gives the Clip 3 a cleaner, more pared down appearance.

Should you need to play music from a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth, the Clip 3 does still have a 3.5mm port, which you can reveal by pulling back the speaker’s water-sealed rubber flap. Here, you’ll also find a micro-USB connection for charging the speaker’s battery.

While on the topic of batteries, the Clip 3’s battery has been boosted to 1,000 mAh, which JBL claims will power the speaker for up to ten hours between charges. That’s a two-hour improvement on the Clip 2, although the flipside is that it takes a little longer to charge (three hours from empty versus two and a half hours on the Clip 2).

In terms of other features, there’s little to separate the two speakers. Both the Clip 2 and Clip 3 use Bluetooth 4.0 and are waterproof to the IPX7 standard, meaning they can be submerged under 1m of water for up to 30 minutes (neither speaker is dust resistant, though, so you'll have to be  careful not to clog the grille up with sand if you take either speaker to the beach). Both models also have a built-in microphone and dedicated button for answering incoming calls – a double tap of this button skips to the next song when music is playing.

While there are only five different colours to choose from with the Clip 2 (plus two special edition designs), the Clip 3 is sold in 11 different colours. One function supported by the Clip 2 that’s been omitted from the Clip 3, though, is daisy chaining. If you want to enjoy boosted sound by pairing a second speaker, you’ll need the older model.

So, which one sounds better? There’s no question, the older Clip 2 is the clear winner. That’s not to say that the Clip 3 is awful, or that it doesn’t do anything better than the Clip 2 from a sonic perspective. High frequencies, for example, are better represented on the Clip 3 and its maximum volume has also been improved.

However, the Clip 3 is no better at reproducing low frequencies than its predecessor (which is hardly surprising when they both have 40mm drivers) and the new model lacks the mid-range presence of its predecessor, which results in weaker-sounding vocals.

To what extent you’d notice the difference when hiking up a mountain with the speaker clipped to a backpack is open to debate, but where the Clip 2 has an appealing, warm sound, the Clip 3’s sound signature is bright to the point that it quite often sounds a little harsh.

JBL Clip 3: Price and competition

For £50, the Clip 3 isn’t extortionate when you consider its practical, portable design and waterproofing. However, the older Clip 2 can now be picked up for closer to £30, which represents much better value if you’re looking for a great-sounding small Bluetooth speaker to take on holiday with you. To look at it another way, you could buy two Clip 2’s to daisy chain for only £10 more than the Charge 3.

It lacks the Clip 3’s handy carabiner, but the Creative Muvo 2c remains our favourite Bluetooth speaker under £30. As well as producing a sound that defies its stature and price, it offers plenty of connections including a 3.5mm port and microSD slot as well as Bluetooth.

If you’re looking for something with a slightly bigger sound, the UE Wonderboom can now be bought for as little as £70. Like the Clip 3, it’s waterproof to the IPX7 standard, meaning it can survive a dunk in the pool.

JBL Clip 3: Verdict

It might look better than its predecessor and have marginally better battery life, but beyond that, it’s difficult to make the case that the Clip 3 improves on the Clip 2 in any meaningful way.

In fact, the older model is not only more versatile and cheaper but also sounds better. If you’re looking for a small waterproof Bluetooth speaker to take travelling with you, you know which one to buy.

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