Review: JBL Authentics 300 Sounds (Almost) as Good as It Looks

The retro-inspired wifi speaker wins on portability and style

November 22, 2023 12:11 pm
JBL Authentics 300, a new wifi speaker from JBL
The JBL Authentics 300: It's versatile, portable and a looker

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JBL’s first range of WiFi Home speakers, Authentics, was released this fall. The range includes a smaller 200 unit and a larger 500 speaker that offers Dolby Atmos sound. However, neither of those has a built-in battery, so I tried out their mid-tier, decidedly more portable option: The JBL Authentics 300

What the Authentics line has in common is aesthetics; they were all inspired by classic ‘70s speakers and feature custom “leather-like” enclosures and reimagined Quadrex grilles. The 300 also has a cast aluminum handle. It’s a cool retro design with a lot of built-in functionality and 2023 smarts.

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Still, the proof is in the playlist. We tried out the JBL Authentics in our apartment over a few days to see if the sound could match the speaker’s cool looks. 

The specs: 

  • 8 hours of playtime per charge
  • Pairs with JBL One app
  • Multi-room playback
  • Automatically self-tuning
  • 13.46″ x 7.7″ x 7.1″ (W x H x D)
  • 10.8 lbs.
  • In the box: ​​JBL Authentics 300, power cable, quick start guide, safety sheet, warranty card
  • Bluetooth 5.3

What works:

  • It’s versatile — you can use Google Assistant or Alexa as your voice control (simultaneously). You’ve got playback via Bluetooth or wifi. And you can stream via AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music, Chromecast or Spotify Connect. 
  • It also features audio in, Ethernet and USB connections in the back
  • While the speaker is nearly 11 lbs., the protruding cast-aluminum handle makes it an easy carry
  • The 300 is eco-conscious. It’s made (in part) from 100% recycled fabric 85% recycled plastics and 50% aluminum. 
  • You can do everything via the app or voice controls, but why not use those sexy tactile knobs on top?  
  • Set-up on my wifi network took two minutes. Bluetooth pairing took seconds. Everything here is intuitive. 
  • There’s an easy-to-reach switch in the top back that’ll shut off or turn on voice controls.

What needs work:

  • Those bass, volume and treble knobs don’t have markers — instead, a light shows you the level you’re at, but it disappears after a few seconds. In other words, no idea if these go up to 11.
  • You can “create a moment” through the JBL One app that offers personalization — favorite music track, playlist, station, plus auto-off timing, preferred volume, etc. And there’s a heart button on the speaker to access this moment …. but it only works with a limited number of services, from the well-known (Amazon Music, TIDAL, iHeartRadio) to more niche streamers (Qobuz, Calm Radio, etc.). No Spotify or Apple Music, at least for this custom feature.
  • The app offers an equalizer with just three settings — bass, mid and treble. Beyond that and the initial set-up help (and playlist controls), it doesn’t do much else. 

How it sounds

I tested the JBL 300 through wifi and Bluetooth and with a range of different artists and musical genres. The speaker features a pair of 1-inch tweeters, a full-range 5.25-inch woofer and a down-firing 6.5-inch passive radiator. 

Your music will carry a long distance, and it’s clear and powerful…but I wouldn’t label this as “spatial” or “room-filling.” I also wouldn’t call the output here rich, warm or enveloping. It’s great as a portable unit because of its range and bass (and easy controls), but I’m not sure I’d use this in a house that has any sort of home theater setup, as the music all came out a bit one dimensional (not badly, just lacking dynamics).

Overall? It’s not a cheap unit, but if you need a powerful speaker on the go that’s extremely versatile, easy to use and virtually striking, the JBL Authentics 300 will serve you well. 

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