PROS / The Pulse 2 has the best audio quality in our review.
CONS / It isn’t very durable.
VERDICT / The JBL Pulse 2 is the best wireless speaker because it has the best audio quality, a good battery life and features that other speakers don’t such as a light show.
If sound quality is king, then the JBL Pulse 2 wears the crown. In our tests, it received the highest marks for overall sound quality, bass response quality and vocal clarity. Though not exceptionally long, the battery life was above average. Also, while the casing isn’t as durable as other wireless speakers’, it still has an IPX4 water-resistance rating. On top of all this, the Pulse 2 creates a light show while you listen to music, adding ambience to the listening experience that no other speaker can match. For these reasons, the JBL Pulse 2 earns the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for best wireless speaker.
Audio quality should be your top consideration when choosing a wireless speaker. Of course, everyone’s hearing is different. You may perfectly well not be able to tell the difference between the highest-rated speaker and the lowest-rated speaker in our review. That said, we believe there is a stark difference in quality from top to bottom. Many speakers lack a full bass response, which leaves the rest of the audio sounding hollow and shrill. This not the case with the Pulse 2.
We evaluated the speakers by blindfolding a group of reviewers and playing them music from a variety of genres. To make comparison easy, we connected the speakers to a switcher that allowed us to quickly move from one device to another.
In all of our sound quality evaluations, the Pulse 2 was the highest rated. While listening to “Drum Machine” by Big Grams, it had the most favored bass response. The speaker has two passive bass radiators and two cones, which results in a bass tone that is punchy and deep without being overbearing – exactly what you want when listening to bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and pop music. Also, while sampling “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes, the Pulse 2 produced a well-rounded bass tone throughout the entire song while adding depth and impact to the thud of the guitars, which was lacking with other wireless speakers.
When we played “Red Clay” by Freddie Hubbard, the Pulse 2 really stood out from the rest of the speakers. Most of the wireless speakers in our review struggled with older jazz recordings because they don’t have a lot of the bass that fills out modern recordings. This can make them sound very shrill and abrasive on lower-quality speakers. With the Pulse 2, the audio was warm and had a depth to it that other speakers couldn’t match. Overall, this was the best-sounding speaker.
JBL lists the battery life of the Pulse 2 as 10 hours. There is no context to how they reached this specification. In our tests, we looped an album through the speaker using a wired connection because Bluetooth is too unreliable when used for long periods of time. A GoPro took pictures of the battery indicator light every two minutes, allowing us to pinpoint when the battery finally died.
Using this methodology, the Pulse 2’s battery lasted 18 hours and 18 minutes in the first round of testing and just under 18 hours in the second round of testing. While neither time comes close to the longest battery life in our tests, which was 36 hours, both were above average by almost four hours. Keep in mind that if you use a Bluetooth connection or play your music at a higher volume, the battery won’t last this long.
The charge time was just over three hours, which was average. However, when you consider it has an above-average battery life, the battery life to charging time ratio is much less than a lot of wireless speakers.
While we didn’t consider it in our rankings, the Pulse 2 has a unique casing that’s covered in LED lights that change color and move with the music. It adds an ambience to your music that other wireless speakers can’t match. If you’re looking for a great addition to a party, the light show is it. When you turn down the lights in the room, it will come to life with colors that dance to the beat of the music. That said, you can turn off the LED lights to preserve battery.
Another unique feature of the Pulse 2 is that it’s a JBL Connect-enabled device. This means it can pair with other JBL devices, including other Pulse 2 speakers, to create an ecosystem of wireless speakers. This can expand the audio’s reach – you can have a speaker in each room, and they can all stream the same music from your phone. It’s like having a full-home audio system at a fraction of the cost.
One minor downside to the Pulse 2 is it’s not very water-resistant or dust-resistant. You don’t want to take it on a kayaking adventure, but its IPX4 rating is better than nothing. This level of water resistance means it can handle minor splashes and light rainfall.
At 7.65 inches tall, 3.3 inches wide and 1.7 pounds, it’s the biggest wireless speaker in our review. Still, it’s only about the size of a brick, which makes it very portable.
Help & Support
The Pulse 2 is covered by a one-year warranty, which is standard for a wireless speaker. JBL also provides excellent support on its website. You can download the manual online or contact JBL via phone or email if you have any questions concerning the Pulse 2.
The JBL Pulse 2 is the best wireless speaker in our review because of its above-average performance. This speaker had the highest-rated audio quality in our evaluations and above-average battery life in our tests. While it isn’t as durable as other wireless speakers, its IPX4 water resistance rating means it can handle some light water splashes and rain. In addition, it comes with a light show and the ability to connect with other JBL devices.