JBL Clip 3 Review

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The JBL Clip 3 is a portable Bluetooth speaker for an active lifestyle. Whether you’re a mountain biker, camper, or skateboarder – this speaker provides a lightweight solution that lets you jam to your favorite tracks wherever you’re going and no matter what you’re doing.

The Bottom Line

JBL’s Clip 3 is getting old, but that doesn’t stop it from competing with modern alternatives. The clear midrange and vocal prominence create an enjoyable listening experience. Its small size and built-in carabiner make it incredibly portable, and its battery performance exceeds manufacturer estimates, providing more than 10 hours of playtime. While it lacks bass, the Clip 3 is still a powerful little speaker available at affordable prices.

Pros

  • Durable design with scratch protection
  • Vocals come through with pristine clarity
  • Waterproof (IPX7-Rated)
  • Built-in carabiner lets you attach it to almost everything

Cons

  • Lacks deep bass
  • Quality control concerns around the microphone
  • Limited physical controls
  • No app support

Battery Life:Up to 10 hours
Water Resistance:IPX7
Wireless Stereo Pairing:No
Power Output: 3W
Frequency Response:120 Hz – 20 kHz
Charging Type:Micro-USB
Mobile App:No
Size:‎2.17 x 4.33 x 4.3″
Weight:0.49 lbs

What’s In The Box?

  • 1x JBL Clip 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
  • 1x USB to Micro-USB Charging Cable
  • 1x Manual

Introducing The Clip 3

With JBL already having released the Clip 4 and the Clip 5, you may be wondering why I’d be looking at a speaker that’s now 6 years old. Despite its age, the Clip 3 is still a reliable speaker that can stand against more modern releases and outperforms the Clip 4 in several areas. There’s a reason why you still find this speaker available from online outlets and physical stores. Additionally, prices have gone down as new iterations were released, making the Clip 3 a budget-friendly option. In this review, I’ll dive into what makes the Clip 3 relevant all these years down the line while also highlighting the shortfalls and where it lags behind newer releases.

If you’re undecided on which Clip model is best for you, we’ve compared the Clip 3 to the Clip 4 and highlighted the features in the new Clip 5.

JBL Clip 3 Review 2

Design & Build Quality

The Clip 3 retained most of the Clip 2’s design, with some small adjustments, particularly relating to the back of the speaker and the carabiner. The shell is wrapped in rubber and a tight-knit fabric, which protects it during outdoor use. It’s available in a multitude of color options. Additionally, it features IPX7 water resistance.

Durability of Finish: 8.8/10
Feel of Buttons: 7.9/10
Weatherproofing: 7.8/10

The design of the Clip 3 is similar to that of the Clip 2 but with several enhancements, particularly around durability. The speaker is round and fairly flat, making it one of the few Bluetooth speakers on the market to adopt a disc design. This design has pros and cons. On the one hand, it makes the speaker very compact and easy to carry around, but because the speaker’s driver always faces upwards when it’s laid down, you can’t easily face it in one direction for a more precise sound.

The most iconic feature of this speaker, however, is the built-in carabiner, which can be latched onto just about anything. Bicycle handlebars, backpack straps, belt loops—these are all commonly used to carry the Clip 3 around. The carabiner is durable, and the metal wraps around the entirety of the speaker, making it sturdy. During testing, I found the clip would sometimes stick slightly when opened, which is a small problem, but it can be frustrating.

JBL Clip 3 Review 3
This image shows how the latch can sometimes become stuck in the open position.

The latch has a clearance area of 12mm, which is slightly smaller than that offered on the Clip 4. If you plan to attach it to your bicycle, it’s worth measuring your handlebars. Alternatively, there is a great resource for 3D printing your own Clip 3 bike mount.

A large rubber area on the back of the speaker helps stabilize it when it’s laid down and softens vibrations. The front grille is made from a tight fabric mesh that reduces the risk of scratches and protects the driver from small debris. The remainder of the shell is wrapped in a durable rubber that is easy to grip and doesn’t scratch. The Clip 3 is IP7 waterproof, protecting it from splashes, sprays, rain damage, and limited water submergence.

Controls & Connectivity

The Clip 3 is limited in its physical controls. The volume and play buttons are the only controls outside of power and pairing and do not double as track-skipping options. This means most of the control must be done through your phone. Its Bluetooth quality is great, and it’s able to hold a signal well from within a 10-meter range. The inclusion of an aux-in is a nice benefit that is not provided by newer Clip models.

Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP 1.2, AVRCP 1.5, HFP 1.5
Bluetooth Version: 4.1
Bluetooth Range: Up to 10 meters

The controls on the Clip 3 are fairly basic. On the top of the front grille, there’s a volume down, volume up, and play/pause button. The volume controls do not offer a secondary function, leaving users to rely on their phones for most controls. On the side of the speaker are the Bluetooth pairing and power buttons, which are indented into the speaker, reducing the risk of accidental button presses.

The jacks are located on the speaker’s bottom under a protective flap, which should always be closed when used around water. Under the cover is a micro-USB charging port and an auxiliary input. The more recent Clip releases do not offer aux-in.

Bluetooth connectivity

The Clip 3 has Bluetooth 4.1, which is a bit outdated compared to today’s 5.3 and 5.4 releases. Still, while it lags behind in latency performance, it retains a stable connection up to at least 30 feet. The pairing is reliable; during testing, I didn’t encounter any unknown drop-offs in the connection.

Sound Quality

Despite its age, the Clip 3 sounds great. The vocals sound pronounced and clear, and the highs aren’t overpowering. Its size limits the bass, and the lack of low-end may be a deal breaker to those seeking a thumping portable speaker. Still, its clarity and relative balance are impressive.

Bass Performance: 6.1/10
Mid-tone Performance:
7.8/10
Treble Performance:
6.7/10
Volume:
7.6/10
Balanced Sound:
7.1/10

JBL Clip 3 Review 9

Bass

There isn’t much bass with the Clip 3, particularly towards the lower bass. A slight kick in the upper bass makes it sound balanced but doesn’t interrupt the midrange frequencies, as some overemphasized bass tends to do on small Bluetooth speakers. Overall, the bass works for how the speaker’s made to sound, and while it will leave bass-heavy tracks sounding a little flat, it’s preferable to an overemphasized bass that results in a muddy sound.

Mids

It has a slightly elevated midrange that promotes a dominant vocal presence that is still measured and natural-sounding. This elevated midrange also brings instruments to the front, particularly electric guitars, creating a lively sound. It’s not just rock and metal that benefits from this emphasis, as even podcasts and audiobooks gain a book in clarity.

Highs

The treble is slightly less balanced, with some peaks and valleys in the frequency response. However, while these are visible when a chart is generated, they aren’t easy to detect in the listening experience. Overall, the highs sound clear and defined and don’t overpower the midrange.

Soundstage & Dynamics

The Clip 3 has two main orientations, either hung from the carabiner or placed on the bass, with the driver facing upwards. The fact that the speaker faces upward gives it a broader sound spread with less directionality. Whether this is good or bad depends on how you use your speaker. An upward-firing driver is best suited for group listening sessions or if you sit close to the speaker. In contrast, if you’re sitting at a distance, this design limits the ability to focus the sound in a narrow direction without propping the speaker up.

If you’re serious about dynamic performance, the Clip 4 or Clip 5 performs better. This is where the Clip 3 shows its age a little; while the performance is not bad, there is less nuance than in the newer iterations. Still, the Clip 3 is an impressively loud speaker for its size. We measured an SPL of 83.7 dB at a distance of 1 meter.

JBL Clip 3 Review 10

Microphone

A built-in microphone sets the Clip 3 apart from similar speakers on the market. It can be used to receive calls while connected to your speaker or make voice recordings. We tried testing the microphone for this review, but our unit’s microphone was defective. We only got choppy static noise for each recording.

Battery Performance

Charging Type: Micro-USB
Manufacturer Playtime: Up to 10 hours
Playtime at 50%: 12 Hours 3 Minutes
Charging Time: 2 Hours 52 Minutes

The Clip 3 excels in its battery performance. Despite being rated for up to 10 hours of playtime, we got just over 12 hours at volume levels of 50 to 75% in our testing. This is particularly impressive compared to the Clip 4, which, while also rated for 10 hours, gave us only 6 hours and 8 minutes of playtime at similar volume levels. 

Don’t get bogged down by lengthy charging times; the Clip 3 fully recharges in under 3 hours and lets you reunite with your tunes in almost no time.

App Support

None of the JBL apps support the Clip 3, so if you want to customize your sound, you’ll need to use a third-party EQ.

Conclusion

Overall, the Clip 3 was an outstanding speaker at its launch, and even now, years later – it holds value, particularly for outdoor enthusiasts looking for an affordable speaker to take with them on their adventures. With the speaker flooding the second-hand market as owners look to upgrade, it’s a great time for budget-conscious shoppers to take advantage of the available deals. Its battery performance surpasses that of the Clip 4, and its durable design means it can handle more than a few bumps.

JBL Clip 3
JBL Clip 3 Review 11

The JBL Clip 3 is a portable Bluetooth speaker for an active lifestyle. Whether you’re a mountain biker, camper, or skateboarder - this speaker provides a lightweight solution that lets you jam to your favorite tracks wherever you’re going and no matter what you’re doing.

Product Brand: JBL

Editor's Rating:
3.9

Pros

  • Durable design with scratch protection
  • Vocals come through with pristine clarity
  • Waterproof (IPX7-Rated)
  • Built-in carabiner lets you attach it to almost everything

Cons

  • Lacks deep bass
  • Quality control concerns around the microphone
  • Limited physical controls
  • No app support

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Author: Bryn De Kocks

Bryn has worked in the field for several years, writing in-depth speaker reviews for various audio publications. His work has historically focused on headphones and Bluetooth speakers, while incorporating his understanding of the Bluetooth speaker market to help educate potential buyers.

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