Advertisement

JBL Authentics 300 review

 JBL Authentics 300 speaker on floor near a wooden crate.
JBL Authentics 300 speaker on floor near a wooden crate.

JBL Authentics 300: Specifications

Price: $449 / £379 / AU$599
Colors: Black
Size: 13.46 x 7.7 x 7.1 inches
Weight: 
10.8 pounds
Battery life: 
8 hours
Wireless connectivity: 
Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music (MRM), Spotify Connect, and Chromecast
Smart assistant: 
Alexa, Google Assistant
Durability: 
Not specified

The JBL Authentics 300 is the middle model in JBL's three-strong Authentics wireless multi-room smart speakers unveiled at IFA 2023. I've been living with the retro-looking speaker with wireless smarts for several months. It's proved easy to transport around the home to wherever music is needed, and has been a capable companion on trips away, bringing room-filling sound to large spaces.

As a mid-sized portable speaker with a built-in 8-hour battery pack it's the more interesting model in JBL's Authentics series, and the competitive price makes it a strong contender for one of the best Bluetooth speakers. JBL has given the series an eye-catching look — it's wrapped in leather and fitted with a Quadrex speaker grille inspired by the company's JBL L100 speaker from the 1970s. It's a look that will be familiar to vintage audio fans, and is a more stylish portable smart speaker alternative than the Sonos Move 2 at the same price. In fact, the strong build and finish means it could even be a contender for one of my best music systems for style, and will be a great addition for anyone inspired by retro home interior design trends.

Weighing in at more than 10 pounds, it's heavier than many of the best portable speakers I've tried. Also, the specs don't mention its durability credentials, so it's not going to rank among the best outdoor speakers, or be the kind of model you can throw in a day sack or take along to the beach. But the speaker's extra weight is offset by a robust build and luxury detailing, and reaps greater sonic rewards with a powerful sound to rival one of the best portables I've ever heard.

Read on to discover how the mid-series JBL Authentics 300 portable speaker performs, and whether it ranks as one of the best portable speakers around.

JBL Authentics 300 review: Price & availability

JBL Authentics 300 speaker on a white surface
JBL Authentics 300 speaker on a white surface
  • Priced the same as the Sonos Move 2

  • Can regularly be found discounted

The JBL Authentics 300 portable speaker has an MSRP of $449 / £379 / AU$599. It's on sale via the JBL website, as well as online retailers. Right now, the JBL Authentics 300 can be found discounted to $349 at Amazon Best BuyCrutchfield, and Walmart. That's more than 20% off the original $449 portable speaker's list price, and is the best discount I've seen on it so far.

UK buyers can currently find it discounted to £329 via the JBL U.K. website.

It's available in black leather wrap with alloy trim and carry handle.

JBL Authentics 300: Design

JBL Authentics 300 speaker on floor showing controls on top
JBL Authentics 300 speaker on floor showing controls on top
  • 1970s-inspired retro styling

  • No durability rating

The eye-catching Authentics 300 has a seventies-inspired look and feel. It has a solid rectangular cabinet that's wrapped in leather and fitted with a distinctive Quadrex speaker grille that cannot be removed. The speaker grille design may seem unusual compared to mesh grilles found on rivals, but is a JBL design that first appeared on the JBL L100 Hi-Fi loudspeakers in 1970. It remerged just a few years ago when the company introduced its all-new Classic Hi-Fi loudspeakers designed to emulate the L100's retro appeal, but with modern engineering and funky-colored grilles.

The speaker grille on the Authentics 300 is a smaller retro nod. It comes in dark gray only, but is just as striking. The speaker sits at 7.7 inches tall and weighs around 10.8 pounds. As I mentioned earlier, at the size and weight it's not the kind of speaker you're likely to throw into a travel bag, but the alloy carry handle with leather trim makes light work of moving it to wherever it's needed around the home.

Disappointingly, none of the JBL Authentics series models mention durability ratings, so it's difficult to be confident about what sort of protection the 300 has from dirt or moisture ingress. Given the use of materials, it doesn't look like the kind of portable speaker I'd personally carry into the bathroom or outside to the garden, so you may want to consider one of our best waterproof speakers or best outdoor speakers if you're looking for a model that can confidently be used in those environments.

JBL Authentics 300 review: Features & controls

JBL Authentics 300 speaker on floor showing controls on top
JBL Authentics 300 speaker on floor showing controls on top
  • Easy setup and music streaming integration

  • Supports both Alexa and Google voice assistants

The Authentics 300 is equipped with modern Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity smarts and enables streaming via AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music (MRM), Spotify Connect, and Chromecast. It also integrates both Alexa and Google voice assistants, allowing users to register both assistants and communicate with either by simply saying “Hey Google,” or “Alexa” to get started.

Unlike the Sonos Move 2, JBL's Authentics 300 doesn't have its own multi-room ecosystem via the JBL One app. It relies on Google Home and Amazon Alexa to group Authentics speakers for shared playback.

Connecting the JBL up wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is pretty straightforward, and there's even an Ethernet port as well as a 3.5mm aux jack and USB port (playback available on U.S. version only). Once you're paired or connected to your wireless home network, it's simply a case of adding your streaming service to the JBL One control app, or selecting it from the connected output devices via Spotify Connect or AirPlay.

I like the weighted volume control that sits on the top panel that lights up to indicate the level. The bass and treble controls are also useful and a light up to show the level setting when making adjustments. Although I realize that familiarity means that users will quickly learn which control is which, the black lettering on the black controls was difficult to decipher when it came to making adjustments. It's hard to grumble though given that these are physical controls on top of the speaker itself, and adds to the speaker's vintage style.

JBL Authentics 300 review: Sound quality

PR shot of JBL Authentics 300 speaker in a lifestyle setting
PR shot of JBL Authentics 300 speaker in a lifestyle setting
  • Powerful sound with all kinds of music

  • Great vocal clarity and presence

I was lucky enough to hear all three brand-new Authentics series speakers when they were unveiled at IFA 2023 in Berlin. While the demos were impressive, there's nothing quite like getting hands on and trying out a product in familiar surroundings at home with music I know well.

The JBL Authentics 300 portable speaker has been a resident in my home office for several weeks now, and its performance has been consistently impressive. It produces a big sound thanks to a full-range 5-inch woofer supported by a down-firing 6-inch passive bass radiator. There are a pair of 1-inch tweeters placed at the left and right sides of the speaker grille, which help give the speaker a sense of stereo when listening from a few feet away.

There's plenty of presence and clarity around vocals that's very endearing. I've been listening to "Easy Money" by Rickie Lee Jones as one of my go-to tracks to assess vocal quality on portable speaker systems for as long as I can remember, and rarely have I heard it sound so natural with every lyric beautifully conveyed. What's more, the double bass that plays throughout the song has a rich timbre that sounds perfectly portrayed on the JBL speaker and is thoroughly engaging. In fact, you can actually hear the great production of the song that combines pop and folk styles that has made this track so useful to me for so long. High details are a little more brash than I'd like, but there's a handy treble control for that should you feel the need.

Few portable speakers achieve this much bass depth and clarity. Playing "Dangerous" by The xx or "Gentle Storm" by Elbow demonstrates powerful bass without overshadowing vocals; its rhythmic and entirely engaging when streaming the bassier tracks from my Tom's Guide playlist on Tidal. In fact, it puts in a strong enough performance with the majority of my favorite tracks that meant more often than not I found myself reaching for the volume control to turn the level up, rather than down. It managed to shake the house on Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy" at a mid-volume level, but the sound does tend to harden up at higher volume levels.

JBL Authentics 300 review: Battery life

JBL Authentics 300 speaker showing connectivity ports at the back
JBL Authentics 300 speaker showing connectivity ports at the back
  • Mediocre battery life for a portable

  • No USB port for a power bank charger

Undoubtedly the most disappointing thing about the JBL Authentics 300 portable speaker is its battery capacity. Given the cabinet dimensions and the speaker's weighty feel, I had anticipated a longer run time away from a power outlet. JBL claims that it's expected to last for 8 hours, which is 2 hours less than the truly portable Devialet Mania and considerably less than the similarly priced Sonos Move 2 that can run for three times as long and achieve up to 24 hours playback.

Of course, you'll also need to factor in that the maximum capacity is based on best case scenario and that higher volume levels and connecting to a power hungry home Wi-Fi network may shorten playback times considerably. Additionally, recharges can only be made by connecting it to a power outlet using the supplied cable, and there are no facilities to top up the battery via a portable power bank charger.

JBL Authentics 300 review: Verdict

I've really enjoyed my time with JBL's Authentics 300 portable speaker. It has great sound and I love the retro inspired styling, easy to use control and streaming service integration. But there are just a few caveats that hold it back from being awarded Editor's Choice at the price.

Battery life is the biggest letdown, which means there are plenty of portables around that give stronger battery life than the JBL. The lack of a durability rating also means I don't feel confident about taking it into certain environments; its looks are everything, and I'd be seriously concerned about damaging the luxury leather wrapped cabinet and retro speaker grille if it got caught in sudden shower. Then there's its multi-room capabilities, which aren't a match for the seamless integration and flexibility presented by Sonos' ecosystem.

It's one of the strongest home-based portable speakers I've heard with very little competition. Its engaging performance makes it wonderful to listen to, but for more practical portability, strong battery life and durability you'll want to look elsewhere.