JBL Go, JBL Go 2 and JBL Go 3: Tiny Upgrades to the Tiniest Speakers

The JBL Go 3 animates a patio party

JBL’s smallest, go-anywhere speaker line is its JBL Go line. From the beginning these darling, pocket-sized speakers have been able to kick out a surprising amount of sound, and they’ve gotten just a bit better with each version.

So here we’ll look at what’s gotten better from the original JBL Go to the later JBL Go 2 and finally look to the newest version, the JBL Go 3.

Update history of this article

This was published on August 2, 2022.

The JBL Go, JBL Go 2, and JBL Go 3 in a Nutshell

What Features Have Changed from the JBL Go 2 to JBL Go 3?

The JBL Go, Go 2, and Go 3 have all excelled in offering a lot of sound from a very small, palm-sized unit.

This is an inexpensive, durable, and ultra-portable speaker line that does not have a lot of features to worry about. But there are a few differences to be aware of:

  • The JBL Go 3 is completely waterproof and dustproof, with an IP67 rating. This is a specific, binding standard that means that the speaker can withstand being submerged under a meter of water for 30 minutes and that it doesn’t take in dust. The JBL Go 2 was rated IPX7, meaning it was waterproof but not dustproof, and the original JBL Go had no waterproofing.
  • The output power of the speaker is higher for the JBL Go 3 at 4.2 W, whereas the JBL Go and Go 2 only put out 3 W. This stat by itself doesn’t say much, but the sound of the JBL Go 3 is indeed louder and fuller.
  • The JBL Go 3 has a small loop that the JBL Go and Go 2 lack.This loop is much more important than it might seem; it allows the speaker to hang, which is particularly useful if you add a carabiner, or—even better for hanging it off of a shelf or anything anywhere—a HeroClip (which I reviewed here for travelers). Placed on a surface and played at top volume, the small, light, very loud JBL Go 3 starts to vibrate and scuttle across the surface; the experience is thus much better when the speaker hangs.
The JBL Go 3’s USB-C port does not require a cover; the JBL Go 2’s micro USB port has a plastic plug that is a bit fiddly to remove for charging.
  • The advertised battery life is the same for all three JBL Go speaker versions at five hours, but in the real world at comfortable volumes reviewers have found that the JBL Go 3 actually lasts much longer than that. If you need more tunes for longer on the go, a portable USB-C battery like this will recharge these speakers many times over.
  • The JBL Go 3 upgrades to USB-C for its charging cable.This is the modern standard used for most phones and other electronics. The JBL Go and JBL Go 2 charge via the older micro USB standard. All three JBL Go speakers do not come with a wall plug; if you don’t have one handy where you are going to want to charge your speaker, we strongly suggest investing in a universal travel USB-C charger like we review here, which is also indispensable for travel. It works basically anywhere in the world and charges anything.
The side view of the JBL Go 3
  • The JBL Go and Go 2 had a speakerphone feature that is not present on the JBL Go 3.Generally this has been discontinued with JBL and other new Bluetooth speakers as well; it’s simply much more convenient to use the speakerphone feature built into your phone than to use one on your speaker.
  • Perhaps also rarely used but at least potentially convenient, the JBL Go and Go 2 had a 3.5mm aux in port for plugging in an older device like an MP3 player. The JBL Go 3 lacks this and only connects via Bluetooth.
The JBL Go 2 in our testing

How Does the JBL Go 3 Sound Compared to the JBL Go 2?

I tried out the JBL Go 3 outdoors as well; it kicks out enough sound for a small dance practice.

Each successive upgrade in the JBL Go line has been a mild upgrade in sound as well. The main step up was from the JBL Go 2 to the JBL Go 3; the JBL Go 3 is louder and more powerful, stepping up from 3 W to 4.2 W.

Expectations need to be kept in check here; such a small speaker can hardly deliver convincing bass or animate a party; if you’re looking for a JBL speaker for that you’ll want to upgrade to the JBL Flip 6 we compared to its predecessor Flip 5, or perhaps the even larger JBL Charge 5 or Xtreme 3.

The controls for the JBL Go 3

But the JBL Go 3 does sound great even in the ears of audiophiles and tech critics who normally review much larger, more expensive speakers. All were impressed by the amount of volume and the relatively good composure of the speaker in the mids. The JBL Go 3 is certainly suitable for listening to music and sounds much better than trying to pump out Spotify from your phone’s own speaker.

Nuances in the music are present and the mix is smooth. There is even a reasonable semblance of bass and it achieves a fuller feeling of this than in the JBL Go 2. At top volumes, both the JBL Go 2 and Go 3 can sound a little distorted to a careful listener, but the JBL Go 3 performs better here.

Alternatives to the JBL Go 3: Better Sound for a Bit More Money

We suggest three main alternatives to the JBL Go 3; all of them will likely cost a bit more and are slightly larger and heavier, but worth it if you listen to a lot of music and appreciate having more bass and detail.

Wrap-Up: So What’s Right for You?

At last check, the JBL Go 2 is still sometimes available and at a discount with the direct from JBL link below.

We think that the JBL Go 3 is an all-around better-sounding and more worthwhile speaker, however, and well worth spending just a few bucks more.

The original loud, square, palm-sized speaker
JBL Go 2
A decent option for very portable sound on the go but now surpassed in performance
JBL Go 3
A surprisingly loud and satisfying way to carry your tunes in a completely waterproof and dustproof package; the hang loop makes it much more convienent