JBL Link 10 vs JBL Link 20: Does the Bigger Guy Really Sound Better?

We’ve run a full comparison of the JBL Link 10 and JBL Link 20 to see how these two speakers compare.

As usual, we’ve taken into account reviews and criticism from around the world from audiophiles, customers, and consumer organizations.

These are currently two of the best-sounding smart speakers on the market, and yes, as you might imagine, the larger JBL Link 20 sounds a bit better than the JBL Link 10 — though not by much. They have basically the same features, but there are some differences to be aware of, as detailed below.

Update History of This Article

This article was originally published on January 29, 2018.

We’ll start with an easy side-by-side rundown of the differences of these two speakers and then explain our thoughts on which to buy below.

These smart speakers are designed to fully incorporate Google Assistant while sounding a lot better than Google’s own Home line of speakers. They also, incidentally, sound better than Amazon Alexa speakers.

JBL Link 10 top view

Top tech sites and audiophile reviewers were pretty consistent in their praise of the JBL Link 10. They felt that it offered more separation of instruments, better balance, and more warmth than the major smart speakers, without overemphasizing the bass end as with a Google Home.

There were more critical accolades for the larger JBL Link 20. It sounds more convincing at the highest volumes than the JBL Link 10, and offers fuller bass. There was a better sense of soundstage and pretty decent 360-degree delivery.

Aside from sounding better, the other main advantage of these JBL Links over traditional smart speakers is that they have built-in batteries so you can take them out for music in the yard, the park, the beach, anywhere. The smart speaker functions of course don’t work if you’re away from WiFi, but you can still listen to any music service or podcasts that you have on your phone or tablet via the Bluetooth connection.

They’re also completely waterproof and durable enough  that they withstand the occasional drop or getting knocked around.

While the JBL Link 10 and 20 sound great, if you’re looking for the best-sounding home smart speakers you’ll want to go for the Sonos One, which has Amazon’s Alexa assistant built-in and is the audiophile’s critical darling for home smart speakers at the moment. Just know that it does not have a battery and is not built for outdoor use like the JBL Link 10 and 20.

JBL Link 20 side view

Another consistent point in favor of both the JBL Link 10 and 20 is their talent at recognizing voices, even over loud music. (This is an area where Google Assistant generally tends to beat out Amazon’s Alexa as well.) JBL advertises the speakers’ “far-field voice recognition”, which sounds nerdy, but what this means is that the mic does a great job of perking up it’s ears when you say “Hey Google” and then understanding what you’re actually saying. This is an area where the otherwise great-sounding UE MegaBlast (which we have previously discussed) has some failings. With the JBL Link 10 or 20 you’re set to talk to the speaker from across the room.

Another advantage of these JBL Link speakers that we love is the ability to include them in any multi-room home system that has Chromecast — and you can get a Chromecast dongle to connect even the most ancient home stereo systems.

Yes, there are a few things we don’t like so much:

  • Charging: The JBL Link 10 does not include a wall adapter, just a USB plug for charging. And the JBL Link 20 has a wall adapter but just a very short bright orange cable; you’d expect something nicer for home use.
  • Battery life: The JBL Link 10 and 20 last for 5 and 10 hours, respectively. This is much less than most of the best mid-sized and larger Bluetooth speakers that we write about — check those out if you’re willing to forgo smart-speaker functions in exchange for more off-grid autonomy.
  • No speakerphone: We’ve always thought this is kind of a silly extra for Bluetooth speakers (you already have a speakerphone function on your phone), but it’s become standard and these units lack this option.

Wrap-Up: Which Portable JBL Smart Speaker Is For You?

So to sum up, these two speakers are very similar in terms of excelling at understanding commands through the integrated Google Assistant, and both go loud and sound great. Prices are very reasonable for both.

We’d suggest you grab the JBL Link 10 if you want a more conveniently sized smart speaker to pop into a bag frequently for adventures away from home.

But as usual, the bigger speaker sounds a bit better. The JBL Link 20 sounds a bit more convincing at the loudest volumes and has nicer bass. It’s also got twice as much battery life.

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