What is the JBL Link 500?
The JBL Link 500 is the largest wireless speaker in the Link family, and like the rest of the range, it comes with the built-in Google Assistant for all your voice assistant needs.
Unlike the smaller Link 10 and Link 20, the JBL Link 500 is much more homelike and requires network power to operate. However, it can be grouped with any other Link speaker it has (and, in fact, any other Google assistant speaker) for multi-room playback through the Google Home application.
Offers 60W of sound, and is an attractive proposition for anyone looking for an equivalent of Google Home Max in the UK, where the most powerful loudspeaker of the search giant has yet to be launched.
Related: Best speakers with Bluetooth
JBL Link 500 – Design and build
If you already know the Link family well, then the JBL Link 500 basically looks like Link 300 with a couple of protein shakes to its credit. For the less familiar, the Link 500 measures 37 cm in width and has a mesh grid that extends along most of its central part and a sturdy plastic top panel containing a handful of controls. It looks strong, but in reality it is surprisingly lightweight at 3.5 kg.
In addition to the buttons for volume, playback and pairing with Bluetooth, you will also find physical controls to activate the Google Assistant, as well as a mute button for when I want to block it completely. There is no remote control included with the speaker, and, perhaps surprisingly, no remote application of the JBL brand; but with the help of voice to control everything you need, it would be quite redundant.
On the back you'll find JBL's exclusive passive radiator, which vibrates to give this speaker its thrust, plus there are twice as many drivers in touch here on the Link 300: two 89mm mid / bass woofers and two 20 mm tweeters.
The edges of the speaker have been curved in a way that suggests how it looks has been a consideration. However, it can not be compared to the Google Home Max and its smooth touch finish.
The JBL Link 500 has no entries, which is a bit unpleasant. Even the Sonos Play: 5 adds a 3.5mm connector for physical connections, and that at least it would have been good here.
Still, this is a speaker that deals with wireless convenience, and it does a lot of that.
JBL Link 500: features and configuration
The main feature of the JBL Link 500 is, of course, its voice control, which is in the most capable hands of the Google Assistant. As a result, not only does he have a digital butler in control of his music playback, but he is also available for all kinds of other voice-assisted requests.
Configuration is quick and easy through the Google Home application, which walks through everything you need to launch Link 500 on your home network. You will see that the small Wi-Fi logo on the bottom of the front panel lights up when it has been successful.
If you have used the Google Assistant before, some of your settings will be ready to work; if not, you can add them here. This includes details for your preferred music service (Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube or Deezer), your linked Google account, your favorite news services, etc.
You can also set up Voice Match from here, allowing the Link 500 to set it apart from other members of your household, for example, to provide more personalized results for shopping lists and calendar requests.
It does not take long to configure everything in its entirety, but it's also something you can go back to and complete later if you want to get streaming.
Speaking of which, the Link 500 plays music using two methods: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Google Assistant will use your home network for everything you ask, with Bluetooth on hand in case your network does not work, or to transmit from services such as Tidal that are not compatible with Google Home.
Being a Google assistant device, Chromecast is built as standard. This allows multi-room capabilities from the shutdown, as well as playback up to 24 bits / 96 kHz. It also allows you to control the playback of a TV with Chromecast using the speaker and only your voice.
JBL Link 500 – Performance
As its size might suggest, the JBL Link 500 puts forward a very safe performance. He is an authorized speaker who will undoubtedly help the party begin.
That does not mean that the Link 500 is all low and without britches, however. In fact, it is a very balanced speaker that leaves nothing of the frequency range without love. The middle range possibly tilts the focus in its favor only slightly, with crisp, focused voices that show excellent detail and expression. The instruments show a similar level of perception, sounding natural and nuanced.
I am also pleasantly surprised by the highs, which have not been rolled too much and show enough bite and spark to keep things exciting. It advances the music in a way that will make the toes play happily.
The bass performance of the Link 500 gives an adequate amount of authority to the sound of the speaker, but it is not as warm and full-bodied as you will hear in something, the Sonos Play: 5 for example, nor is it so detailed.
Depending on how you like your bass, this might not be a problem, it's not missing; it is simply less of a focus. There is still a lot of noise when it is necessary, and although it is a leaner general sound, to call it "poor" would be to sell it in an excessive way. It's a presentation that can be lent to most genres, not just pop, rock and R & B.
The only thing I notice is that the Link 500 sounds better with a little volume behind it. Those looking for a background speaker could be better looking elsewhere; this speaker likes to be the center of attention.
The low level dynamics are not as impressive as they are with the volume beyond the middle; you lose something of the click, the blow and the expression that makes this speaker so funny.
He climbs and jumps into life, putting himself behind the great dynamic changes with conviction, while also giving the most contemplative moments of time to breathe. It can also handle the volume; You will have to get close enough to the maximum volume before there are signs of distortion.
The weather is pretty good for the most part, but it can get confused when things get really busy. A reproduction of Cornfield Chase by Hans Zimmer proved to be a step too far for the Link 500 in terms of balance and organization.
Regarding the performance of the Google Assistant, the JBL Link 500 picked up all my voice commands without problem, even when the speaker was playing music at a decent volume.
The Google Assistant is improving all the time, but being a third-party product, there will be a delay in receiving more recent features. For example, the Link 500 does not have voice calls yet, and the sleep timer functionality does not work either.
Why buy the JBL Link 500?
The JBL Link 500 is an excellent wireless speaker, which is not only a pleasant and enthusiastic listener, but also comes with the practical addition of the built-in Google Assistant. You will not find voice controls integrated into much of your competition, which makes it an excellent speaker to fill the gap left by the current lack of Google Home Max in the UK.
Its balanced but controlled performance means that the loudspeaker is a great option for those who prefer bass as part of a whole, rather as the main performer – this is not always easy to find at this price. However, this does not deprive the Link 500 of any of its faculties, and its crisp, clear sharp means keep things as interesting as they are exciting.
The Link 500 is very talkative and sounds better when raised. As such, more conservative volumes may not make the most of it. But for fun and optimistic performance, this is a fantastic speaker that offers much more than it could initially achieve.
A smart speaker with audio capability, the JBL presents an attractive but thoughtful performance. It only needs a little volume to make it sound better.