JBL - JBL Link 20


JBL Link 20 speaker: a convincing alternative to Google Home

Aprox. 129€

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JBL was one of the manufacturers to approach the emerging market for smart speakers with the most enthusiasm, dedicating a complete range of three devices to it from the outset. The Link 20 that we are testing here is the intermediate representative, and presents like its little sister the Link 10 the particularity of being provided with a battery thanks to which it can be used as portable speaker.

Positive points

Its clean and precise.

Manufacturing quality.

Resistance to immersion (IPX7 certification).

No frills and efficient ergonomics.

Very good voice recognition.

Bad points

The extreme softness of the sound will not please everyone.

Slightly higher distortion in the bass.

No navigation buttons between tracks.

Our review


As almost always with JBL, the construction of the Link 20 clearly seeks efficiency rather than visual effects, with the only exception of the aluminum logo that adorns its facade. Whatever, the look of the speaker is not unsightly, and it is moreover of a very pleasant sobriety. The assembly is of excellent quality and the covering made of fabric and rubbery plastic ensures perfect protection against water. The enclosure is IPX7 certified, and therefore promises to resist immersion in 1 m of water for 30 min. Whether you want to take it to the kitchen, the bathroom or even by the pool, you have nothing to worry about.

As almost always with Google Assistant speakers, the Link 20 is entirely devoid of wired audio connections: the micro-USB power port is completely lonely. The speaker is therefore only capable of streaming content compatible with the Chromecast ecosystem - which includes music from Spotify, Deezer and Google Play Music services - as well as sound from a Bluetooth source. With this Bluetooth connectivity, however, it is not possible to use the speaker microphones as a hands-free kit.

Like its design, the speaker control interface fully assumes its quest for extreme simplicity. Far from the tactile or gestural "hi-tech" interfaces found with certain competitors, the designers of JBL preferred to focus on good old mechanical buttons. They are right: the reliability of the controls and their ease of use are only better. There are therefore on the back the on / off and open / close microphone buttons, while the top of the speaker accommodates the buttons for volume adjustment, pause / play, Bluetooth pairing and assistant call. Unfortunately, navigation controls between the tracks are missing so that the whole can be described as exhaustive.

In terms of visual interface, the speaker is satisfied with the four light points typical of Google Assistant speakers, to which it adds a light testifying to the quality of the Wi-Fi connection. This is more than enough, but there is however a unexpected criticism of these lights: they are extremely bright, and the speaker does not offer the possibility of lowering this brightness. The Wi-Fi indicator in particular being doomed to stay on permanently, it can be a source of annoying light disturbances in a living room.

But of course, it's the Link 20's ability to be used as a transportable speaker that sets it apart from most of its competitors in the smart speaker market. The battery life is not the most impressive, however: with a volume level set at around 60% of its maximum value, we obtained around 7 hours 30 minutes of music from a Bluetooth source. A value below the average but which is not dishonest, especially since it must be kept in mind that the speaker must in this situation maintain two radio connections (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) and keep powered its circuits sound recording and analysis in order to stay on the lookout for a possible "OK Google" that would be launched. There is therefore nothing dishable about performance.

Speech Recognition

The microphones located on the top of the speaker ensure recognition of voice commands globally without reproach. These microphones are perfectly omni-directional, and recognition works regardless of the position of the user relative to the speaker.

We note with satisfaction the excellent capacity of the speaker to recognize an "OK Google" which is addressed to it even in noisy environment, without the need to push the voice too much. Likewise, unlike what the Sony LF-S50G did for example, the Link 20 remains of a good reactivity even when it itself emits music at very high volume.

However, it should be noted that she understands with a little more dexterity the deep voices of men than the voices of women. Nothing, however, which could be the cause of real discomfort in daily use.


The Link 20 offers audio services that are not without their character, very soft, but still quite pleasant.

Before tackling the analysis of this sound, however, we must immediately make a precision: if the tubular shape of the speaker could make believe in a 360 ° emission, it is not. On the contrary, very surprisingly given its narrowness, it even produces a sound ... stereophonic! The two speakers are located on the sides of the speaker, radiating to the side - and therefore in opposite directions. If this configuration cannot guarantee a perfectly homogeneous emission in all directions, it is at least effective in ensuring good diffusion throughout the listening room. What is more, it does not allow any comb filtering phenomenon to occur. In fact, if it is not of obvious utility, stereophony has at least the merit of having no harmful effect on the sound. It's already a good point.

This is true, of course, provided you do not stand at the side of the enclosure. It is then obvious that the perception that one has of the sound emitted by the right speaker is completely differentiated from the sound emitted by the left channel, resulting in a rather strange impression.

It is therefore in front of the enclosure that you must position yourself to perceive your real talent. We can then enjoy a sound of excellent cleanliness, but which strikes above all by its extreme softness. The frank and constant fallout of the frequency response above 1 kHz translates into an extremely warm sound, but which can also give the impression of lacking energy. However, we can not fault the speaker for the discipline of its membranes, which keep admirable precision even on very busy signals. It is thanks to this precision that we avoid most of the masking effects: it only happens on rare occasions that the high-pitched sounds (such as that of a triangle, for example) are drowned out by the mediums and the serious ones.

On the bass side, there is a fairly good extension towards the very low frequencies, but which is accompanied by a harmonic distortion far from negligible: below 100 Hz, parasitic vibrations occurring in the body of the are not inaudible. However, their impact on the perceived sound quality is less pronounced than what the curve might suggest. As at the other end of the spectrum, the bass indeed benefits from a very gradual attenuation (let us repeat here that the dip at 120 Hz on the frequency response measurement is an artifact), which turns out to have a fairly psychoacoustic effect flattering: it causes the distortion components to be mostly masked by the medium part of the signal. This is also accompanied by no impression of sound imbalance, since the sound easily descends to 70 Hz, and is rich enough at low frequencies not to miss a seat.

A slightly more anecdotal point to note at the level of the distortion concerns the two peaks close to 300 and 900 Hz. The cause of these slippages is very stupid ... since they correspond to the vibration of the aluminum logo on the front of the enclosure! Fortunately, these peaks are only very rarely audible in real use. It would have been particularly stupid.

Due to compatibility issues with our Bluetooth transmitter, we were unable to accurately measure latency in this operating mode, but we estimate it to be around 400 ms. Unfortunately, this is far too much to hope to watch a video comfortably without manually compensating for the audio / picture lag - if your playback software allows it.


The JBL Link 20 combines with the Google Assistant a simple but very effective ergonomics, and audio performances which are certainly not brilliant, but whose musicality remains very pleasant - provided that you are not put off by its extreme softness. If we add to that the portability that its integrated battery gives it, it stands out as a particularly interesting alternative to Google Home.