I haven’t listened to the radio since I was a furniture mover, so when the JBL Tuner FM speaker arrived, I was one part excited, one part curious, and as always one part hungry. I’m a huge JBL fan, they make great speakers at a decent price point, and every one that’s crossed our desks at TIG has been awesome. But it’s 2019, and we’re reviewing an FM radio… So let’s see if JBL retains my love.

As per our normal tech flow, and Supreme Tech Overlord Robbie’s demands, here’s the tech specs:

  • DAB/DAB+ radio
  • FM digital tuner
  • Wireless Bluetooth Streaming
  • 8 hour playback
  • 5W Output power

I’m certain there are more specs, but unfortunately I can’t find them on JBL’s website either…

Ah well, it’s a speaker, it has FM and Bluetooth, let’s get started.

 

Aesthetic

I am both a fan, and also not a fan of this speaker. I like the form factor, and it’s very cute, but the aerial is god awful. We have aerials smaller than that in our cars, and I get it’s more of a gimmick than anything else but I still wish it was smaller, or at least a little cooler. The LCD on top is also a bit glossy and results in a less than premium look, which brings the total package down a notch. Overall, it looks okay, but it’s definitely below JBL’s usual level.


Listening Experience

I think it’s important to comment here, that this speaker was not designed with a tech and game journalist who likes spenny tech in mind. And that’s fine, but it also meant that we had to be a little creative when it came to testing this little number.

First up: Radio

We had the boys come round to Robbie’s place to clean some cars, in what I can only describe as a real life sitcom moment. Turned the radio on, and we were all impressed with both the clarity (guess the antenna isn’t super useless) and the volume that this little speaker could spit out. FM radio whilst better than AM, is still radio and quality is never gonna be amazing, but it sounded great on the speaker, even outside with a waterblaster, hose, and four guys mucking around, it really turned out some beats. 


Seconds: Bluetooth

Unfortunately, this is where the speaker kind of stops being as great. The lack of impressive lows results in an almost not worth it listening experience. Even on lower volumes, the range is just not enough and music sounds flat. If you were primarily buying this for the radio, and only planned on using Bluetooth every now and again, then great! Otherwise, don’t think this is a great Bluetooth speaker with an FM tuner, because it sadly isn’t. 

 

Usability

This is where the JBL Tuner FM excels, and what leads me to believe that it is most likely targeted towards tradies and the likes, or even the older generation . The speaker boots up nutso fast, and buttons feel responsive, but also quick to action their functions. The radio tuner is intuitive, but I wish you could scan backwards, as once you’ve missed your station, you have to manually hold the scan downwards button. Other than this, switching between Bluetooth and radio is intuitive and quick. 

Conclusion

All in all, whilst I enjoyed my time with the JBL Tuner FM but not enough to make me want to buy one. The aesthetic is fine, and the FM radio playback is excellent, but you begin to notice the less than premium sound as soon as you’re on Bluetooth. I think for people that are looking for a modern, compact FM radio, that might use Bluetooth every now and again, then the JBL Tuner FM would be a great fit. Otherwise, I’d recommend sticking with a different JBL speaker like the Charge 4 and just using online radio.

7

Pros

  • Great radio
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Feels and looks not-so-premium
  • Streaming music other than Radio is far less than ideal

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