JBL Authentics: The Bonkers 270W Smart Speaker (with both Google & Alexa) Makes Waves at IFA 2023

With an output of 270W, JBL’s new Authentics series may just be the most powerful smart speaker out there. The series boasts not only a “timeless retro design” but also a groundbreaking feature: the simultaneous integration of both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Unveiled at IFA 2023, the JBL Authentics series encompasses three distinct models — the Authentics 200, 300, and 500. Paying homage to the timeless appeal of the 1970s-era JBL L100 speaker, this series seamlessly blends nostalgia with cutting-edge technology. One of the key highlights of this series is the seamless coexistence of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Users can effortlessly engage either voice assistant by simply invoking their respective ‘hotwords’. It’s important to note that the idea of coexisting voice assistants isn’t novel, with Sonos already offering speakers that house both Google Assistant and Alexa. However, these smart assistants are restricted to responding one at a time. What sets JBL’s innovation apart is the concurrent responsiveness of both Google Assistant and Alexa. Whether it’s the intuitive Google Assistant or the efficient Alexa, users can switch between the two according to their needs and preferences.

Designer: JBL

The Authentics 300 stands out as a portable marvel, designed to accompany you on your musical journey. With a built-in handle that lets you carry it around everywhere and an impressive 8-hour battery life, this model ensures your music keeps playing wherever you go. What’s more, the consumer-replaceable battery adds a layer of convenience to ensure a longer product lifespan.

Drawing inspiration from the design of the JBL L100 speaker, the Authentics 300 features a captivating grid pattern reminiscent of the sound-proofing padding seen in audio recording setups (a feature that the L100 mimicked). The “custom synthetic leather-wrapped enclosure” enhances the speaker’s tactile appeal, while gold-colored aluminum accents give the speaker its undeniably premium appeal. Its high-flying design aside, the speaker still reflects JBL’s commitment to the environment by employing recycled plastic, fabric, and aluminum in its construction. The user-replaceable battery is also a nod to the new EU regulations that require consumer gadgets to now allow batteries to be accessed and replaced by consumers.

Designed for audiophiles, the speaker’s interface comes with dedicated controls for bass and treble, along with a play/pause button, volume control, and even a dedicated button to like tracks. The rear of the Authentics 300 (as well as the 500) features an ethernet port for a dedicated wired internet connection, along with a 3.5mm audio input, a USB-C port, and a power supply port.

As the flagship of the Authentics series, the Authentics 500 captures the essence of premium sound. With its powerful configuration, it offers three 1-inch tweeters, three 2.75-inch midrange woofers, and a 6.5-inch down-firing subwoofer. This unique arrangement results in an impressive 270 watts of 3.1-channel sound, enhanced further by Dolby Atmos technology.

The Authentics 500 also mirrors its predecessor’s design inspiration. The iconic grid pattern on the grill, reminiscent of the JBL L100, serves as a captivating nod to audio history. The flagship also comes with the synthetic leather-wrapped enclosure and aluminum accents (employing the same recycled materials as the Authentics 300), but visibly lacks the handle that the Authentics 300 had, making it less transport-friendly.

Connectivity is a breeze, with Bluetooth, aux input, and Ethernet ensuring compatibility with multiple devices. The speakers seamlessly integrate with AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music, Spotify Connect, and Chromecast, with Tidal Connect on the horizon. Moreover, future firmware updates promise the ability to orchestrate stereo and multi-channel sound setups by pairing multiple JBL speakers.

Though the concept of simultaneous voice assistants might be in its infancy, the groundwork laid by JBL, Google, and Amazon is fairly promising. As we navigate this evolving landscape, the notion of both Alexa and Google Assistant coexisting on a single platform isn’t merely a fleeting experiment but a step towards a more intelligent future. Now if only my smart-speaker had ChatGPT built into it…