There are thousands of wireless speakers on the market, but many require special pairing or streaming options, as well as a complicated set up. Thanks to Google’s Cast platform, though, wireless speakers are made easy, and JBL’s Playlist speaker is one of the best for an affordable cost.

The JBL Playlist launched in 2017 with one key feature — built-in support for Chromecast audio. Where many speakers on the market either play audio from a line-in or over Bluetooth, the Playlist can pull audio directly over wi-fi, all while you have full control from a smartphone.

Just like casting media to a Chromecast enabled TV, you can send media directly to the Playlist when you’re connected to the same wireless network. There are hundreds of services which can cast audio, including big names like Spotify, Google Play Music, Pocket Casts, and more.

Along with casting from your phone or tablet, you can also send audio to this speaker using a Google Home or Assistant-powered speaker, even setting the Playlist as a default audio source for those devices. There’s also Bluetooth built-in, but Casting is the superior option as it avoids notification interruptions while playing audio.

The best use case for the Playlist in my opinion, is multi-room audio playback. Using the Google Home app, you can create a group with any and all Chromecast-enabled audio devices in your home. This includes Chromecast built-in speakers like the Playlist, as well as Google Home/Assistant speakers and select TV sound systems.

The Playlist is a great addition to this sort of setup as it allows for the same great Chromecast audio functionality. But, without the always-listening assistant, which can become overkill when it’s literally everywhere.

But it all comes down to one thing — how does it sound? Thankfully, the Playlist is a great speaker across the board. JBL never fails to impress in the audio department, and this product is no exception. It has well-balanced audio with excellent bass and clear audio quality. The two 15W speakers are capable of putting out some powerful volume as well.

As for the design of the speaker, it’s subtle, but in a good way. The Playlist is a home speaker, which means you don’t necessarily want it to stand out. The blue color my review unit arrived in is nice, but I’d personally prefer black or white color variants. Regardless, the design is great, and the size is excellent for just about any setup. The controls mounted up top are also simple. With volume, play/pause, Bluetooth, and power buttons.

For $149, the JBL Playlist is a fantastic product. Its flaws are essentially non-existent considering the type of product it is, but there are some improvements that would be welcome. I’d love to see more colors, or perhaps an interchangeable faceplate to let users decide what color the speaker should be at any given time. It’d also be nice if the power port was a more universal standard like USB-C, to give the device more portability and flexibility in the home.

That said, I don’t think you’ll regret picking up the Playlist if you’re interested. It’s well-worth every penny, but you have to ask yourself is if you’d rather have a speaker with Assistant built-in as well…

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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