Garmin's JL Audio acquisition sounds promising, but what's the gameplan?

Garmin Venu Sq 2 before workout
(Image credit: Garmin)

What you need to know

  • Garmin has acquired audio manufacturer JL Audio, which specializes in "marine, aftermarket automotive, powersports, home and RV customers."
  • Garmin currently sells a trucker-themed headset and various marine radios, but doesn't typically focus much on audio devices. 
  • You can currently connect third-party Bluetooth earbuds to Garmin watches that support music storage.

Garmin announced on Tuesday that it had acquired U.S. audio solutions brand JL Audio, known primarily for its high-end speakers, amplifiers, and subwoofers for people upgrading their car audio. This isn't an area Garmin is known for, so it's exciting to wonder what, exactly, Garmin has planned.

One major reason to buy a major brand's smartwatch is the easy sync between the watch and earbuds. The Galaxy Watch pairs with Galaxy Buds, Apple Watch with AirPods, or Pixel Watch with Pixel Buds. That's what made Garmin's announcement so initially exciting: that it might use the audio manufacturer to create paired wireless earbuds of its own. 

Looking more closely at JL Audio, it appears the brand hasn't made any actual wireless earbuds. But TechRadar — which first reported the news — argued that this could change, saying earbuds are the "chink in Garmin's armor" and that the two companies may "collaborate to produce a wireless earbuds solution."

Currently, Garmin sells two dēzl "Premium Trucking Headsets" for music and calls on long hauls, along with Fusion marine speakers that can be installed into your speedboat. This may not sound like Garmin's bread and butter, but its recent earnings report shows that it sells hundreds of millions of dollars worth of marine or auto devices, accounting for more than 20% of its revenue.

"JL Audio's extensive audio experience will create new opportunities to provide premium audio features across a broad range of our markets and products," Garmin CEO Cliff Pemble is quoted in the press release

Ideally, that broad range of products would include fitness-themed wireless earbuds, too, but we can't know that for certain. It's possible Garmin will just stick to the areas where it already specializes, using JL Audio to improve the speaker quality for boats and trucks.

Assuming JL Audio continues to release its typical car speaker products, we wonder if Garmin will try to target RVs and other offroading vehicles as a way to ingratiate themselves with the hikers that buy its watches and satellite equipment.

Garmin is well-known for growing its brand strength through acquisitions. Firstbeat Analytics, the Swedish physiological analytics and metrics company, is one of the main reasons why Garmin watches give you such accurate results for training load, recovery time, and so on. We'll see if JL Audio ends up having a similar impact.  

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.