When it comes to portable Bluetooth speakers, there are a few sets of criteria that we think are pretty important. These are, in no particular order – battery life, portability, sound quality, water resistance, design, and ruggedness.
After shopping around, we realized finding a speaker that can satisfy all these points and still be affordable was not the easiest task!
Thankfully, after lots of research, we stumbled upon the JBL Charge 4 Bluetooth speaker. This beautifully designed little unit satisfies all the above criteria, and then some. Hang about, and let us explain why we think this is a great choice for both home use and for music on the go in our in-depth JBL Charge 4 Review…
Design & Construction
Out of the box, we see exactly what we are expecting. First out is the speaker itself, closely followed by a short, flat, orange charging cable and the manual/warranty information (1-year manufacturers warranty comes standard).
Here we see a mid-sized, cylindrical body constructed from high-grade plastic and aluminum. This really helps keep the weight down. Speaking about the weight, this unit tips the scale at just less than 2.1 pounds. The cylindrical body measures 3.7-inch in height by 8.6-inch in width and 3.7-inch in depth and is covered mostly in a high grade super strong mesh.
Borrowing heavily from last year’s highly acclaimed model, the JBL Charge 3, sitting side by side, it is hard to tell one from the other. Critics of JBL have claimed that there is not enough difference to warrant this newer model.
But here at the office, there has been a resounding agreement that soundstage of the JBL Charge 4 is much more balanced sound-wise. It also has a longer battery life and is properly waterproof compared to the lower splashproof rating of the 3, and now has an in-built microphone.
But our single favorite addition is the new USB charging port. This turns this speaker into a portable power bank, meaning you will never have to worry about draining your battery playing DJ!
Each end of the tube-like body houses a small exposed woofer. At first, we were slightly worried by just how exposed these are. However, after weeks of testing, we have had absolutely zero issues here.
This is a mono-directional speaker, which may be slightly off-putting on paper to 360-degree stereo speaker fans. And we would be in agreement if this was a bigger unit. But at its size and volume level, we did not feel that this speaker was missing out anything and are of the thinking that this might, in fact, help the sound.
Another reason why having only one driver delivering audio works so well here is that the driver is of amazing quality! The large oval-shaped driver, with help from a pair of side-firing passive radiators (woofers), adds depth to the bass and a fullness to the sound rarely seen at this price bracket.
The control buttons are evenly spaced right at the top of the JBL Charge 4. They have been intuitively designed, with a satisfying tactile click present when pushed.
Looking left to right, we see buttons for JBL’s Connect + feature (letting you connect more than one speaker wirelessly together, a super handy feature for large gatherings or movie nights). As well as volume down/skip back, power, pairing, volume up/skip forward, and play/pause. The bottom of the body has been flattened as a seat for the speaker.
With the inclusion of the woofers, this speaker is made for bass heads. The response on the lower end of the frequency table is a sight to behold, with the bass coming through as clear as you would expect from a much larger unit.
Unlike the JBL Charge 3, though, that’s not where the good news ends. The highs are no longer criminally underpowered, and the mids have also been tweaked to enhance the clarity of vocal tracks.
We chucked on Matt Corby’s “Brother” first, which is not necessarily the type of track this speaker was designed to play. It was here that we started to understand the extent of the changes from the previous model. Corby’s powerful and soulful vocals cut through like a knife into lard, and the wide range of tones emanating from his acoustic guitar interwove beautifully and clearly.
Next up, we thought we would actually try to play to the speakers forte, with the classic 90’s dance tune “Addicted to Bass” by Aussie vinyl spinner Josh Abraham. The song features Amiel Daemion taking the lead in vocals, and what a great choice she was for this track.
Dominated by a booming, power-filled bassline and heavy drums, this a song that can really test smaller speakers. The Charge 4 handled it with ease, with the separate tracks being easily distinguishable and sounding great.
On the JBL website, the company claims that the battery life is the same as the JBL Charge 3 at 20 hours. This was quite surprising to us, as the battery size has been made considerably bigger from 6000mAh to a whopping 7500mAh.
Taking into account the fact that the Charge 4 works as a portable power bank does make for shorter battery life, so we were eager to get our hands on it and start some tests!
Well, first up, we decided to run it at full volume while charging our iPhone XR (which was at 3%, to begin with). This resulted in a full charge for the phone in just 76 minutes, but the speaker died after 6 hours. Not bad for a full charge of a big iPhone battery and continuous full volume play.
The next test was conducted at 50% volume and no charging. Even at 50%, this speaker pumped loud enough for poolside use with three kids playing loudly nearby. This time we saw almost 21.5 hours of continuous use, really unbelievable stuff.
The JBL Charge 4 Bluetooth speaker comes with a waterproof rating of IPX7.
Simply put, it means that the speaker can withstand being submerged to a depth of 3.3 feet (1 meter) for up to 30 minutes. This is a feature that really should not be overlooked, as it may save you the hassle of having to replace a drowned speaker one day. As well as giving the option of taking this unit into the shower or pool with you.
Here we see class 1 Bluetooth 4.2, giving the JBL Charge 4 a range of nearly 33 feet (10 meters). The supported codecs are A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, and HSP. Although not the top of the line Bluetooth 5.0, this system is more than capable of handling pretty much any situation that the speaker will be used in.
JBL Charge 4 Pros & Cons
- Long-lasting battery.
- Doubles as power bank.
- Balanced soundscape.
- Rugged, good looking design.
- Longer recharge time than much of the competition.
More Great JBL Options
The Final Word
For the price tag, the JBL Charge 4 Bluetooth enabled speaker is a deal we did not have much chance of passing by. As soon as we finished testing this unit, we bought one as a present to ourselves!
It sounds great, lasts all day, can charge our phone on the go, and can handle its fair share of rough treatment. Although there are some worthy opponents, it is our belief that this is the best in class right now. So try one out and see if you agree?