When choosing a Bluetooth speaker, one brand comes out better than another.JBL offers options for virtually every price, but for the price, the Charge speaker was always the best.The JBL Charge 4 speaker is a few years old but can still be found at various retailers. At first glance, the Charge 4 looks no different than the previous Charge 3, but look a little closer and you will notice a few small differences in build and size.
The JBL Speaker Charge 4 is about an inch taller in every way, but it’s also 165 grams heavier. That’s not a big deal, of course, but it’s not good news if you rely on the speaker’s portability. If you’re hiking, an ounce in the morning is a pound in the evening. JBL has been making audio products for over 70 years, and its current lineup includes portable Bluetooth speakers for just about every occasion. The Go and Clip series are aimed at those looking for an ultra-portable speaker, while the Xtreme 2 and Boombox 2 offer a much more immersive audio experience. In between is the Charge series, which offers a balance between performance, price and portability.
The fourth-generation model excels in all three areas, although the omission of some useful features adds a bit of gloss to an otherwise excellent product. The JBL Charge 4 is designed for poolside parties. A durable fabric material and sturdy rubber casing protect it from accidental drops. It’s also IPX7 waterproof and can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. And since it has a rechargeable 7500 mAh battery that lasts up to 20 hours, the music doesn’t have to stop until the party is over.
JBL Charge 4 review: Design
If you put the JBL Charge 3 and Charge 4 side by side, you’ll hardly notice a difference. The cylindrical shape remains, as do the exposed woofers, which are a great sight when the bass really kicks in. Although we were initially concerned about damaging the exposed speakers, we had no issues with JBL’s other exposed woofers like the Pulse 3 and Charge 3. The top of the speaker houses all of the speaker’s controls. These include buttons for power, volume, Bluetooth pairing, media controls, and JBL’s Connect + feature, which lets you pair two or more of the company’s other speakers to play in stereo or amplify music.
On the back is a large silicone cover that protects the 3.5mm Aux, USB-C, and USB-A ports. The full-size USB port means you can use the Charge 4 to charge your phone to keep your music going. The JBL Charge 4 is a directional speaker, meaning the sound comes from the side with the JBL emblem. That may be disappointing to those who want 360-degree sound, but the speaker gets loud enough that everyone in a room can hear the music. Since it is a directional speaker, placement is key. The user can place it either horizontally on the base or vertically on either side.
JBL Charge 4 review: Build
The JBL Charge 4 looks similar to the Charge 3, a mid-sized portable speaker similar in design to Ultimate Ears’ Boom series. Unlike the UE Boom 3, however, this speaker is mounted horizontally rather than upright, and while Ultimate Ears has simplified the design, JBL has retained the Charge 4’s chunky passive radiators on either end. To satisfy the urge to squeeze them in, JBL has stamped an exclamation mark on the rubber surface.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter. These are not fragile speaker cones, but much more robust resonant structures that can take a bit of rough treatment from the hands of unruly children or clumsy adults. Indeed, the JBL Charge 4 is tough all around. There’s a thick rubber base on the bottom, and the front and back are covered in a tough, water-resistant fabric.
JBL Charge 4 review: Features
There’s certainly a lot to love about the JBL Charge 4 portable speaker, from the significantly longer battery life to the ability to charge your devices on the go. Remember, the more you charge your smartphone through the speaker, the less power you’ll have left. This JBL speaker is IPX7 waterproof and can even be submerged in water up to 1.5 meters deep. Unlike other waterproof portable speakers, JBL claims that the speaker is also suitable for environments with salty or chlorinated water.
In terms of functionality, we were particularly impressed with the little extras that the JBL Charge 4 offers to make your life easier. For example, there’s an LED indicator that shows how much battery is left, and “click” buttons on the top so you don’t wonder if you pressed hard enough. And since this JBL speaker comes with JBL’s patented Connect+ feature, you can connect up to 100 speakers to your device and have them all play the same song.
JBL Charge 4 review: Connectivity
This speaker supports Bluetooth 4.2, which is a bit outdated. Pairing with my smartphone was very quick. You can connect up to 2 smartphones or tablets to the speaker and play music alternately. It automatically connects to the device it was last connected to. It is powered via the USB-C port and has a USB-A output that can be used to charge other devices thanks to the 7500 mAh battery.
It also has a 3.5mm audio jack that lets you connect devices that support an audio jack, such as headphones. This speaker supports JBL connect+, a method of wirelessly connecting more than 100 JBL connect+-enabled speakers for amplified sound. However, this speaker is not smart. It does not have voice assistant integration like Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa. It also doesn’t have a speakerphone, so you can’t use the speaker to take calls.
JBL Charge 4 review: Sound Performance
The design may be simple, but the sound is anything but. Bass is not booming, but that is by design, with thoughtful, rich bass harmonizing beautifully with the refined mid and high frequencies. Passive radiators at both ends resonate nicely in the low frequencies, adding to the spectacle. Sound clarity is far superior to other speakers at this level, and all frequencies are well balanced. The sound is quite stable and free of significant distortion, even when listened to at high volumes.
All of this makes the Charge 4 less of a party speaker and more of an option for a relaxing day at the beach or a laid-back party in the backyard. Inside the sturdy enclosure, there is a surprising level of sophistication and subtlety that is hard to find in a product in this price range. One drawback is the lack of a voice assistant and speakerphone, which the Charge 3 included. These features are not what one would normally expect from a speaker in this price range, but the predecessor offered them, which is a bit disappointing. However, JBL has clearly decided to focus on output quality, and it succeeds.
JBL Charge 4 review: Battery Life and Charging
This speaker comes with a considerably large 7500 mAh battery that promises up to 20 hours of music playback time. It is charged via a modern USB-C port. The speaker can also serve as an external portable power bank for your devices via a USB-A output. It features 4 LED battery indicators that show the charge level when you first turn it on.
Battery life for the JBL Charge 3 and Charge 4 is not much different. Both speakers offer 20 hours of continuous playback. In our testing, the Charge 4 achieved less than that: 13 hours and 46 minutes of continuous playback, which is still pretty solid. One thing to note is that the USB-C port on the back is dedicated to charging the speaker. So if you plan to use it as an output to charge your device, you are out of luck.
JBL’s Charge series gets better with each new version. With the Charge 4, we found that the audio quality was greatly improved over the previously released Charge 3. It delivered a cleaner, clearer and more refined sound with good sounding mids and highs. The Charge 4 also retained some of the best features of the Charge 3, such as waterproofing, long battery life, robust mesh coverage, and sleek design. We think it’s made for parties, as its volume is very high. If you are looking for the ideal speakers for gatherings, house or street parties, we can only recommend the JBL Charge 4.