Once in a while MajorHiFi gets its figurative paws on a fine Bluetooth speaker. The new Charge 4 from JBL is one such beast – offering 20 hours of battery life, waterproof design, and a bumping sound. And all for a tasty $149. But is there any reason not to snatch one up? MajorHiFi investigates.
JBL Charge 4 Review
The Charge 4 is not considerably larger or heavier than it’s predecessor, the JBL Charge 3. However, the Charge 4 seems a more premium device thanks to some impressive design choices.
Rated IPX7 for waterproofing, this rough and ready speaker can be submerged, splashed, and spritzed. It’s waterproof, dust-proof, possibly drop-proof, and seems to be pretty much everything-else-proof, too.
Buttons on the top of the unit allow a user to adjust volume or control playback. Meanwhile, on the back of the speaker, a gasket-sealed latch allows access to different ports. There’s a USB-C port for charging the internal battery, as well as a USB-A port for charging a phone or tablet on the go. But there’s also a 3.5 mm AUX input port for folks who need a wired connection.
The faster USB-C charging is a nice touch, allowing that 20-hour battery to charge in just four hours.
Using Bluetooth 4.2, the Charge 4 supports A2DP v1.3 and AVRCP v1.6 codecs. Connecting to the unit remains disconcertingly simple. Via JBL’s proprietary app, you can upgrade the software or control playback with additional daisy-chain connected speakers. This allows multiple JBL Charge 4 Bluetooth Speakers to be used in place of a traditional multi-speaker system, marrying wireless portability with surprisingly good sound.
Bluetooth® version: 4.2
Support: A2DP V1.3, AVRCP V1.6
Transducer: 50 x 90mm
Rated power: 30W RMS
Frequency response: 60Hz–20kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio: >80dB
Battery type: Lithium-ion Polymer 27Wh
(Equivalent to 3.6V 7800mAh)
Battery charge time: 4 hours (5V/2.3A)
Music playtime: up to 20 hours (varies by
volume level and audio content)
USB charge out: 5V/2A (maximum)
Bluetooth® transmitter power: 0-20dBm
Bluetooth® transmitter frequency range:
2.402 – 2.480GHz
Bluetooth® transmitter modulation:
GFSK, π/4 DQPSK, 8DPSK
Dimension (W × D × H): 220 x 95 x 93mm
As you can see from these specs, the JBL Charge 4 offers a fairly standard frequency range. Battery life, as outlined before, reaches a mad-decent 20 hours. But the real kicker here is sheer volume – the Charge 4 gets LOUD. So all of my coworkers can hear Chet Baker or Robyn’s new album, HONEY, blasting from my desk.
Meaty and full, the sound of the JBL Charge 4 sports good, detailed lows with an excellent bass response. Fat and thick with excellent control and tons of precise contrast, that bass comes in with a flourish and steals the whole show.
Mids remain surprisingly okay, though they might sound just a little thin at times. Really, though, there’s also perhaps a whisper of distortion in there, as well, leading to a slightly wonky, off-kilter feeling. Not exactly a dealbreaker, as this tiny hiccup does little to derail the otherwise-fantastic sound.
In the high end, the JBL Charge 4 displays some sparkling detail, though the highest highs may still seem a bit thin. Considering the price, this is more than forgivable, and the highs still manage to work quite well with those rocking, schlocking lows.
In term of a soundstage? The JBL Charge 4 offers some depth, but does a poor job rendering an impression of finite space. Of course, this does improve somewhat with a multi-speaker setup, but single-unit users may find the sound less than spacious.
There’s so much energy and volume (as well as a world-class low end) to the JBL Charge 4. Though I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Extreme 4, the Charge 4 may really be where it’s at; portability and fast charging a huge bonus here, eliminating many of the issues that would prevent someone from enjoying a heavier, more burdensome speaker on the move.
If you need to save some coin, you could obviously opt for the JBL Flip 4 ($89) or even the older, perhaps-discounted Charge 3 ($129). However, the updated battery, faster charging time, and updated sound give the Charge 4 a distinct level of quality that cannot be matched. And at $149, the difference in price seems like a trivial amount alongside the upgraded features.
Is there a reason not to run out and buy the JBL Charge 4? Maybe if you don’t need a Bluetooth speaker. However, the features and sound will still recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in portable sound. If you’re in the market for a speaker, you can’t do much better for 150 smackaroos. But if you’re just curious how good a Bluetooth speaker can sound, you should definitely check it out.
Get the JBL Charge 4 for the best price here: