JBL Charge 4 Portable Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker built-in
When I was much younger (aged 65 now), I worked at a high-end audio store and I sold the heck out of JBL Studio monitors. Excellent speakers, efficient power usage, precise, great cabinetry (early 80’s). Compared to Dahlquist, Polk, and others, JBL’s were the best for all types of music, for…
If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, one brand tends to come up more often than others. JBL has options at basically every price point, but for the price, one of their best speakers has always been the Charge series. The newest in the line-up is the JBL Charge 4 speaker, but how well has it held up since the initial release? Let’s find out.
How’s the build quality?
Is the JBL Charge 4 waterproof?
Yes, the tough waterproof fabric makes a comeback along with the IPX7 certification that lets you submerge it for up to 30 minutes in a meter of water. It also floats for a bit if you do drop it in the water so you don’t have to worry about losing it if it falls off of a boat or a deck. These also have the characteristic of exposed dual passive radiators on either end just like most of the new JBL speakers over the last few years.
Editor’s note: Sara tested a JBL Flip 4’s IPX7 rating by submerging it in a pool for about 10 seconds, and it came out broken. The speaker still produced sound, but the sound was shrouded by a loud crackling. JBL customer support stated that the one-year warranty had passed, and defective products out of warranty could not be replaced for free. Considering JBL is a company whose big selling point is their waterproofing, this was disappointing.
Flickr user rheinitzDespite the metaphor, please resist the temptation to plug your headphones into a spigot.
Up top, you’ll get the playback buttons that are just slightly raised above the fabric along with a power and Bluetooth button. The bottom is a small built-in stand with five tiny LED lights that let you know how much battery life is left when you tap the power button, and around back is a rubber flap that keeps all of the ports protected from water. You’ll definitely want to make sure this is closed if you’re going to be taking this to the beach or rocking out poolside.
How to connect to the JBL Charge 4?
If you can’t tell yet, the JBL Charge 4 isn’t too different than the previous model. It’s an iteration on an iteration, but connectivity is where things start to split. The Charge 4 has all of your bases covered with a strong connection up to around 30 feet just like most Bluetooth speakers.
JBL Charge 4 Portable Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker built-in 2021
The playback controls work great and the buttons are nice and clicky, though I do wish the buttons were made of white plastic or were all lit up like the power button, as it’s hard to see which one is which when it’s dark.
The Charge 4 also doesn’t have a built-in microphone so if you tend to use your speaker for phone calls you might be annoyed. Personally, I never want a mic on my speaker and always ended up fumbling to disconnect my phone every time I got a phone call, so this is actually a positive thing for me but I can see how that can be a deal-breaker for some.
Protected under a waterproof flap are the inputs and outputs of the speaker.
On paper, you’ll notice that the JBL Charge 4 has Bluetooth 4.2 instead of the older 4.1 which is nice, but the real differences have to deal with JBL Connect. If you’ve never owned a JBL speaker, JBL Connect is the feature that allows you to sync up a few speakers together in order to play the same song.
It’s not really the equivalent of a Sonos system, but if you’re having a party it could definitely get the job done. JBL Connect+ is a better version of the older JBL Connect and lets you connect up to 100 JBL speakers together instead of one or two. If you happen to have a mansion, this would be a cool party trick.
Unfortunately, if you bought an older speaker with the regular JBL Connect (like the Charge 3), it isn’t compatible with this new plus version. So if you and a few friends are going to splurge on 100 of these and throw a “Project X” style party, this could be a feature that you might be interested in. For the average person, I doubt it matters much.
How to reset the JBL Charge 4
If you’re having trouble connecting to your Charge 4 then it might be a good idea to just reset it and start from scratch. To do that just follow these steps:
- Go into the Bluetooth settings of your source device and delete the Charge 4 from your paired devices.
- Power on the speaker
- Once it’s powered on, hold down the Bluetooth button and the volume up (+) button simultaneously for a few seconds until the LED ring on the top of the speaker lights up. After it does this the speaker should power down automatically.
- Power the speaker back on. It should enter pairing mode automatically so that you can locate it in your Bluetooth settings.
How’s the battery life of the Charge 4?
Even though the JBL Charge 4 has a battery with a much larger capacity than the Charge 3, they’re still both touted as having an identical 20 hours of constant playback. During our testing, we managed to get the Charge 4 to pump out music for 13 hours and 46 minutes straight. It wasn’t quite the 20 hours they promised, but it’s still not bad. That will take a hit though if you decide to also charge your devices via the USB-A output on the back.
You’ll also find a 3.5mm input and a USB Type-C input on the back, but the Type-C can only be used for charging. So if you have a Type-C to Type-C cable and were hoping to charge your new Android phone or iPad Pro through that port, you’re out of luck. You have to use the USB-A port for everything charging-related.
Does the JBL Charge 4 sound good?
This was the part where I was most surprised because I was expecting the sound quality to be an improvement over the Charge 3, but it seems to be extremely similar to my ears. JBL went with a single driver over dual-drivers this time around, but besides a few minor complaints, I don’t think many people who buy this speaker are going to notice. Just like the previous model, the new JBL Charge 4 has a strong low end for its size which is no doubt helped by those passive radiators.
Like the older Charge 3, this model will sound better in larger rooms and open areas—mostly due to the fact that bass tends to lose power over distance faster than higher-pitched sounds. If you use the Charge 4 in a barn, yard, or garage: the sound will drop a little bass emphasis and sound a little more pleasing to you.
The sound signature and quality of the JBL Charge 4 are nearly identical to the JBL Charge 3.
Bass notes throughout the song Tearing at the Seams by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were distinct and easy to follow along with, but the speaker suffers from the same lack of clarity in the mids that the last model did. Vocals were still discernible, but they sounded like they were taking the backseat to some of the instrumentation of the song.
This was especially true in the song Lost on You by LP, where the vocals sounded like they were in competition with the strings and background melodies throughout the chorus. If you’re a lover of the high end you don’t have to worry because nothing sounds harsh and I didn’t hear any distortion at high volumes either.
Overall, it seems like JBL just focused on tuning the speaker to sound as close as possible to the Charge 3, and it’s impressive how close they got considering the move to only one driver. But if you liked the way the last Charge 3 sounded, you’ll like this one too.
Should you get the Charge 4?
The Charge 4 has an IPX7 waterproof fabric so you don’t have to worry about water damage. My opinion here has changed over the last few months. At first, I thought the Charge 4 wasn’t enough of an improvement over the Charge 3 to justify such a large price difference. But as time went by the Charge 3 began to rise in price for some reason, which in turn made me realize it didn’t make sense to recommend it over the newer one when you weren’t going to be saving much money anyway.
Now, however, the prices have again begun to go in different directions, with the Charge 3 getting cheaper and the Charge 4 getting more expensive. In the hopes of future-proofing this part of the review for whenever you might be reading this, I’m going to say that the JBL Charge 4 is only worth the money if you can’t find a Charge 3 at a decent price (sub-$100) online or in stores.
JBL Charge 4 Portable Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker built-in 2021
The differences between the two are minor, and if you can save cash by going with the older model then by all means go for it.JBL Charge 4All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.
If you’re looking for an alternative, check out the Sony SRS-XB32. It has a similarly powerful sound and fun LED lights. It’s also got an IP67 rating. If you want to stay within the JBL sphere but just want a more portable speaker, the JBL Flip 4 is one of the best waterproof Bluetooth speakers out there.
Is the JBL Charge 4 worth it?
The JBL Charge 4 only offers minor updates to the previous generation but it remains an excellent value in wireless speakers. The Charge 4 can pump out gobs of bass that doesn’t overwhelm, lasts forever, and can top up your phone in pinch.
Which is better JBL Flip 5 or charge 4?
The Charge 4 weighs 960g, while the Flip 5 tips the scales at just 540g. So for those on the go, the latter might be the better choice. Both speakers are at their best laid horizontally, as they have bass radiators at each end. For its extra portability, the Flip 5 just takes this round.
Which is better JBL charge 3 or 4?
The JBL Charge 3 and Charge 4 are bigger than the Flip 4, and as such, they offer a louder and more powerful sound. There’s a little more bass response in the speakers too, so if you’re looking for the most well-rounded wireless speaker, then the Charge 3 or Charge 4 might be the better options for you.
Which is better flip 4 or charge 4?
Charge 4 offers 20 hours of battery life and takes 4 hours to fully juice up. The Flip 4 will give you 12 hours of battery life, and takes 3.5 hours to fully charge. … The Charge 4 has enough juice to recharge your smart devices, while the Flip 4 is not designed for recharging your phone.
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