When you think of portable Bluetooth speakers, there are a couple of brands which stand out, Bose, Sony and, of course, JBL. The JBL Charge is one of the more popular series of Bluetooth speakers on the market – with the Charge 4 being the latest installment. The Charge 3 was an awesome Bluetooth speaker which won praise from online publications and received thousands of 5-star reviews so it’s hard to imagine what could be improved. In terms of size and aesthetics, not much has changed, however, when we look into the features and sound, the Charge 4 has many improvements over its predecessor. Let’s take an in-depth look at the JBL Charge 4 and whether or not it’s the speaker for you.
JBL Charge 4 Specs
JBL Charge 4 Design
If there’s one feature that has remained constant through the JBL Charge series it’s aesthetics. The Charge 4 is covered in a rubberized mesh material which offers durability and waterproof protection. One thing the Charge 4 has retained from the Charge 3 is the IPX7 waterproof rating which protects the speaker in water up to 1 meter (or 3.2 feet) for a period of 30 minutes. While I wouldn’t want to test that theory, it’s good to know your speaker won’t die if you drop it in the water accidentally. This won’t be an issue even if the water is deeper than a meter because the speaker floats and will continue to play music.
JBL Charge 4 Connections
The physical connections for the Charge 4 are located behind a waterproof seal to prevent water from entering through any of the ports. Here you’ll find a ⅛-inch AUX input, AC input and USB output which acts as a power bank for charging external mobile devices.
The AC input is now USB-C which promises faster charging. Most mobile devices are switching from micro-USB to USB-C which makes sense why JBL has chosen to do the same. The output for the power bank is USB-A which is still standard for wall plugs. Just an FYI, JBL only supplies the USB-C charging cable with the Charge 4 and not a wall plug.
As you can use the same wall plug adapter as your mobile phone, I don’t see this as being a big issue. If anything, it cuts down on more waste from having multiple USB wall plugs lying around the house. Better for the environment!
Apart from the physical connections, the Charge 4 also connects via Bluetooth. This is Bluetooth 4.2 which is disappointing since the latest version available is 5.0. Having said that, the Charge 4 connectivity is excellent.
One thing JBL has done away with is the speakerphone and built-in microphone for voice commands. Personally, I hate speakerphones on Bluetooth speakers. They never work properly, the sound is poor and you get better results using your phone. I always find myself turning off the speaker for an incoming call and using the handset anyway. I believe companies should focus more on improving the speaker drivers and sound quality on a Bluetooth speaker rather than adding things that, for the most part, we just don’t use.
Lastly, when it comes to connectivity, the Charge 4 features the latest version of JBL Connect which is Connect +. Now, this is where I have to ask – why oh why JBL does Connect not work with Connect +?
If you own other JBL Connect speakers, you can no longer link them to the newer JBL models. The major difference between Connect and Connect + is with the latter you can now connect multiple speakers (up to 100) rather than just a stereo pair. So the upgrade is worth it but it’s annoying you can’t link the old with the new.
Charge 4 Controls
Nothing has changed from the Charge 3 in terms of onboard controls. Buttons include play/pause, volume up, volume down, JBL Connect+, on/off, and Bluetooth pairing. Double tapping the play button will skip to the next track. Unfortunately, there is no previous track function on the speaker itself. The buttons are large and rubberized and add to the funky aesthetic of the Charge 4.
Another thing which hasn’t changed is the awesome battery life the Charge speakers have. Like the Charge 3, the Charge 4 features a 20-hour battery life. It’s important to note this is playing the Charge 4 at 40% volume using a physical ⅛-inch cable opposed to Bluetooth. At 50% volume with Bluetooth, the Charge 4 will last just 10 hours. This is still on par with most competitors which is good. So, if you are running low on battery, turn the speaker down to 40% and plug use the AUX cable to add 50% to the remaining play time.
On the front of the speaker below the JBL logo is a battery life indicator. These LEDs indicate 20%, 50% and 100% of battery remaining. From flat, the Charge 4 will fully recharge in under 5½ hours.
Speaker Drivers and Sound Quality
The Charge 4 features a single 2-inch x 3.5-inch full range driver coupled to two JBL bass radiators for improved low-end performance. This is a change from previous models which featured dual drivers. While the bass response has remained somewhat similar, the mid-range and treble delivered by the Charge 4 are far more superior to its predecessor. Vocals are more clear and present while the highs are more crisp and clean. At 30W RMS, the Charge 4 delivers a solid amount of sound, easily enough to fill small to medium-sized living spaces. While this isn’t audiophile quality, the Charge 4 does deliver a fun sound which is better than most of its competitors at this size and price.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the JBL Charge 4 Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- JBL Charge 4
- USB-C charging cable (wall plug not included)
If you’re looking to upgrade your Charge 3, then you definitely won’t be disappointed with the Charge 4. It’s slightly better looking, better sounding, and features the new and improved JBL Connect +. I’m disappointed that you can’t link Connect with Connect +, however, this isn’t a deal breaker that would prevent me from buying a Charge 4. Some might not like the fact that JBL has dropped the speakerphone element but I think it’s great. For the improvement in sound quality, it’s well worth losing a feature you rarely use. I think this is a great Bluetooth speaker and great value for money.