The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of tech gear

JBL Charge 4 Review

A great companion for car camping, but not in situations where weight is a concern
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Price:   $150 List | $180 at Amazon
Pros:  Loud, long battery life, waterproof
Cons:  Large and heavy
Manufacturer:   JBL
By Max Mutter and Michelle Powell  ⋅  Sep 3, 2019
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 21
  • Sound Quality - 40% 7
  • Portability - 25% 5
  • Volume - 20% 9
  • Battery Life - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The JBL Charge 4 is a good speaker that fills a very specific niche: a long weekend trip car camping or to a remote cabin with a large group of people. In that instance, the waterproofing and rugged build let you toss it around the campsite with reckless abandon, the almost ridiculous battery life (we got 34 hours of playback on a single charge) provides at least a few nights worth of music, and the large size allows for enough volume to keep a dozen or more people dancing around the campfire. However, though the Charge 4 sounds reasonably good and isn't absurdly large and heavy, if you place more of a premium on sound quality or/and portability, there are much better options available.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
JBL Charge 4
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $150 List$300 List
$299.00 at Amazon
$200 List
$199.00 at Amazon
$150 List
$119.99 at Amazon
$100 List
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Pros Loud, long battery life, waterproofExcellent sound quality, very loud, long battery lifeExcellent sound quality, water resistant, great battery lifeGood overall sound, great volume, great battery life, waterproofGood sound quality, waterproof, long battery life
Cons Large and heavyExpensive, relatively large and heavyExpensive, relatively heavyNot the strongest bass, a bit priceyNot the best sounding nor most portable
Bottom Line A great companion for car camping, but not in situations where weight is a concernTop notch sound quality and volume in a somewhat heavy packageThe best portable speaker for audiophilesA good mix of sound qaultiy/volume and durabilityA great balance of sound quality, portability, and price
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Rating Categories JBL Charge 4 Bose Soundlink... Bose SoundLink... UE Boom 3 JBL Flip 5
Sound Quality (40%)
10
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7
10
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10
10
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Portability (25%)
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5
10
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Volume (20%)
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Battery Life (15%)
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9
Specs JBL Charge 4 Bose Soundlink... Bose SoundLink... UE Boom 3 JBL Flip 5
Dimensions (in x in x in) 4.9" x 5.9" x 10.8" 4.1" x 4.1" x 7.3" 5.97" x 3.24" x 3.24" 2.9" x 2.9" x 7.25" 3.64" x 3.6" x 8.5"
Inputs USB charging port, 3.5mm auxillary input Charging port, Micro-USB, 3.5mm auxillary input 3.5 mm auxiliary input, Micro USB port Micro USB port none
Reported Weight 33.92 oz 34 oz 24 oz 24 oz 19.04 oz
Measured Weight 32 oz 34 oz 24 oz 22 oz 19 oz
Wireless Range (feet) Not Listed 30 feet 30 feet 150 feet Not Listed
Reported Battery Life (hours) 20 16 12 15 12
Measured Battery Life (hours) 34.5 24 18 24 27
Warranty 1 year limited 1 year limited 1 year limited 2 year limited 1 year limited
Receive Phone Calls Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The JBL Charge 4 is large, loud, and durable. That combination is perfect for certain situations, but not ones where you'll be carrying your speaker longer distances.

Performance Comparison




Sound Quality


The JBL Charge 4's sound hits that minimal bar for entry where it's melodious enough that you're really not going to notice any shortcomings unless you're really looking for them. Basically, unless you're an audiophile that is willing to pay extra for the best possible portable music experience, the Charge 4 is quite likely to pass muster.


The Charge 4's bass is actually a bit weakened compared to previous iterations of the speaker, but in most cases that's actually a good thing. Where older versions tended to have a very bottom-heavy, overpowered kind of sound to them, the Charge 4's sound palette feels a bit more balanced. This may be disappointing if your main goal is to get people dancing, but in most circumstances it makes for a better overall listening experience.

The Charge 4 is rugged enough for adventure  but is a bit big and heavy for most situations.
The Charge 4 is rugged enough for adventure, but is a bit big and heavy for most situations.

This speaker is also impressively clear. That clarity doesn't come through so much in heavier, more aggressive songs, where even the more nuanced bass can make things feel a bit muddled. But in acoustic numbers or when listening to podcasts there is a sharp edge to the sound that makes everything sound a bit more lively.

The Charge 4's on-speaker controls.
The Charge 4's on-speaker controls.

Portability


There's no getting around the fact that the Charge 4 is heavy. We measured it at just a smidge over 2 pounds, making it one of the heaviest speakers of the group. That may not sound like a lot, but that's almost as much as a Nalgene bottle full of water weighs, and think about how much lighter your backpack feels after drinking all that water.


This speaker is also quite large, measuring in at nearly 9 inches by 4 inches. This, combined with rough edges on the ends of the speaker, make it somewhat unfriendly towards fitting in crowded bags or backpacks.

The one positive portability note for this speaker is its IPX7 waterproof rating. This means it can handle full submersion in a meter of water for 30 minutes, and can easily shake off any spilled beverages you throw at it.


Volume


This is where the Charge 4's large size starts to pay dividends. It is one of the loudest portable speakers we've tested. It was able to easily fill our large testing apartment with sound, even when we packed in over a dozen, sound-absorbing people. It has plenty of power to keep people dancing into the night. We would just suggest you never crank it up to its absolute maximum volume setting. At that point it started to sound a bit overblown and like it was straining, but drop it down just one click and it settles into a more comfortable (and still impressively loud) sound.


Battery Life


The Charge 4 was a champion in our battery life test. It bested its manufacturer spec of 20 hour by more than 50%, pumping music into our office for a full 34.5 hours on a single charge.


This new iteration of the speaker also offers a USB charging port, so you can use it's battery to top off your phone if the need arises. It only takes standard USB charging cables, however, not USB-C.

Value


The Charge 4 certainly isn't cheap, but isn't the most expensive speaker out there either. If its combination of ruggedness, battery life, and loudness suit your needs, it's a worthwhile purchase. However, if you're looking for the best possible sound quality, or something that is very portable, there are definitely better ways to spend your money.

Car camping is a perfect use for the Charge 4.
Car camping is a perfect use for the Charge 4.

Conclusion


If you need a loud speaker that can last all night and won't skip a beat if it gets spilled on or dropped in the dirt, the JBL Charge 4 fits the bill. Just don't expect absolute top-tier sound, nor a particularly portable design.


Max Mutter and Michelle Powell