While not as universally recognizable as names like Sony and Bose, JBL might quietly be the best audio equipment brand on the market today. Their Bluetooth speakers, headphones, and sound systems are known for being fairly inexpensive while also carrying admirable bass and intuitive, uncomplicated designs. To offer a better idea of their best portable speakers, we will be going over their lightweight portable speakers.
We will be judging these products most importantly for their sound quality, design, durability, battery life, and accompanying features. While there is always going to be a superior product in one category, we will be looking at different reasons why one product might prove more useful to certain consumers than another. For instance, the Charge 5 has an overall better sound quality and frequency response than the Pulse 4, however, the Pulse offers a wider-reaching soundstage.
These are all very solid products and as far as my money goes, great purchases. To give you a better idea of which product may fit your needs the best, let’s go over what each speaker does better than its brand mates.
The JBL Flip 6 is a fun-sized powerhouse for a very friendly price. At less than 150 USD, this speaker comes with an adjustable equalizer and some pretty impressive sound clarity. It offers a water and dust resistance of IP67 and feels like it could survive a good bit of physical misfortune. This is a great choice for an active person looking for a discount.
The JBL Pulse 4 is an attention grabber in both style and soundstage. This speaker reaches out in all directions to make sure that if you couldn’t see it, you definitely will hear it. While its volume falls short of some of the other products on the list, it counters that with customizable LED’s, solid battery life, and an IP7 rating. Sitting at more than 200 USD, it is going to run you the most out of all three JBL speakers.
Last but certainly not least, The JBL Charge 5 is the workhorse of the three with the longest-lasting battery life by far, superior volume output, and a power bank feature that allows it to play music and charge other devices simultaneously. It comes in at less than 200 USD which seems like a steal when you consider all that this speaker has to offer.
These are all very small speakers, with all three weighing in at roughly two pounds. So while they will be useful for those who want tunes on the go (or in the shower), they are not going to offer the same decibel output as heavier speakers. They sacrifice this for a much more compact, easy-to-handle design, which we will cover below.
Starting with the JBL Pulse 4, we have to admit that this is the speaker that is going to give you the least amount of crisp audio in comparison to the other two products. While the frequency response may be slightly lacking, the soundstage is fantastic for its size. One of its selling points is the “360-degree speaker array” and it measures up to the marketing. Unlike the other two products, the Pulse 4 doesn’t come with adjustable EQ through the JBL app.
If you are an audiophile and somehow decide to buy a portable speaker, the JBL Charge 5 is going to be your best bet for the money. Its bass is superior to the other two and is competent for a portable speaker, and its crisp mid and high-level audio makes it a solid speaker for its size. While its soundstage isn’t going to beat the other two, its volume output can definitely reach past the competing speakers.
The JBL Flip 6 seems to run in the middle of the pack when it comes to these speakers, it offers a better frequency response than that of the Pulse 4 though in my opinion breaks even in audio quality compared to the Charge 5. It beats the Charge 5 with a more wide-reaching soundstage, though cannot keep up with the Pulse’s omnidirectional sound output. Considering this product is the cheapest of the three by a good 50 dollars US, being in the middle is a pretty comfortable spot to sit in.
Verdict – JBL Charge 5, but it is very competitive. All three products have very strong points to their auditory resume but the Charge gets it with volume output, sound quality, and competent bass.
If there is one thing I am very partial to with JBL products, it is their emphasis on solid design. These speakers are polished, feel good in your hand and offer very solid durability, throughout. These products look and feel expertly crafted, from the sleek fabric cover of the Charge 5 to the flashy transparent design of the LED-rich Pulse 4. On top of this, all speakers come with an IP67 or above rating to ensure you never have to worry about water or dust ruining your night.
The JBL Flip 6 is a sub-$150 product that feels like a million bucks. It comes with an IP7 rating, meaning it is very easily waterproof and can easily fend off dirt and dust. It comes in eight different colors, weighs a hair over two pounds, and measures out to be 7 x 2.6 x 2.8 inches. For such a reasonably priced speaker, it is really nice to see so much effort put into its ability to endure non-ideal weather and environments.
The JBL Charge 5 is an exceptionally designed speaker that comes in six different colors including camouflage and offers an IP67 rating. This edges it out over the Pulse 4 due to its resistance towards dust, which the Pulse may be more vulnerable to. It also comes in around two pounds and is similar in size to the Flip 6 at 8.7 x 3.67 x 3.76 inches. It is certainly larger than the Flip 6, but not enough to change the function or sacrifice portability. What’s interesting is the diagonal grip lines on the Charge 5 for added clutch, which will probably split consumers over its aesthetic.
If the Pulse 4 had a personality, it would certainly be an eccentric one. Coming in at two base colors, this speaker is very flashy, bright, and impossible to ignore. The entirety of the wide-reaching midsection is a flashy LED disco aesthetic covered by sensible glass-like plastic. While it may be on the more flamboyant side, it still offers an IP7 rating so you don’t have to worry about this star burning out in poor weather.
Verdict – Charge 5 and Flip 6 draw for durability, though design comes down more to what you want. If you want something shining lights throughout the night, go with the Pulse. Otherwise, the Flip 6 and Charge 5 have a number of attractive colors and designs to choose from. All three are very proficiently made, regardless.
The battery life for all three speakers is fairly standard for smaller portables. We will be going off what JBL specified for each speaker though know that battery life is very dependent on volume and listed battery lives are not always the most accurate specifications. They are however a solid measure of products in comparison when all three come from the same supplier.
The JBL Flip 6 has a battery life that is estimated to be somewhere around 12 hours (separate testing has resulted in closer to six hours) and utilizes a USB-C charger, which is universal throughout all three products. It also comes with a handy battery conservation feature that automatically turns the Flip off after about twenty minutes of it remaining idle. Charge times seem to sit around the 150-minute mark as an average.
Looking at the JBL Pulse 4, this speaker also comes with a battery-saving feature and sits at around 12 hours of battery for every 210-minutes of charge. While the 12 hours of battery advertised seems to be close to the mark, the charge time can take wildly longer than what is advertised. Some critics have even reported this product taking up to six hours to fully charge, so make sure to plug it in overnight after using it.
I’ll give you a spoiler warning ahead of time: The JBL Charge 5 takes it with a wide lead. While it is claimed to have a battery life of around 20 hours, separate testing seems to indicate closer to around 13 – 15 hours, which is still very impressive. With the larger battery on the Charge 5, it will take four hours for a full battery charge. It also features a power-saving option that automatically triggers after inactivity and a very convenient power bank feature. This power bank option allows the speaker to charge other devices.
Verdict – The Charge 5 is simply better than the other two on the roster when it comes to battery life. This on top of the fact that it can reach a higher decibel than both, which means you get more battery at higher volumes.
To get similar features and options out of the way all three products can be used in tandem with the JBL Portable app and “Party Boost” (utilizing multiple JBL speakers at once), which is the only way audio will play in stereo sound over mono. They are all Bluetooth compatible, though unfortunately, none have an auxiliary input.
The Flip 6 does not have a large number of unique features by comparison, though its reasonable price point seems to be its biggest perk, especially considering how solid this product is at less than 150 USD. The biggest standout is its adjustable EQ through the JBL Portable app, which is unfortunately not available for many JBL portable speakers, including earlier iterations of the Flip.
The Charge 5 seems to shine best when you look at its ability to keep playing regardless of whether it’s charged in or not. On top of this, it offers an additional USB-A port to charge another device on top of its own personal USB-C port. There is no gimmick with this product, you wanna play music throughout the day with good volume? The Charge 5, as the name suggests, will do just that.
The Pulse 4 offers the obvious LED lighting that encompasses the entirety of its side that can be turned on or off with a light button found on the device. It also has the added benefit of sound output in every direction due to its speaker arrangement, which creates a pretty impressive soundstage. The colors of the speaker can be changed by shaking it and several different patterns are available through the app.
Verdict – The Pulse 4 takes it with its impressive LED screen customization. I wrestled with considering the Charge 5, though its power bank feature seems more fit for the battery category, which it won easily. The Flip 6 has adjustable EQ, which is lovely, though not enough to take this category.
Don’t let the categories mislead you, this was a tough choice. These are all great products, exceptionally made and reasonable enough in price. While the Charge 5 does enough to edge out the other two, all three would make for a good purchase depending on what you want. For someone who wants a statement piece, the Pulse 4 is ideal. A person on a budget looking for a solid speaker would have their expectations exceeded with the Flip 6.