Price (RRP): $199.95
The JBL Charge 4 is a waterproof, mono, Bluetooth speaker offering 30W of power, 20 hours playtime and acts as a power bank. Perfect for those rugged outdoor types.
The JBL Charge 4 is the successor to Charge 3 but adds a whopping 7500mAh battery and multi-point BT.
Regular readers will know that JBL has set out to dominate (in a nice way) the portable Bluetooth speaker market with models like Flip, Pulse, Link (voice activated), PartyBox, Pop and Charge. You can see GadgetGuy’s coverage here.
Review: JBL Charge 4 mono, Bluetooth, Waterproof IPX7, speaker
Before we get into this speaker lets position it – it is a mono Bluetooth speaker, ruggedised, waterproof IPX7 and a huge 20-hour battery that can be a power bank. It does not have Voice Assistance or hands-free calling etc. So, we review it like we would say the Ultimate Ears products – a rough and tumble, take everywhere speaker.
It does have amazing bass via the passive JBL bass radiators at each end. That it achieves the level of bass is almost unheard of for a sealed waterproof device.
It has a single 90 x 50mm transducer (speaker) that delivers a 60Hz-20kHz frequency response from either Bluetooth SBC codec or a 3.5mm audio cable. It is a 1.0 mono speaker.
Maximum claimed volume is 80dB although we got 83dB with minimal harmonic distortion.
How does it sound?
We tried it with the old favourite Blues Brothers Peter Gun Theme (heavy bass) and the Beach Boys Everyone goes Surfing USA (vocals and guitar).
We found bass creeping in at 60Hz and very strong to 500Hz. Mids were nice and flat to about 5kHz and then treble slowly dropped off until 20kHz.
This is warm and sweet – au naturel – with no EQ or electronic psychoacoustics to change it. For a mono waterproof speaker, you cannot get better.
Now let’s segue – audiophiles are going to get riled at the above statement. The JBL Charge 4 is what it is – a rugged mono, outdoor speaker where it is more important to have relatively high volume at low distortion, and a mono sound source does not matter.
If you ask me about stereo BT speakers for indoor use, then it is a far different matter.
The App – JBL Connect+
The app does nothing – zip. OK, it allows party or stereo mode, but there is no EQ. Luckily the natural warm and sweet signature is what you want.
Solid, rugged, waterproof IPX7 (30 minutes in a meter of water) and durable dirt resistant and washable fabric. It semi-floats so if it goes overboard you can retrieve it.
Having said that the bass radiators at each end are rubber diaphragms and you need to be a little careful you don’t accidentally pierce them. The speaker should sit horizontally – it is not a 360° sound speaker.
The USB-C charge port, 3.5m audio port and USB-A port are under a rear rubber flap. Naturally, you must close it for IPX7.
Dimensions 22 x 9.5 x 9.3cm x .96kg and you can get it in a huge range of colours. This is a great tradie or camper’s speaker
The battery is 7500mAh (3.6V/2.08A, 7500mAh, 27Wh). Five LEDs indicate the remaining charge, and we found these do equate to 20% increments. The sound volume and quality were unaffected from 100-0%.
In our test at 50% volume, we got over 20 hours, and 75% volume was 15 hours.
It is a USB-C device meaning it will accept USB-C power delivery. Having said that it made little difference using a 5V/2A or 5V/3A – both took around 4 hours. In theory, it should charge faster with a Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 or later adapter.
We recharged a Samsung Galaxy S10+ (4000mAh) via the USB-A 5V/2A output, and it took an expected 10 hours. The USB-A is the only charge port – you cannot use the USB-C.
BT and Multipoint
BT 4.2 LE has a range of about 10 metres, and it performed well to this distance. Multipoint allows it to pair to two devices.
It has JBL Connect+ that allows it to pair with up to 100 Charge 4s although at $15K for 100 speakers we do not see much call for this. You can also pair two for stereo which we do see a call for.
RRP $199.95 but shop around, and you will get it at Officeworks for $148 – making this excellent value.
GadgetGuy’s take: JBL Charge 4 is one of the best mono waterproof speakers I have heard.
I have tried most – Ultimate Ears, Altec Lansing, Braven, Marshal, Bose, Sony etc. This has the edge in low-end bass and battery life.
If you want stereo, then the JBL Link is hard to beat. Mono for parties – stereo for serious listening and then you need good L/R separation, so two speakers are best.