JBL Charge 5 review

JBL Charge 5 review 1

JBL’s Charge 5 is the latest addition to the Charge family of portable speakers. And while it doesn’t bring a lot of changes, it’s a very good outdoor portable speaker.

It produces a powerful sound, and now dust-proof as well as waterproof with its IP67 rating – you can also charge your devices from its big internal battery, too. 

The Charge 5 won’t provide you with the same sound quality as the best speakers on the market but for only $230 it’s capable. 

Price

The Charge 5 costs $230.

Design

Anyone familiar with the JBL portable speaker range will immediately recognise the Charge 5. It has the same sporty aesthetic as its predecessors, and it isn’t easy to spot the differences between the Charge 4 and the Charge 5.

JBL has replaced the silicone mat found on the bottom of the Charge 4 with rubber feet, preventing the speaker from moving. It has a slightly larger JBL logo on the front, there’s a latch on the side where you can plug in a USB-A charger for charging your devices, and it maintains the same control panel for power, Bluetooth pairing, volume, next song and Party Boost. Why change a winning formula? It works well.

The main change in the design is one you won’t immediately notice. The Charge 5 now has an IP67 rating, an improvement on the Charge 4’s IPX7. This means the Charge 5 is both waterproof, up to a depth of 1m for 30-minutes, and it’s also completely dust-proof. If you’re looking for a speaker for the beach, you can feel comfortable taking the Charge 5 with you.

The Charge 5 comes in multiple colours, black, red, teal, blue, camouflage and grey. They all look fine.

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Sound

For a small affordable speaker, I was impressed by the sound the Charge 5 can produce.

It’s powerful. I was surprised how loud this speaker, that’s no bigger than a drink bottle, can get. The sound quality does suffer at the highest volumes, but it’s more than sufficient for a house party with a lot of people.

The Charge 5 has a 52 x 90mm bass driver and a separate 20mm tweeter. This combination allows for an expansive sound that makes it easy to pinpoint instruments in the mix. Where other JBL speakers sometimes muddy the mix, the Charge 5 is clear and concise.

The Charge 5 can’t quite reach the lowest, sub-frequency sounds for bass-heavy tracks, but it’s more than capable for hard-hitting bass lines and kicks. Listening to Stylo by the Gorillaz had a nice bounce to it, and the higher-frequency sounds were present and clear without getting distorted by the bass.

Similarly, less bassy songs like Almost (Sweet Music) by Hozier sound great. The vocals come through nicely, and the expansive soundstage allows you to hear every asset of the track. It’s very good.

Features

The Charge 5 is a no-frills portable speaker. Its only unique features are PartyBoost and Powerbank modes.

Partyboost allows you to connect up to 100 compatible JBL speakers to play simultaneously. This allows you to turn a mono sound into a stereo sound, or you can spread the music around your house. This can be turned on on top of the speaker, or you can use the JBL app. It’s easy. 

Powerbank mode allows you to connect a USB-A charger to the Charge 5 and charge your devices using the speaker’s battery. I can’t see this being used often; however, if your phone’s low on battery but you want to continue listening to music, it could be helpful. It’s especially useful when a PowerPoint may not be readily available, like at the beach or camping. 

The Charge 5 supports Bluetooth 5.1 as well. An upgrade on the Charge 4.

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Battery

The Charge 5 boasts a 20-hour battery that can fluctuate depending on use. Playing audio at mid-volume will get you close to those 20 hours, but anything above that will decrease its longevity.

Unfortunately, the Charge 5 doesn’t have a fast charge option and charging the speaker from empty to complete takes 4-hours which is a slog.

Verdict

For a small speaker, the Charge 5 boasts a powerful sound.

It produces an audio quality that’s clear and expansive, and while it struggles with sub frequencies, that’s to be expected from a speaker with only one bass driver. Less deep bass sounds feel great, and overall the sound quality is very good.

If you already own a Charge 4 or even a Charge 3, there isn’t enough here to warrant upgrading to the Charge 5; however, if you’re looking for an affordable portable speaker, then you’re going to love the Charge 5.

Its IP67 rating means you’ll never have to worry about it. You can take it anywhere, and it’ll be fine. It’s a solid outdoor speaker.

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