JBL Clip 4 review

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JBL’s Clip 4 is a portable speaker that knows exactly what it’s trying to be: an affordable, no-frills portable speaker, specifically designed to be taken outdoors. And for the most part, it delivers.

It’s simple to use, sturdy, and waterproof. And while the sound it produces isn’t the best, for only NZD$100 it’s more than good enough.

Pros

  • Handy carabiner design
  • Cheap
  • Loud for its size
  • Easy to take around

Cons

  • Struggles with bass
  • Mono speaker

Sound demo

Price and competition

The JBL Clip 4 costs NZD$100 (USD$70; £39.99). This makes the Clip 4 a very affordable portable speaker. 

Its main competition is the UE Wonderboom 2, which is slightly more expensive, costing NZD$130 (USD$90; £39.99).

While the Wonderboom 2 has better sound quality than the Clip 4, JBL’s speaker is more portable. Its unique carabiner design sets it apart from other portable speakers on the market, and it works well.

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Carabiner FTW

JBL’s Clip 4 is designed to be taken outdoors. It’s a small speaker measuring only 134.50 x 86.30 x 46.00mm, and its oval shape is easy to hold in one hand. It also has a solid build quality. I had no issues throwing this speaker to a friend as I was never worried it would break.

At first, I was puzzled about who this speaker was targeting. But after using it around the house and at the beach, I understood why this speaker works so well. Its carabiner design is brilliant. It’s easy to attach to a bag, belt buckle, or hang on a tree while gardening. The carabiner is large enough to fit anywhere and solid enough to hold its weight. I kept finding all sorts of uses for the carabiner. I even had it clipped to my jeans while vacuuming.

The Clip 4 is light, weighing only 240 grams, which was perfect because it wasn’t an intrusive weight hanging from my bag or trousers. 

I like the aesthetic of the Clip 4. The grille covering feels nice in hand, and it boasts a sporty look. It’s available in 9 colours. It looks like a speaker you’re supposed to take outdoors.

The button controls are easy to use. The play button and volume up and down buttons are located on the face of the speaker, and the power and Bluetooth buttons are on the side. A double press of the play button skips tracks, but I did find it frustrating that there wasn’t a way to go back to the previous song.

The Clip 4 also has an IP67 water resistance rating which means it can withstand a significant amount of water. You can fully submerge the speaker in up to 1m of water for 30 minutes, and it will be fine. This is great. Getting caught in the rain, or leaving things out in the rain, happens to me more than I care to admit here in New Zealand. I took the Clip 4 into the shower and put it through its paces and it came out unscathed. It’s impressive, as the speaker has an open USB-C port for charging, and you don’t have to cover this port to maintain its IP67 rating.

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Punching above its weight

While the design of the Clip 4 is well done, a portable speaker is only as good as the sound it produces, and the Clip 4 isn’t too bad.

It pays to remember that this is a small speaker costing only NZD$100. It would be harsh to expect the best sound on the portable speaker market here. However, I was impressed by the sound the affordable Clip 4 can produce. 

The Clip 4 has a 40mm, 5-watt driver inside, and it can get loud. But at higher volumes, I did notice the sound became “tinny”; however, at mid-volume, it was fine.

The bass is where the Clip 4 struggles. Due to its small size, long bass notes can cause a significant amount of distortion in the sound. This is dependent on the song, though. If the bass is at the forefront of a mix, then the bass will sound okay. However, like I said, I found listening to hip hop tracks with long bass notes, like Catfish Billy 2 by Yelawolf, had significant amounts of distortion. 

With that said, I was impressed by the amount of punch the Clip 4 could produce with kick notes and quick bass hits. Listening to Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow was punchy, and it sounded good. I did have to keep the volume to the midrange, though. As soon as I went into higher volumes, the distortion on all bass notes was much more noticeable.

For less bassy genres, I had no issues with the Clip 4. The sound sounded natural. Well, as natural as a mono speaker can. It can be hard to pinpoint specific sounds, but this is to be expected for a small portable speaker.

Overall I found the sound on the Clip 4 was good, and taking into consideration the speaker only costs NZD$100, it’s actually quite impressive.

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Battery

The Clip 4 boasts a 10-hour battery life which is standard in the market. This does change based on the volume, with higher volumes draining the battery faster. Obviously. 

The Clip 4 also has a 3 hour charging time which is also pretty standard in the industry. It’s fine.

Verdict

I like JBL’s Clip 4. Its carabiner design makes it easy to take anywhere, and it has a solid build which means I never worried about damaging it.

While the sound isn’t the best, it’s impressive for a small speaker that fits in the palm of my hand and only costs NZD$100. 

For bass-heavy songs, you’ll notice distortion, but for everything else, it sounds fine. Just don’t play it at full volume.

If you’re outdoors often and you want an affordable, no-frills speaker that’s waterproof and tough, then the JBL Clip 4 will do a great job.

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