In this article I’ll compare the JBL Charge 4 to the JBL Charge 5 to help you determine which JBL Bluetooth speaker is right for you. While there are a lot of similarities between the two portable Bluetooth speakers, there are some major differences that may affect which one best meets your needs. In this article we’ll look at build and form factor, button access and features, power and ports, and I’ll also do a sound comparison.
All of the images associated with this review are included inline below, but if you’d prefer to watch this review you can do that in the below YouTube video. Also, please note that you’re not able to leave a comment directly on this article. If you have a question or feedback, please leave it on the YouTube video.
And a quick note before we get into the description that if you do want to purchase the JBL Charge 5 you can do so by clicking here. Alternatively, if you want to purchase the JBL Charge 4 you can do that by clicking here.
Build and Form Factor
First let’s look at the build and form factor of each device.
The JBL Charge 4 and the JBL Charge 5 have almost the exact same size dimensions, with both measuring in around 8.7-inches wide, 3.7-inches tall and 3.7 inches deep, and weighing in at just a little over two pounds. It shouldn’t be enough to affect your decision, but the JBL Charge 5 is the slightly smaller of the two Bluetooth speakers.
Both the Charge 4 and the Charge 5 feature the same wire mesh covering that gives JBL’s line of portable Bluetooth speakers its distinct look while keeping all of the internal parts safe and helping it hold up under tough conditions. The rubber end caps on the end of the speaker on the JBL Charge 5 stick out from the speaker unlike on the JBL Charge 4, which means that if you stand it vertically the Charge 5 will lean to one side. Additionally, the end caps on the Charge 5 have much more of a rubbery feel to them, whereas on the Charge 4 they feel more like plastic, and therefore I’d assume they have a higher likelihood of cracking. While the external passive radiators on both speakers have the same look and shape, the passive radiators on the JBL Charge 5 feel a bit more sturdy and like they have less give than those on the JBL Charge 4. Both feel tough, it’s just that the external passive radiators on the JBL Charge 5 feel tougher.
One of the bigger differences on the outside between the Charge 5 and the Charge 4 is the stand. The JBL Charge 4 has a flat base that’s roughly four inches wide that sits at the bottom of the speaker. Alternatively the Charge 5 features ridged rubber lines that run diagonal across that same location. It’s not a huge deal, but I did find it to make the Charge 5 a little less stable and more subject to being knocked over.
And lastly, the JBL Charge 5 is IP67 rated while the JBL Charge 4 is just IPX7 rated. This means that the Charge 4 is just dustproof, while the Charge 5 is both waterproof and dustproof. Specifically, the Charge 5 can be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes and operate just fine.
Now let’s take a look at the button access on each device.
The button location and layout on JBL Charge speakers has historically been very well done, so it’s good to see no major changes with the Charge 5. Both speakers have a button that lets them connect to other JBL speakers on the far left (the Charge 5 uses PartyBoost while the Charge 4 uses JBL Connect+, and I’ll discuss that more in a moment), with the Volume Down button sitting inside of that. The Power and Bluetooth buttons sit on a rubber pad in the middle of the row, and the Volume up and Play/Pause buttons sit on the right side of the row.
The biggest difference here is obviously the technology that JBL uses for each speaker to connect to other JBL speakers. Both JBL Connect+ and PartyBoost let you connect up to 100 other JBL speakers together, so there’s no difference there. The difference, and the only reason it appears JBL made the move away from JBL Connect+ to PartyBoost is the range that can be between connected speakers. JBL speakers connected through JBL Connect+ can hold a connection over roughly 40 yards, while speakers using JBL PartyBoost can hold a connection while up to roughly 80 yards away from each other. These distances are obviously with a clean line of sight and if other obstacles are in the way the range will decrease for either, but you’re looking to get two new speakers to connect to each other, you’ll probably want to go with the JBL Charge 5. It’s also important to note that JBL’s different connection technologies don’t work with each other, so you can’t connect a JBL Charge 4 with Connect+ to a JBL Charge 5 with PartyBoost. Said differently, you can only connect a JBL Connect+ speaker with another JBL Bluetooth speaker that uses Connect+, and a JBL PartyBoost speaker with another JBL Bluetooth speaker that uses PartyBoost.
It’s also worth saying the Play button on both speakers lets you start, stop and skip songs — and that’s it. Older JBL portable Bluetooth speakers let you configure the Play button to activate either Apple’s Siri or Google’s Assistant, but you can’t do that on either the JBL Charge 4 or the JBL Charge 5.
And one final note here. The button clickiness on both the JBL Charge 5 and the JBL Charge 4 is comparable, even though I did feel like the Charge 5 buttons were slightly easier to press.
Next, let’s do a sound comparison between the JBL Charge 4 and the JBL Charge 5 and test the audio quality.
For this sound comparison between the Charge 4 and the Charge 5 I’ll play samples from two songs on each speaker. One sample will be heavier on bass, and the other sample will be heavier on mid and high tones. To be clear, both samples were played at fifty percent audio under the exact same conditions and the audio files weren’t manipulated in any way and they were inserted into the audio track for this video after all of my editing was done.
Let’s start by listening to the audio clip that’s heavier on bass on both the JBL Charge 4 and the JBL Charge 5.
Next let’s listen to a clip with more mid and high tones on the JBL Charge 4 and JBL Charge 5.
The Charge 4 and the Charge 5 are very close in terms of sound quality, but I think the audio overall sounds cleaner on the Charge 5. When you have the volume cranked up to over 80 percent, both speakers will start to distort a little. It’s worth noting that the output power for both speakers is the same at 30-watts RMS, the frequency response for both speakers is the same at between 60 and 20 hertz, and the signal-to-noise ratio is the same at 80 decibels. Also, one other audio test I did was to take the speakers outside into a large open space to see how the sound carried. In that scenario the JBL Charge 5 really shined, pumping out audio that sounded great even from modest distances. But as a reminder speaker audio is experienced differently by everyone, so you’ll want to listen to the JBL Charge 5 or JBL Charge 4 in a store to make sure the audio quality is something you’re comfortable with as it relates to any other Bluetooth speakers you’re considering.
Power and Ports
Next let’s discuss power and ports.
One of the biggest changes from the JBL Charge 4 to the JBL Charge 5 is the removal of the 3.5-millimeter audio cable input port. That may be a deal breaker for some people, so it’s important to be aware of. And while use of a USB Type C input to charge the JBL Charge 5 didn’t change, where that port is located did. The USC C port on the Charge 4 is located under the port cover on the back of the device, while the USB C port on the Charge 5 is located next to the port cover.
Next, both devices feature a USB Type A port located under the port cover that’s sole purpose is to let you charge other devices. You should note that any devices connected to either the Charge 4 or the Charge 5 via the USB Type A port for charging will still need to be connected to your speaker via Bluetooth if you want to play audio from your device through the speaker.
And with regard to the USB Type A port it’s important to note that while both the Charge 4 and the Charge 5 offer 20 hours of music playback from a full charge, using the Bluetooth speaker to charge other devices pulls from the same battery and will reduce your overall playback time. The time for both devices to achieve a full charge is also the same, at roughly four hours.
The final item to discuss in this section is how each Bluetooth speaker’s battery life is presented. The JBL Charge 4 features five dots on the front of the base at the bottom of the speaker. As your battery’s power decreases, the number of dots that are lit up also decreases until the final dot starts blinking red. Alternatively, the JBL Charge 5 features a vertical LED light bar on the front of the speaker directly beneath the logo that will be fully lit up when the speaker is fully charged, and will decrease as the speaker’s battery power goes down. It will flash red when the battery is close to drained.
Some other final things you’ll want to take into consideration. Neither the JBL Charge 4 or the JBL Charge 5 offer Apple Siri or Google Assistant integration. Neither speaker features a microphone that can be used to take phone calls directly on the device. The Charge 5 does use Bluetooth 5.1, which offers better data transfer rates and a stronger wireless range than Bluetooth 4.2, which is used by the Charge 4. And finally, the price. Because the JBL Charge 5 is new it retails for $180 US dollars, while you should be able to snag the JBL Charge 4 for around $130 US dollars.
In conclusion, and given that the audio quality of both the JBL Charge 5 and the JBL Charge 4 is so similar, I’d say the speaker I’d recommend really comes down to what specific features you care about. If you have to be able to connect to other devices using a 3.5-millimeter audio cable or you’ve got an older JBL Bluetooth speaker you’ll want to connect to with JBL Connect+ and not PartyBoost, I’d recommend getting the JBL Charge 4. If toughness and durability are important to you, or if you plan on exposing your speaker to a lot of water, I’d recommend the JBL Charge 5. If price is your driver, you can save a few bucks on the JBL Charge 4 and still not be missing out on a lot. And finally, if you feel like the JBL Charge 5 is right for you, you can click here to buy it on Amazon. Or, if you feel like the JBL Charge 4 is more your style, you can click here to check it out on Amazon.