Since its release in early 2018, the JBL Clip 3 has established itself as a reliable portable Bluetooth speaker with good sound and a versatile design. For a few years, it was the go-to choice for a small adventure speaker. Until the release of its successor, the Clip 4, which was released back in 2020.
Comparatively, the two speakers share the same principle. They provide portability and durability at the forefront. Still, the Clip 4 saw some noticeable changes made. Let’s compare how these two speakers stack against each other and see whether upgrading your Clip 3 to the more recent Clip 4 is worth upgrading.
If you’d like to see the JBL Clip 4 covered in more detail, we have a full review published.
JBL CLIP 3
JBL CLIP 4
|3.58 x 3.38 x 1.81″
|3.39 x 3.72 x 2.14″
|Up to 10 Hours
|Up to 10 Hours
|120Hz – 20kHz
|100Hz – 20kHz
Build, Design & Durability
Winner: Clip 4
While both the Clip 3 and 4 have durable designs intended for outdoor use, the Clip 4 has the advantage of a dust resistance rating. Both are relatively small and compact Bluetooth speakers, with the Clip 4 only weighing 25g more.
Design-wise, the most noticeable difference is the shape of the speaker. The Clip 3 has a round shape with a narrow carabiner, while the Clip 4 is closer to a square with rounded edges. The carabiner on the Clip 4 is wider and offers more clearance, letting you attach it to thicker objects. This is an often-overlooked change between these two speakers.
The construction of the speaker shell varies a lot in the materials used. Both speakers have a fabric wrap, but the Clip 3’s is only on the face of the speaker, while the Clip 4’s fabric extends across most of the surface. This adds more durability to the Clip 4, reducing the chances of scratches on the speaker’s surface.
Both of the Clips have the same buttons. Volume up, volume down, play/pause, Bluetooth, and power. The Clip 4’s controls are easier to press while on the move. The Clip 3 has indented buttons, which can be challenging for those with large hands.
JBL’s Clip 4 has several color designs with a toned-down appearance, while the Clip 3 is available in more vibrant color options.
Features & Functionality
Winner: Clip 3
Both speakers lack the features and functionality of midrange and large Bluetooth speakers. The Clip 3 has more to offer with its inclusion of a built-in microphone that can be used for taking calls while the speaker is in use. The Clip 4 doesn’t offer additional functionality, as JBL dropped the microphone support for its release.
Winner: Clip 3
The Clip 3 has more to offer when it comes to connection types. It supports Bluetooth 4.1 and has an auxiliary input for wired connections. In line with modern Bluetooth speaker designs, the release of the Clip 4 had the aux input removed. The Clip 4 has the advantage of supporting Bluetooth 5.1, a more efficient version—however, the Bluetooth 4.1 offered by the Clip 3 is still a viable connection type today.
Winner: Clip 4
When comparing the sound quality of these two speakers, the JBL Clip 4 comes out ahead. It has a wider frequency range than the Clip 3, and the additional bass extension is noticeable. One problem with the heavy bass presence is that the Clip 4 sounds muffled and lacks vibrance at moderate volumes, being overwhelmed by the lows. Conversely, the Clip 3 sounds crisp and clear at moderate volume levels, with a bright sound.
When the volume is cranked to 80% on both speakers, the Clip 4 comes out on top because of its deeper bass and improved compression. The increased volume makes the Clip 4 sound more vibrant in the midrange and treble, while the Clip 3 sounds thin at this volume, lacking the depth found in the 4. Additionally, the Clip 3 suffers from noticeable compression artifacts at high volume.
Both speakers can get relatively loud for their size, but the Clip 4 has a slight advantage, with a 5W driver, compared to the 3W driver found in the Clip 3.
Winner: Clip 3
Both models have the same manufacturer-specified battery estimate at 10 hours. However, when we tested these two speakers, we found that the Clip 4 could only deliver around 6 hours of playtime at 80%, while the Clip 3 impresses with up to 12 hours of playtime at the same volume level. The Clip 4 is a faster charging speaker, but only for around 30 minutes. The Clip 3 and Clip 4 can be charged in under 3 hours.
In summary, both speakers have value. The Clip 3 is quite old now, and if you can still find it available, it has a lot to offer, with more connectivity options and battery life than the Clip 4, and better audio quality at lower volume. The Clip 4 performs better at higher volume and has more bass. The wider clearance gap on the carabiner is also a noteworthy benefit of the 4.
If you’ve got the Clip 3 and you’re considering upgrading. Whether it’s worthwhile depends on how you use your speaker. It is worth upgrading if you want more bass and a little extra volume. But if you’re happy with how your Clip 3 is performing, you won’t see a significant upgrade advantage. At this point, it may be worth waiting until the Clip 5 release.
JBL Clip 5 Release Date & Expectations
We can’t discuss JBL’s Clip 3 and 4 without discussing the inevitable release of the Clip 5. With the Clip 4 being released over three years ago, we expect to see the JBL Clip 5 released, or at least announced, in 2024. Since the Clip 4 substantially overlaps with the Go 3, there is some thought that JBL may opt to drop one of these two speakers from their lineup. But with both the GO and Clip series still seeing independent success, it may be a while before that happens. The Clip series is older and more iconic than the GO, and the Clip 4 outperforms the Go 3 in a side-by-side comparison.
Should you wait for the release of the Clip 5 instead of buying the 4? At this stage, there hasn’t been any public statement on the Clip 5’s release, and while we anticipate a release soon, there are no guarantees. If the Clip 4 sounds appealing to you, I’d recommend buying one now and then reselling it and upgrading when the Clip 5 is released.
What I’d Like To See From The Clip 5
While I still enjoy using the Clip 4, particularly for its ‘take it anywhere’ approach, it is becoming old (in Bluetooth speaker terms). Here are some ways that I’d like to see JBL improve on the Clip 4 with their next release:
JBL has recently started to include eco-friendly speaker designs as optional alternatives, often branded under the term ‘eco.’ I’d like to see the Clip 5 have a standard design incorporating recycled plastics and other eco-friendly approaches for the speaker and the packaging.
Speaker Pairing (Stereo & Boost)
Stereo pairing is a feature that can improve the listening experience across almost all types of Bluetooth speakers. It increases the coverage of sound and the soundstage. Because the Clip series is relatively affordable and so prevalent as a daily driver, pairing up multiple Clip 5s together could be useful for small gatherings where the Clip just doesn’t do enough.
For broader support, it would be great to see JBL offer pairing between multiple similar speakers, for example, pairing the Clip 5 with the Clip 4, so those upgrading can still use their old Clip 4.
The Clip 4 has a relatively fast charging time, but actual ‘fast charging’ hasn’t become prevalent in the speaker market yet. Allowing speakers to use mobile phone fast chargers would facilitate faster charging times and make the process convenient, as most people have frequent access to their phone chargers.