The Bottom Line
While the Charge 5 has seen some alterations here and there from previous models, I wouldn’t consider it a worthwhile upgrade, as the sound quality and basic functionality remains the same across the Charge range. That said, the JBL Charge 5 is an incredibly quality, versatile, and reliable portable Bluetooth speaker.
Regarded by many as the kings of portable Bluetooth audio, JBL have become a household name as their extensive range of speakers is commonly seen in homes across the country, or at the very least, a JBL-inspired Bluetooth speaker can be found in many living rooms, offices, and kitchen counters. Their Charge series of speakers is one of the classic models that aren’t too small and aren’t too large either, carrying a handful of useful features that make them ideal on-the-go speakers.
Design and Feel
The Charge 5 is the latest in the Charge range of Bluetooth speakers by JBL. If you’re unfamiliar with these models, you can think of them as a bigger version of the Flip Speakers.
Around the size, shape, and weight of a football, the Charge 5 is portable enough to toss in your backpack or beach bag for a day out, or have it stationed in your trunk for a tailgate party without occupying too much space. If you’re after something a little smaller, check out the JBL Flip speakers, or for a more pocket-sized option, the Clip Speakers may be a good choice.
The JBL Charge 5 speaker is designed to lay on its rubber base, and while it could be positioned upright, this will obstruct one of the bass radiators from effectively pushing air, and will cause the lower frequencies to resonate into whatever surface the speaker is on. The I/O block is located on the back of the speaker just above the bottom curve, allowing you to charge the speaker or send a USB-powered electrical charge to your cell phone without having to balance the speaker on its side.
On top of the speaker, you’ll find the control panel, which is comprised of 6 buttons giving you control over power, volume, wireless pairing, Bluetooth, and play/pause. I would have liked to see multi-purpose buttons on this speaker to allow track skipping/backtracking, however, the simplicity is also refreshing at the same time.
How durable is it?
So, this speaker is portable enough to go with you to the beach or lake, but what happens if it drops or falls in the water?
The JBL Charge 5 is IP67 Weather Resistant which means it can basically be exposed to the harshest of conditions and still operate as expected. Fully waterproof, the Charge 5 can be splashed or hosed down after a sandy day at the beach, and will even survive being submerged underwater, though I wouldn’t recommend this. Aside from water resistance, the JBL Charge 5 can fight off the dust, snow, and other hazardous materials, and is tough enough to function effectively after a drop or two onto a hard surface. The JBL Charge 5 can take a beating, but let’s rather be nice to our Bluetooth speakers, yes?
What are the connectivity options?
The JBL Charge 5 supports Bluetooth pairings using Bluetooth 5.1 technology, which isn’t seen very often in Bluetooth speakers yet. This Bluetooth Codec is slightly more energy-efficient than previous codes, and supports Bluetooth multipoint functionality, allowing two devices to pair with the Charge 5 at once.
As for the connection strength itself, you can get reasonably far away from the speaker without experiencing any hiccups, though a small-ish speaker like the Charge 5 wouldn’t likely be hundreds of feet away from you in most scenarios. The JBL Charge 5 doesn’t have an auxiliary input, so wired listening methods are not available. This disappoints me as it’s a feature I really enjoy having for the convenience, battery preservation, and versatility, but I suppose the majority of users are listening wirelessly, and the updated Bluetooth version makes up for this loss.
Does it sound good?
Firstly, the JBL Charge 5 can get pretty loud, and sounds great no matter where you’re positioned as sound is pumped from the Charge 5 in an almost-360-degree pattern. The Charge 5 can easily be used to power a small to medium-sized house party, tailgate, or barbeque, where listeners can stand up to around 100 feet away from the speaker and still enjoy the well-defined sound quality.
The JBL Charge 5 doesn’t really offer anything unique from the others in terms of sound quality, and sticks with JBL’s classic sound signature. The JBL signature, known by audiophiles as the Harman Curve resembles a cross between a HiFi system and a car’s sound system, with accentuated lower frequencies, full-bodied and beefy midrange, and crisp highs.
The JBL Charge 5 can be enjoyed at low listening volumes- you don’t necessarily need to drive this speaker to the max to start hearing the thumping bass, and even at louder listening levels close to maximum volume, the Charge 5 retains tight and punchy sound without distorting.
Some might be disappointed by the lack of a Bass Boost button, though I can assure you, it isn’t necessary. On some tracks, the bass can even be a little overpowering as it creeps into the lower midrange and obstructs some of the warmth of the song to come through.
As a former hospitality industry professional, the JBL Charge 5 was my speaker of choice to use in kitchens, while others sound horrible on stainless steel counters surrounded by aluminum and plastic tools/containers, the Charge 5 managed to pump whatever music I sent through it while sounding good and carrying enough volume to overpower the sounds of equipment and tools.
Overall, the Charge 5 carries excellent sound quality that compliments any line of listening, and could even be used to watch movies or listen to the radio.
How’s the Battery Life?
The 20-hour advertised playtime is fairly accurate, and while it’s certainly not the strongest battery we’ve dealt with, it’s more than enough to last a whole day at the beach, tailgate, or house party. The only real let-down here is the lack of fast-charging technology, so the Charge 5 takes around 4 hours to fully recharge.
The battery status is shown by an LED light, where the color/brightness of the LED indicates battery strength in low, half, and full increments.
The JBL Charge 5 can charge mobile devices using any USB or lightning cable, and while it isn’t nearly as efficient as a direct wall socket, it’s quick enough to get some extra juice to your cell phone if you’re running dangerously low on battery and want to keep the party going.
JBL PartyBoost and Portable App
The Charge 5 supports JBL’s PartyBoost function, allowing you to pair two compatible speakers for a widened stereo image, or up to 100 JBL speakers for an extensive speaker network. The PartyBoost function only allows pairing with selected JBL speakers, so be sure to check the speaker compatibility guide.
The JBL Portable App is used to initiate and calibrate PartyBoost networks, as well as perform firmware updates.
How does the Charge 5 compare to the charge 4?
As amazing as the Charge 5 is, the price tag isn’t exactly budget-friendly, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say you can get the same quality plus more features at the same price point, and to some degree, you’re paying for the three letters on the front of the speaker. Since the Charge 5 is one of JBL’s fast-moving models, you may be able to get your hands on a charge 4 at a better price.
The most noticeable difference between these models is the absence of an auxiliary input on the Charge 5, so if you enjoy wired connections, the JBL Charge 4 may be better suited for your needs. Aside from the missing auxiliary port, the Charge 5 runs on Bluetooth 5.1 rather than the 4.2 codec the Charge 4 utilizes, so some extended listening range, transmission quality, and low-latency listening can be expected.
What are some other alternatives?
If you’re intrigued by the features of the JBL Charge 5 but don’t quite have the budget for it, I highly recommend the Treblab HD Range of Bluetooth speakers, which are heavily inspired by JBL’s design style and features and will save you a fair amount of coin. Alternatively, JBL has a refurbished program on their website where you can buy second-hand JBL products that have been fixed, should any defects have been the cause for their return.
So what’s the verdict?
Overall, the JBL Charge 5 is an exciting, versatile, and reliable Bluetooth speaker that begs to be heard. The Charge 5 is well-built and will provide countless hours of entertainment, no matter your preferred style of music. While an earlier Charge model can be purchased for a slightly more affordable price, the Charge 5 offers some new technology that can seriously elevate the user experience.