JBL Clip 4
The JBL Clip series was originally introduced in 2015, seeing further refinements through the years with each new iteration. The Clip 4 is the latest in the Clip range and brings improved weather resistance, more bass, and better Bluetooth connectivity.
The Bottom Line
The JBL Clip 4 is a versatile and small Bluetooth speaker that is well-suited to daily use. It is small enough to carry in your pocket or strap to your belt. It is also commonly attached to bicycle handlebars and used in showers. It has a deep bass with detailed highs, making it easy to see why it is such a popular choice.
An Introduction To The Clip 4
The Clip series of speakers was initially introduced in May 2014, with the latest 4th-generation version dropping in March 2021. Over this period, the Clip changed in appearance, moving from a primarily metal design with a transparent grille to a fabric-wrapped exterior. The Clip 4 is also when JBL moved away from their somewhat discrete and iconic logo placement and went big and bold, with the JBL logo on the Clip 4 occupying much of the speaker’s surface.
The focus of the Clip series has been to provide a speaker with unrivaled portability, separating itself from other small speakers in the JBL range with its clip feature, allowing you to connect it to just about anything, taking the speaker with you wherever you need it.
Design & Build Quality
The Clip 4 has a durable design with tight-knit woven fabric, protecting it from scratches. It is slightly smaller and heavier than the Clip 3 and has improved weather protection, now with IP67. The large JBL logo has less aesthetic appeal than the old JBL logo but doesn’t impact the overall high quality of the design and build. The latch mechanic is well-engineered and makes improves versatility. It also features easy-to-use controls.
Durability of Finish: 8.2/10
Feel of Buttons: 8.0/10
The Clip 4 features a unique oval design with the latch extending outwards from the speaker at the top. When using the latch function, there is a clearance distance of 0.62” at the narrowest point, an important distinction for those looking to attach the Clip to their bicycle handles. There is a cut-out area at the top of the speaker where the latch fits. Without it, the clearance would be limited to 0.5”.
The Clip gets its name from its primary feature, a large built-in clip that makes it easy to attach the speaker to your jeans, backpack, bicycle, or even onto a motorbike. With its relatively small (3.4 x 5.3 x 1.8”) and lightweight (0.53 lbs) build, the Clip 4 has become a popular choice for an everyday Bluetooth speaker. The weight and size are similar to the Sony XB13 and the JBL GO 3, but the attachment clip makes it easier to transport than both these alternatives.
The latch mechanism is made from rubber, which protects your equipment from getting scratched when clipping the speaker on. There isn’t the same protection at the top of the latch area, where the speaker will rest when being hung – so this may cause wear over time if used regularly on metal.
From a design perspective, I preferred JBL’s old logo approach. The large JBL logo makes the speaker look a little tacky and would benefit from the old JBL approach of discreet yet identifiable branding. This large logo is raised from the speaker and made from a rubberized material that prevents the speaker from slipping when placed facedown.
How To Pair The Clip 4
- Turn the speaker on by holding the power button for 2 seconds.
- Press the Bluetooth pairing button on the bottom side of the speaker (make sure you hear an acoustic ring).
- Once pairing begins, you will see the LED indicator on the Clip begin flashing frequently.
- While the Clip 4 is in pairing mode, open your phone and scan for Bluetooth devices.
- Select the JBL Clip 4 from the Bluetooth connections menu, and you’ll be ready. There will be another audio confirmation once it is successfully connected.
The power button is located on the bottom side of the speaker, next to the Bluetooth pairing button. The rest of the controls are on the front of the speaker above the logo and include a volume down, play button, and volume up. To skip tracks, press the play button twice in quick succession.
The USB-C charging port is located at the speaker’s bottom edge and lacks the protective seal we are used to seeing in Bluetooth speakers. This is a great example of modern mobile technology incorporated into other devices. Mobile phones have had water-resistant charging ports for several years, but we are only starting to see these same pieces of technology being added to speakers.
A series of rubber lines along the speaker’s base reduces traction on surfaces, which is particularly useful when the speaker is on and the vibrations cause the speaker to shake.
Regarding durability, the Clip 4 has IP67 weather resistance, protecting it from dust, splashes, and limited submergence in shallow water. IP67 is the highest standard of weather resistance found on Bluetooth speakers. The woven exterior is durable and doesn’t show wear easily; it feels extremely well made and up to the standards JBL has set over the years. It does collect dust and sand quite easily, but this can be washed off with a gentle spray from a hose.
One thing I do worry about is the long-term wear on the metal part of the latch. Even though it seemed durable during all my testing, I suspect that over an extended period, those using the speaker on their bicycle’s handlebars may notice some damage to the paint.
The Clip 4 Produces Strong Bass and Pronounced Detail
The sound of the Clip 4 is better than the GO 3 and Clip 3 in most ways. It has improved bass performance, along with rich detail. Some moderate compression artifacts degrade the sound when the volume is pushed up, but this is nearly inescapable with a speaker of its size. It is suitable for most genres of music, including dance music.
Bass Performance: 7.9/10
Mid-tone Performance: 7.7/10
Treble Performance: 7.4/10
Balanced Sound: 7.2/10
The JBL Clip 4 has a single 5W 1.5” driver and can reach a relatively high volume (80dB SPL). I used a variety of music genres to test the performance, paying attention to the performance of each frequency range.
The Clip 4 has a pronounced low-end that, while not as deep as the XB13/XB100, is an improvement over the Go 3, which has a flat sound signature with recessed bass frequencies. The Clip 4 can reproduce wide bass that will get you moving. The bass is present at all volume levels but becomes most lively after the 50% volume threshold.
When playing the track Mantra from Mize, the Clip 4 flexes its low-end reproduction capabilities, providing an authoritative low-end sound that caters to EDM and Hip-Hop.
The midrange is enhanced in the low mids but drops off closer to the middle of the midrange; this causes certain midrange frequencies to sound lively and clear while others sometimes sound slightly recessed. Overall, the midrange performance is better than that experienced with the Sony XB13 but falls slightly behind the GO 3.
The treble performance is bright and detailed, managing to encapsulate the nuances found in quality production. Vocals in this range are pronounced and clear. I prefer the treble of the Clip 4 over both the Sony XB13 and the GO 3.
Sound Profile & Soundstage
To test the dispersion of the Clip 4, I placed it next to both the Sony XB13 and the JBL Go 3, switching between them every few seconds to see which stood out as the winner, and the results were mixed. The XB13 has a more immersive sound with wider dispersion, but the recessed sound almost feels dreamy or ethereal and lacks detail. The Clip 4, on the other hand, outperformed both the XB13 and GO 3 in its retention of details when listening from different angles.
Dynamics & Frequency Response Range
At these high volume levels, there are compression artifacts that creep in and cause the sound to come across as a bit muddier and flat. At more moderate listening levels, the details are impressive for a speaker of its size. The frequency response range spans from 100Hz to 20kHz, which feels deceptive, given that the bass feels so wide. This is due to the way that the low-end is tuned.
It has a signal-to-noise ratio of 70dB and a total harmonic distortion of less than 1% at 1W. A high THD results in reduced audio quality, affecting the amount of clarity and distortion.
The battery performance of the Clip 4 is average for a speaker of its type. It has enough juice to cover most of your workday and should suffice for most outdoor occasions. You can also charge the Clip 4 using a power bank with a USB-C charging port. With a charging time of under 3 hours, charging on the go is relatively easy.
Charging Type: USB-C
Estimated Playtime: Up to 10 hours
Playtime: 6 Hours 45 Minutes
Charging Time: 2 Hours 50 Minutes
While JBL advertises up to 10 hours of playtime from the Clip, I got 6 hours and 45 minutes of battery during my testing at varying volume levels. Since this speaker doesn’t have many additional features, you aren’t likely to see much variation in battery life, except for varying volume levels, which can still have a noticeable difference in battery.
This battery performance is close to standard for speakers of this size, with the JBL GO 3 offering just a fraction less performance from its battery. Still, the Clip 4 falls behind the Sony XB13/XB100, which provides up to 13 hours of playtime. The battery will last long enough for most uses but does require somewhat frequent charging if used daily.
The built-in Lithium-ion battery is charged via USB-C, with a charging cable included. The charging process takes just shy of 3 hours from an empty state.
Overall, the battery performance from the Clip 4 is a little disappointing but also not a game changer, given its position against similar options.
Apps, Features & Connectivity
This speaker lacks the many modern connectivity options we’ve seen added to larger portable options. There isn’t any voice assistant or Wi-Fi connectivity. Similarly, JBL doesn’t provide a mobile app for the Clip 4, leaving little in the way of customization.
Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP 1.3, AVRCP 1.6
Bluetooth Version: 5.1
Bluetooth Range: 100 meters
Frequency Transmission Range: 100 Hz – 20,000 Hz
App Support: No
There is only the ability to connect to your source device via Bluetooth. I don’t like how JBL removed the aux input we saw with the Clip 3 with this release. Still, the departure of auxiliary inputs seems commonplace with these small Bluetooth speakers, with the XB13 and GO 3 not catering to it.
The Bluetooth connectivity was improved between the Clip 3 and Clip 4, with the new version offering the same connectivity we see in the GO 3. Bluetooth 5.1 is a fairly new release, albeit very stable. The range and reliability of the connection are improved with the Clip 4.
Summary Of The Clip 4
The JBL Clip 4 performs very well for a speaker of its size. While it lacks many modern features found in larger Bluetooth speakers (stereo pairing, app EQ, etc.), it has a lot to offer regarding its audio performance. There is sufficient low-end bass for all genres of music, while the midrange and treble are detailed and clear. It can get relatively loud but suffers some quality degradation at max volume.
At around $80 retail, the Clip 4 is fairly pricy for a speaker of its size. It costs around $30 more than the GO 3 and nearly double that of the XB13. While the performance is relatively close to the GO 3, I recommend paying extra for the Clip 4 if it is within your means. If you’re looking to save some money, the GO 3 may be preferable to you.
It works best as a daily driver, particularly for those who live an active lifestyle and may want music while riding their bicycle to work or for mountain bikers. It is also well-suited to those who work in labor, where the Clip 4 can easily be attached to your belt. It has relatively fast charging and sufficient battery life for most purposes.