JBL Charge 5 full review

JBL has long been a go-to for some of the best Bluetooth speakers and the Charge 5 is no exception, which is just as good outdoors as it is indoors. Here’s our full review.

If you have around £160/US$180 to spend on a Bluetooth speaker then the JBL Charge 5 is an excellent travel companion that’s ready to go for any occasion, particularly pool parties thanks to its long battery life and durable waterproof design.

Design & Build

JBL hasn’t changed the design of the Charge 5 dramatically compared to previous models but there are some noticeable tweaks. The logo on the front is now huge and there’s a large status light below it.

It’s still a medium-sized cylinder covered in fabric and chunky rubber ends. Hard buttons for party mode, volume and play/pause sit atop the speaker either side of rubber ones for power and Bluetooth.

JBL Charge 5 buttons

JBL has found a nice balance of size and weight here to ensure there’s space for enough audio power while keeping the Charge 5 easy to grab and take wherever. It still comes in at under 1kg.

The round shape might not always be ideal but diagonal lines of grippy rubber on the bottom keep it steady on a flat surface and you can put it upright on one end if you wish.

It feels extremely sturdy and not the kind of device you will worry about damaging and it’s now IP67 rated giving you even more peace of mind. It means it’s fully dust and waterproof, so great for having around the pool or cleaning off spillages.

JBL Charge 5 bass radiator

I’ve taken a look at the blue/petrol Charge 5, but you can get it in a range of different colours: black, red, grey, teal, white, pink, khaki/forest green and squad/camouflage. Names and availability depend on market.

Sound Quality & Features

The JBL Charge 5 has improved sonics compared to its predecessor with a slightly larger bass driver which the firm calls “an optimized long excursion driver”. It has the same dual 65mm passive bass radiators visible at either end but now has a 20mm tweeter.

While the frequency range remains at 65-20,000Hz, the main driver isn’t having to cover everything thanks to the help of the tweeter. The Charge 5 also has more power overall with 40W total, making for a 30% increase.

It’s easy to connect over Bluetooth 5.1 and the Charge 5 can connect to two devices. If you just want to power up and pump the tunes with minimal hassle the JBL is a great choice. The speaker sounds great both indoors and out with plenty of power, already sounding loud with my phone set at around 25%.

JBL Charge 5 Bluetooth speaker

The focus of the tuning is bass with warm, rich and often booming low-end but theirs enough mid-range and top-end to keep things balanced most of the time. It does suit bassy dance music, though so you might be better off elsewhere if you plan to mostly listen to delicate music.

Realistically, the JBL Charge 5 is designed to be a party speaker and it does this job very well indeed. However, note that this isn’t a speaker with 360-degree sound so you do need to point it in the right direction.

As with previous models, the idea of the Charge is that you can, well, charge other devices like your phone. It’s essentially a power bank as well as a speaker so a USB-A port on the back means you can plug in when you’re running low – at the expense of the speaker’s battery life, of course.

But even if you do top up occasionally, the Charge 5’s battery life is epic. JBL quotes 20 hours and in my testing, it’s one of those speakers that just seems to never die, and I’ve only had to charge it once in weeks of regular use.

JBL Charge 5 ports

When you do charge it, there’s a USB-C port which is an upgrade compared to the Charge 4.

You can hook the Charge 5 up to the official JBL Portable app (previously called JBL Connect) but there’s not very much you can do. It’s namely for paring the speaker with another in stereo mode or more (over 100) for party mode.

These are collectively known as PartyBoost and with just one sample for review, isn't something I've been able to test.

There’s also the option to switch off feedback sounds if you find them annoying, rename the device and check the battery level. Finally, you can ‘take a tour’ but this is just two screens telling you about party and stereo modes.

JBL Portable app

What would be nice is some EQ, even just basic bass and treble dials, to adjust the sound to your personal taste.

With a basic app, it's perhaps no surprise that the Charge 5 isn't a smart speaker like some rivals so you can't use the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa with it. In fact, it doesn't have any built-in microphones at all so can't handle phone calls either.

Price

The JBL Charge 5 comes in at £159.99 or US$179.95 so it’s not a budget Bluetooth speaker but it’s also not crazily expensive.

It put it in a similar league to rivals such as the Sonos Roam, Marshall Emberton and Bose SoundLink Revolve II. They are all great speakers in their own right but each offers a slightly different USP.

Check them out and others in our best Bluetooth speaker chart.

If you do like the look of the Charge 5, you can buy it directly from JBL or retailers like Amazon, Very, AO and Currys PC World in the UK.

In the US, you can also get it direct at JBL and retailers including Amazon, Newegg and Dell.

Verdict

It might not have smart features but if you want a durable and powerful Bluetooth speaker for a range of situations that'll happily go anywhere with you then the JBL Charge 5 is a great option.

JBL hasn't changed the formula much here but made various improvements instead such as better sound quality, USB-C charging, IP67 durability and PartyBoost.

The Charge 5 lasts a long time and is also a power bank so can charge other devices from a hidden USB port if you're running low.

I'd like some control over the sound with an EQ in the app but it's a minor complaint overall.

Specs

JBL Charge 5: Specs

  • 30 + 10W total power (RMS)
  • 52x90mm bass driver
  • 20mm dome tweeter
  • 2x 65mm passive bass radiator
  • 65-20,000Hz
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • UBC-C
  • USB-A for power bank
  • 20 hours battery life
  • IP67
  • 233 x 97 x 94mm
  • 960g

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