Buying a wireless speaker, you always have to make choices… do you want the best audio quality? Or does your speaker need to be portable… or waterproof? Maybe you need massive battery life. The JBL Charge 5 is designed to be your ‘all in one’ solution, but can it really check all those boxes? And what happened when I actually dropped it in the drink?
JBL Charge 5
The JBL Charge 5 is a speaker that balances price, features battery life and portability quite well. It sounds good, it’s waterproof, rugged, and it checks all the boxes for a portable party or outdoor speaker.
- Good sound quality
- It floats!
- 20 hour battery life
- Heavier and bulkier than some other JBL options
- Recharge time is a bit long
JBL Charge 5: What’s in the Box?
Aside from the JBL Charge 5 unit itself, unboxing the package will score you a basic USB-A to USB-C cable (just in case you may not have enough of them) and a simple quick guide to get you started. If you used a JBL Charge speaker in the past, you will notice all the familiar design elements that make the JBL Charge series so iconic. But the sweeping design change here is the larger JBL logo planted on the front with rubberized grills on the bottom to add stability. JBL didn’t mess with the top of the speaker where you can find all the controls.
Setup and Playback Experience
Most of the physical buttons blend in with the rest of the speaker which is good for folks who like a monochromatic color scheme.
Even if you don’t read the quick guide, you can easily see the highlighted power and pairing buttons on top of the speaker giving you a clue about what to do. Just power on the device, long press the Bluetooth button, and finish off the pairing process on your mobile device to get connected. These buttons also light up so you can easily tell when the speaker is ready to play back sounds from your connected device. I was connected and ready to rock in seconds.
Just like you’d expect from most wireless speakers at this point, the JBL Charge 5 features a pair of volume controls and a dual-purpose “Play” button for playing or pausing an active track or skipping to the next track if you double press it.
The JBL Charge 5 also has another button with an infinity symbol and this one is used for the PartyBoost feature. PartyBoost allows up to 100 other JBL speakers with the PartyBoost feature to share the same audio source thus setting the stage for a multiroom speaker arrangement that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi router. Linking other JBL speakers is as easy as pressing the PartyBoost button on those speakers after enabling it on the JBL Charge 5. Since I only had this one JBL speaker, I didn’t test this feature
I’ve reviewed more than a few JBL Speakers and I’ve always been impressed with the sound quality. Depending on the size and model you choose, some will have more bass or volume, or not.
With the Charge 5, the sound quality is strong and it gets good and loud. The overall soundscape is pretty well balanced, with a small lean towards the high end. But overall it’s a good sounding speaker that will satisfy most listeners’ ears.
Connections & Ports + water resistance abilities
Sorry wired fans! JBL decided to remove the 3.5mm jack found in the previous model. What is left is a single USB-C port for charging the speaker and a full-size USB port tucked under a cover for charging other devices. If there is any consolation prize, it would be the slightly improved housing over the previous model, which is enough to net the JBL Charge 5 a waterproof/dustproof IP67 rating.
To test the speaker out I dropped it in the pool while on vacation. I found that it very conveniently floats, and when I pulled it out of the water it was still playing and all it needed was a shake to release the water and it was back to normal.
The 5,000 mAh battery within the JBL Charge 5 allows the speaker to play back music for 20 straight hours at low volume. Higher volumes still keep the battery estimates at a healthy double-digit level though your mileage may vary. The JBL Charge 5 can also be used as a backup powerbank. Once you empty the JBL Charge 5’s battery, you should be able to recharge it back to full health in about 4 hours.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of a screen or extra buttons because you can adjust the other settings of the JBL Charge 5 through the mobile app. Some of the things you can do with this app include pairing the JBL Charge 5 with another JBL Charge 5 so your music comes out in stereo, adjusting the equalizer, checking the battery life, and updating the firmware. Do note that any PartyBoost configuration plays back music in mono.
Overall review: JBL Charge 5
The JBL Charge 5 is a speaker that balances price, features battery life and portability quite well. It sounds good, it’s water proof, rugged, and it checks all the boxes for a portable party or outdoor speaker.
It doesn’t, however, make the JBL Charge 4 feel dated so if you have the Charge 4 there’s probably little incentive to upgrade.
On the downside, the recharge time is a bit long, and some shoppers might feel like this speaker is either too small or too big for their purposes, and if that’s the case check out the tiny JBL Go 3, the medium sized JBL Flip, or the bigger JBL Boombox 3.
JBL Charge 5 sells for about $179USD/$239CAD and you can get it from Amazon.
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