JBL Charge 5 review: small speaker, serious sound

The JBL Charge 5 is a portable Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t skimp on sound quality

JBL Charge 5 review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

For those who want a loud, durable speaker to use on days out at the park or beach, the JBL Charge 5 is an excellent choice. The audio is powerful and accurate, and it has improved dust resistance as well as a waterproof design. What’s not to love!

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Loud, powerful sound

  • +

    20-hour battery life

  • +

    Can be used to charge your phone

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No EQ settings in the app

  • -

    You can’t use PartyBoost with Connect+ speakers

  • -

    No 3.5mm audio port

In this JBL Charge 5 review, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about this portable Bluetooth speaker from what’s new, its design and battery life to sound performance and all of the extra features worth knowing about. 

JBL certainly know their stuff when it comes to making great-sounding speakers, they’re a regular in T3’s guide to the best Bluetooth speakers. It wasn’t long ago that I reviewed the JBL Xtreme 3, a beasty and powerful portable speaker that impressed me with its rugged design and wide range of features. The main problem I had with it was that it was just too big. The JBL Charge 5 looks like a miniature version, so it's already a good start and I'm expecting a lot. Let’s crack on. Here’s the full JBL Charge 5 review. 

JBL Charge 5 review: what’s new

JBL is forever tweaking its speakers to make them bigger and better than before. The fifth instalment in the Charge series improves on its predecessor, the JBL Charge 4, with the next generation of Bluetooth connectivity, more powerful audio, a fresh new design, USB-C charging and it’s now more durable with improved dust resistance as well as waterproofing. 

JBL Charge 5 review: price and availability 

Available now, the JBL Charge 5 can be bought directly from JBL for $179.95 in the US and £159.99 in the UK. In Australia, it'll cost about AU$260 from Amazon. Take a look at the widgets on this page for more recent pricing.  

JBL Charge 5 review: design and battery

JBL Charge 5 review

(Image credit: Future)

Sporting the familiar cylindrical JBL design, the Charge 5 is a good-looking speaker that comes in loads of colours including green, red, pink, teal, blue, black grey and white. For this JBL Charge 5 review, I saw the blue. The colour coats the rubberised ends as well as the main mesh body. Towards the middle of the speaker is the big new JBL logo in silver framed in a subtle red. Although taller, longer and wider than the JBL Charge 4, it still feels small enough to be portable. And it’s actually 5g lighter. An IP67 rating means it’s waterproof and dustproof so if you do get caught in the rain then you won’t need to worry about damaging the speaker. 

Underneath the JBL logo is the small LED light strip that indicates battery life. Sitting on the top are six buttons to power it on or off, activate Bluetooth pairing, control the volume, pause or play the music as well as the PartyBoost button. The buttons are integrated into the design, they feel quite stiff to use but are responsive all the same.

JBL Charge 5 review

(Image credit: Future)

On the back is the USB-C charging port, and a USB-A port to charge your devices underneath a waterproof rubber flap. To keep the speaker stable on flat surfaces, JBL has added diagonal rubber lines on the bottom. They did a great job, the speaker didn’t budge when knocked.

The battery life hasn’t changed from the Charge 4, and it didn’t need to. The JBL Charge 5 will last about 20 hours of music, which is plenty for a day at the beach or even a weekend away. Of course, if you use the speaker to charge up your devices it will drain more quickly. Once empty, it’ll take about 4 hours to recharge back to 100% which is longer than other speakers. If you think ahead then it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

JBL Charge 5 review: sound quality and features 

JBL Charge 5 review

(Image credit: Future)

The JBL Charge 5 has an RMS power output of 30W + 10W with a new wider 52 x 90mm bass driver and a separate 20 mm tweeter. To test out the audio quality, I played a bunch of different tracks on the speaker ranging from bass-heavy tunes like Diplodocus by Noisia to vocal-focused power ballads like Because The Night by Patti Smith.

An impactful, punchy low-end paired with crisp highs delivered a well-balanced sound across genres, there were some tracks where the vocals took over slightly, it wasn’t a massive issue though. Overall the audio was energetic, detailed and accurate. Not to mention loud, it would easily fill a room, if not a house. And the volume will happily cut through the hustle and bustle of a busy park. It won’t quite make the walls shake but for a small portable speaker, it definitely packed a strong punch. It’s a shame that there are still no equaliser settings in the JBL portable app, it mostly serves to check the battery level and manage the PartyBoost function. It would be a great addition to give you more control over the sound. 

If you want to make the music louder, PartyBoost lets you pair two compatible speakers together for stereo sound. If that's not enough you can add on even more speakers to make it even bigger. You just need to press the dedicated button on each of the speakers you want to pair. This replaces the old JBL Connect+ which was on the JBL Charge 4, you won’t be able to use PartyBoost with Connect+ speakers though. Another really handy feature on the JBL Charge 5 is the built-in power bank, so if your phone is running out of battery you can top up the charge and keep the music playing. 

To connect your devices to the JBL Charge 5, there’s Bluetooth 5.1 which was reliable and worked even when I wandered off with my phone. Unfortunately, there’s no 3.5m audio input to play music through a wired connection though. There’s also no microphone so you won’t be able to take calls through it on the go. 

JBL Charge 5 review: verdict

JBL Charge 5 review

(Image credit: JBL)

As far as portable speakers go, the JBL Charge 5 is definitely up there as one of the best. You can get smaller speakers, for less money but if you’re willing to spend a little more then you’ll get to reap the rewards. 

It sounds fantastic and the volume goes seriously loud as well, you’ll be sure to bring the party with you anywhere you go. Not only does it sound great, but with JBL’s iconic design in loads of colour options, it looks good too. Not to mention the array of extra features like PartyBoost and the power bank functionality. It’d be hard not to recommend this speaker! 

JBL Charge 5 review: also consider 

One of the best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy for less than $100 / £100 is the UE Wonderboom 2, it’s fully waterproof and even floats. If you want a small speaker that focuses a bit more on big sound then I’d suggest taking a look at the Mashall Emberton - it’s not only got the iconic Marshall design but it sounds fantastic, it’s waterproof and the battery lasts for ages as well.

If money is no object, then one of the best sounding portable speakers you can buy is the Sonos Move, it’s considerably more expensive than most outdoor, wireless speakers but that’s because it sounds considerably better. Definitely worth adding to your shortlist. 

Yasmine Crossland
Yasmine Crossland

Reviews Writer for T3, Yasmine, started writing reviews in 2019 and is always knee-deep in the latest products. She keeps a finger on the pulse when it comes to the most exciting and innovative tech and is happy to tell you exactly what she thinks about it too.