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JBL Charge 5 Review: Party Boost for Less than $200

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In the Charge 5, JBL packs a full 40 W into a compact housing. At the same time, the Bluetooth speaker is protected against water and dust according to IP67 certification and comes in many colors. So is JBL doing everything right with this speaker, which costs around $180? We find out with music on our ears in the nextpit test!

JBL Charge 5

Good

  • Great sound with high maximum volume
  • Very robust thanks to IP67 certification
  • Large battery with power bank function
  • Can be connected to other JBL speakers

Bad

  • No jack connection
  • Quite limited frequency response
  • Smart features only in the expensive Wi-Fi version
JBL Charge 5
JBL Charge 5
JBL Charge 5: All deals

Summary & Buy

If you are prepared to spend $180 on a pure Bluetooth speaker, you can't go wrong with the Charge 5 from JBL. The Bluetooth speaker offers an excellent and, above all, very powerful sound. At the same time, IP67 certification ensures the necessary durability and sufficient robustness for outdoor use. The only drawbacks are the lack of a jack connection and very long charging times.

Design & processing

With a weight of just under 1 kg (2.11 lbs) and a length of 22 cm (8.7 in), the Charge 5 is not the most compact Bluetooth speaker. However, an IP67 certification in the data sheet already indicates that it is a high-quality and robust speaker. JBL also dresses the Charge 5 in a wide range of colors. Unfortunately, there is no option to attach the Bluetooth speaker to rucksacks and the like.


Pros:

  • Robust construction with IP67 certification.
  • Many colors.
  • Simple operation + buttons with good pressure points.

Cons:

  • No speakers on the back.
  • No eyelet for carrying straps.
  • No jack connection.

JBL provided us with the Charge 5 in the "Squad" color variant for this review. But don't worry, the manufacturer offers the Bluetooth speaker in a total of nine different colors. If you don't like the military look and don't want to constantly hear the joke that the Charge 5 can't be seen, you're sure to find a model that suits your taste.

Regardless of the color variant, the Charge 5 is always made of recycled plastic and a recycled fabric cover. This sits wonderfully firmly on the speaker's housing and does not threaten to slip even under heavy pressure. The manufacturer underlines this robust construction by awarding it IP67 certification. This means you can take the Charge 5 outside or to festivals campsites with confidence. Dust and water are no problem for the speaker.

JBL Charge 5 with the JBL logo up close
The speakers are located on the left and right of the Charge 5 behind the JBL logo. / © nextpit

The two exposed bass radiators on the left and right of the speaker were a bit of a negative feature during the test. Although these appear very robust, they are still weak points under heavy pressure. Installing two protective cross braces here would have made the Charge 5 appear even more robust.

In addition to the bass radiators on the sides, there are two tweeters that radiate towards the front in the direction of the JBL logo. This means that the sound is directed quite clearly towards the front, which is a bit of a disadvantage when used on tables in the middle of groups. But more on that later.

At this point, I would like to take another look at the operation of the speaker. There are a total of six buttons on the top that control the volume as well as the connection to smartphones and other JBL speakers. JBL also offers a companion app that can be used to adjust the sound using an equalizer.

JBL Charge 5 port connections for USB-C charging, and USB-A to power other devices.
Unfortunately, there are only USB-A and USB-C connections. / © nextpit

However, the variety of connections on the Charge 5 is quite limited. Unfortunately, like Bose with the Soundlink Flex, JBL has failed to install a jack connection for wired playback. This means there is only one USB-A output and one USB-C input on the speaker.

Overall, the design of the Charge 5 is nothing special, but it is wonderfully robust. The workmanship is really excellent and I personally really welcome IP67 certification for BT speakers.

App and convenience functions

JBL offers the "JBL Portable" app for the Charge 5. This allows you to change the equalizer of the Bluetooth speaker and connect other Bluetooth speakers in Partylink mode. The ability to connect multiple devices to the speaker is also a welcome feature.


Pros

  • Nice app with an equalizer function.
  • Connectivity to other JBL speakers.
  • JBL offers a smart WLAN version.

Cons:

  • No control of smart home assistants.

The Charge 5 doesn't offer a huge range of functions, so the app is correspondingly simple. The Wi-Fi model is a little different, as you can set it up as a Wi-Fi speaker in your home network. The model we tested offers the same sound but is only connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth.

JBL Charge 5 App Screenshots
The JBL app is very pretty, but doesn't offer too many functions. / © nextpit

What JBL does offer here, however, is multipairing with up to two devices. You can switch between these devices via the app, but the speaker can also recognize which device is currently playing music. In addition to playback devices, you can also connect other JBL speakers to play music at the same time.

Sound quality and technology

Despite the compact housing, JBL manages to accommodate three speakers in the Charge 5. These include two 20 mm diameter tweeters and a 52 x 90 mm woofer. The woofer is supported by two passive radiators on both sides of the speaker. The tweeters each deliver 10 W, the woofers 30 W and the frequency response is specified by the manufacturer as 60 Hz to 20 kHz. There is no stereo sound, but you can connect two devices simultaneously via Bluetooth 5.1.


Pros:

  • Plenty of power with a high volume level without clipping.
  • Really efficient equalizer.
  • Stereo sound is possible with two devices.

Cons:

  • Deep bass goes down quickly (everything below 60 Hz).
  • Sometimes seems overwhelmed with more complex songs.
  • Sound is quite strongly directed towards the front.

JBL advertises the Charge 5 as a party speaker and the compact speaker regularly scores top marks for sound online. And indeed, the advertised total output of 40 W is ample in such a compact housing. The speaker fits comfortably in conventional bicycle baskets, in the center console of a car, or in a rucksack. Even large fanny packs can accommodate the Charge 5.

Using the app's equalizer, I turned up the bass a little and took out the mids. This is because the Charge 5 sounds a little too spongy for me. Thanks to this adjustment, however, the Bluetooth speaker impresses with good clarity and manages to separate bass and treble well despite the compact housing.

JBL Charge viewed from the side.
Two passive bass radiators improve the sound of the JBL Charge 5. / © nextpit

What applies to the frequencies, I can't always confirm the resolution of the music. When we switch between genres while listening to music, the Charge 5 behaves a little inconsistently. Rock music such as "Dancer" by Idles is a lot of fun, as the speaker provides the necessary pressure and can distinguish well between vocals, guitars, and drums.

However, "Civic" by OG Keemo sounds a little too chaotic on the BT speaker and the bass seems too low for the frequency response between 60 Hz and 20 kHz. The track, which is really fun on headphones with a wider frequency response, sounds empty.

Tracks such as "Flat Beat" by Mr. Oizo, on the other hand, show that the Charge 5 is really well suited for parties. On a sturdy coffee table, the bass penetrates all the way to the sofa, even when we turn the speaker up to a quarter of the volume. Measured at a distance of 1 m, the overall volume sometimes reaches 100 db - which puts us in the extreme volume range. Although this is really impressive, I think it's a bit of a shame that the sound isn't always so convincing.

Measuring the JBL Charge 5 sound level in nextpit's studio
The volume of the JBL Charge 5 is really enormous at a distance of 1 m. / © nextpit

In future models, I would therefore like to see a wider frequency response and another feature that Bose solves well in the Soundlink Flex: a better all-round sound. The Charge 5's tweeters are aligned towards the front, which means that music only really sounds good when you are within a 180-degree radius of the Bluetooth speaker. Behind the speaker, the sound quality decreases significantly and other manufacturers solve this better. Using the Charge 5 on the table at dinner is therefore less advisable.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try it out for this test: JBL allows you to use multiple speakers at the same time thanks to the Connect feature. If you connect two JBL Charge 5s, you can enjoy true stereo sound. If you only use one device, the amplifier mixes stereo songs nicely. If you have 99 friends with 99 JBL speakers, you can theoretically connect all these devices together. The maximum number of connected devices is really incredibly high at 100.

Battery and charging

With the Charge 5, you can listen to music for a maximum of 20 hours. Ingenious: you can charge your smartphone or other devices via the USB-A output. There is no wireless charging option with the Charge 5, on the contrary - charging via USB-C takes a whopping four hours.


Pros:

  • Long runtime with a maximum of 20 hours.
  • The powerbank feature is really handy.
  • Precise battery status in the app.

Disliked:

  • Long charging times of four hours.

With a runtime of up to 20 hours, the JBL Charge 5 is one of the longest-lasting Bluetooth speakers on the market. However, you have to bear in mind that these running times can only be achieved at medium volume. However, as the Charge 5's performance is very high and the maximum volume is very high, running times of over 15 hours are definitely realistic.

JBL Charge 5's rubber feet on the underside
The Charge 5 gets a good grip thanks to non-slip rubber feet. / © nextpit

A practical feature is that you can check the battery level precisely as a percentage displayed in the app. This allows you to quickly check whether you have enough battery left before you go out. However, if this is not the case, you will need to allow a whopping four hours for a full charge. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth speaker does not have a quick-charging function. The same applies to wireless charging or a charging option via a station.

What I really like, however, is that you can supply power to external devices via the power bank function. As the battery is really large at 7,500 mAh, smartphones can even be fully charged once.

Final conclusion

After a few years on the market, prices for the Charge 5 from JBL have remained relatively stable. This makes the Charge one of the higher-priced models in our list of the best Bluetooth speakers. After a few days of testing, however, it is clear that the price is well justified. The three speakers with 40 W output power are suitable for listening to music at work as well as for smaller parties. The compact speaker achieves impressive volumes of up to 100 dB.

Thanks to its robust housing and IP67 certification, the Charge 5 is also suitable as an outdoor speaker at campsites or in the park. Independent of power sockets, the speaker can also play music for up to 10 hours and even charge your smartphone thanks to the power bank function. However, the disadvantage of the charging technology is the very long charging times without Quick Charging on the Charge 5.

If you also like to use the Charge 5 at home, the slightly more expensive Wi-Fi model could be something for you. This can be integrated into your home network as a Wi-Fi speaker and comes with an extended range of functions.

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Benjamin Lucks

Benjamin Lucks
Head of Editorial DE

Ben has been working in tech journalism since 2018, was a freelancer in the middle of the CoVid-crisis and has been full-time at NextPit since November '20. Since then he has tries to find the right mix between professional competence, humor and fresh perspectives in reviews and texts.

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