With portable Bluetooth speakers continuing to dominate the audio market, shoppers have an overwhelming array of options to consider. One popular choice is the JBL Charge line, known for delivering powerful sound in a compact and durable design. But before pulling the trigger, it‘s worth taking a deeper look into the Charge‘s evolution and how the latest Charge 5 model stacks up. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know before buying a JBL Charge.
JBL‘s Charge speakers have earned a reputation for impressively loud, clear audio performance paired with robust battery life and waterproof build quality. First launched in 2013, the line has seen regular updates over the years, with each new version bringing incremental improvements.
The Charge 5 continues this trajectory as the best sounding and longest lasting Charge yet. It stands out with a 20-hour battery, USB-C charging, upgraded driver array, and PartyBoost feature for pairing multiple JBL speakers. Reviews praise the detailed sound, punchy bass, and ruggedness to handle any adventure.
But at $180, it sits on the pricier end of portable Bluetooth speakers. And while revolutionary, the Charge 5 is more evolution than revolution compared to previous models. This article will dive into the Charge‘s history, specs, reviews, and alternatives to help buyers decide if it‘s worth the investment.
A Legacy of Great Sound
With over 75 years experience making audio gear, JBL knows a thing or two about great sound. Their expertise shows through in the Charge line, which delivers far bigger sound than you‘d expect from the compact cylindrical form factor.
The original Charge instantly stood out in 2013 for room-filling volume, clear mids and highs, and impressive bass punch – earning it rave reviews. Since then, JBL has built on that winning formula with each new generation.
The Charge 2 (2014) added more bass clarity via dual passive radiators. Charge 3 (2016) went fully waterproof and increased volume. Charge 4 (2018) optimized battery life for a full 20 hours per charge.
And Charge 5 (2021) takes it to the next level with the loudest, clearest output yet powered by an upgraded driver and tweeter array. Staying true to its name, the line has consistently charged up its sound in a portable package.
Charge 5 Breakdown: Specs and Features
With each upgrade, the Charge aims to be the ultimate go-anywhere Bluetooth speaker. Here‘s a detailed look at what the latest Charge 5 brings to the table:
Battery life: Up to 20 hours playtime on a 4 hour charge
Waterproofing: IP67 rating – can be submerged in water up to 1m for 30 minutes
Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1, 30+ ft range
Audio: 1 tweeter + 1 long excursion woofer + 2 bass radiators
Inputs: USB-C charging
Size: 3.7 x 8.7 inches, 2.1 lbs
Colors: Black, Blue, Gray, Red, Teal
Other: PartyBoost (sync 100+ JBL speakers), voice assistant integration, speakerphone
As you can see, the Charge 5 checks all the boxes you‘d want in a portable Bluetooth speaker, from robust battery life to waterproofing to great sound. It‘s not a drastic change from the Charge 4, but the improved driver array helps provide more clarity and volume in a similar durable, travel-ready build.
Here‘s a handy comparison chart of how key specs have evolved through each generation:
|Model||Battery Life||Water Resistance||Wireless||Audio Driver Array|
|Charge (2013)||7 hours||Splashproof||Bluetooth 3.0||2 x 40mm drivers|
|Charge 2 (2014)||12 hours||Splashproof||Bluetooth 3.0||2 x 40mm drivers, 2 passive radiators|
|Charge 3 (2016)||20 hours||IPX7||Bluetooth 4.1||2 x 45mm drivers, 2 passive radiators|
|Charge 4 (2018)||20 hours||IPX7||Bluetooth 4.2||2 x 45mm drivers, 2 passive radiators|
|Charge 5 (2021)||20 hours||IP67||Bluetooth 5.1||1 tweeter, 1 woofer, 2 radiators|
While core features like battery and water resistance have steadily improved over time, the Charge 5‘s upgraded driver array is what really pushes sound quality to the next level.
Reviews Praise Sound, Battery and Build Quality
The Charge 5 has earned glowing reviews that reaffirm JBL‘s reputation for standout sound in the portable speaker category. Critics consistently highlight the full bass, crisp treble and clear vocals that belie the speaker‘s compact size.
TechRadar calls the sound "mighty impressive" and Android Central describes it as "full, detailed, and punchy." For such a small footprint, the audio is seriously room-filling and immersive.
The beefed up battery life also earns widespread praise, with the Charge 5 able to deliver up to 20 hours of continuous playtime on a single charge. For comparison, that‘s nearly triple the 7 hours offered by the original Charge. The USB-C charging makes juicing up faster and easier too.
And JBL‘s hallmark ruggedness again shines through in the Charge 5‘s durable design. The waterproof and dustproof casing holds up to splashes, spills, dirt, and more with no problem. It‘s built tough enough to tag along anywhere thanks to an IP67 rating.
As SoundGuys summarizes, the "Charge 5 is all about convenience" – great audio, long battery, and ruggedness make it an ideal backyard, travel, and adventure companion.
Room for Improvement?
For all its strengths, reviewers do note some downsides of the Charge 5 to be aware of:
Price – At $180 MSRP, it sits at the higher end of market for a portable Bluetooth speaker. Shoppers can find more budget-friendly options.
Controls – The buttons on top aren‘t always intuitive and make it easy to accidentally skip tracks. Touch controls would be better.
Sound stage – While audio is punchy and detailed, the stereo separation and sound stage don‘t match higher end speakers.
Updates – Improvements over the Charge 4 are modest. Those with a Charge 3 or 4 may not need to upgrade.
So the Charge 5 isn‘t perfect, but it checks almost all the boxes for the target buyer. Those already invested in the JBL ecosystem will especially appreciate its familiar package of great sound, ruggedness, and long battery life.
Alternatives Worth Considering
The Charge 5 competes in a crowded Bluetooth speaker market, so it helps to compare alternatives. Here are some other top models in the portable category to consider:
- Bose SoundLink Revolve – $199 – Slightly pricier but with 360 degree sound and sleeker design.
- Anker Soundcore Motion+ – $100 – Budget pick with 30W output and bass-heavy sound.
- Ultimate Ears Boom 3 – $150 – Rugged IP67 build with vibrant colors and balanced audio.
- Sony SRS-XB43 – $248 – Features flashy lights and Extra Bass mode for thumping low end.
- Marshall Emberton – $150 – Retro rock-inspired styling with 20+ hour battery life.
The Charge 5 holds its own against these rivals and remains a top choice for those wanting JBL‘s signature blend of power, portability, and durability. But exploring alternatives can help find the perfect speaker based on your budget and needs.
Over its evolution since 2013, the JBL Charge line has consistently delivered great sound and battery life in a take-anywhere form factor. The latest Charge 5 represents the pinnacle (so far) with upgraded drivers for more detailed audio and improved waterproofing in a familiar tough build.
For existing JBL fans, the Charge 5 is an easy recommendation to continue enjoying their signature sound untethered. And for new buyers, it brings a compelling mix of power, performance, and portability. With better controls and a lower price point, it could stake a claim as the outright best portable Bluetooth speaker.
But at $180, it‘s an investment and faces stiff competition from brands like Bose, Sony, and UE. Take time to weigh alternatives and features to ensure the Charge 5 provides the right fit. Overall though, its reputation is well earned – if you want great audio for life‘s adventures, the Charge 5 is ready to deliver.