JBL Charge 5 review: Large, loud, and luggable

Maria J. Smith
aa2020 recommended

Whether your season is full of trips to the beach or backyard parties, you’ll need just the right speaker to DJ these events. The JBL Charge 5 gets the job done if you need something that’s very loud and portable. It’s a little pricey though, so anyone who already has an older JBL Charge speaker shouldn’t feel the need to upgrade.

JBL is America’s sweetheart when it comes to waterproof Bluetooth speakers. The company puts out several new products every year, and theoretically, they keep getting better. The most recent addition to the Charge series is the JBL Charge 5. It has all the tell-tale signs of a good JBL speaker, but is the upgrade from the JBL Charge 4 worth the price hike?

Who buy get the JBL Charge 5?

A woman touches the JBL Charge 5 as it rests on a table on a porch outdoors.
  • Party hosts should get the JBL Charge 5 as it produces exceptionally loud sound for a portable speaker. The “PartyBoost” feature means you can pair this with other compatible speakers for an even louder sound.
  • Beach-goers can take advantage of the IP67 dust and water-resistant rating. You can fully submerge it without issue and it’s lightweight enough to throw in your beach bag.

What’s it like to use the JBL Charge 5?

The JBL Charge 5 Bluetooth speaker rests on a countertop with rain drops on a window behind it.

Zak Khan / Android Authority

The JBL Charge 5 doesn’t come with a whole lot; just the speaker, a protective sock, a charging cable, and some documentation about the product. It’s always nice to open up a new audio gadget to see that it has at least a bit of battery charge in it, and the Charge 5 lets you dive right into music listening. The first time you press and hold the power button to turn on the speaker, it will automatically enter pairing mode. Select the Charge 5 from your device’s Bluetooth settings and you should hear the signature sound of a JBL speaker being connected.

The Charge 5 lets you dive right into music listening and is lightweight enough for a trip to the beach.

The JBL Charge 5 is nice to look at and hold, and it has the shape and approximate size of a football. Everything is wrapped in a woven fabric cover with smooth silicone accents. It also adds a silicone foot on the bottom of the speaker, which is nice and helps it stay put on flat surfaces.

However, while this Bluetooth speaker is marketed as portable, it’s definitely not going to fit into your pocket. The Charge 5 is surprisingly lightweight, though, so if you can find a place to put it, it won’t weigh you down too much on a hike or trip to the beach. The speaker has onboard controls, and while it doesn’t include a button to skip backward a track, double-pressing the play button will skip forward.

Is the JBL Charge 5 waterproof?

JBL Charge 5 resting on rocks and grass.

Some people don’t trust the waterproofing that IP ratings promise, and we don’t blame them. The Charge 5 has an official IP67 rating, which means it can withstand dust and handle submersion in up to one meter of tap water for up to 30 minutes — this squares with our experience. Even after a firm dunk in a bucket of water, the Charge 5 sounds just as good as when it’s dry — just make sure the charging port flap is securely closed. The fabric covering the speaker will still get plenty wet, but once it dries everything will sound normal.

In 2020, I tested a JBL Flip 4 that was out of warranty by submerging it in a pool and it subsequently broke, so it’s possible that the IP rating will degrade over time. This may also have been a result of the chlorinated water, since JBL does not ensure that its speakers can withstand saltwater or chlorinated water. If you do happen to break the speaker in a manner covered by its warranty within one year of buying it, JBL will send you another one.

Should you download the JBL Portable app?

Download the JBL Portable app to access JBL Party Boost and firmware updates. Once you open the app, it will prompt you to pair your Charge 5. The interface of the app is pretty easy to use and offers helpful information about each of its components.

Party Boost is JBL’s tool for connecting multiple speakers together for a louder sound. You can connect two of the same speakers together to listen in Stereo Mode, or you can connect up to 100 of any compatible speakers together for Party Mode. Under Party Mode, all speakers will play audio in mono. If you opt for Stereo Mode, the next time you play music from the primary speaker, it will play music in stereo through both speakers. If you want to sometimes use the Charge 5 by itself, set it as the secondary speaker.

The Charge 5 doubles up as a handy powerbank.

Beyond what the JBL Connect app offers is the Charge 5’s power bank functionality. Use the same cord that you use to charge the speaker, but plug in the USB-A side into the speaker’s port under the silicone flap, and the Charge 5 battery will drain to charge up your Android phone or another device with a USB-C charging port. If you have an iPhone, you can use your lightning USB cord to charge it, but make sure it has a USB-A connector at the other end.

How is the Bluetooth connection on the JBL Charge 5?

JBL Charge 5 resting on a balcony fence. The top buttons of the speaker are visible.

Zak Khan / Android Authority

Pairing the JBL Charge 5 is easy enough; simply press and hold the Bluetooth symbol on the top of the speaker and select it from your device’s Bluetooth menu. It uses Bluetooth 5.1, which means it’s slightly more energy efficient than Bluetooth 5.0. The Charge 5 also has Bluetooth multipoint functionality, so if you and a friend want to take turns playing music through your speaker, you won’t have to switch source devices each time.

The speaker can stay connected over a decent range too, easily handing the walk from my dining room to outside my house. Thick walls will get in the way and cause stuttering, which may limit the connection range for some. Locking your phone or opening up a different app like Instagram can also cause a rare hiccup while streaming music from Spotify. Unfortunately, the JBL Charge 5 doesn’t have an aux port so wired listening is not an option.

Does the JBL Charge 5 have long battery life?

JBL Charge 5 placed on some rocks and grass. The charging port is visible.

The JBL Charge 5 has an official 20-hour battery life, which is plenty for a day trip or long weekend. However, it charges via USB-C and takes four hours to completely fill up. That’s right, no fast charging here.

The speaker has an indicator light that glows white anytime it’s in use. When you plug the Charge 5 in, the indicator light will blink, showing you how full the battery is. If it flashes completely white, the battery is full. If it flashes half white and the rest of the indicator light is dark, it is half full.

How does the JBL Charge 5 sound?

JBL Charge 5 resting on a balcony with a cabin and forest in the background.

Zak Khan / Android Authority

The Charge 5 gets loud — like, really loud. SoundGuys Executive Editor Chris Thomas once DJ’d a small wedding with a pair of JBL Charge 3 speakers, and the Charge 5 could certainly pull that off. Regardless of where you are positioned around the speaker, it sounds pretty good, which makes it excellent for parties. Even up to 30 meters away, it sounds great sitting outside in my backyard.

It’s easy to parse apart all the elements of a song with the JBL Charge 5.

Vocals are clear thanks to the driver setup inside the speaker. It features a long-excursion driver, a separate tweeter, and each side houses a passive bass radiator. Taylor Swift’s Mr. Perfectly Fine sounds great through the Charge 5, with her vocals ringing out clearly during the bridge at 3:32, but it doesn’t mask the quieter guitar parts. When the drums and bass come back in at 3:46, you can clearly identify all the instruments and vocal tracks in the song, an impressive feat for a single speaker.

To contextualize the sound quality a bit more, the JBL Charge 5 is louder than the popular Bose Soundlink Mini and Bose Soundlink Flex. JBL’s bass response is certainly more powerful, which makes sense considering the speaker is larger.

JBL Charge 5 review: The verdict

A woman touching the JBL Charge 5 as it rests on the armrest of her chair.

Zak Khan / Android Authority

The JBL Charge 5 doesn’t necessarily have enough upgrades to be worth buying if you already have the JBL Charge 4 or even the Charge 3. If you don’t already have an earlier model, however, the Charge 5 is a great choice. Its audio quality is really good for a Bluetooth speaker and I’m impressed with its volume output. It is a little bit bulky, so if you want a portable speaker, check out the JBL Flip 6 ($179) — it’s essentially a shrunken version of the Charge 5.

JBL Charge 5 Bluetooth Speaker Widget Image

JBL Charge 5 Bluetooth Speaker

The JBL Charge 5 is large and loud, making it good for parties indoors and out.

The JBL Charge 5 gets the job done if you need something that’s very loud and portable.

JBL Charge 4 vs JBL Charge 5: Which Bluetooth speaker is better?

The Charge 4 in a hand with water splashes.

Zak Khan / Android Authority

If the near-$200 price tag of the JBL Charge 5 scares you, we’d recommend looking at the older JBL Charge 4 ($149), which now often goes well below its original MSRP. This speaker comes with an aux port, which may actually make it a more attractive option for some people.

It’s a little annoying that JBL keeps implementing new methods to connect their speakers to one another — JBL Party Boost is basically the same feature as JBL Connect Plus in the Charge 4, but the two versions are not compatible with one another. The other main difference is that the Charge 5 has Bluetooth 5.1 and the Charge 4 has Bluetooth 4.2. The Charge 4 otherwise has almost exactly the same specs as the Charge 5.

What are the best JBL Charge 5 alternatives?

Listeners who want something with an even louder output should look at the JBL Xtreme 3 ($). Like the LG XBoom 360 (), the Xtreme 3 isn’t a truly portable speaker, but you can transport it and it has a long battery life of 15 hours. It has a USB-C in/out port and USB-A out port, so you can either charge two external devices simultaneously or charge the speaker while charging an external device. Unlike the Charge 5, the Xtreme 3 has an aux input and is very hefty at 2.68kg.

JBL Flip 6 Stones e1640208549815

Zak Khan / Android Authority

If you’re looking to stray from the JBL brand, check out the UE Megaboom 3 ($179). This speaker takes a different approach to its design as it delivers 360-degree audio, but is similar to the Charge 5 in many other ways. It has an IP67 rating, can be paired to another Megaboom 3 for a more powerful sound, and has a strong bass response. The cylindrical speaker has a 20-hour battery life and you can set it up for one-touch access to your streaming service of choice.

Frequently asked questions about the JBL Charge 5

No. The JBL Charge 5 does not have a microphone.

No. Your two JBL Charge speakers must be of the same generation for stereo mode to work, and it also won’t work with two different models of JBL speakers released in the same year, either.

To save even more money, look into JBL’s refurbished program. Customers send back defective products and JBL fixes them before reselling them at a discounted price. Products purchased from the refurbished program still have the full 1-year warranty and should not be distinguishable at all from a brand-new product.

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