So you want a new wireless speaker, and you’ve seen that JBL has the category on lock. Which wireless JBL speaker should you get? Well, we can help you figure that one out.
JBL is one of the old guard of speaker tech—the company’s been around for decades. Now the undisputed kings of Bluetooth speakers for the mass market, wireless JBL speakers have made their name on a consistent level of quality with waterproofing, solid features, and reliable performance. Now that they’re a part of Samsung, a lot more R&D money has seemingly made its way to JBL’s speaker division, and they’ve started to release improved drivers and configurations for pairing their speakers with modern smartphones.
First and foremost, the Charge 4 is probably the best speaker for the best price in the whole line of wireless JBL speakers. While there’s a few tradeoffs, it offers very good sound quality, excellent battery life, and a slew of features that make life a lot more pleasant. For example, IPX7 waterproofing, USB-C charging, and the ability to use the speaker’s battery to charge your phone make this a formidable speaker.
Having used its predecessor, the Charge 3 quite often, I can tell you this model is one of the best you’ll find under $200. It goes everywhere, and punches above its weight class.
JBL Pulse 4
If you’re looking for something a little more showy, the JBL Pulse 4 is a pretty unique speaker. In addition to all the standard features a wireless JBL speaker offers, the Pulse 4 has a whole-body LED light display, which allows it to put on a bit of a show for you while you listen.
The JBL Pulse 3 also had this ability, but wasn’t exactly “full body,” and had a few foibles of its own. However, if you’re fine with the bottom of the unit not being a display, you may want to save yourself some money and grab an old Pulse 3 on sale if you want something similar to the Pulse 4.
Contrary to popular opinion, newer does not always equal “better.” In the case of JBL’s Flip series, we actually prefer the Flip 4 to the Flip 5, if only for the audio quality and smart speaker features alone.
This tiny speaker is still IPX7 waterproof, and it has microphones inside that will allow you to use this unit as a speakerphone in a pinch. While it doesn’t have the best audio quality, for under $100 it’s a steal, and one of the best travel buddies you can get because it’s so small.
Speaking of small, the JBL Clip 3 is the tiniest wireless JBL speaker on this list. It’s not going to compete with the Xtreme 2, nor is it going to make you forget about the Charge or Flip—sometimes you don’t have a ton of money and need something to fill the void now.
The Clip 3 may not be a powerhouse, but it’s a great option for casual listening. You know, like for the shower, backyard, or annoying literally everyone near you on the subway (Ed. note: we here at SoundGuys do not have any official stance on listening to speakers in public, but be considerate, eh?),
What you should know about wireless JBL speakers
The speakers listed above represent a decent cross-section of the company’s offerings, but it’s not comprehensive. In fact, they even have a line of much larger party speakers geared for significant increases in output and cost. We felt like most people looking to get their toes—and speakers—wet would probably want to start with something small. For example, a shower speaker, or something to hang by the pool with.
If you’re looking for wireless speakers powerful enough to start a neighborhood war, take a look at the party speaker lineup instead of the options listed here. While they’re a lot bigger and more powerful than all the speakers on this list, they also have a few interesting features like lights, microphone/guitar inputs, DJ sampling pads, and more. Of course, these speakers range anywhere from $300 to $1,300 USD, so you’re definitely paying for what you get.
Additionally, this list doesn’t cover studio monitors because, get this: wireless speakers aren’t the right tool for the job. If you need a set of desktop monitors for audio production, look at JBL’s powered monitor line instead.
Buy refurbished from JBL if you can
Times are tough, and losing money on a dud is a really bitter pill to swallow. I always recommend looking for refurbished units if you can—JBL’s refurbished program offers a way for you to save a bit more money than you might through Amazon or other third-party retailers.
In addition to saving a couple bucks, you also get the guarantee of an inspected product that works, backed by JBL’s warranty. That’s a nice perk to have, at the cost of a few potential scuffs here and there (and a couple days’ delay in shipping).
Additionally, some people don’t like the changes to the speaker designs offered by the Charge 4, Pulse 4, and Flip 5. If you’re fine with microUSB charging and want a speaker with two channels instead of one, buying refurbished is the best way possible to grab one of these models’ predecessors.
Why you should trust us
Not only is this our day job, but every member the team at SoundGuys has been covering consumer audio for several years. Additionally, you can take a look at our ethics policy to see how we make our money, conduct ourselves, and even deal with screw-ups. It’s our singular mission to deliver the best information for your own research, so we’ve structured everything about our business around making sure you’re empowered to make your own decisions with confidence.
We know if you’re researching something, you just want the information and not some jerk making you feel bad for not spending a ton of money. Expensive items can be worth it, but there’s also no reason to ever overspend if you don’t have to. That’s why we strive to help people wherever they are, instead of just publishing pretty things about the latest tech you can’t afford.