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 guards 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.
Editor’s note: this list of the best wireless JBL speakers was updated on December 22, 2021, to include the JBL Xtreme 3 to the best list.
The best JBL speaker for most is the JBL Charge 5
First and foremost, the JBL Charge 5 is probably the best speaker for the best price in the whole line of wireless JBL speakers. While there are a few tradeoffs, it offers good sound quality, excellent battery life, and a slew of features that make life a lot more pleasant. It boasts an IP67 dust- and water-resistant build, USB-C charging, and the ability to use the speaker’s battery to charge your phone make this a formidable speaker.
JBL Charge 5Full Review
It’s not all perfect though, as the Charge 5 lacks a microphone and high-quality Bluetooth codec support. You lose out on the option of a wired input with it, which is really the best way to up your audio quality. Still, its 20-hour battery life is sure to keep the party going and Bluetooth 5.1 will maintain a strong connection between your phone and the speaker. For less than $200, this is one of the best Bluetooth speakers available.
Keep the party going with the JBL Pulse 4
If you’re looking for something a little showier, 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
JBL Pulse 4
The JBL Pulse 3 also had this ability, but wasn’t exactly “full body,” and had a few drawbacks 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.
The JBL Flip 6 is extremely versatile
The Flip 6 has the same IP67 rating as the Charge 5 and works with JBL PartyBoost to connect up to 100 PartyBoost speakers for extra-loud output. Oddly, only two JBL speakers of the same generation work with stereo mode; the Flip 6 and Flip 5 will not work together for stereo sound. You get an improved IP67 build, compared to the IPX7 build of the Flip 5, and Bluetooth 5.0 this time around.
JBL Flip 6Full Review
The JBL Flip 6 uses USB-C charging just as before and has even better battery life. You also get an upgraded driver system that reproduces louder bass and should sound good for most scenarios. Unfortunately, the JBL Flip 6 lacks a microphone but it retains the beloved passive bass radiators and woven speaker cover. While you don’t get any high-quality Bluetooth codecs to stream over, you do get Bluetooth multipoint so the speaker can connect to two sources at once. There’s no headphone jack, which seems to be the norm for portable speakers these days.
It comes in five colors: grey stone, river teal, ocean blue, midnight black, or squad (camo) and costs $129 USD. If you can forgive its foibles, the Flip 6 will serve you well.
The JBL Xtreme 3 is a modern boombox
The JBL Xtreme 3 is a huge speaker with two 25W woofers and two 25W tweeters. This speaker is IP67-rated, and you may have seen urban bikers with this hooked to their backpacks or bike frames. Much like the Charge 5, the Xtreme 3 has a USB output for charging your portable devices.
JBL Xtreme 3Full Review
JBL made a few significant improvements to the Xtreme 3 compared to the older model. For one, you get a standard USB-C in/out and USB-A out. The USB-C input is much easier to use than the proprietary charging port of the Xtreme 2. It also means if a cable breaks, you can find a third-party replacement rather than rely on JBL for one.
While the JBL Xtreme 3 lacks high-quality Bluetooth codecs (SBC only) it does have a 3.5mm input and it uses Bluetooth 5.1, making it more power-efficient than before. JBL replaced the four little feet of the previous model with a flat pad of rubberized strips. This seems better for flat surfaces but sits more precariously on sloped surfaces.
If you want something that gets loud and is fairly portable, though it stretches the definition like the LG XBOOM 360, then you might need to add this to your collection.
The JBL Clip 4 is the best portable JBL speaker
The JBL Clip 4 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.
JBL Clip 4Full Review
The Clip 4 may not be a powerhouse, but it’s a great option for casual listening. It does, however, get louder than the Clip 3 with its louder 5W output. If you don’t need something with a carabiner built-in, you should look at the JBL GO 3 as well. While this won’t blow you away it’s good enough 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, JBL even has 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.
JBL waterproof speakers
One of the many things JBL is known for doing well is creating portable waterproof speakers. Most of the best wireless JBL speakers are waterproof with an IPX7 rating. This means that they can be fully submerged in water one meter deep for up to 30 minutes, making them ideal for summer activities or taking in the shower.
Editor’s note: Sara tested a JBL Flip 4’s IPX7 rating by submerging it in a pool for about 10 seconds, and it came out broken. The speaker still produced sound, but the sound was shrouded by a loud crackling. JBL customer support stated that the one year warranty had passed, and defective products out of warranty could not be replaced for free. Considering JBL is a company whose big selling point is their waterproofing, this was disappointing.
Not all JBL speakers are compatible with each other
If you’ve got a vision of yourself creating a surround sound outdoor party with your wireless JBL speakers, make sure they play nice with one another. Every few years JBL updates the feature that lets the speakers connect to each other. Frustratingly, these updates have no backward compatibility. So if you own a Charge 4, it’s not going to connect with a Charge 5, even if these models are basically the same speaker.
In order of oldest to newest, you’ve got JBL Connect, JBL Connect+, and PartyBoost. Just make sure if your plan is to buy more than one, that they come from the same generation and use the same feature. In this case, newer does not equal better for everyone.
Does JBL discount products around the holidays?
Household brands like JBL often slash prices around the holidays, which is something that smaller companies are less likely to do because of smaller profit margins. Occasionally, these huge promotions only apply to older models, so double-check that you’re getting the generation of headset or speaker that you want before hitting “buy.”
The best JBL speakers: Notable mentions
- JBL Charge 4: The Charge 4 is probably the best speaker for the best price in the whole line of wireless JBL speakers. Unlike the Charge 5, the older model has a headphone jack for wired playback. The buttons don’t light up and this can make it hard to operate the speaker if you’re gathered outside at night.
- JBL Flip 4: This portable Bluetooth speaker comes from a long line of successful speakers. It’s a bit dated now that we know the Flip 6 is available in December 2021, but that just means you’re bound to see the Flip 4 on super sale.
- JBL Flip 5: This is a speaker for adventure, not for critical listening. For under $100 it’s a steal, and one of the best travel buddies you can get because it’s so small.
- JBL GO 3: While the Clip 4 is one of our favorite speakers, the GO 3 is no slouch. This little speaker can latch onto pretty much everything, even a purse, without weighing it down too much. Listeners who want to take music everywhere and don’t need extremely loud sound should look into the GO 3.
- JBL Pulse 3: This lava lamp-esque speaker has an IPX7 rating and cylindrical design. It’s designed for pool or dorm parties and emits 360-degree sound. You get a 12-meter wireless range, microUSB charging, and up to 12 hours of playtime.
- JBL Xtreme 2: If you want a loud and powerful speaker, the JBL Xtreme 2 was one of our favorites before the Xtreme 3. is the one to pick up. This has a 40W output and is quite a bit cheaper than the newest model. If you’re willing to deal with a proprietary charger and older Bluetooth version, you’ll find plenty to love about this, and more cash in your wallet.
Should you buy refurbished from JBL?
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. It’s also friendly to the environment because it helps save a speaker from being thrown out.
In addition to saving a couple of 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 short 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the JBL Clip 3 is currently being sold at a discount on Amazon. JBL’s website also often has sales on many of their products.