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.
Editor’s note: this list of the best wireless JBL speakers was updated on February 25, 2021, to include information about the JBL Charge 5.
The best all around JBL speaker is the JBL Charge 4
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.
JBL Charge 4Full Review
It’s not all perfect though, as the Charge 4 is larger and heavier than the beloved Charge 3. The buttons don’t alight, which makes it hard to operate the speaker under dark lighting. Sound quality is good for a portable speaker, but the bass emphasis can be a bit much and lead to auditory masking. That said, this remains one of the best JBL speakers you’ll find under $200. It goes everywhere, and punches above its weight class.
What about the JBL Charge 5?
JBL announced the Charge 5 during CES 2021, and this speaker is smaller than the Charge 4, features an IP67 rating, and a 20-hour battery life. It also doubles as a battery pack for your devices. The JBL Charge 5 uses Bluetooth 5.1 technology and supports PartyBoost, so it can connect to other compatible speakers. It will retail for $179 USD this April.
Keep the party going with the 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
JBL Pulse 4
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.
The JBL Flip 4 is extremely versatile
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. Keep in mind, however, that it seems JBL plans to discontinue the Flip 4 relatively soon. You will probably be able to get it refurbished for a long time, though.
JBL Flip 4Full Review
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, it’s pretty powerful for such a small speaker, and its bass response is enough to get anyone energized. For under $100 it’s a steal, and one of the best travel buddies you can get because it’s so small.
The JBL Xtreme 2 is a modern boombox
The JBL Xtreme 2 is a huge speaker that outputs loud sound. This is IPX7-rated, and you may have seen urban bikers with this hooked to their backpacks or bike frames. Much like the upcoming Charge 5, the Xtreme 2 has a USB output for charging your portable devices.
JBL Xtreme 2Full Review
This speaker isn’t cheap but it’s a great portable party powerhouse, with two stands on the bottom to set it up properly on a table. This uses Bluetooth 4.2 firmware and only supports SBC streaming, so you won’t get any high-quality audio playback through this. For most, that’s okay though, as this is a product that’s just meant to be loud.
The JBL Clip 3 is the most portable JBL speaker
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.
JBL Clip 3Full Review
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.
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.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
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.
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. It’s also friendly to the environment because it helps save a speaker from being thrown out.
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 SoundGuys
Each writer at SoundGuys has accumulated years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and our staff adheres to a strict ethics policy. We never use ads or sponsored content, so you can trust our opinions are true. SoundGuys’ survival depends solely on readers enjoying their purchases. We pride ourselves on transparently outlining objective facts, while accounting for the subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. 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. When we do misspeak, we correct and own up to it.
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.
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.