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 August 1, 2021, to include information about connecting more than one JBL speaker to another, as well as a note about the JBL GO 3.
The best JBL speaker for most 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 are a few tradeoffs, it offers 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 and a few grams heavier than the Charge 5. The buttons don’t alight, which makes it hard to operate the speaker in low-light settings. Sound quality is good for a portable speaker, but the bass emphasis can be a bit much. That said, this remains one of the best JBL speakers you’ll find under $200.
What about the JBL Charge 5?
JBL announced the Charge 5 is smaller than the Charge 4, features an IP67 rating, and 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. You lose out on the option of a wired input with it, which is really the best way to up your audio quality.
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 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 4 is the most 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.
|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.
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 backwards compatibility. So if you own a Charge 4, it’s not going to connect with a Charge 5, even if they 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.
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.
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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.