Few companies are capable of drawing intrigue around a carabiner, but JBL has built quite a fanbase for its Clip series of Bluetooth speakers. The JBL Clip 4 seeks to rectify the Clip 3’s shortcomings with a more robust integrated carabiner, improved durability rating, and louder output. However, while JBL added some neat features to the Clip 4, it also took away the headphone jack, leaving users with no way to enjoy lossless playback.
Do the new features and design actually make this better or should you stick with the old dog?
Editor’s note: this JBL Clip 4 review was updated on June 14, 2021, to address an FAQ about pairing speakers.
Who should get the JBL Clip 4?
- Bike commuters will greatly appreciate the redesigned carabiner on the Clip 4.
- Students may not have room for something like the JBL Charge 5, but they can still enjoy dorm-filling sound from this tiny speaker.
- Outdoor enthusiasts can take full advantage of the IP67 rating on their adventures. (Just make sure you don’t blast your music too loud: people want to appreciate nature too.)
- Anyone can use the Clip 4, and it even makes for a great shower speaker.
What’s it like to use the JBL Clip 4?
JBL wants you to bring this playful Bluetooth speaker anywhere, or at least have the option to do so. The IP67 build protects it from dust and water, while the integrated carabiner makes attaching it to the outside of your bag a cinch. A familiar fabric wrap covers the front and rear sections of the speaker, so you can easily grip it under any condition. Rubberized ribs line the backside, which prevent it from sliding about when you lay it flat on a table. The company’s logo occupies the bulk of the front panel and its only purpose is to inform passersby that you purchased a JBL speaker.
Five buttons live on the speaker, three on the front and two on the left side. The button trio controls playback and volume (though you can’t go back a track), while the side buttons are for pairing and powering the speaker on/off. While JBL’s aesthetic may not appeal to all, its button layout and definition are great: it’s easy to find and differentiate between controls without looking at the speaker.
Start here: What makes a good Bluetooth speaker?
The Clip 4 houses a completely accessible USB-C input whereas, with the Clip 3, you have to pull back a flap to reveal the microUSB and auxiliary inputs. JBL also redesigned the carabiner. The previous generation was prone to breaking along the hinge, but this time around, JBL embedded the most tenuous parts of the clip into the casing. It takes no effort to operate the clip with one hand, which is great for biking around the city.
Does the Clip 4 support PartyBoost or Connect+?
No, the JBL Clip 4 doesn’t support JBL PartyBoost or JBL Connect+, which is a real shame. It would be great to bike with a friend and wirelessly daisy chain two Clip 4 speakers. Alas, that’s why the Flip 4 and Flip 5 exist. There is no software for the Clip 4, so don’t hold your breath for any firmware updates.
Does the JBL Clip 4 stay connected?
The JBL Clip 4 uses Bluetooth 5.1 and has a 10-meter range, which is typical for any Bluetooth speaker. According to JBL support, the range can extend to 15 meters if you’re in an open environment. While Bluetooth 5.1 reads like a great feature, its main benefit is power efficiency, hence the extended playtime of the Clip 4 compared to the Clip 3.
In typical JBL fashion, the Clip 4 supports just the SBC Bluetooth codec and this time around it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack. Some may frown at these specs, but isn’t a crushing blow. The Clip 4 is an adventure speaker, not an audiophile’s companion. There is a significant audio-visual lag though, so expect spoiled punchlines and a delay when streaming your favorite comedy special.
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You can’t connect the Clip 4 to more than one device at a time, unlike other Bluetooth speakers. When it comes time to switch source devices, you have to press the Bluetooth button on the side and dive into the designated device’s Bluetooth menu to make a new connection.
How long does the battery last?
JBL amped up the battery life on the Clip 4: it lasts 10 hours and charges via USB-C. It takes three hours to recharge the speaker and there is no fast charging. The 10-hour battery life varies, and depends on the volume output. If you crank the volume to the max, don’t be surprised to find the battery life falls short of the official readout.
Our battery tests are ongoing and we’ll update this review once we have official data.
How does the JBL Clip 4 sound?
The JBL Clip 4 sounds very good and houses a standalone dynamic driver. Its accurate frequency response complements many music genres, though the attenuated bass doesn’t bode well for electronic or hip-hop music. While the bass de-emphasis appears alarming, it’s representative of portable Bluetooth speakers generally. What the JBL Clip 4 lacks in low-end response, it makes up for in raw volume output. This mighty speaker has a 5W output—a 1.7W increase from the previous generation.
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Lows, mids, and highs
In the song Vertigo by Paces and Yorke, Yorke’s introductory vocals sound clear through the Clip 4. The quieted bass notes don’t even have a shot at masking her vocals. In the original master, the chorus of Vertigo is bass-heavy, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from how the Clip 4 renders it. Even if you’d never heard the song before, you’d likely sense that something was missing from the chorus and that something is the kick drum’s oomph.
This heavily de-emphasized bass response has its perks, though. Vocals come through with a great deal of clarity. As Yorke raises her pitch when singing the word “oh” in each chorus, you can hear a bit of resonance from her voice, which is impressive from a speaker of this stature. As long as you keep realistic expectations for the bass response, you’ll be happy with how the JBL Clip 4 sounds.
JBL Clip 4 vs JBL Clip 3: Is the upgrade worth it?
While the JBL Clip 4 has a lot going for it, the JBL Clip 3 has a few coveted features like an aux input and more color options—oh, and it’s 20 grams lighter. Otherwise, the Clip 4 comes out on top, as it should: it gets quite a bit louder than the Clip 3, has a sturdier design, and features a greater dust and water resistance rating (IP67 compared to IPX7). Suffice it to say, the Clip 4 is the more appropriate pick for beach-goers and campers.
Aside from headphone jack envy, you won’t miss much when you choose the JBL Clip 4 over the Clip 3.
Should you buy the JBL Clip 4?
The JBL Clip 4 may be simple, but it’s powerful and portable. It ticks every box for someone who wants a rugged speaker that can keep up with their demanding adventures.
While some may be averse to the Clip 4 and its feature-light package, others will embrace it. This modest, utilitarian speaker isn’t meant to be the center of attention, instead serving as a situation enhancer. Whether you’re on your bike or gathered around the bonfire, the fourth-generation JBL Clip is the perfect partner. If you want something with more modern comforts like a microphone, smart assistant access, and general software support, you’ll need to stretch that budget a bit more.
What should you get instead?
The Bose SoundLink Micro is a great adversary to the Clip 4. Instead of a carabiner, Bose’s speaker relies on a durable, elastic band that wraps around various objects, like a bag strap or bike handlebars. While Bose’s speaker is still portable, it’s a bit larger and heavier than the Clip 4. This isn’t great if every ounce on your bag counts, but it yields a louder output (7.5W). Unlike the Clip 4, the SoundLink Micro has a microphone, so you can field phone calls and have one-sided conversations with your virtual assistant of choice.
Listeners who want more impressive bass from their speaker should turn their attention to the JBL Flip 5. It offers more premium features like JBL PartyBoost, dual-passive radiators, and longer battery life.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, you cannot pair the JBL Clip 4 to another Clip 4, or any other JBL speaker for that matter. If you want a new JBL speaker with this capability you'll need to get the JBL Flip 5 or JBL Charge 5.