Skip to main content

JBL Charge review

While we’d love deeper bass, the punchy detail, portable design and good price makes this wireless speaker a worthwhile contender Tested at £120

Our Verdict

While we’d love deeper bass, the punchy detail, portable design and good price makes this wireless speaker a worthwhile contender

For

  • Punchy, energetic sound
  • Good detail
  • Goes loud
  • Portable and compact
  • Easy to use
  • Charges smartphone
  • Price

Against

  • A rather coarse and bright treble
  • Needs more refinement
  • Could do with more weight and deeper bass

The JBL Charge wireless speaker joins a long list of impressive speakers from JBL Audio.

Most recently, we were smitten with the £100 JBL Flip’s attractive build and lively sound. Can the bigger, pricier Charge live up to our expectations?

Sound quality

JBL Charge

JBL Charge

It’s a punchy, energetic performance – hallmarks of the characteristic JBL sound – but it also has a rather coarse and harsh treble. It’s the first thing you’ll notice, and doesn’t quite go away no matter how long the Charge has been run-in.

We’re surprised, and a little disappointed, as there’s little sign of JBL’s usually full-bodied performance.

There’s still plenty of enthusiasm, though, and great ability with rhythm and detail. It’s a taut and snappy performance: the edges of notes are clearly defined, voices are direct, and it can go pretty loud.

Despite a lightweight bass, it still manages to make an impact: Doctor Who composer Murray Gold’s Fish Custard might sound a bit sharp, but the JBL Charge easily conveys the playful rhythm and uplifting dynamics of the music.

Features and build quality

JBL Charge

JBL Charge

The standout feature on the JBL Charge is the USB charging port at one end. It gives your smart device an extra bit of juice if you’re going portable. Just remember to carry a USB charging cable. There’s no need to worry about draining the JBL’s battery life – it lasts a good 12 hours.

The Charge looks a bit like a large flashlight, but its compact and sturdy build make it easy to carry around and use outdoors. You can play around with positioning, too.

Placing it horizontally on its rubber support makes the speaker fire downwards slightly, with its sound bouncing off any surface you place it on. It seems to lose a bit of cohesion like this, so we prefer using it vertically, where it sounds a touch more open.

Elsewhere, the Charge keeps it simple with Bluetooth streaming and a 3.5mm input. It’s easy to use too, with the power button/pairing control and volume rocker your only controls. It also comes in four different finishes: grey, green blue and shadow (it has black accents instead of white).

Verdict

JBL Charge

JBL Charge

The JBL Charge is a decent portable option. Its £120 price-tag makes it more competitive than rivals such as the Beats Pill (£170), although the far more capable JBL Flip remains its biggest competition at just £100.

The JBL Charge’s harsh treble might be hard to get over for some, but there’s a punchy and enthusiastic sound underneath that coarse surface that’s worth a listen.

MORE: Best bluetooth speakers 2013

Follow whathifi.com on Twitter

Join whathifi.com on Facebook

Find us on Google+

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


Read more about how we test