There are many pretenders to the throne right now, but in truth, there can be only one king. In terms of the best Bluetooth speakers, the JBL Charge 5 is the undisputed monarch, picking up multiple What Hi-Fi? Awards and impressing us as the most reliable, well-made and sonically rewarding speaker of its type. Few rivals or contemporaries really come close.
That said, the Charge 5 is getting on a bit. Originally released in early 2021, it's now been three years since we saw a new addition to what is arguably JBL's finest portable speaker line out there. The Charge 5 Wi-Fi released last year may have sated appetites for the time being, and while it's a great, five-star performer, the Wi-Fi is more of a spin-off than a full-blown sequel.
That has left us wondering when the as-yet hypothetical Charge 6 will finally arrive, and if it does, what form it will take. We're well overdue an upgrade, so we've put together this page speculating about the new model, plus a wishlist of what we'd like to see next time around, in the hopes that JBL will get into gear and give us the new Bluetooth portable we've all been waiting for.
JBL Charge 6: release date speculation
As is the case for the much-anticipated JBL Flip 7, we can pretty much plot when the upcoming Charge 6 will drop simply by looking at JBL's established pattern of releases.
Like the Flip line, JBL tends to drop a new Charge model once every two or so years, with the Charge 4 landing in the summer of 2018 before the Charge 5 arrived at the beginning of 2021, around two and a half years later. The Charge 5 Wi-Fi launched last year to plug the gap, but it's not a direct sequel to the Award-winning Charge 5.
Given the above, it makes sense to assume that a Charge 5 model is on its way, and soon. It's been three whole years since the Charge 5 arrived, and we'd be very surprised if we didn't see the new model launched sometime in the coming year or so.
The only issue with that prediction is the fact that we're also expecting to see a new Flip land this year, too, and JBL usually has a "take it in turns" approach to two of its most popular speaker lines. If we get a Flip 7 this year, that could mean that the Charge 6 is delayed until 2025, or vice versa.
JBL Charge 6: expected price
We don't have any official prices for the Charge 6 (it hasn't officially been announced yet, of course), but we can guess how much it will cost given JBL's past form.
We tested the Charge 4 in 2018 at £140 / $150. A few years later, the sequel arrived, with the Charge 5 retailing for around £160 / $180 at launch. That's a rise of £20 / $30 in the space of two or so years.
Will that price go up again? It's hard to say, but what we do know is that prices in general are rising given the current economic situation and rising costs for, well, everyone. JBL won't be immune to this, but we'd hope that the sixth-gen model holds its RRP, or increases only slightly over the Charge 5, upon arrival. A price range of £150-180 / $160-200 thus seems the most likely.
JBL Charge 6: the 5 things we'd like to see
1. Improved sound quality
The sonic performance of the Charge 5 is a huge reason why it retains its Award-winner status, yet we think it isn't the apex of what JBL is capable of. We know, because the recently-released Charge 5 Wi-Fi speaker, complete with a slightly larger woofer in roughly same dimensions, boasted a little more forwardness and authority than the standard version, even when played via standard Bluetooth.
We know, then, that improvements are possible, and while we certainly wouldn't overhaul the enjoyable sound of the hypothetical Charge 6 entirely, a few little improvements to clarity, drive and dynamic punch would elevate the Charge line's performance even further.
2. More friendly features
It's hardly to its shame that the Charge 5 is just beginning to show its age, with the established Award-winner not quite able to keep up with this modern world in terms of newer, cutting-edge features.
With JBL bringing in Auracast to many of its upcoming models, including the budget Go 4 and Clip 5 models, we'd love to see it implemented with the sixth-gen Charge. PartyBoost could certainly be improved upon, and it would be great to see the Charge 6 compatible with a whole host of JBL stablemates, including the Charge 5 Wi-Fi and older, established models. A general lack of backward compatibility has been frustrating in this area, something the Charge 6 can help to rectify.
3. Update the design
In the same way that it did for sound quality, the Charge 5 Wi-Fi made us realise that the original Charge 5 could benefit from a bit of a visual makeover. Nothing drastic, mind, but there's an appreciable difference in classiness between the standard model and its wi-fi-enabled spin-off.
The Wi-Fi model just feels a touch more premium, with lovely gold edging to the JBL logo and bass radiators, something that could be expanded upon with the sixth-gen model. Even a carrying strap or handle or carabiner clip, the former of which is found on the Xtreme 3, would be a nice addition in the future.
4. Better battery life
With Bluetooth and wireless products, battery life just matters. As is the case with wireless headphones, Bluetooth speakers need to be able to keep on going for long periods at a time so that your portable listening isn't cut short when you're on holiday or at a festival, and there aren't convenient sockets around to charge up with.
The Charge line has kept this area steady. Since as far back as the Charge 3, the general playtime for JBL's mid-sized portable has been around 20 hours. Surely it's time to start seeing those numbers rise a little?
5. Wider Bluetooth codec support
Because the Charges are all Bluetooth speakers designed to be played wirelessly, this request actually makes a great deal of sense. Expanding the Charge 6's codec portfolio to include the likes of aptX HD or aptX Adaptive, for instance, would allow for the possibility of, potentially, higher-quality streaming over Bluetooth.
The current Charge 5 only supports the standard AAC and SBC codecs, so there's certainly room for expansion on that front, especially with physical tethers, such as the 3.5mm aux input, potentially going the way of the dinosaurs.
Read our original JBL Charge 5 review
And our JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi review
Which is best? Witness our JBL Charge 5 vs Flip 6 Bluetooth speaker battle
Best Bluetooth speakers: portable speakers for every budget