Some lines of rugged, portable, no-frills Bluetooth speakers have always impressed us when we’ve looked at them.
The JBL Charge is a good example, and the fact that it is now in its fifth generation is very exciting.
Take note if you want to get good sound on the go from something about the size and weight of a bottle of wine.
The US audio expert says that the new JBL Charge 5 is even more durable and sounds better than the four Charges that came before it.
Its predecessor had an IPX7 rating, which meant it could be submerged in water up to 1.5 metres deep.
The Charge 5 has an IP67 rating, which means it is also fully dustproof.
We play a quick game of “spot the difference” between our Charge 5 and its older brother or sister, the Charge 4.
What About The Logo?
The logo is now bigger, but it looks more classy and less like a badge than it did before.
Instead of a block frame, there are simple metallic accents around the letters.
As seen for the first time on the Go 3, the rubberized underbody now has diagonal lines that look nice and help the car grip the ground when you put it down.
The old 3.5mm port for wired listening is gone, and the new USB-C port for charging is now out in the open.
You can still charge your devices with the Charge 5’s USB-A port, which is hidden by a smaller rubber cap.
What About The Shape And Design?
The ends of the Charge 5’s barrel-shaped body are reinforced with a bit more rubber.
And the speaker itself is 1mm taller, 2mm deeper, 3mm wider, and 5g heavier than its older brother.
Though you can’t tell the difference with the naked eye.
Under the hood, though, there are a lot of changes.
The 52 x 90mm bass driver is now a few millimetres wider, and the 20mm tweeter is new.
Both of these units have their power amps—30W for the lows and 10W for the highs.
There is also Bluetooth 5.1 instead of Bluetooth 4.2, but the 7500mAh battery still lets you listen to music for 20 hours on a single charge.
On the top of the speaker, where the Connect+ button is on the Charge 4, there is now a JBL PartyBoost button on the Charge 5.
What About The Technology?
With the updated daisy-chaining technology from JBL.
You can connect the Charge 5 to up to 100 other PartyBoost-enabled JBL Bluetooth devices to make your portable sound better.
For now, this only works with the Boombox 2, Flip 5, and Pulse 4.
You can’t connect the Charge 5 to the older Charge 4, or to any other older JBL speakers that support Connect+.
The Charge 5 can be used with the JBL Portable app, which used to be called JBL Connect.
It lets you update the firmware and use PartyBoost from your phone.
Where other JBL speakers that support the app will show up ready to connect, including the Flip 5.
If you have another Charge 5, you can make a stereo pair by switching from “Party” to “Stereo” when you press the PartyBoost button.
Other than that, the app is simple and doesn’t let you adjust the EQ.
When we leave the app, we press the PartyBoost button on Charge 5 and then on Flip 5.
And the sound comes out of both devices clean without any noticeable delay.
What About The Sound Quality?
When we play Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'” on Tidal, we can see that the Charge 5 is stronger.
Than the Charge 4 by one ounce.
It’s not a huge change, but the intro hip-hop riff has a little more impact.
Because the leading edges of the notes in the low end are now sharper.
This makes for more agile performance.
The vocals are also more lively and seem to fit well in the mix, which is big for a speaker this size.
Erykah Badu’s voice in Tyrone is emotional and praised for its treble frequencies as well as its lower, more juicy registers.
The track’s walking bass guitar gives it a three-dimensional feel.
And is is among the several instruments used
And a few drums fills here and there.
Tiger King, a sad track by British Sea Power, has detailed.
And accurate bowed strings that move around the track’s random cymbal and drum crashes.
This shows that the Charge 5 is capable of both power and nuance, as well as oomph and bass clout.
What About The Final Verdict?
The Charge 5 is the best portable Bluetooth speaker you can get right now for less than £200.
It sounds a little bit better and looks a little bit better than its five-star predecessor, the Charge 4.
But the Charge 5 is proof that this has not happened yet.