The Best JBL Portable Bluetooth Speakers: A Side-by-Side Comparison, Mini-Reviews, and FAQ

We’ve done in-depth reviews of all JBL Bluetooth speakers, understandably you folks don’t want to read all that. So here’s a quick side-by-side table with mini-reviews and an FAQ to help you choose the right JBL sonic portable buddy for you.

JBL makes great-sounding, well-regarded portable Bluetooth speakers that are durable and road-worthy. Any of them could be smart picks; which you get depends largely on the size you’re willing to carry, the price, and a few other feature factors.

We’ve got the basic facts in a side-by-side table below; we also have a variety of FAQs below that.

Update History of This Article

This article was first published on Oct. 2, 2019. It was expanded on Oct. 4, 2019.

JBL Speakers: A Side-by-Side Comparison

We’ve ordered the speakers below from most portable at the beginning (that is, the lightest and smallest) and going up in size to the boombox-sized portable party monsters at the end.

Further down on this page we also offer more in-depth side-by-side comparisons of specific JBL speakers plus some non-JBL speakers to recommend.

Find Out More About JBL and Other Portable Speakers

Also note that while JBL speakers are quite well regarded by others (and by us), we have another pick for our top travel speaker as well as for our favorite larger, louder Bluetooth speaker. JBL speakers particularly excel, however, if you want full waterproofing and strong, even sound in a portable, durable package.

We have specific comparison articles devoted to the following JBL speakers if you’re just deciding between two or three:

F.A.Q. on JBL Portable Bluetooth Speakers

We’ve tried to answer the most key questions we’ve gotten from readers in the process of choosing speakers.

If this mega-JBL-coverage somehow doesn’t do the trick, feel free to drop your own questions in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer (and improve this article) if needed.

Questions on Choosing JBL

Still can’t decide between JBL speakers? The table at top should help, but here are answers to the most common questions.

What’s the loudest JBL portable speaker?

Though it stretches our definition of portable, the loudest JBL Bluetooth speaker that you could still consider taking around is the JBL PartyBox 300. It weighs 41.5 lbs. (18.84 kg) and only has a five-hour battery. It’s also not at all water resistant. But it can put out a wallop of a sound, and you can plug a guitar or mic into it for karaoke.

More realistically, the loudest truly portable JBL speaker is the JBL Boombox 2. It’s 13 lbs (5.9 kg) of pure party madness on the go. It’s rugged, it floats, and it is fully waterproof (IPX7 rated). There’s a carry handle, which is key, and still relatively compact and easy to carry for its outsized sound.

Which portable JBL speaker has the best bass?

As with the previous answer, the JBL PartyBox 300 can deliver the deepest bass, but is quite a lot to carry around. The JBL Boombox 2 (also just above) is the closest you can get to a true, quality subwoofer-style bass experience in a speaker on the go.

What’s the smallest JBL Bluetooth speaker?

The smallest JBL speaker we’d recommend is the JBL Go 2. It’s about the size of a bar of soap, and if your phone, tablet, or laptop isn’t producing enough sound, this is an excellent option to boost things a bit on the go. It’s a great travel speaker.

Add to this the fact that the Go 2 syncs well over Bluetooth and generally causes no problems for matching dialogue with whatever device you’re watching videos on. It’s certainly not going to sound as good as a home theatre system, but if you’re watching Netflix on a laptop, this little speaker will certainly improve the audio experience.

What’s the best JBL shower speaker?

Hands-down the speaker we’d opt for in the shower is the JBL Clip 3, though with their full-on IPX7 waterproofing any of the JBL speakers above would also work.

The Clip 3’s advantage is its small size, solid construction, and built-in carabiner that allows you to easily hang it from a toiletry shelf or towel hook.

The Clip 3 goes plenty loud enough to be heard over spraying water and your own terrible crooning. The mix is even and there’s plenty of clarity for such a small speaker.

The Clip 3 doesn’t have a lot of bass (to be expected for a speaker of its size) — if you need some thump with your shower experience, check out (from smallest to largest) the JBL Charge 4, Xtreme 2, or Boombox 2 in the table above.

What’s the trippiest JBL speaker?

Could any speaker seem more expressly designed for passing a joint or tripping balls than the JBL Pulse 4?

This modern take on the lava lamp pumps out detailed 360-degree sound while offering a fully customizable light show. Place it in the middle of a room for best effect.

What’s the newest JBL Bluetooth speaker?

New speakers are released all the time, but as of this writing, the newest speaker in the line would be the JBL Pulse 4, released late September of 2019. It offers a full-length modern lightshow along its body that can be customized to go with the music, as well as smooth 360-degree delivery that can fill a large room.

The Future of JBL Portable Bluetooth Speakers

We’ve been following JBL quite carefully for years. So while the following is conjecture, it’s very carefully considered conjecture. We update this section as new information is released/leaked. In the past, JBL has sometimes previewed its new speakers for journalists at electronics shows, and we’ll be all over that too if it happens.

If you’re shopping, it’s not worth waiting around for a new speaker model to be released, in our opinion. The last several models of various lines of JBL speakers have been consistently good, so we wouldn’t bother waiting for the latest version in general. Also, it can be wise to wait until a speaker has been out for a few months in any case; this gives you a chance to wait for review sites (especially us!) to cover it thoroughly, and notice any firmware or manufacturing problems that JBL may need to correct. There’s really very little sense in being a first adopter.

Will there be a JBL Flip 6?

Since new JBL Flip speakers have been released about every two years, if the schedule is maintained we would expect a future JBL Flip 6 speaker to come out in mid-to-late 2021.

That’s guesswork, but it’s based on the following: The JBL Flip 3 was released in September of 2015, the JBL Flip 4 was launched in April 0f 2017, and the JBL Flip 5 was released in August of 2019 (after a long build-up).

As we’ve said in our review of the JBL Flip 4 versus Flip 5, there’s some definite improvement between versions, but anything can get better. We’ll be curious what an eventual JBL Flip 6 could bring. More volume would be at the top of our list, if this can be done without sacrificing sound quality or increasing the size or weight.

Will there be a JBL Charge 5?

Given this JBL’s past schedule of new Charge releases every two or so years, we’d expect a JBL Charge 5 (if it is indeed made) to be released in late 2020, perhaps in time for the holiday season. But as of yet, there is no official word from JBL. In the meantime, consider the JBL Charge 4 or Charge 3 as we describe here.

We’re basing this educated guess on the past: the JBL Charge 2 was released in late 2014, the JBL Charge 3 was released in May of 2016 and the JBL Charge 4 was released in Oct of 2018. We’ll certainly update this space as soon as we hear more; the JBL Charge 5 may very well be the next portable speaker from JBL to look forward to in 2020.

Will there be a JBL Pulse 5?

The JBL Pulse series of unique digital-lava-lamps-cum-speakers has been a hit. The current model is the JBL Pulse 4, and if JBL keeps a similar release schedule we could expect a new model, the theoretical JBL Pulse 5, to be released in summer or fall of 2021.

We’re basing this on what we’ve seen previously; the JBL Pulse 2 was released at the tail end of 2015, the JBL Pulse 3 was released in January of 2017, and the JBL Pulse 4 was released in September of 2019.

That doesn’t guarantee that JBL will ever make a Pulse 5, of course. But since each successive model has gotten snazzier, both in terms of the light show and how it sounds, we’d expect that JBL engineers are going to try to come up with even greater refinements.

Note also that some features tend to be both gained and lost, as happened in the upgrade from the JBL Pulse 3 to Pulse 4, which we covered here. In particular, speakerphone features have been on their way out with current JBL Bluetooth speaker models.

Durability of JBL Portable Speakers

Don’t expect any piece of electronics with a battery to last for life. But compared to other such speakers (and electronics products generally) JBL speakers do pretty well.

How long do JBL portable Bluetooth speakers last?

All of JBL’s powered speakers have a one-year warranty, so you’re at the very least guaranteed that they’ll last at least that long. But we’d expect any JBL portable Bluetooth speaker to last for at least a few years beyond that.

JBL speakers are quite well-built and survive some degree of rough handling; most of those discussed above are also IPX7 waterproof, which is to say that they can survive up to 30 minutes under a meter of water.

It’s instructive to look back at the JBL Bluetooth speakers that have been around for a while. Amazon reviews of the durability of the JBL Flip 4 show that people can be total jack-donkeys with their speakers: dropping them, throwing them down stairs, leaving them in the pool, etc. Generally the results are very positive in terms of survival stories in such reviews. JBL speakers deal with quite a lot.

The most likely part of a JBL portable speaker (or any Bluetooth speaker) to fail is the internal battery; all such rechargeable speaker batteries have a limited number of cycles. I have one that has lasted for about five years of frequent use, but I think I just got lucky. It wouldn’t be surprising for a speaker battery to conk out after 3-4 years.

Individual results will vary widely based on your usage and the temperatures that the speaker is operating at.

When the battery doesn’t hold a charge any more, you can use the speaker plugged into the wall as either a kitchen or bathroom speaker, for example. Or you can replace the batteries yourself, as discussed just below.

Note that if you’re interested in durability we also strongly recommend speakers from JBL’s competitor Ultimate Ears. They have twice the warranty period of JBL at two years and are at least as well built if not more so. See for example our review of the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 (which is similar to the JBL Flip 5), the smaller, cheaper Wonderboom 1 or 2, or how the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 stacks up against JBL Charge speakers.

Are JBL Bluetooth speaker batteries replaceable?

The batteries are unfortunately not replaceable directly from JBL. If you’ve had your speaker for less than a year, you can expect the battery to be replaced by them under the warranty policy.

Otherwise, you can check IFixIt for your speaker model (for example, here’s the JBL Flip 4 battery replacement); they have do-it-yourself guides and sell the battery and tools to open your speaker. These run about $30, which is certainly cheaper than a new speaker and extending your speaker’s life is more environmentally friendly as well.

By the time your speaker’s battery does give out, there will also likely be newer, better models to consider and tempt you to simple replacement. You can keep the old speaker to use as a bathroom speaker, exercise space speaker, or in any other space where you can keep the speaker always plugged into an outlet and not have to use the battery any longer.

1 Comment

  1. Jason

    Sign up for newsletter? Instagram? How else can we view your articles. Thanks

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