We’ve reviewed many dozens of Bluetooth speakers and two of our favorites at the moment are the JBL Charge 4 and the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3.
These are the speakers you’d go to if you’re looking for something portable, about the size and shape of a wine bottle without its neck; want to spend less than $200; and love speakers that can blast out a good deal of sound but still sound great, with a nice thump on the low end and no distortion.
The Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 is our overall favorite of the loudest waterproof Bluetooth speakers, but to be honest, not by much, as we’ll discuss here. The JBL Charge 4 sounds just about as good to most critics, and has a few interesting features that could make it a better choice for some of you, especially the outdoor partiers. And it’s generally cheaper. We often prefer Ultimate Ears to JBL in the middle-sized portable speakers, but love the larger boombox-sized JBL speakers.
First we’ll line the Charge 4 and Megaboom 3 up side-by-side in a quick table comparison, and then dive further into the details.
Update History of This Article
Side-by-Side Comparison: JBL Charge 4 vs. Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3
It’s Oh-So-Close! But Overall the Critics Choice Is the…
Normally picking isn’t too difficult when I do comparisons of speakers like this. But honestly, these two speakers are both great, running neck and neck, and it’s a real damn headache to try to choose the top one. But you want to know, so…
The Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 Sounds Just a Bit Better
As usual, the opinions here are not just our own, but a metacritical roundup of the best reviewers around. And in this case, the critical opinions on Consumer Reports and audiophile review sites are a near tie.
But the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 is just ahead overall in most opinions of audio critics, and ours. The major upsides in terms of sound to the Megaboom 3 (it’s improved from the original Megaboom) are:
- Ultimate Ears speakers including the Megaboom 3 offer 360-degree sound, which we think is ideal for this type of speaker. Set it in the middle of a room, on a picnic table, on your beach towel, and it will sound equally good no matter which side of it you’re on. The JBL Charge 4 on the other hand is directional, sounding best only from the front.
- The Megaboom 3 sounds clear and even across all frequencies and the bass is strong and punchy without being overpowering. There is sweetness in the highs, and it doesn’t distort at top volumes.
- If you’re not happy with that even mix, the Ultimate Ears app allows you to adjust the EQ to other presets (for noisy environments, for spoken word, etc.) or to freely set your own.
All that said, the JBL Charge 4 is a strong improvement over the JBL Charge 3 and is certainly no slouch in terms of audio performance in the ears of most critics.
- The JBL Charge 4 has one oval 50 x 90 mm transducer facing forwards, and so is directional. The advantage is that this can offer a bit of a sense of soundstage and spatial separation for such a small, single speaker; the disadvantage is that it sounds best just from the front.
- Similar to the Megaboom 3, the JBL Charge 4 has even performance across a full range and strong, convincing bass; though many but not all felt the Megaboom 3 was slightly better in this respect.
Again, these are close, and we personally would be tempted to buy whichever is cheaper at the moment of purchase. But there are a few feature difference to be aware of, as we’ll show next.
JBL Charge 4 and Megaboom 3 Feature Differences Explained
- Our favorite feature difference is the USB-A out on the Charge 4, which allows you to charge your phone or other device off of the speaker’s battery when you’re away from a power source and in a bind. (You could also just carry a spare USB-C battery however.)
- The Charge 4’s 3.5 mm mini (standard headphone) jack allows you to connect an older device like an mp3 player. I’ve found this feature useful when DJ-ing an outside party, as I can have a playlist set on the old device and receive calls from the inevitable lost latecomers without interrupting the music.
- The JBL Charge 4 is meant to lay horizontal, which makes it a bit more stable than the Megaboom 3, which normally stands vertically.
But there are also some feature advantages of the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3:
- If you’re rough with your devices, this is the better choice. The Megaboom 3 is not just completely waterproof, the IP67 rating means that it’s rated to keep out dust and grime as well. And both users and critics report that it survives drops well, though we’re not fool-hardy enough to test this.
- On a probably related note, Ultimate Ears offers a two-year warranty whereas JBL offers one year.
- The Megaboom 3’s app is a bit better; it allows you to remotely turn your speaker on and off, adjust the EQ, set an alarm, and control multiple speakers.
- The Megaboom 3 has a small loop on top, so if you get a standard carabiner, you can hang it anywhere.
We’ve emphasized contrasts, but these speakers are more alike than different; here’s what you’ll get with both:
- If you buy two JBL Charge 4s or two Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3s, you can create a stereo pair. Or you can just have twice as much sound. This is especially great for rocking a portable, very loud party.
- Both have 20-hour advertised battery life, and both go nearly that long in real-world tests. It’s more than you could ever realistically need for most uses.
- Both have volume and play/pause buttons on the speakers themselves.
- Both are cylinders about 3.5 inches / 9 cm in diameter by 8.5 in. / 22 cm. long, and weigh a bit under 3 pounds / a kilo. They’re easily to carry, but for a size smaller check our favorite travel-friendly speakers. And if you’re willing to carry something bigger, check out the JBL Xtreme 2 or Boombox 2, which are larger and heavier (and a lot more expensive) but also sound better than either of these.
- Both come in a variety of colors. The Megaboom 3 is a bit more shimmery, and the Charge 4 also has a camouflage option, for when you want to blast your tunes while hunting apparently deaf wildlife or enemies.
Your Choice and Getting the Best Prices
It’s so close. Personally, I’m a cheapskate and would probably go for whichever is cheaper at the moment. But if they’re about the same, I’d opt for the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3.
We try to link to the best prices below. But they really fluctuate and we strongly recommend clicking through to both and checking various colors’ prices; sometimes there are great deals to be had at Amazon if you’re flexible about that.