UPDATE: JBL has released better versions of both of these speakers; check out our new comparison of the JBL Charge 5 and Xtreme 3. They are both a small but solid step up in sound performance and features. (You can also check out the differences between the JBL Charge 4 and 5 and the JBL Xtreme 2 and 3.) But if you want to save a few bucks by considering these older, still-excellent models, read on…
JBL has two mid-sized cylindrical speakers that are waterproof, super tough, and just light enough to be carried outside anywhere for a party or barbecue.
But the company’s own pages on the JBL Charge 4 and JBL Xtreme 2 don’t do much more than make it clear that models like to lounge next to them in splashy environs. What the dickens is the difference between the two, you ask?
We’re here to straighten things out. We’ve got a neat little comparison table of the contrasts, and below that, our thoughts on the differences, and what the critics have had to say about their sound.
- Side-by-Side Comparison: JBL Charge 4 vs JBL Xtreme 2
- The Differences Between JBL's Mid-Sized Outdoorsy Speakers, Explained
- Summary of the Pros and Cons of the JBL Charge 4 and Xtreme 2
- Wrap-Up: And the Winning Super-Loud Road Speaker Is...
Update History of This Article
Side-by-Side Comparison: JBL Charge 4 vs JBL Xtreme 2
The Xtreme 2 is about 30% longer and wider than the JBL Charge 4, and more than double the weight. As you’d expect, the Xtreme 2 is also the better sounding speaker with more bass oomph and volume.
The Differences Between JBL’s Mid-Sized Outdoorsy Speakers, Explained
The JBL Xtreme 2 and JBL Charge 4 can be fine indoor speakers for an apartment, bedroom, kitchen, etc., but where they really excel is the outdoors.
That’s because they’re both quite well built and completely waterproof (IPX7, which means they are rated to survive for 30 minutes under a meter of water).
The JBL Charge 4 is more portable at just under 9 inches and under 4 inches diameter versus just over 11 and over 5 inches diameter for the Xtreme 2.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s probably going to be the difference between popping the Charge 4 in your beach bag or picnic basket just in case, and the more purposeful deciding to take the Xtreme 2 with you for a louder outdoor dance party like that where I tried it out, pictured up top.
The weight also makes a difference, at 2.1 lbs / 0.96 kg. for the Charge 4 vs double that at 5.3 lbs. / 2.4 kg. for the Xtreme 2.
Loudness and How They Sound
Both of the speakers sound great, and tend to surprise reviewers by being relatively refined and evenly balanced, in spite of being often marketed as beach/party speakers that just go loud and get a party thumping.
The Charge 4 has been more extensively covered by consumer organizations and geek audiophile reviewers, who overall appreciate the unit’s strong bass for its size, clarity and definition in the mids, and ability to go loud without losing control. There’s good spread and a wide soundstage for a speaker of its size.
Fewer tech press outlets and organizations have covered the Xtreme 2; both its price and heftier weight make it less directly comparable to a lot of the outdoor portable speakers that people buy. But the Xtreme 2 delivers quite impressive bass with even a hint of sub-bass as you’d have on a home system, especially if you’re using the Xtreme 2 inside on a good surface. The mids are refined, clear and proportional, and vocals have good impact.
The JBL Charge 4 and Xtreme 2 are directional speakers, meaning that they sound best from the front. (If you’d like a waterproof speaker that you can place in the middle of a room or gathering for 360-degree sound, we recommend the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 or larger Megaboom 3.) The JBL speakers nevertheless have a rather wide spread of sound and sound good from anywhere, as long as you’re in front of them.
Other Considerations for Choosing Between the Charge 4 and Xtreme 2
Sometimes specific requirements can make the choice rather easy. Aside from the obvious size and sound differences described above, there are a few feature differences.
- The JBL Charge 4 has newer USB-C charging, which is the same used on most new phones now. This makes it more future-proof and more likely you’ll find a compatible charging cable if you don’t have one with you, say from a friend’s phone. The Xtreme 2 charges via a specific wall plug that you’ll have to always have with you.
- The JBL Charge 4 does not have a speakerphone, nor does it have voice assistant integration. The Xtreme 2 has both, and the speakerphone quality is excellent and clear. We think these are features that don’t actually get all that much use in practice.
- The JBL Xtreme 2 has a carry strap with integrated beer bottle opener. It’s not worth the extra expense all by itself, but yet very wise. The JBL Charge 4 does not have these.
Summary of the Pros and Cons of the JBL Charge 4 and Xtreme 2
- Both offer excellent loudness, bass, and clarity (with the Xtreme 2 being a bit better in all of these).
- Both are very rugged, outdoorsy and waterproof.
- The speakers can connect both to each other and other JBL Connect+ speakers via the app.
- Both allow you to charge your phone or other device off of the speaker’s battery, which can be a lifesaver out away from power.
- Both have mini 3.5 mm inputs for your standard headphone cable, so you can go ahead and plug in an old MP3 player. It’s kind of a nice way to control the sound and not have to worry about a phone call interrupting your DJing.
- Both have more than enough real-world battery life for an all-day, all-night party.
- If you’re willing to consider non-JBL speakers, we have recommendations from other brands for larger portable speakers that we slightly prefer overall.
- These are not smart speakers; while we recommend just using the smart features on your phone or tablet, if you want a great-sounding portable smart speaker, try the Riva Concert or Arena or else the (waterproof) Ultimate Ears Megablast. (The Xtreme 2 does however allow you to access your phone’s Siri or Google through the speaker.)
Wrap-Up: And the Winning Super-Loud Road Speaker Is…
Both of these JBL speakers get plenty of happy comments from reviewers, and either could be a fine choice. The main differences are in price and how big you want your size and sound.