JBL Pulse 4 vs Pulse 5: The Trippy, Lava-Lamp-Style Speaker Gets a Bit Better

The JBL Pulse line of speakers has been a bit better with each version, so we had been looking forward to finding out if the JBL Pulse 5 would improve on the JBL Pulse 4.

The JBL Pulse 5 was announced by JBL in January of 2022 and they promised a release of the speaker in the “summer of 2022”. It’s now looking like it will come out later than that, though there have been no specifics so far.

That means we and all other critics are still waiting to give the JBL Pulse 5 a listen, but there are some details available about how the features compare, as well as some conjectures that we can make about the JBL Pulse 5 based on how JBL has improved the other, similar speakers in its recent updates, such as the step up from the JBL Flip 5 to JBL Flip 6 and from the JBL Xtreme 2 to the JBL Xtreme 3.

Update History of This Article

This article was first published on August 11, 2022.

Side-by-Side Comparison: JBL Pulse 4 vs JBL Pulse 5

When Will the JBL Pulse 5 Finally Be Released?

JBL first teased us with images of the JBL Pulse 5 at the CES 2022 in January, promising “significant improvements” and a release in “summer” of 2022.

We had been expecting this; as with a number of JBL’s other speaker lines, a new edition seems to be released about every two and a half years. And in fact, the JBL Pulse 3 was released in January of 2017 and the JBL Pulse 4 was released in September of 2019. Both got good reviews at the time, including in our own masterpiece comparison review of the JBL Pulse 3 and JBL Pulse 4.

Summer 2022 is nearing its end and the JBL Pulse 5 still shows no signs of being released; JBL’s tweets on the matter continue to vaguely put off the release date and suggest signing up for their newsletter. However, since we noticed a tweet suggesting the the JBL Boombox 3 may be released in September or October of 2022, and since that speaker was announced at the same time as the JBL Pulse 5, we think it’s prudent guesswork to think that the JBL Pulse 5 could also be finally released in September or October of 2022.

The Feature Differences Between the JBL Pulse 4 and Pulse 5

There is only a bit of concrete information out at this point, but the key things to know are these:

  • The JBL Pulse 5 is IP67 waterproof and dustproof, meaning that it can withstand being submerged for up to 30 minutes under a meter of water as well as withstand dirt ingress. The JBL Pulse 4 is IPX7 waterproof, which is the same without the dustproof rating.
  • The JBL Pulse 5 has a rope strap for carrying it; the JBL Pulse 4 does not.
  • The JBL Pulse 5 appears in the photo releases to more fully crank out a light show from top to bottom including even, apparently, at the caps.
  • The JBL Pulse 4 uses Bluetooth 4.2; the JBL Pulse 5 upgrades to Bluetooth 5.3, connecting to more than one device simultaneously. This is useful if you want to connect both a computer and a phone, for example, or if two people want to take turns being DJs.

The JBL Pulse 4 has a variety of patterns and color schemes that respond to the music. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, you can shake the speaker and a new show will start. The light shows are coordinated if you are linking two JBL Pulse 4 speakers via the app. There have been some complaints that the JBL Pulse 4’s light rhythms sometimes don’t quite match up exactly with the music and JBL promises “perfect sync” on the JBL Pulse 5.

Both the JBL Pulse 4 and the JBL Pulse 5 share these features:

  • A 12-hour battery life
  • Two of the same speakers can be paired for stereo sound
  • Multiple speakers can be paired with any PartyBoost-compatible speakers (that is, newer JBL speakers) via the app for more volume

How the JBL Pulse 4 and JBL Pulse 5 Sound

While the obvious main appeal of the JBL Pulse speakers is their light show, the sound volume and fidelity that they produce is no joke for a portable speaker of this size. Picky critics  listening to and reviewing the JBL Pulse 4 were impressed by its neutral delivery across all frequencies. The bass is present and there is even some sub-bass to give a clean and strong impression of the lower end, though of course larger portable speakers like the JBL Boombox 2 or JBL Boombox 3 perform more powerfully at the low end. At very top volumes, the JBL Pulse 4’s bass drops out somewhat, but that is when going more than loud enough to fill a small or mid-sized room.

Both the JBL Pulse 4 and JBL Pulse 5 are designed to spread the sound around with 360-degree performance, meaning that they can be placed in the middle of the room and sound equally good no matter which side of them you are on.

We’ll update this article with our impressions of the JBL Pulse 5’s sound after it is released.

Wrap-Up: And the Light-Show Speaker for You Is…

JBL Pulse 4
The trippy, fun, surprisingly classy lava lamp-speaker combo; completely IPX7 waterproof

We expect the JBL Pulse 5 to have some improvements to both sound and the light show. It should be released in the late summer or early fall of 2022 at JBL.com and likely soon after that from Amazon.