The JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi is another excellent-sounding wireless speaker from JBL, boasting an even more refined performance, especially over a Wi-Fi connection. It is considerably more expensive than its predecessor and close rivals, and though the addition of Wi-Fi makes this speaker more convenient for indoor use, some may lament the omission of the PartyBoost feature.
- Balanced, clear sound over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Tough, rugged design
- Can be used to charge other devices
- Solid battery life
- More expensive than before
- No PartyBoost feature
- No fast charging
- Wi-Fi and BluetoothNow supports AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Chromecast and Alexa MRM streaming
- IP67 ratingDustproof and waterproof
- Battery life20 hours of playtime on a single charge
All eyes would have been on JBL announcing a Charge 6 but instead the Charge 5 Wi-Fi appeared, adding extra wireless capabilities.
JBL has taken a leaf out of Sonos book by marrying Bluetooth and Wi-Fi tech in one form. Is it worth the jump up in price? Here’s my verdict.
- Big, rugged design
- No carry strap
- Waterproof and dustproof
Not much has changed with the design as the JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi is more an iterative update than a complete revision. It still looks like an American football you could play a game of catch with.
It’s slightly heavier at 1kg, and just like before it is well built: heavy, durable, and surprisingly dense. It does not feel like it would crack or break easily – I’ve dropped this speaker from about a foot or so onto a hard wooden surface and softer grass, and on each surface the speaker bounces and flips into one direction. It’s a very durable speaker.
There is a change in its construction to note. Like Ultimate Ears and Marshall, JBL is incorporating more post-consumer recycled plastic, using recycled fabric for the speaker grille. I haven’t felt much of a difference between the Charge 5 and Charge 5 Wi-Fi in terms of how they feel. The packaging also uses FSC certified paper printed with soy ink.
The only notable visual change is the arrangement of buttons on the top surface. The PartyBoost button is replaced by the Moments button (shaped like a heart), the playback button has switched sides and the volume buttons are coupled together. In the middle you still get the power and Bluetooth button, but it’s joined by an LED that denotes a Wi-Fi connection.
Coated in the same coarse fabric texture of before, the Charge 5 Wi-Fi remains grippy to hold. There’s no handle, strap or hang loop so carrying it in a hand or placing it in a bag are the only means of transport. Dirt is easy enough to rub off, and if it’s sticking then the speaker is waterproof so it can be given a rinse.
Not only is it waterproof, its IP67 rating means it’s dustproof too. That rating does mean that it could be submerged into a body of water 1m deep for 30 minutes. Having dunked it into a bowl of water, I was a little surprised by how absorbent it was but after several vigorous shakes, most of the water was gone. The main USB-A port is concealed by a tab which stops water from getting through.
At the time of review the Charge 5 Wi-Fi only comes in black. If you’re looking for other colours, perhaps wait a little longer. JBL usually tends to expand the colour options over time.
- Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Alexa Multi-Room, AirPlay
- No PartyBoost feature
- Supports JBL One app
The big feature is the addition of Wi-Fi, and this expands the number of sources the JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi can talk with. There’s Spotify Connect: built-in Chromecast, AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room audio, as well as Google Home and Amazon Alexa voice assistants through another speaker or device. That doesn’t feel completely necessary, but it’s there if you want the Charge 5 Wi-Fi as part of your smart home setup.
There’s no PartyBoost feature where you can daisy chain a ludicrous number of JBL speakers together, or play in stereo. That’s slightly mitigated by the multi-room support, but for some I’d wager its omission will be disappointing.
Another benefit is that features such as Spotify Connect will use up less of your mobile device’s battery, as it’ll be streaming straight from the Spotify servers than from the phone. There’s also compatibility with the JBL One app – the Charge 5 Wi-Fi won’t work with the JBL Portable app, and if you try to connect, it’ll ferry you off to the One app anyway. Wi-Fi also allows for 24-bit/96kHz playback.
Before I get to the app, a note on swapping between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This speaker works similarly to the Sonos Roam and Move. The JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi will essentially stay connected all the time once it has been set up. Wonder away from your home Wi-Fi (I walked up the road and powered the speaker up again), and the Wi-Fi indicator will flash until it regains connection.
Bluetooth is enabled by pressing the Bluetooth button, which puts the speaker in its pairing mode, but it doesn’t turn the Wi-Fi off. You could be streaming Bluetooth audio from Spotify, but with a tap of the button in the Spotify app, start streaming over Wi-Fi after which the Bluetooth connection is disabled/turned off. This can be changed in the app to prioritise a Bluetooth connection when the speaker powers up.
Back to the JBL One app. Inside is a three-band equaliser for altering bass, mid, and treble: in-app playback settings, in-app music service providers (including the likes of Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, iHeart Radio, and more), and the Moments feature.
Moments is a button dedicated to your favourite track, playlist, or radio station. Sign into the account of your preferred music subscription service within the One app, set the auto-off time (or ignore it), volume level, and then tap ‘Save’. From there on that playlist or station can be accessed by pressing the ‘Moment’ button. In practice it works, press it and it’ll tee up whatever you’ve chosen.
The app itself is easy to navigate, proving swift and responsive in use. It also has an info icon for the ‘Moment’ feature that helpfully explains if you’re at a loss as to what it does.
Battery life is rated up to 20 hours, which is the same as its predecessor, and it can act as a powerbank to charge other devices through the USB-A port. Compared to other speakers, the Middleton is up to 20+ hours, and Orange Amps’ Orange Box (£299) is 15 hours. There’s no fast-charging listed with full battery charge noted at 6 hours. Charging through USB-C does feel glacially slow if you’re used to fast-charging.
There’s Bluetooth 5.3 onboard and the wireless performance is as reliable as the original model. A blast of Hey Jude at top volume and it was only at a distance of over 20+ metres where the signal became a little choppy.
- Refined Bluetooth performance over Charge 5
- Clearer, sharper, more detailed on Wi-Fi
The JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi takes the same approach as its predecessor but brings with it more refinement. JBL hasn’t changed the driver configuration per se; it’s a similarly sized woofer transducer combined with a 10mm tweeter, but JBL has extracted a better performance from it.
With Nelly Furtado’s Maneater, the Charge 5 Wi-Fi launches into the track with a punchy, controlled bass performance. Furtado’s voice is centred in the middle, but the difference between the two speakers is the newer model projects her voice above the rest of the track. It helps to give vocals a space of their own, preserving them from the energy of the driving beats.
The cymbal crashes sound crisper and more detailed but the overall tone of the Charge 5 Wi-Fi’s presentation doesn’t seem too different. It’s still the same driving, energetic performance. The bass is still strong (I can feel it emanate through the table the speaker is on), and in an outdoor setting bass won’t be as strong but there’s still enough to get a feel for the song’s percussive beat.
A switch to a slower slow, Sting and Eric Clapton’s Probably Me, and the Charge 5 Wi-Fi digs out more detail from the repeated finger snaps. The vocal presentation is big and bold in stature, like with Maneater, Sting’s vocals sound clearer, better projected, and with a bit more dynamism to his inflections. What stands out with this track is the loudness of the speaker. At similar volume levels the Charge 5 Wi-Fi is a step up in loudness than its predecessor.
With Hey Jude at the speaker’s loudest volume, I didn’t notice any distortion, though the bass performance isn’t as big. I doubt many will be too fussed when used outside, and at its default volume it’s loud enough to use indoors.
Still on Bluetooth and a switch to Christina Aguilera’s Without You, and the refinements to the tweeter become clearer. Where the playback of the piano is dulled on the Charge 5, it takes on a brighter, sharper, and more defined description with the Wi-Fi model. The speaker resolves detail finer, the vinyl crackle that opens the song is clearer, and Aguilera’s voice also feels more focused and defined.
Switch to Wi-Fi and it’s a substantial step up. Aguilera’s vocal performance becomes even clearer, ladled with more detail and sharpness, crisper but no less expressive. There’s also another noticeable step up in loudness, so much so I turned the volume down during a listen of Hot Chip’s Over and Over.
Sticking with that track and it’s noticeable how dull the treble can sound, along with bass that feels less exuberant, and voices that feel submerged with the rest of the track. The JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi retains what made the original good, but improves on areas that needed work.
Like the Charge 5, the Wi-Fi model still takes a directional approach to sound. It doesn’t sound too bad from behind but doesn’t have a feature like the Marshall Middleton’s multi-directional soundscape. You’ll want to be facing the speaker for the best performance.
Should you buy it?
For its rugged build quality and improved sound
The build quality is just as tough and durable as before for outdoor use, and the addition of Wi-Fi improves its audio quality.
If you want a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker for less
JBL clearly has eyes on the Sonos Roam with the Charge 5 Wi-Fi, and while it boasts a bigger bass performance than Sonos’ speaker, it is £50 more expensive.
The JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi improves on its predecessor. It retains the same rugged build but with better Bluetooth audio, and over a Wi-Fi connection it sounds leaps and bounds better than the original.
The addition of Wi-Fi capabilities such as Spotify Connect, Chromecast, AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music as well as built-in music streaming playback within the JBL One app also makes the Charge 5 Wi-Fi more convenient for indoor use. Some may even gravitate towards using it indoors more than they do out of the home.
That makes it a considerably more versatile speaker, but the jump up in price is just as considerable. Nonetheless, the Charge 5 Wi-Fi earns a hearty endorsement from me, but with the Sonos Roam offering similar capabilities for less, some may want to let the price drop before scooping up JBL’s excellent wireless speaker. Check out our Best Bluetooth Speaker guide for more options.
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We test every wireless speaker we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested with real world use
Tested for two weeks
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There’s no support for PartyBoost feature on the Charge 5 Wi-Fi