Taking music on the go has been a common practice since people were walking around Muscle Beach with a boombox by their head in the early ’80s. Over the years the walkman took the place of the boombox and our listening preferences eventually evolved to the buds that are commonplace in virtually everybody’s ears today. One way that the past is becoming the future is with the advent of the portable speakers that emulate the boombox of yesterday in a much smaller package.
The benefits of the portable speaker are plentiful. They allow for easy sharing of music amongst friends and provide a safe way to listen to songs either while on a bike ride, a boat cruise, or some other instance when headphones just wouldn’t be feasible.
In looking for a portable speaker some of the ideal qualities off the bat would be being compact, offering great sound quality, being Bluetooth compatible for communication to a phone, and being easy to attach to things (bike handle) either by design or with accessories, It wouldn’t hurt if the speaker looked cool and stylish but that wouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker in many consumers eyes.
One of the popular portable speakers on the market is the JBL Charge 2 in which we’ll take a look at some of the features and accessories that will help you decide whether this device is a viable purchase or you’d rather just stick with Old Faithful…aka your boombox next to your ear.
About the JBL Charge 2
The Charge 2 is the successor to JBL’s original Charge model, originally thought to be one of the most innovative products among portable Bluetooth speakers. The original Charge was an early speaker to market and not only were there very few Bluetooth models, almost none of them featured the sound quality, battery life, and speakerphone capabilities as the Charge did. The Charge 2 is supposed to build on those qualities, although in an admitted market that has become much more flooded with competitors.
So what does it do? Quite simply the JBL Charge 2 is a battery-operated, Bluetooth-enabled speaker that lets you amplify music from your cell phone. People who want to share their tunes with friends or listen to music without headphones are making the portable speaker industry quite popular. With many of the devices ranging from $99 to $300 or more many consumers might be willing to stick with the speaker capabilities of their phones but for those who want crisper (and louder) sound quality and added convenience, the portable units are hard to beat.
The JBL Charge 2 might be a little bigger than some of the other portable speakers on the market, roughly the size of a tallboy beer or energy drink. The speaker can be used either in the horizontal direction or stood up on end vertically which adds to the convenience. The speaker is also built very sturdily and seems to be quite durable, something important in a portable unit that can easily fall off a shelf/headboard or come loose on a bike ride. The speaker is covered by a hard plastic grille and a silicon cover protects the rest of the unit.
One cool part of the design is on either end of the speaker where there are bass pulsars that literally bounce as deep sounds boost from the unit. Many users who spent $2,500 putting a bass speaker in their $500 car will appreciate this neat nuance. The Charge 2 is also somewhat customizable in not only the black color but also blue, red, white, and purple.
The controls included on the JBL Charge 2 give the best indication of what the features are. Located on the top of the unit are “power”, “Bluetooth”, “volume”, “call answer”, and “social”. Power and volume are pretty self-explanatory but the Bluetooth option is how you sync a phone with the speaker (through the phone) and play your music. A nice caveat is that the speaker remembers which phone was connected and will auto-pair in the future. Since the JBL Charge 2 also has a built-in microphone it’s actually possible to send and receive calls through the device. Finally, the social mode allows up to three devices/people to connect to the JBL 2 and share their music with the speaker automatically alternating between each connected phone after each song.
Another asset of the JBL Charge 2 is the ability to actually charge devices as the name implies. The speaker features a USB to USB cable and port which can either be used to charge up mobile devices or the speaker itself. There is even an adapter to pop onto the USB end so that the speaker can be plugged into a standard wall outlet for charging. Also included is a 3.5mm aux output which allows the user to play music even through a wired device.
As far as the battery of the JBL Charge 2 itself the unit features a 6000mAh Li-ion piece that has up to 12 hours of playback time. Of course, if you also use the speaker to charge up mobile devices that time will decrease significantly.
How Does It Perform?
One thing to remember about the JBL Charge 2 and any portable speakers really are that they are compact and battery operated so the sound quality is going to be somewhere between a phone speaker and a plug-in stereo. The Charge 2 features two 1.5 inch drivers that deliver better-than-expected sound. It is important to know how to use the device though as there will be some distortion if the unit is used on full blast and with deep bass sounds.
It should be noted that the Charge 2 does provide better bass than many of its competitor’s thanks to the end bass radiators on the device. One thing that many compact speakers struggle with is to provide bass but to do so without ruining the sound quality of the high-end. The Charge 2 does manage to strike a nice balance with the treble and provides a notable differentiated range. The only real problem is that the Charge 2 seems to be stuck in somewhat of a gray area when it comes to sound. The device somewhat mistakenly bills itself as a bass-centric device, especially with the dedicated side ports, but on tracks, with extreme bass, the performance lags. As long as your music library is diverse and you aren’t looking solely for a way to play your club-thumping thunderjams the Charge 2 should suffice.
One thing to note is that the JBL Charge 2 is slightly bigger than the original Charge so it will not fit in the Charge pouch. There are plenty of inexpensive pouches available to solve that problem though. The Bluetooth connection is A2DP with SBC Codec although there is a problem with the Bluetooth lopping off the first part of songs that are searched out (as with many BT speakers). Some other tech specs include:
|JBL Charge 2 Tech Sheets|
|Bluetooth Version: 3.0|
|Support: A2DP V1.3, AVRCP V1.5,HFP V1.6, HSP V1.2|
|Transducer: 2 x 45mm|
|Rated power input: 2 x 7.5W|
|Frequency response: 75Hz – 20kHz|
|Signal-to-noise ratio: >80 db|
|Battery type: Lithium-ion Polymer|
|Battery charge time: 4 hrs @ 1.8A|
|Music playing time: up to 12 hours (varies by volume level and audio content)|
|Dimensions (H x W x D):79mm x 184mm x 75mm|
|30-day returns, lifetime support|
Final Verdict: Is it Worth it?
The JBL Charge 2 could be considered a mid-range product. It’s definitely not the cheapest portable speaker on the market at $149 but can be had for considerably less than the Bose Soundlink at $199. One of the problems with mid-range products though is that they face somewhat of an identity crisis on whether they want to be considered an elite product or an affordable one.
The JBL Charge 2 does tow the line quite well. It provides great sound quality and boost that really needs to be heard in person to be appreciated. That being said there is noticeable distortion at high volumes and with heavy bass tracks and lagging at the beginning of songs through Bluetooth – something that $200+ products like the Soundlink or the Beats Pill 2.0 supposedly do not.
Either way, the product does offer great sound performance for what the majority of users intend it for. Top 40, country, classical, and podcasts are delivered with great quality, and the features such as being able to charge mobile devices and 12-hour battery life do justify the price. 90% of consumers are going to be enamored with this product and if you’re in the other 10% with high-bass tastes or ‘crank it to 11’ cravings you probably already know this isn’t the portable speaker for you.