JBL Charge 2+ review: A sweet-sounding Bluetooth speaker that can juice up your phone, too

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The Good The JBL Charge 2+ is a well-designed, water-resistant portable Bluetooth speaker that features good battery life and doubles as an external charger for your portable devices. It also has built-in speakerphone capabilities, and plays loudly with relatively strong bass and top-notch performance for its size and price class.

The Bad While the speaker is water-resistant, it isn't waterproof (its ports remain exposed).

The Bottom Line The JBL Charge 2+ is a wireless Bluetooth speaker that sounds flat-out great -- and can double as a backup battery for your phone, too.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

For 2015, JBL has been doing something interesting with its portable Bluetooth wireless speakers. Instead of completely redoing its line, it's upgraded certain models with a water-resistant design and simply added a plus sign to their product names. Such is the case for the Charge 2+, which -- except for the color of the logo -- looks identical to last year's Charge 2 and carries the same list price of $150 (UK £150). However, it weights slightly more at 600 grams to the Charge 2's 540 grams, which means something has changed.

Like its Charge predecessors, you can lay this cylindrical speaker down horizontally or stand it up vertically. It charges via Micro-USB and has a built-in 6,000mAh battery for a healthy 12 hours of playback. It also retains its eponymous feature: the ability to juice up USB-powered portable devices (smartphones, music players, even tablets). Of course, if you use it as a backup battery, expect the music playback time to dip accordingly.

There's a built-in speakerphone -- it works OK (though not great) so long as you stay within about 5 to 10 feet of the microphone -- and a "social sharing mode" that allows multiple users to connect to the speaker with their devices and alternate playing tracks. (Sol Republic's Deck speaker offers this feature as well.)

The JBL Charge 2+ comes in a few different colors and is water-resistant, though not waterproof. Sarah Tew/CNET

Unlike the original Charge, this model doesn't come with a carrying case. It seem like a pretty durable speaker, but some people may want to find a pouch for some added protection when traveling with it.

I had no problem pairing both an iPhone 6 and a Samsung Galaxy S5 with the speaker and re-pairing was automatic when I turned the speaker back on (there's a dedicated Bluetooth button on the speaker to enable pairing if you get disconnected). Range is the usual 33 feet (10m), and I managed to hold a steady connection with minimal dropouts so long as I stayed within that range.

My only one gripe with the speaker is that its ports aren't sealed off, which means that if you drop it in a pool or really get it soaked, it will probably be a problem. And I don't think I'd fully trust using it in the shower. (JBL says that splashproof means, "No more to worrying about rain or spill, you can even clean it with running tap water. Just don't submerge it.")

Side view of the speaker. Sarah Tew/CNET


The speaker is powered by two 7.5-watt drivers, which gives you a total of 15 watts. That's pretty decent for a speaker this size. The Charge 2+ plays surprisingly loud, and -- unlike the original Charge 2 I reviewed -- it's tuned better and delivers cleaner sound with tighter bass. That's because about three months after the initial release of the Charge 2, JBL upgraded the speaker's firmware without bothering to tell anyone about it.

As far as I can tell, the new Charge 2+ sounds the same as the firmware-updated Charge 2, and it's arguably among the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers in this size and price class.

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