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JBL debuts new Charge 5 Bluetooth speaker for $180

The fifth generation of JBL's compact Bluetooth speaker has a built-in USB charging port and hits stores in April.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
2 min read

JBL has a new Charge Bluetooth speaker for 2021 -- the Charge 5 -- that the company says offers improved audio and an elevated dustproof and waterproof design. The wireless speaker, which features a built-in USB charging port for juicing up your mobile devices, is set to ship in April for $180 (£160) in six color options: black, blue, gray, red, teal and "squad" (which looks like a kind of camo). 

According to JBL, the speaker comes with a "racetrack-shaped driver," with a separate tweeter and dual passive radiators, which help improve both clarity and bass performance over the Charge 4. Battery life is rated at 20 hours at moderate volume levels and you can charge a device while your music is playing, though that will cut into the battery life of the speaker. This model also equipped with JBL's PartyBoost feature that allows you to connect it to other compatible JBL portable speakers to augment their sound.

Read more: Best Bluetooth speakers of 2021

If the past is any indication, this iteration of the Charge will sound fuller than JBL's more compact and less expensive Flip 5 Bluetooth speaker, which is currently available for $100. The significantly larger JBL Extreme 3 ($350) is the step-up model from the Charge 5.

I won't be able to tell you how much better the Charge 5 sounds than the Charge 4 or Flip 5 until I get my hands on a review sample. On the surface anyway, the Charge 4 has similar specs, with 20 hours of battery life and an IPX7 water-resistance rating. However, it doesn't offer the same dustproof rating (the second number in the IP rating refers to the dustproof rating) and presumably has different drivers.

Here are the Charge 5's key features, according to JBL: 

JBL Charge 5 specs

  • IP67 rated waterproof and dustproof design
  • Enabled with JBL PartyBoost
  • Bluetooth 5.1 
  • Built-in 7,500-mAh Powerbank: Rechargeable li-ion battery supports 20 hours of playtime and offers the ability to charge devices via USB-out port
  • Racetrack-shaped driver, with separate tweeter and dual passive JBL Bass Radiators
  • Silicon bumpers
  • Price: $180 (£160)
  • Six color options: black, blue, gray, red, teal and squad
  • Availability: April 2021