Review: JBL Clip 4 portable wireless speaker

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JBL Clip 4, review

If you’ve recently Googled ‘Portable Bluetooth speaker’ you know that there’s not only a lot of choice, but JBL will probably be all over your feed. The company makes a boatload of different speakers for almost every use case. Today I’ll be looking at the JBL Clip 4. The fourth generation version of this carabiner topped speaker is hugely popular, but what do you really get, how well does it work, how does it sound and would I recommend it for you?

JBL Clip 4

Summary

I think this is a great little speaker though and would definitely recommend it for campers, hikers, dog walkers and anyone who needs a compact portable speaker.

Pros

  • Small, light, portable
  • Nice design
  • Clip is secure, handy
  • Rugged build
  • Sounds good
  • Easy set up

Cons

  • No fast charging; charging takes a while
  • Bass is thin
  • Might not be powerful enough for some
  • Clip opening is narrow
  • No multi-device connectivity

What do you get with JBL Clip 4?

The JBL Clip 4’s design radically departs from its predecessor but maintains the characteristics you would expect from a JBL Clip product. You get a compact speaker measuring a bit more than 5 inches tall, roughly 3 and a half inches wide, and weighing just more than a half-pound. The fabric wrap covering the front and back of the speaker feels nice and durable and pops out nicely, especially if you consider the 9 other color options. The backside also has rubberized grooves to help keep the speaker in place when lying on its back.

The carabiner hook’s quality is by far the best out of all the JBL Clip products so far as it doubles as the speaker’s frame making it far more durable and resistant to breaking along the hinge.

JBL Clip 4, review

In theory, embedding the loop as part of the frame also allows for more space for securely hooking to different objects, but the truth is I had a hard time fitting it over many objects like handles and my car’s rearview mirror.

The Clip 4 gets another big win for being the first dustproof JBL Clip thanks to the IP67 rating instead of the IPX7 rating featured on the JBL Clip 3.

Onboard Controls

The front of the JBL Clip 4 has a simple control layout with a “Play” button on the center flanked by volume controls. The buttons feel nice to touch and are easy to press.

Set up & pairing

Turning on the JBL Clip 4 requires a simple long button press on the right part of the speaker’s backside. Below that power button is the familiar Bluetooth button which you must hold before you pair with a new device.

With this speaker you can only have one connected device at a time, so you’ll need to re-pair if you switch phones for playback. As more portable speakers boast multipoint Bluetooth pairing, I do hope the next model gets it.

Connections & Ports

On the connections and ports side, expect the JBL Clip 4 to mend some hearts and break a few others. The biggest connectivity upgrade you get here is USB-C charging. Fast-charging is still absent but it’s a victory for those folks who still had to bring a micro-USB cable to keep their speakers charged.
However, this upgrade comes at the cost of a now missing 3.5mm jack which might seem like a niche feature in 2022 given all the smartphones and tablets that no longer need it because of robust wireless connectivity.

JBL Clip 4, review

Listening to high-quality audio on a smallish speaker is a narrow use case but the JBL Clip 3 at least provided a lossless avenue. The speaker doesn’t support any wireless lossless codecs like aptX or LDAC to make up for the omission.

Sound Quality: JBL Clip 4

The grass is greener on the overall sound quality of the JBL Clip 4. I was surprised how crisp podcasts and music sounded in the medium to upper-level volume ranges. It doesn’t perform any magic in the low-end but it certainly sounds louder than it looks and punchier than the older model. And it can get surprisingly loud.

When it comes to music, the speaker definitely doesn’t have an abundance of power, but it performs admirably for a speaker this size. It’s got a bit of a lean to the higher end of the sound spectrum and the bass is on the thinner side, but overall it sounds fine. If you’re looking for more power or oomph, you can find it from other bigger, bassier JBL speakers; the key to this one is it provides music on the go, securely. It’s ideal for clipping to a backpack or bag for music on a hike or dog walk for example.

Can I connect JBL Clip 4 to other speakers?

JBL Clip 4, review

JBL’s proprietary Connect+ and PartyBoost features that enables you to pair up multiple JBL speakers are completely absent. I do understand the decision given JBL’s positioning of the JBL Clip 4 as a rugged travel speaker, but we will never know how cool it would be to travel with some fellow hikers who might have their own JBL Clip’s and play them all together for a theoretically broader soundstage. Wishful thinking, I know.

Battery Life & Charging

The battery life of the JBL Clip 4 gets the same 10-hour playback rating as its predecessor but thanks to the extra power efficiency benefits of Bluetooth 5.1, I could reach that 10-hour claim above moderate volume. Charging takes about 3 hours no matter what USB-C charger you use which might be lengthy for those spoiled with fast-charging gadgets. For now, the best way to get all-day battery life out of the JBL Clip 4 without sacrificing portability is by bringing a small powerbank. Again, for the size and price point, I’m not too fussed about the charing time and don’t feel ripped off by the battery life.

Overall review: JBL Clip 4

Overall this is a pretty good little travel speaker. The JBL Clip family is in an advantageous position as that carabiner hook makes the Clip 4 stand out in the vast sea of portable rugged Bluetooth speakers. The improvements are a step in the right direction too if you don’t mind the missing headphone jack.
It gets loud, it sounds good, and it’s highly portable. On the downside, it could use faster charging and multi-device pairing, and some music lovers may be disappointed by the audio quality.

I think this is a great little speaker though and would definitely recommend it for campers, hikers, dog walkers and anyone who needs a compact portable speaker.

JBL Clip 4 sells for about $79USD/$99CAD and you can get it from Amazon.


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