Choosing a portable Bluetooth speaker can be a tough call, especially when you have an ear for music. Among many portable speaker options, the two renowned ones are JBL Charge Essential and Charge 4. Both speakers are unique in their own right; however, here’s a full comparison of the design, build quality, and features of these speakers if you want to find out which one is a better option for you.
My Verdict: In my opinion, Charge 4 is a better choice between the two speakers. It has a more deeper bass and superior audio performance, which is louder and clearer than the Charge Essential. Furthermore, it has many additional features like USB-C, a built-in power bank to charge your phones, AUX input, and Connect + for simultaneous music playback on a daisy chain of compatible speakers.
|JBL Charge 4
|JBL Charge Essential
|On top of the Speaker
|On top of the speaker
|LED Battery Indicator
|LED battery indicator
|USB-C/ USB for Charging
|Yes (JBL Portable App)
Which One’s Better: JBL Charge Essential Vs Charge 4
Design, Build Quality, and Durability:
JBL speakers claim to be rugged and sturdy, with a timeless design to fit in your party or living room seamlessly. JBL Charge 4 and Charge Essential are no exception; they have a cylindrical design with a fabric wrapped around the sound drivers to provide safety in case of accidents or rough use.
Both speakers have rubber housing for protection and a tight seal on the connectivity ports; however, the JBL Charge Essential is a bit heavier than the Charge 4.
I tested the sturdiness and build quality of the two speakers by conducting a fair drop test. I dropped both speakers from a height of 4 feet to check their sturdiness and found that both the speakers sustained visible damages, and the sound quality remained unaffected.
Furthermore, both these speakers have an advertised waterproof rating of IPX7, which means they are submersible in water for about 30 minutes without any damage. I tested the waterproofing of both speakers by exposing them to splashes of water and submerging them in water for about 30 minutes. The speakers sustained the water splashes without any harm.
So, regarding durability and portability, both speakers have the same strength and sturdiness.
Bluetooth and Connectivity:
Charge Essential and Charge 4 are Bluetooth speakers; however, Charge 4 features Bluetooth 4.2, which is better than Charge Essential’s Bluetooth 4.1. The newer version of Bluetooth provides better connectivity range, lag-free audio transmission, and faster connectivity. Both speakers support multiple device connectivity of up to two devices, which allows you to play music in turns.
In addition, these speakers have an AUX 3.5 mm cable input, allowing the user to connect the speaker with devices that do not support wireless/ Bluetooth connections.
Battery Life and Charging Time:
Battery life and charging are important considerations for Bluetooth speakers. JBL Charge 4 and Charge Essential have an advertised battery life of 20 hours, each with a charging time of 4 hours. However, in a battery life test, the results were different.
I tried playing music on Charge 4 at 50% volume, and the battery lasted for 9 hours and 56 minutes, whereas at 90% volume, it lasted 6.5 hours. The advertised battery life of 20 hours was achievable at volumes under 40%.
In a similar battery life test, at a volume of 50%, the battery life remained for about 7.5 hours, whereas at 90% volume with the same music, the battery life could be sustained for about 4 hours. For volumes below 50%, the speaker’s battery lasted up to 15+ hours.
Both the speakers have a power saving mode, which allows the speaker to turn off after 10-15 minutes of inactivity. In addition, they also have a built-in power bank, which allows you to charge the devices from your speakers.
The audio quality of the two speakers is another crucial consideration. Both speakers have transducers on the sides to deliver amazing bass without disruption. However, the power output of Charge 4 is 30 watts, which is better than Charge Essential’s, which has a power output of 20 Watts.
I conducted a fair test on both speakers to determine their audio signature and quality. At a 50% volume, both speakers had clear audio and great bass delivery for their size. However, the JBL Charge 4 sounds much clearer and has a punchier bass than Charge Essential. Furthermore, the JBL Charge 4 sounds louder than Charge Essential.
Active Features Comparison:
When comparing the two speakers, you must consider their active features. Both Charge 4 and Charge Essential support multiple device pairing, an IPX7 rating for water resistance, and a built-in power bank to allow users to charge the devices from the speaker.
Both speakers feature a companion app that has multiple controls for the user. However, Charge 4 has an additional Connect + feature, which allows the user to connect a daisy chain of compatible speakers for simultaneous playback. It also had a USB-C port, which enables faster charging of speakers.
Usage JBL Charge Essential Vs Charge 4:
Hiking Trips and Road Trips
In my opinion, both the speakers could be used for hiking and road trips; however, if you’re looking for something more suitable for wider space, JBL Charge 4 is a better option because of its louder audio output and Connect + feature, which you can use to daisy chain a bunch of compatible speakers for a louder and simultaneous playback. It has a better battery life performance than the Charge Essential.
Beaches and Pool Parties
Both speakers have an IPX7 rating, which makes them immune to water splashes and suitable for outdoor use. However, Charge 4 could be ideal for beaches or large open spaces because it’s louder than Charge Essential and has clearer bass delivery than its competitor.
Indoor Settings and Larger Gathering
Both speakers are small portable Bluetooth speakers and do not have very loud audio to fill larger spaces.
Charge Essential is a great audio choice for smaller rooms or indoor settings. It delivers clear audio with great bass, mids, and trebles. However, this speaker won’t be able to fulfill the audio requirements for outdoor spaces. Charge 4, however, fits perfectly because of its louder audio and ability to connect with multiple speakers.
- I dropped Charge 4 accidentally from my bike, and to my surprise, it sustained the damages and worked perfectly fine.
- I heard some music being played across the warehouse where I work; I thought it came from a high-quality audio system, and the sound and bass sounded massive. I was shocked when I found out it was this little thing. I will treat myself to one for Christmas to take on holiday next year if COVID allows.
- This speaker has great sound and connects easily. Great for small gatherings. Unfortunately, you can’t connect it to other JBL speakers via Bluetooth or the Connect Plus app the JBL offers. If you just want a louder sound than your phone or computer, great! If you want to connect to other speakers and amplify the sound, don’t invest.
The choice of a Bluetooth speaker depends on many factors, including personal preferences, audio choices, allocated budget, and the features you’re looking for. You may also want to check the battery life and connectivity options to ensure you get everything you need.
However, between Charge 4 and Charge Essential, Charge 4 makes a better portable speaker option because of its battery life, Bluetooth 4.2, clear audio delivery with impressive bass response, and louder audio output with several features, including Connect +.
At the end, the choice of speaker comes down to your personal preferences, so choose what fits your requirements.
I’m Shaun Conroy, an audiophile & founder of HiFi Audios. Holding a Bachelor’s in Sound Engineering, I bring deep expertise in audio devices and offer insights & recommendations to fellow enthusiasts.