JBL Charge 2+ Review
Bluetooth speakers are often a must for the average phone user; whether you are camping, hiking, or even just having a cookout, there is always room for a bit of ambient music. A few years ago you would have to pay the price of a new phone for a great Bluetooth speaker and even then audio performance was lacking. Today, you can find a wealth of Bluetooth speakers in just about any price range, from under $30 to well over 200$. Fortunately, JBL has created a line of incredibly priced speakers that are sure to catch the attention of just about anybody that is looking to buy a Bluetooth speaker. While JBL’s line of Bluetooth speakers is excellent, featuring products for any budget, the Bluetooth speaker that I find the most appealing has to be the Charge 2+. Not only is it affordable at $150, but the sound that this little cylinder produces will knock your socks off.
Upon hearing that I was able to receive a review sample by JBL I was excited beyond words. JBL has always made top notch products that seem to defy the price tag given to them. Once the package arrived I was excited to see that the Charge 2+ I received not only matched my phone but also the GamersFTW colors, featuring a dark blue hue with white LEDs coming out of the buttons. Upon opening the package, I noticed how well-packaged everything really was. It seemed as though someone could drop this from a medium height roof and the Charge 2+ could be perfectly fine; premium packaging often says a lot about the quality of the speaker.
I was surprised to see how big the power brick was compared to others I have seen; it is about 2 inches wide by about an inch in depth. This doesn’t matter to me though as I rarely touch them as soon as I plug them in, but this could spell trouble for other users that use extension cords or other means of plugging in the speaker itself. The power brick is rated at 2.3 amps and is estimated to charge the Charge 2+ in about 4 hours. This estimate was correct on my usage, as it charged in just a few minutes over 4 hours.
The micro USB port along with the 3.5mm headphone port makes sure the JBL Charge 2+ works with almost any mainstream cable for charging or wired audio.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that this charges with any micro USB cable and not a proprietary cord such as the recently reviewed G-Boom speaker. The charger and USB cable are hard to lose with a bright orange color; this makes it easier to find in any lighting condition other than pitch black. It also gives a stylish look compared with the blue speaker itself. This means that in the off chance you run of out of power on the Charge 2+, (which shouldn’t be a problem, we will get to that in a minute.) there is a high chance of someone having a spare micro USB cable sitting around somewhere. This is a huge plus to Android users as well because you can charge the Charge 2+ with the same cable. You might need to find a longer micro USB cable and keep this as a backup, though, as the length of the cord seems to be about 3 feet.
The power brick the JBL Charge 2+ comes with is fairly large, but shouldn’t be a problem for most people.
Once I unpackaged the Charge 2+, as always I look for any imperfections and note them. The Charge 2+ came to me in absolutely perfect condition. Once I grabbed the unit itself I immediately noticed it’s heft. It isn’t abnormally heavy, neither is it so light you could forget it is in your hands. I could compare the heft to the Bose Soundlink 2; the Charge 2+ is just a little lighter. It feels great in the hands and looks even better when sitting on its feet. The metal grill on the front and back of the speaker looks excellent with the aggressive JBL logo on the front and is sure to turn heads. On the sides and top, you will notice a soft-touch rubber material that is sure to take a beating before showing any signs of abuse. On both of the sides, you will find 2 bass radiators etched with the JBL logo, which move with the bass of the music. It is a very nice touch, and I love watching the two sides jumping up and down when playing bass-heavy music.
On the top of the speaker you will find the power and Bluetooth buttons. On the left and towards the middle you will find a plus and minus symbol with which you can turn the volume down by the Charge 2+ directly.
On the right side you will see a party button; pressing the button lights it up in white, and lets you and two other Bluetooth devices take turns playing music without having to re-pair Bluetooth every time someone wants to play a song. It is a life saver and works flawlessly every time. On the far right side there is a phone button with which you can pick up a call if you are far away from your phone at the time. This works surprisingly well by clearing out any background noises whilst talking to people.It works great and I haven’t had a single complaint whilst talking to someone through it. I do however miss one small thing and that is music controls. Since this speaker is in fact splash resistant, I expected to be able to use this speaker closer to the water and have my phone sitting off to the side. Unfortunately I need to have my phone directly available to change songs or playlists. Although the splash resistance is a great feature, it is a bit less prominent than it should be without the music controls.
The JBL Charge 2+ is splash resistant, meaning you are safe to give it a wash if it becomes dirty as long as you do not submerge it.
On the back it is very much bare, resembling the very front of the speaker with the intake for the bass’s air so that it can have the ability to ‘jump’ like it does. The bottom of the speaker features the micro-USB input in which you are able to charge your Charge 2+ with just about any micro USB cable. In the middle, you will notice a normal 3.5mm headphone input in which you can play audio from the majority of audio sources without Bluetooth built in. Once the cable is plugged in, the Charge 2+ turns off Bluetooth automatically, effectively causing zero work for the user. On the right end you will see a USB port in which you can charge any USB powered device even when the Charge 2+ isn’t plugged in, effectively giving the consumer an emergency charger for phones in case the battery dies. This is done with the Charge 2+’s 6000 MaH battery, so expect to get less music time whilst charging your phone. If your phone’s battery is 2000 MaH and the Charge 2+’s battery is 6000, you will notice the battery of the Charge 2+ go down by about a third, so expect roughly 8 hours instead of the advertised 12 hours of non-stop music.
The most enjoyable way to dry the JBL Charge 2+ is turning on a bass-heavy song and watching the water come splashing out
Inside of the Charge 2+ you will find 15 watts of total audio power, although the power of the passive radiators on the side make it seem more along the line of 20 watts total power. This should be enough for just about any occasion including medium sized parties, camping, or just hanging around the house. Once the music really starts going you can hear the audio stabilizer kick in; this makes sure no distortion or ‘clipping’ is heard when playing in high volumes. It works perfectly as I have never even heard a second of distortion with any song, movie, or game I have used this with. The stabilizer helps unbelievably well with the bass response. The Charge 2’s sound should stay crisp and clean for years because of this and not have a sudden failure from too much clipping audio.
The sound quality with music ranged from great to fantastic. You may notice a dip in bass response if you are outside compared to inside, but again, that is the same with every speaker. If you are hoping the excellent bass response is incredible outside, then this will be disappointing. Fortunately, no speaker other than the highest rated car speakers can be used outside with a ton of bass. If you move inside, then you will find all the bass you can handle. I have never witnessed something the size of a large soda create such an excellent amount of bass. The twin bass radiators help a lot when the bass gets low; the best thing is you will not have to worry about clipping the bass thanks to the stabilizer built into the speaker. The excellent bass doesn’t cause the mids or highs to suffer. Everything is upfront and present. I was completely caught off guard when playing the sample songs I use for all of my audio products as everything sounded excellent.
Starting off with my usual list of songs, all recorded in 192 kbs, I noticed almost instantly how much of an impact the stabilizer makes. No songs I threw at it ever distorted, even bass heavy songs like ‘Hustlin’ by Rick Ross played with ease even at the highest sound levels. I then decided to try ‘White Clouds’ by Decaf, one of my favorite audio tracks that many speakers have failed on including the Monster headphones I reviewed a few days ago. To my surprise, there was zero distortion although the highs and lows were made a bit lower by the stabilizer; it was noticeable, but hardly annoying. This happened a few times with my testing, but I would much rather this happen then distortion as it will prolong the life of the system for years. It is a hardly talked about feature, but speakers without this feature tend to have a muddy and distorted sound, and in my view it is certainly worth the additional money having this feature.
The JBL Charge 2+ is small enough to be hidden anywhere and still produce a surprising amount of sound
I then moved on to the other spectrum of music by playing ‘You Dropped The Bomb’ by The Gap Band. Many speakers have trouble keeping up with the bass and synthesizer playing at the same time, but fortunately the Charge 2+ had zero problem at all even at the highest level. ‘Spiders’ by System of a Down produced the same result. The soft guitar and singing in the beginning coupled with the echoes in the background make many speakers produce a ‘muddy’ or distorted sound with all things playing. Again, the song came in crystal clear even when the tempo picked up towards the end. The noticeable bass creates an excellent scope of the nuances in the song that many speakers seem to subdue to a level.
Movies turned out to be quite the surprise. I have heard that the older Charge 2’s had a problem with bass during movies that would overpower the voices. Fortunately, the Charge 2+ has the latest firmware that cures this problem before it even starts. Television shows such as Family Guy or Frasier are no problem for the Charge 2+ as the ambient sounds are rich and vibrant and the voices are well heard even at low volume levels. Action movies such as Austin Powers also proved to do very well, as even during gun shots and explosions the Charge 2+ held it’s own against my sound bar, at points even sounding better than the sound bar.
The JBL Charge 2+’s feet are capable of sitting just about anywhere with it’s small footprint, but make sure you don’t accidentally make it roll by setting it down incorrectly.
Gaming produced a fairly similar result. Gamers that play games such as Call of Duty Ghosts rely on sound direction to play well. While the Charge 2+ does well, I wouldn’t recommend this being your ‘go-to’ speaker for gaming any time soon, but this will prove to be much better sound than any television made in the past 5 years could produce. Games such as Grand Theft Auto 5 are sound heavy, with not only the roar of a car engine, but the ambient sounds coupled with music; crippling some devices. Fortunately, the Charge 2+ produced crystal clear that honestly surprised me because both the Monster headphones and G-Boom both failed this test where the Charge 2+ really held it’s own.
Overall, the JBL charge 2+ has a lot of sound for such a small footprint. I could easily replace this Bluetooth speaker with many speakers in my house and not lose one bit of sleep over it. The Charge 2+ sounds excellent no matter what you throw at it and it often sounds better than things many times its size. For $150 USD there simply isn’t a better sounding, water resistant speaker on the market that can compete with the Charge 2+’s excellent sound quality. If you are going to the pool or the beach, make sure the Charge 2+ will be second on your list right after your phone because the Charge 2+ makes those times with friends and family even better.