When I reviewed the first-generation JBL Charge back in 2013, I called it a “colorful pill of a speaker that looks almost like, as an accessory, it leaped out of a new iPod touch commercial.” I loved it for its clear, crisp sound that was loud enough to shake most rooms: It delivered the sound volume of the Big Jambox in the original Jambox’s form factor.
If it’s not plenty clear, I loved the JBL Charge. It ended up being my go-to kitchen speaker for over a year, until I accidentally knocked it into the sink while doing my dishes. As a sign of its quality, it actually kept working, but never sounded quite the same.
Now I’ve tried out the JBL Charge 2. And I’ve got to say, if the JBL Charge was good, the Charge 2 is even better, fixing some of the first model’s oversights. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker that can do more than just play music.
First, some caveats. Most of our experiences with speakers are informed by what kind of content we’re listening to with them, and I’m no exception. I listen to music on my living room stereo, whereas I usually listen to podcasts and videos (through a docked iPad above my sink) in the kitchen. That’s where I use the Charge 2.
For podcasting and movies, the Charge 2 works really well. What I particularly like about the Charge 2 over some other, smaller Bluetooth speakers is the volume: Even when I’ve got the water running, I can clearly hear Serial or the latest episode of It’s Always Sunny. Yet it’s worth mentioning that these are hardly arduous uses for a speaker.
Other reviewers of the JBL Charge 2 note that the speaker runs into some trouble with loud bass, and I’ve also noted in my testing some distortion on bass-heavy tracks, especially at high volumes. Basically, it comes down to what you want to do with the Charge 2: If you listen to a lot of music in the mid-to-high range, or if you want decent bass at lower volumes, the Charge 2 is a good fit.
Design-wise, the JBL Charge 2 is still the same colorful little pill that the last one was, with only a few alterations. The built-in USB port and Micro USB charging port have been shifted to the back of the device, allowing both sides of the Charge 2 to work as subwoofers.
Inside, the Charge 2 still has the same 6,000 mAH battery, which is enough to keep the jams playing for up to 10 hours or recharge an iPhone four or five times. If I’m carrying a speaker around, I like it to be able to do a little more than just play music, so the ability to use the Charge 2 as a portable battery pack is welcome.
The JBL Charge 2 also ships with a couple of new features. First of all, remedying a deficiency in the first model, the Charge 2 comes with a speakerphone for the first time, and it works well. There’s also a Social Mode, which allows you to connect up to three different Bluetooth devices to the Charge 2 and take turns playing them. In my testing, this feature worked pretty well, and could also be used to juggle between different connected devices without re-pairing them: for example, an iPhone and an iPad.
So should you get a JBL Charge 2? I really like mine, but at $149.95, it’s not the cheapest Bluetooth speaker out there. Heck, you can buy pretty good Bluetooth speakers for less than $30 on Amazon these days, including ones that look almost identical to the Jambox. If you don’t need the Charge 2’s advanced features or loud volume, the price might be a bitter pill to swallow. But if you do buy one, I don’t think you’ll regret it.
You can purchase the JBL Charge 2 from Amazon here.