JBL Charge Essential vs Charge 4 comparison: JBL is an audio brand well reputed for some of the flashiest, ultra-portable Bluetooth speakers around. The distinct bass-heavy sound signature makes JBL speakers a must-have for parties and personal music-listening sessions alike.
Nearly every one of them is designed for carrying outdoors, with rugged, splash-proof construction and long-lasting battery life. Plus, they are completely wireless, so you won’t have to deal with pesky cables anymore. Recent models even come with a nifty feature called “PartyBoost,” allowing users to daisy-chain two or more compatible speakers to amplify the sound output.
All things considered, if you are in the market for a compact speaker capable enough to fill a room with sound, JBL’s broad lineup is something worth looking out for. In fact, we are going to put up two of its best-selling Bluetooth speakers, the JBL Charge Essential, and the JBL Charge 4, against each other in this guide.
JBL Charge Essential vs Charge 4: Design & Build
Let’s start with the JBL Charge Essential’s design. It’s a cylindrical speaker with a durable fabric material wrapped around it. While it’s designed to be placed horizontally, the symmetric design allows it to stand vertically as well.
Unlike some of JBL’s other portable speakers, the Charge Essential doesn’t come with a removable strap. It also comes in only one color and doesn’t offer any customization options.
Build quality-wise, the Charge Essential feels solid and sturdy thanks to its rugged rubber housing that extends around both sides of the speaker.
The rubber flap on the back keeps the ports tightly sealed against dust and water. It’s also IPX7 certified, meaning the speaker can withstand immersion in up to a meter of water for thirty minutes.
On the other hand, the JBL Charge 4 is slightly bulkier and heavier than the Charge Essential. It’s also a cylinder-shaped speaker with a plastic base, meant to be placed in a horizontal
orientation. It features two bass radiators on the sides, which JBL heavily claims to produce a more natural and resonant bass.
Like the Charge Essential, the Charge 4 has great build quality. The IPX7 rating makes it submersible in up to 1m of water for 30 minutes. The speaker is wrapped in a tight-knit fabric. The small rubber-sealed compartment protects the USB and AUX inputs. Control buttons are also tactile, texturized, and easy to press.
Overall, there’s hardly any difference between the two in terms of design and build quality. However, the JBL Charge Essential is slightly more compact and lightweight, making it a bit more portable than the JBL Charge 4. That said, the latter is available in a variety of colors and camouflage designs.
JBL Charge Essential vs Charge 4: Inputs, Controls, & Features
|JBL Charge Essential||JBL Charge 4|
|Additional Inputs||3.5mm AUX / USB Type-A / Micro-USB||3.5mm AUX / USB Type-A / USB Type-C|
Behind the sealable compartment of the JBL Charge Essential are a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting devices in wired mode and a Type-A USB port for charging other devices. The outdated micro-USB port is used to charge the speaker.
The JBL Charge 4 also has a 3.5mm port for wired connections and a full-sized USB port for using the speaker as a power bank. However, it uses a modern USB-C port for charging, so you can charge the speaker with the same cable as your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
Both the JBL Charge Essential and Charge 4 have sub-par controls. The Play/Pause button functions as intended, and you can press it twice to skip to the next track. Sadly, there’s no option to go back to a previous track. The power and Bluetooth pairing buttons are unified on the JBL Charge 4, though they are separate on the Charge Essential.
The power button on both speakers lights up to indicate the pairing status. Furthermore, there are LEDs at the bottom that indicate battery life. Both speakers make a subtle noise once they reach max volume. The same thing doesn’t happen when reaching the minimum volume level.
The Charge 4 comes with JBL’s Connect+ button, allowing users to link up to 100 other JBL speakers compatible with the feature. You can further configure the speaker (no EQ though) and update its firmware via the JBL Portable app on Android and iOS.
Unfortunately, the Charge Essential neither supports the Connect+ feature nor works with the companion mobile app. It also got a slightly older Bluetooth version than the Charge 4.
It’s worth mentioning that you can’t use the Charge Essential or Charge 4 as a speakerphone due to the absence of a built-in microphone. It also means there’s no voice assistant support.
JBL Charge Essential vs Charge 4: Performance
|JBL Charge Essential||JBL Charge 4|
|Rated Output Power||20W RMS||30W RMS|
|Frequency Response||65 Hz – 20 kHz||60 Hz – 20 kHz|
|Transducer||50 x 50 mm||50 x 90 mm|
The JBL Charge Essential offers serviceable sound performance. It has a passable frequency response accuracy and a fairly neutral sound profile out of the box, suitable for listening to various genres of music.
Sadly, the small speaker driver fails to accurately reproduce low bass, so bass-heavy EDM tracks don’t sound as thumpy as you would expect. On top of that, the recessed treble range doesn’t help. However, the mid-range is quite balanced, meaning lead instruments and vocals sound clear and present.
The Charge Essential has an okay soundstage. It downmixes stereo content into mono, which doesn’t provide nearly the same level of immersion. Directivity is still pretty good. That said, the sound doesn’t get that loud, and the compression artifacts are very noticeable at maximum volume.
The JBL Charge 4, on the other hand, has fairly mediocre frequency response accuracy. Just like the Charge Essential, it struggles to produce the deeper thump and rumble in EDM tracks, with middling treble making the highs sound dull. Fortunately, the mid-range is balanced, so you can make out the vocals and instruments in the mix.
Once again, the Charge 4 downmixes stereo tracks into mono, thus it doesn’t reach a spacious soundstage. It’s a bit louder than the Charge Essential, though the maximum volume level still results in noticeable artifacts.
The Charge Essential’s Bluetooth latency is a tad bit high when connected to an Android or iOS device, but it’s still suitable for watching movies and videos. In contrast, the Charge 4 has extremely low latency and exceptional range. It even supports multi-device pairing.
All in all, both the Charge Essential and Charge 4 are alright for music and podcasts. Unfortunately, none of them have proper EQ support, but you can probably make some improvements to the sound from your device’s built-in equalizer.
JBL Charge Essential vs Charge 4: Battery Life
|JBL Charge Essential||JBL Charge 4|
|Advertised Playtime||Up to 20 hours||Up to 20 hours|
|Charge Time||4 hours||4 hours|
|Charging Port||Micro-USB||USB Type-C|
The JBL Charge Essential packs a 6000mAh battery, which JBL claims to deliver up to 20 hours of playtime. In reality, we measured just above nine hours of playtime, which is still respectable but nowhere close to the advertised number. That said, charging takes close to four hours over the micro-USB port. The speaker also turns off after a few minutes of inactivity to conserve battery life.
The JBL Charge 4 is slightly bigger than the Charge Essential, allowing it to fit in a larger 7500mAh battery. It lasted close to fourteen hours in our tests, which we consider to be excellent. It roughly takes four and a half hours to top up the battery. Similar to the Charge Essential, it shuts off automatically after some time of idle state.
With all that said, battery life can vastly vary depending on your usage. Plus, using the JBL speakers as power banks will also shorten their playtime.
More Speaker Review Articles
JBL Charge Essential vs Charge 4: Verdict
As we come close to wrapping this head-to-head comparison between JBL Charge Essential vs Charge 4, the latter one is the clear winner here in several factors.
The JBL Charge 4 not only has lower Bluetooth latency, a longer-lasting battery, and a Type-C USB charging port, but it’s also available in a variety of colors and styles. Another feature that gives it an edge over the Charge Essential is the “Connect+” multi-speaker pairing mode, as well as its compatibility with the JBL Portable mobile app.
However, if you prefer compactness over features, the Charge Essential still is a compelling choice. Then again, it carries a smaller battery and a dated micro-USB charging port.
Although the Charge 4 gets slightly louder than the Charge Essential, the overall sound quality is imperceptible between the two. Thus, the final choice ultimately boils down to your preferences and requirements for a portable speaker.
|The Good Things||The Bad Things|
|Mid-range is well balanced||Struggles with low-bass|
|Portable and lightweight||Average battery life|
|IPX7 rating||Outdated micro-USB port|
|Often available at a discount||No microphone|
|It gets pretty loud||Low-bass is non-existent|
|Exceptional battery life||Slightly bulky and heavy|
|Supports multi-speaker pairing||No EQ|
|Available in various colors||Lacks built-in mic|