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JBL Pulse 4 Speaker Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Review updated Feb 16, 2024 at 04:17 pm
JBL Pulse 4 Picture
6.1
Music
5.7
Videos/Movies
7.6
Podcasts
3.2
Voice Assistant
6.9
Outdoors
This speaker was replaced by the JBL Pulse 5

The JBL Pulse 4 is a portable Bluetooth speaker with eye-catching RGB lights wrapped around the device. You can customize different colors and patterns in its companion app to set the mood as you listen to your favorite tunes. It's small and lightweight, and its IPX7 rating for water resistance is handy if you plan to bring it outside. That said, it doesn't offer as many features as the next-gen JBL Pulse 5.

Our Verdict

6.1 Music

The JBL Pulse 4 has acceptable performance for music. With its balanced mid-range, voices and lead instruments are reproduced with clarity and accuracy. That said, it really lacks low bass, even compared to other smaller speakers, so you miss out on the thump and rumble in bass-heavy genres. There aren't any customization tools on hand for its sound, either.

Pros
  • 11.5 hour battery life.
  • Supports multi-device pairing.
Cons
  • Lacks low bass.
  • No sound customization tools.
5.7 Videos/Movies

This speaker isn't really meant for watching movies. Still, you can use it to check out videos on a paired smartphone. Dialogue is pretty clearly reproduced, though you don't get a cinematic rumble in the bass range. Plus, it's not really loud enough to fill bigger rooms with sound.

Pros
  • Supports multi-device pairing.
Cons
  • Lacks low bass.
  • No sound customization tools.
7.6 Podcasts

The JBL Pulse 4 is good for podcasts. Thanks to its balanced mids, dialogue is pretty clearly and accurately reproduced, making it easy to follow along with your favorite shows. You can bring it from room to room for longer episodes, thanks to its portable design. That said, its sound profile doesn't have any customization features.

Pros
  • 11.5 hour battery life.
  • Supports multi-device pairing.
Cons
  • No sound customization tools.
3.2 Voice Assistant

This speaker doesn't support voice assistants.

6.9 Outdoors

The JBL Pulse 4 is okay for outdoor use. This small, lightweight speaker is easy to bring around wherever you go, and its over 11-hour battery life keeps the party going well into the night. Plus, it's rated IPX7 for water resistance, so it's protected a bit against the elements. That said, it doesn't get loud enough to fill larger, more open spaces like a backyard with sound.

Pros
  • IPX7 rating for water resistance.
  • 11.5 hour battery life.
Cons
  • Lacks low bass.
  • No sound customization tools.
  • 6.1 Music
  • 5.7 Videos/Movies
  • 7.6 Podcasts
  • 3.2 Voice Assistant
  • 6.9 Outdoors
  1. Updated Feb 16, 2024: Updated review text for consistency. No changes in test results.
  2. Updated Mar 08, 2023: Added market comparison with the JBL Pulse 5 to the App box.
  3. Updated Dec 19, 2022: Changed Track Next/Previous from No to Forward Only (Physical).
  4. Updated Feb 19, 2021: Review published.
  5. Updated Feb 17, 2021: Early access published.
  6. Updated Feb 10, 2021: Our testers have started testing this product.
  7. Updated Feb 03, 2021: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The JBL Pulse 4 comes in two color variants: 'Black' and 'White.' Both variants have 360-degree RGB lights surrounded by a transparent plastic cover. We tested the 'White' variant; you can see the label for the model we tested here. We expect both variants listed to perform similarly in tests.

If you encounter a variant not mentioned here, let us know in the forums so we can update our review.

Compared To Other Speakers

The JBL Pulse 4 is a portable Bluetooth speaker that stands out thanks to its "pulsing" RGB lights, which you can customize to suit your mood. It has a similar design to the next generation JBL Pulse 5, though it doesn't have as many features, like a graphic EQ for sound customization. It also lacks a lot of low bass, even compared with other portable speakers.

See also our recommendations for the best Bluetooth speakers, the best waterproof Bluetooth speakers, and the best JBL speakers.

JBL Pulse 5

The JBL Pulse 5 is the next generation of the JBL Pulse 4 and is the better speaker overall. While both speakers have similar designs with built-in RGB lights, the Pulse 5 has some extra features, such as ambient noise settings and a graphic EQ in the app. It's also able to reproduce a bit more low-bass than the 4. However, the 5 doesn't have play/pause or volume controls on the device like the 4, so you have to control those settings through the app, which isn't always ideal.

JBL Charge 5

The JBL Charge 5 is a slightly better speaker than the JBL Pulse 4. The Charge 5 is better built and has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, certifying it to be dust-tight and immersible in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. It can also get louder and offers a better-balanced sound profile that can produce deeper bass than the Pulse 4. However, the Pulse 4 comes with customizable RGB lights and offers a more natural-sounding soundstage, thanks to its 360-degree design.

JBL Flip 5

The JBL Flip 5 and the JBL Pulse 4 are similarly performing speakers with slightly different features. The Pulse has fewer compression artifacts present at max volume, and it comes with customizable RGB lights. Its soundstage is also perceived as more open, and its battery lasts longer. However, the FLIP has a better build quality and is more portable, thanks to its removable carrying strap that lets you easily bring it with you on the go.

JBL Charge 4

The JBL Pulse 4 is a better speaker than the JBL Charge 4. While the Charge can reproduce a more extended low-bass, the Pulse has a more balanced sound profile, and its soundstage is perceived as more open. It also has customizable RGB lights and a unique transparent design. That said, the Charge has a slightly longer battery life, as well as less latency over Bluetooth, although some apps compensate differently for this.

JBL Xtreme 2

The JBL Xtreme 2 is a better speaker than the JBL Pulse 4. The Xtreme has a more balanced sound profile and a more extended bass. Unlike the Pulse, it's compatible with your smartphone's voice assistant. It can also get louder, and its battery lasts longer. However, the Pulse is smaller and lighter, and it has a unique transparent exterior, along with customizable RGB lights.

Bose SoundLink Revolve

The Bose SoundLink Revolve is a better speaker than the JBL Pulse 4. The Bose is a better-built speaker with a more balanced sound profile, and it's compatible with your smartphone's voice assistant. It also has a longer battery life and takes less time to recharge. That said, the JBL has less compression present at max volume, and it has 360-degree RGB lights that you can customize with its companion app. Its soundstage is also perceived as larger and more open.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
RGB Lights Yes

The JBL Pulse 4 is a cylindrical speaker that's meant to sit vertically. Both of its color variants have a unique transparent exterior. It also has 360-degree RGB lights that you can customize through buttons on the speaker or using its companion app.

9.1
Design
Portability
Volume
81 inยณ (1,324 cmยณ)
Weight
2.6 lbs (1.2 kg)
Power Source
Battery & USB
One-Hand Carry
Yes

This speaker is incredibly portable. You can carry it in one hand since it's fairly small and lightweight. It also uses a battery, so you can bring it outside without finding an outlet.

7.1
Design
Build Quality
Material Quality
Good
Water Resistance
Submersible (IPx7)
Dust Resistance
Unspecified
Impact Resistance
Unspecified
Floats In Water
Unspecified

The JBL Pulse 4 has a decent build quality. The speaker is wrapped in transparent, glass-like plastic, which feels solid. However, it easily attracts fingerprints, so you may need to clean it regularly. It sits on three plastic feet that raise it above the surface it's on. It's also rated IPX7 for water resistance, so you can submerge it in up to a meter of water for up to thirty minutes without issue.

6.7
Design
Controls
Ease Of Use
Great
Feedback
Great
Music Play/Pause
Yes (Physical)
Call Answer/End
No
Volume Up/Down
Yes (Physical)
Track Next/Previous
Forward Only (Physical)
Microphone On/Off
No
Additional Controls
Yes

The controls are located at the top of the speaker, and they're all easy to press. There are buttons for adjusting the volume and a play/pause button that you can press twice to skip a track. However, there's no option for going to a previous track. There's also a 'PartyBoost' button, which allows you to link multiple 'PartyBoost' compatible speakers. The power, Bluetooth pairing, and 'PartyBoost' buttons all light up when in use. The speaker's 360-degree RGB lights can be adjusted using the 'Light' button, and you can shake the speaker to sync the lights with other connected 'PartyBoost' speakers. There's also a light on the back that indicates the battery level. Although the speaker beeps when it reaches max volume, there's no sound to indicate when it reaches minimum volume.

Design
In The Box

  • JBL Pulse 4 speaker
  • USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • User Manual

Sound
5.8
Sound
Frequency Response Accuracy
Slope
-0.10
Std. Err.
4.09 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
91.1 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
17.5 kHz

This smaller speaker struggles to reproduce a deep and rumbling low bass, which is most noticeable with genres like EDM and hip-hop. Still, its mids are quite balanced, meaning voices and other lead instruments are clear and present in the mix. Unfortunately, there aren't any customization tools on hand for its sound.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
Binaural Recording @ 1m
Binaural Recording @ 2m
7.6
Sound
Soundstage
Directivity Index
0.88 dB
Stereo
No (mono)

This speaker's 360-degree design lends itself to excellent directivity, meaning you get consistent sound from all angles around the device. That said, it has to downmix stereo content into mono to play it back, so you don't get a clear separation between the right and left channels with stereo tracks.

6.4
Sound
Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
83.3 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
1.99 dB

This speaker gets loud enough to fill an average-sized living room with sound, and there isn't too much compression when you push it to max volume. That said, it's not really meant for larger or more open spaces.

Active Features
7.4
Active Features
Battery
Battery Life
11.5 hrs
Charge Time
6.4 hrs
Power Saving
Yes
Charging Port
USB-C
Battery Powered
Yes

The manufacturer advertises this speaker to last 12 hours off a single charge, which is pretty consistent with our test results. There's even a power-saving feature to shut the speaker off after twenty minutes without an audio file, which helps conserve battery life. That said, charging back up takes quite a while, which isn't ideal for everyone.

0
Active Features
Voice Assistant
Alexa
No
Google Assistant
No
Speakerphone
No
Siri
No
Voice Assistant
No
Voice Activation
No
Microphone Mute
No Microphone
Far-Field Performance
No Microphone
Ambient Noise Performance
No Microphone
6.6
Active Features
App
App Name
JBL Portable
iOS
Yes
Android
Yes
EQ
No
Stereo Pair Mode
Yes
Party Mode
Yes
Multi-Room
No

The JBL Portable app is okay. It's compatible with iOS and Android, and you can use it to make patterns for the speaker's RGB lights. You can pair two speakers to create a stereo pair or link them with the 'Party Mode' feature to amplify audio for a larger space. The 'Equalizer' feature makes a light pattern, but the app doesn't include sound adjustments like an EQ. If you want a similar speaker that's more customizable, check out the next-generation JBL Pulse 5.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Wired
Aux Input
No
USB Audio
No
Other Ports
No

You can't use this speaker wired. It comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging.

8.2
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth
Yes
Bluetooth Version
5.1
Bluetooth iOS Latency
154 ms
Bluetooth Android Latency
93 ms
Bluetooth Range
187.0 ft (57.0 m)
Multi-Device Pairing
2 Devices

Wirelessly connecting this speaker to your mobile devices via Bluetooth is easy. You can even pair it up to two devices at the same time. Overall, AV sync error falls within pretty good limits, especially with Android devices, so you don't notice much delay between the audio you hear and the visuals on screen. It's worth noting that some apps compensate for this differently, though.

0
Connectivity
Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Version
No Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Frequency Band
No Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi
No
Apple AirPlay
No
AirPlay Latency
N/A
Google Chromecast
No
Chromecast Latency
N/A