JBL Pulse 4 Speaker Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Feb 19, 2021 at 09:04 am
JBL Pulse 4 Picture
6.1
Music
5.6
Videos/Movies
7.6
Podcasts
3.1
Voice Assistant
6.9
Outdoors
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
No
Speakerphone
No
Voice Assistant
No
Battery Powered
Yes

The JBL Pulse 4 is a small and portable speaker with a unique design. It has customizable RGB lights around the speaker's body, as well as a transparent plastic exterior. It has a balanced mid-range that can accurately reproduce vocals and lead instruments, though it lacks low-bass and can sound a bit dark. Thanks to its 360-degree design, it has outstanding directivity, resulting in a large and open soundstage. It also has an IPX7 rating for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this. Unfortunately, it doesn't have voice assistant support.

Our Verdict

6.1 Music

The JBL Pulse 4 has acceptable performance for music. It has a well-balanced mid-range, so it can accurately reproduce vocals and lead instruments. However, it lacks low-bass, and its treble range is slightly underemphasized, so higher frequencies may sound a bit dull. It also can't get very loud, although there's not much compression present at max volume. While it has to downmix stereo content into mono, it has outstanding directivity, resulting in a wide and open soundstage.

Pros
  • Not much compression at max volume.
  • 11.5 hour battery life.
  • Good directivity.
  • Supports multi-device pairing.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Has to downmix stereo content into mono.
5.6 Videos/Movies

The JBL Pulse 4 is sub-par for videos and movies. While its latency over Bluetooth with Android devices is low, it has high latency with iOS devices, so it's not well-suited for watching videos. However, some apps may compensate differently for latency, so user experience may vary. This speaker lacks low-bass, so you won't feel the deep thump and rumble in action-packed movie scenes. Thankfully, it has outstanding directivity, so its soundstage is perceived as large and open.

Pros
  • Not much compression at max volume.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Has to downmix stereo content into mono.
7.6 Podcasts

The JBL Pulse 4 is good for podcasts. It has a well-balanced mid-range, so dialogue is reproduced accurately and clearly. However, its treble range is slightly underemphasized, so sibilants like S and T sounds may be perceived as a bit dull and veiled. While it can't get very loud, there isn't much compression present at max volume, so the sound remains clean and pure.

Pros
  • Not much compression at max volume.
  • 11.5 hour battery life.
  • Good directivity.
  • Supports multi-device pairing.
Cons
  • Doesn't get very loud.
3.1 Voice Assistant

The JBL Pulse 4 doesn't have voice assistant support.

6.9 Outdoors

The JBL Pulse 4 is reasonable for outdoor use. It has a sturdy build and comes with an IPX7 rating for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this. Also, its battery lasts over 11 hours, so it's suitable for taking with you on-the-go. Although it doesn't get very loud, there isn't much compression present at max volume. Unfortunately, it lacks low-bass, and it has to downmix stereo content into mono, which isn't as immersive.

Pros
  • Sturdy build.
  • IPX7 rating for water resistance.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Not much compression at max volume.
  • 11.5 hour battery life.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Doesn't get very loud.
  • Has to downmix stereo content into mono.
  • 6.1 Music
  • 5.6 Videos/Movies
  • 7.6 Podcasts
  • 3.1 Voice Assistant
  • 6.9 Outdoors

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 can be customized through buttons on the speaker or using its companion app.

9.0
Design
Portability
Volume
81 in³ (1324 cm³)
Weight
2.6 lbs (1.2 kg)
Power Source
Battery & USB
One-Hand Carry
Yes

The JBL Pulse 4 is incredibly portable. Since it's fairly small and lightweight, you can carry it in one hand. It also uses a battery, so you can bring it outside without having to find 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, though we don't currently test for this. The driver and controls are all located at the top.

6.0
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
No
Microphone On/Off
No
Additional Controls
Yes

The JBL Pulse 4 has passable controls. The buttons 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 button, Bluetooth pairing button, and 'PartyBoost' button 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

The JBL Pulse 4's frequency response accuracy is sub-par. It struggles to reproduce low-bass, so you may not feel the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy genres like EDM. It also has a slightly underemphasized treble range, so sibilants like S and T sounds may be perceived as a bit dull. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an EQ to help you adjust its sound profile. That being said, it has a well-balanced mid-range, so vocals and lead instruments sound present and clear.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
Binaural Recording @ 1m
Binaural Recording @ 2m
7.5
Sound
Soundstage
Directivity Index
0.88 dB
Stereo
No (mono)

The JBL Pulse 4 has a good soundstage. It has outstanding directivity, resulting in a wide and open soundstage. However, it has to downmix stereo content into mono, which doesn't sound very immersive.

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

The JBL Pulse 4 portable Bluetooth speaker has mediocre dynamics. It doesn't get very loud, so it may not be suitable for playing music at parties or in large rooms. However, there isn't much compression at max volume, so its audio reproduction remains clean and pure.

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

This speaker has a satisfactory battery performance. Its battery lasts for over eleven hours on a single charge, and it shuts off after around 20 minutes without audio input. That said, battery life can vary depending on usage, so your results may differ. While the battery is advertised to take 3.5 hours to charge, in our tests it took over six hours.

0
Active Features
Voice Assistant
Alexa
No
Google Assistant
No
Siri
No
Voice Activation
No
Microphone Mute
No Microphone
Far-Field Performance
No Microphone
Ambient Noise Performance
No Microphone

This speaker doesn't support voice assistants.

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 together 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 any sound adjustments like an EQ.

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

This speaker can't be used wired. It comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging.

8.2
Connectivity
Bluetooth
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

The JBL Pulse 4 has very good Bluetooth connectivity. It supports multi-device pairing, so it can connect with up to two devices at a time. It also has low audio latency with Android devices, which makes it suitable for watching videos. While its latency with iOS devices is a bit higher, some apps compensate for latency differently, so your experience may vary.

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

The JBL Pulse 4 isn't Wi-Fi compatible.

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, and you can see the label for the model we tested here. We expect both variants listed to perform similarly in tests.

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

Compared To Other Speakers

The JBL Pulse 4 is a fairly small and lightweight speaker with a unique transparent exterior. There are 360-degree RGB lights around the speaker's body, which you can customize through its companion app. It has a sturdy build and an IPX7 rating for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this. Its mid-range is well-balanced, so vocals and lead instruments sound clear and present. However, it lacks low-bass, and higher frequencies may sound a bit dull since its treble range is slightly underemphasized.

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

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 being said, the Charge has a slightly longer battery life, as well as less latency over Bluetooth, although some apps compensate differently for this.

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 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.

Discussions