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JBL Pulse 5 Speaker Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Mar 08, 2023 at 08:23 am
JBL Pulse 5 Picture
6.6
Music
5.9
Videos/Movies
7.7
Podcasts
3.2
Voice Assistant
7.4
Outdoors

The JBL Pulse 5 is the successor to the JBL Pulse 4. This speaker really stands out from the crowd thanks to its additional features. With a 360-degree design, you can customize its eye-catching RGB lights into different colors and patterns to suit your mood. Plus, the JBL Portable app gives you access to a series of different ambient noise settings—from campfire sounds to a rushing river—to help you fall asleep at night. It's more customizable than its predecessor, thanks to the graphic EQ in its companion app.

Our Verdict

6.6 Music

This speaker is just okay for music. With its built-in light show, it's ideal for setting the ambience as you listen to your favorite tunes. However, its overall sound is a bit honky and harsh out of the box due to an overemphasis in its high-mids. Also, it lacks a lot of low-bass, so fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop notice less thump and rumble in the mix. The graphic EQ in the JBL Portable app gives you some control over its sound, though.

Pros
  • Graphic EQ.
  • Customizable RGB lights.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Honky sound out-of-the-box.
5.9 Videos/Movies

The JBL Pulse 5 isn't designed for listening to movies, but if you want to watch videos from a paired smartphone, it gets the job done. It gets loud enough to fill an average-sized room with sound, and dialogue is reproduced with clarity, meaning you can follow along with the characters on screen. That said, its sound is a bit honky and harsh overall, and there isn't a lot of rumble for action-packed scenes. You may notice some lip-synching issues, too.

Pros
  • Graphic EQ.
  • Customizable RGB lights.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Relatively high latency with Android and iOS devices.
7.7 Podcasts

The JBL Pulse 5 is good for podcasts. Out of the box, you can easily follow along with the voices in your favorite shows, even if they sound a little harsh due to the overemphasized mids. With its portable design, you can bring the speaker from room to room as you listen. Since it can pair with up to two devices at once, you can switch audio sources without issue. It's not really loud enough to fill larger or more open rooms, though, so you'll want to stay close by to hear your podcasts clearly.

Pros
  • Graphic EQ.
  • Customizable RGB lights.
  • Multi-device pairing.
Cons
  • Honky sound out-of-the-box.
3.2 Voice Assistant

This speaker doesn't support voice assistants.

7.4 Outdoors

The JBL Pulse 5 is decent for outdoor use. Since its rated IP67 for dust and water resistance, it's designed to withstand some exposure to the elements. Plus, it has a built-in strap, so you can clip it onto your bag when you're on the go. It doesn't get as loud as some of the other models we've tested, so it's more suited for an intimate picnic in the park than a raging backyard party.

Pros
  • Customizable RGB lights.
  • IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Takes some time to recharge.
  • 6.6 Music
  • 5.9 Videos/Movies
  • 7.7 Podcasts
  • 3.2 Voice Assistant
  • 7.4 Outdoors
  1. Updated Mar 08, 2023: Review published.
  2. Updated Mar 06, 2023: Early access published.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

This JBL Pulse speaker is available in Black, and you can see the label for the model we tested here.

If you come across another version of this speaker, let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Speakers

This is the successor to the JBL Pulse 4. It has a similar design to its predecessor, with eye-catching RGB lights wrapped around the device itself. This model has some new features, including a graphic EQ, meaning you can customize its sound. Overall, this device tends to put style over substance, and while it doesn't have the best sound quality, its lights and ambient noise settings may be worth it for some users.

You can also check out our recommendations for the best Bluetooth speakers, the best portable Bluetooth speakers, and the best JBL speakers.

JBL Pulse 4

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 and the JBL Pulse 5 are both portable Bluetooth speakers with strengths and weaknesses. The Charge 5 has a better sound quality out of the box, with a more balanced sound and a more extended low-bass. It also has a longer-lasting battery life. However, it doesn't come with RGB lights like the Pulse 5, which you may prefer depending on your tastes.

JBL Flip 6

Depending on your preferences, you may want either the JBL Flip 6 or the JBL Pulse 5. The Flip shines when it comes to sound quality—it has a more balanced sound right out of the box. It has more physical buttons, so it's easier to control. However, it doesn't have as good of a soundstage as the 360-degree Pulse and lacks the Pulse's eye-catching RGB lights.

JBL Charge 4

The JBL Pulse 5 is better for music than the JBL Charge 4. Thanks to its 360-degree design, the Pulse has a wider and more open soundstage. It also comes with a graphic EQ, so it's more customizable, and its RGB lights are a cool touch for setting the mood at your next party. Its battery life isn't quite as long as the Charge's.

Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3

The Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 is better than the JBL Pulse 5. While it lacks the JBL's eye-catching RGB lights, the Ultimate Ears' sound quality makes it the better choice overall. It has a more balanced sound, and it can play stereo content without downmixing it to mono. Plus, it gets louder, and it has a longer battery life. If you like RGB lights, the JBL may be more suitable for you.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
RGB Lights Yes

This stylish speaker stands out thanks to the built-in RGB lights around its cylindrical frame. They're visible all around the speaker through the glass-like plastic exterior, and you can customize them in the app to get the patterns and colors you like. If you prefer a more discreet look, you can turn off the lights, too.

9.0
Design
Portability
Volume
142 inยณ (2,325 cmยณ)
Weight
3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)
Power Source
Battery & USB
One-Hand Carry
Yes

This speaker is really portable. It's small and lightweight, with a built-in fabric strap so you can attach it to your bag.

7.9
Design
Build Quality
Material Quality
Good
Water Resistance
Submersible (IPx7)
Dust Resistance
Dust-Proof (IP6x)
Impact Resistance
Unspecified
Floats In Water
Unspecified

This speaker has a very good build quality. Overall, the speaker's body feels very solid, with a glass-like plastic wrapped around the exterior. The built-in fabric strap feels thick, too, so it doesn't seem like it could rip easily. Plus, despite the open charge port, the speaker's rated IP67 for dust and water resistance, meaning it can withstand some exposure to the elements. The plastic exterior is prone to collecting oil from fingerprints, but you can always wipe it away with a damp cloth.

3.6
Design
Controls
Ease Of Use
Okay
Feedback
Great
Music Play/Pause
No
Call Answer/End
No
Volume Up/Down
No
Track Next/Previous
No
Microphone On/Off
No
Additional Controls
Yes

The controls are really limited. Unlike the JBL Pulse 4, you can't adjust the volume or play/pause the music from the device, so you have to use your phone to access these functions instead. From the speaker itself, you can only power the device on/off, activate Bluetooth, change the lights, and connect to other compatible PartyBoost speakers. It's not the most intuitive, but at least there's a lot of feedback to let you know which features you're adjusting. For example, as you change the volume, the lights around the speaker go up and down accordingly.

Design
In The Box

  • Quick Start guide
  • JBL Pulse 5 speaker
  • USB-C to USB-A charge cable ( 3.9 ft / 1.2m)

Sound
6.1
Sound
Frequency Response Accuracy
Slope
1.19
Std. Err.
3.93 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
75.5 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
14.1 kHz

Out of the box, this speaker has mediocre frequency response accuracy. Even though it reproduces a bit more low-bass than the JBL Pulse 4, you're still missing some thump and rumble in bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. Plus, the overemphasis in the high-mids to low-treble adds a honky and harsh quality to the sound. It does come with a graphic EQ, meaning you can customize its output more to your liking.

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

This speaker's soundstage performance is good. Thanks to its 360-degree design, it provides a wide and open-sounding soundstage. However, you have to pair it to a second unit to get stereo sound.

7.3
Sound
Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
85.7 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
0.71 dB

This speaker gets loud enough to fill an average-sized living room with sound, but it doesn't get loud enough for larger or more open spaces like your basement. Fortunately, even at max volume, compression is low, so audio reproduction is clean and pure.

Active Features
6.3
Active Features
Battery
Battery Life
7.9 hrs
Charge Time
5.4 hrs
Power Saving
Yes
Charging Port
USB-C
Battery Powered
Yes

Though the manufacturer advertises this speaker to last twelve hours on a single charge, it only lasted around eight hours in our tests. That said, battery life can vary depending on usage, like volume level. It does shut off after twenty minutes without audio, which helps conserve the battery life if you forget to power it down manually.

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
7.9
Active Features
App
App Name
JBL Portable
iOS
Yes
Android
Yes
EQ
Graphic
Stereo Pair Mode
Yes
Party Mode
Yes
Multi-Room
No

This speaker's app gives you access to lots of cool features, including settings to customize your device's RGB lights. You can choose and set different light patterns or turn them off entirely. Plus, it's more customizable than the JBL Pulse 4, so you can adjust its bass, mid, and treble using the graphic EQ. The ambient sound modes also let you choose between different features like waves, nighttime, campfire, forest, or river water, and you can set a timer to help you fall asleep. For a video of the app, see here.

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

You can't use this device over a wired connection. There's just a USB-C port for charging the speaker.

8.2
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth
Yes
Bluetooth Version
5.3
Bluetooth iOS Latency
156 ms
Bluetooth Android Latency
140 ms
Bluetooth Range
311.7 ft (95.0 m)
Multi-Device Pairing
2 Devices

You can stream audio from your mobile devices to this speaker via Bluetooth. Its fantastic range ensures you stay connected, even if your phone is further away. Plus, you can pair it with up to two devices simultaneously, making it easy to switch between different audio sources.

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

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