I’ve been diving into a lot of JBL produce reviews lately and I’m not even nearly done yet! Next up on the list is the JBL Pulse 4. It’s a visually stunning Bluetooth speaker with a spicy enough price tag. Is it worth spending your hard-earned cash on? Let’s find out.
The JBL Pulse 4 is all about design. Well, sound too obviously, but while there are many great speakers on the market and even other great JBL speakers, the design is the specific reason many people are considering the Pulse 4.
The speaker doubles as a fantastic light show with the transparent body also being home to a 360-degree LED light system. It looks stunning when up and running. The LEDs are bright and seamlessly blend into each other. It’s like a HD screen of colour, dancing in sync with your tunes. JBL promises that you’ll get 12 hours of tuneage from the Pulse 4 but turning it up to 11 with the lights on full blast will whittle that price down. You can run the speaker lights off too to save battery. If you just don’t like the lights, maybe check out the JBL Link instead.
One draw back of the design is that the plastic housing is an absolute fingerprint trap. Now, given the speaker weighs in at 1.27kg, it’s hardly to be considered a portable party speaker. Instead, bring it and leave it and one to be carried around the town. So maybe you won’t be pawing it all that much anyway.
For every step back, the JBL Pulse 4 takes several steps forward. While those in warmer climates might be wondering if you can use this pool-side, here in Ireland we’re likely to be more concerned about the speaker getting caught in the rain. Either way, the good news is that the Pulse 4 is rated IPX7 waterproof. That means it can sit up to one meter deep in fresh water for thirty minutes.
Two finally points of note in the design department. As has become the norm for everything, this is powered by a USB-C port. A more unusual decision by JBL was to omit and AUX in port. The only way you’re playing tunes through this speaker is Bluetooth. An important point if you thought this would be a nice addition to your RBG gaming light setup.
Sorry. I’ve a terrible habit of not addressing sound first when it comes to speakers, particularly when there’s something fun and sexy like this LED light show to talk about. But don’t let that distract from the fact that this speaker is whopper when it comes to quality and packing a punch. The only complaints you’ll likely have in the sound department will be coming from your neighbours.
Most impressive is the bass delivery. Flip the speaker over when playing to the end with a big exclamation mark and you’ll see the speaker bouncing in tune to the music.
If you have a few of these speakers lying about, or as is the more likely scenario, two friends rock up to the same barbeque with the Pulse 4, you can daisy-chain the speakers. Now, you have a speaker for left and right audio.
For the price, you might be surprised to find that there’s no Chromecast Audio or AirPlay, nor is there any smart assistant support of any kind. This is a pure Bluetooth speaker, designed for you to hook your phone up to for playing tunes. I should probably call out that there’s no call-handling functionality either, but I’m not so sure that’s a big deal.
The JBL Connect App
The JBL Connect App is one final trick up JBL’s sleeve. Surprisingly, there’s no EQ options here. Perhaps a sign that this speaker, despite being very good audio wise, isn’t aimed at audiophiles. Fair, given the main draw is the light show. And within the app you can control and customise that light show.
Here you can also connect a second Pulse 4 speaker for PartyBoost and, on a more boring note, update your speaker. There’s likely to be an update waiting when you but that will improve connectivity with a variety of devices.
The Verdict: Is the JBL Pulse 4 Worth Buying?
This is a really tough call. Is the speaker great? Absolutely. The light show is something else and in terms of sound quality, the Pulse 4 is solid with plenty of pumping bass to get your party going, regardless of whether you’re in the kitchen or the garden.
With no additional smarts built-in, it’s a tough sell, but once you take the plunge with an informed decision it’s unlikely this speaker will let you down. Similarly, if you look at this and think “that’s the perfect birthday present for little Timmy or Tricia”, I can’t imagine they’ll be disappointed with a speaker they can show off to others.