JBL Pulse 4 Review
The JBL Pulse 4 is the latest US manufacturer’s Pulse product range. The devices in the series impress with their unusual appearance and appealing lighting effects but are not generally known for their first-class sound.
“It looks great; the sound is a flop,” is a general opinion. Therefore, before our practical test of the speaker, we were very curious to see whether the fourth model in the series could do away with this old prejudice or whether it would not reinforce it even further. The Pulse 4 is in the middle of its price range – you can find out what you get for its price in our test report.
- Light show matching the music playback
- Clear and neutral sound
- Highly customizable via app
- Low battery life
- Very long loading time
- No speakerphone
Design and processing of the Pulse 4
The Pulse 4 is a real eye-catcher. This is ensured by the futuristic design of the Bluetooth speaker, whose housing is provided with 360-degree lighting all around. At the same time, the Pulse 4, the Pulse 2, and the Pulse 3 predecessors were encased in a mesh grid. The outer casing of the cylindrical jukebox now consists entirely of transparent acrylic glass, behind which runs the speaker’s luminous surface.
With this lighting, the jukebox provides your party with an LED show that fills the room with atmospheric lighting effects to match the current song. The round, cylindrical jukebox is 20.7 centimeters high and has a diameter of 9.6 centimeters.
Recommended alternatives to the JBL Pulse 4 test Bluetooth speaker
This makes the Pulse 4 one of the largest Bluetooth speakers in its price range, but it still fits comfortably in most backpacks and handbags. The speaker’s weight is 1260 grams and is therefore in the middle of this price category.
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P2, for example, weighs just 275 grams, the Harman-Kardon Go + Play, on the other hand, weighs more than three kilograms. The speaker is available in a black and white color scheme. The speaker of the Pulse 4 is located on the top of the case, which is framed by a total of seven control buttons that you can use to control the speaker. It has:
- Power button to switch the music box on and off.
- A Bluetooth button to establish the Bluetooth connection.
- A control knob for adjusting the lighting effects.
- A button for pairing multiple Bluetooth speakers in Party Boost mode.
The last three buttons increase and decrease the playback volume and start and stop music playback. If you press the play button twice in quick succession, you can skip the current song. The Pulse 4 has a rubber foot on the underside of the housing, which gives the speaker a secure and firm footing on all smooth surfaces.
The speaker’s woofer is also embedded in the circular recess of the rubberized base so that the bass of the Pulse 4 can be distributed intensively in the room.
On the back of the music box, there is a connection for a USB-C cable, which you can use to charge the device’s integrated lithium-ion battery. There is also a battery status indicator above the cable connection, which informs you about the charge level of the speaker.
If the battery is fully charged, the LED indicator lights up white. The white glow will gradually disappear if the battery is depleted of charge. At the latest, when the display is no longer lit, you should connect your Pulse 4 to a power source and recharge the battery.
The scope of delivery of the stylish Bluetooth speaker is manageable. In addition to the speaker itself, it only contains the USB-C cable that you need to charge the built-in battery, as well as a quick start guide, a guarantee certificate, and a safety data sheet. The enclosed user manual is kept rather compact as the scope of delivery itself. Should you ever misplace the brief instructions, they can also be accessed on the Internet.
Features of the Pulse 4
The Pulse 4 is equipped with two broadband drivers and a passive membrane, the whose combined output power is specified by JBL as 20 watts. Although according to the manufacturer, the frequency response is between 70 Hz and 20 kHz, the maximum range of the Bluetooth connection is 10 meters. The Bluetooth range of the Pulse 4 is therefore in the lower performance range. The Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3, for example, has a Bluetooth range of 45 meters; it’s cheaper than the Pulse 4.
The JBL Charge 4 costs less money than the manufacturer’s Pulse model but still has a Bluetooth range of 50 meters. Why JBL saves on the possible connection distance of the Pulse 4 remains a mystery. The Bluetooth jukebox is equipped with an IPX7 protection class, thanks to which the speaker is completely waterproof.
The Pulse 4 can even be submerged in water for half an hour without the device’s technology being damaged. In addition, a water depth of one meter should not be exceeded. However, if you stick to these guidelines, the Pulse 4 can bring you a lot of joy in the pool.
Specifications of the Pulse 4
- Dimensions: 96mm x 96mm x 207mm
- Weight: about 1260g
- Battery life max: 12 hours
- Battery capacity: 7260mAh
- Charging time:5 hours
- Protection class: IPX7
- Multiple speakers connectable: Yes
- Range: 10m
- Frequency Response: 70Hz – 20kHz
- NFC: No
- Included in delivery: speaker, USBC cable
- Driver: 2 x broadband + 1 x passive membrane
- Power: 20 watts
- To the Pulse 4
Thanks to the colorful light effects, the water is shrouded in a magical glow that turns every pool party into an unforgettable evening. But keep in mind that the IPX7 protection class protects your Pulse 4 from water, but not from dust, sand, and other foreign objects.
The device’s built-in lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 7260 mAh and takes about 3.5 hours to charge fully. Thanks to the built-in battery status indicator on the back of the speaker, you always know your Pulse 4 battery status. The speaker’s battery life is 12 hours, although the actual runtime also depends on the playback volume and other influences, such as the ambient temperature.
While the Pulse 4 does not have a hands-free system or the support of a voice assistant, the smart speaker is equipped with the so-called Party Boost function. Thanks to this, you can connect several JBL speakers.
For example, you can connect two Pulse 4 Connect speakers as a stereo pair, with one speaker playing the left audio track and the other speaker playing the right audio track. Alternatively, you can connect more than two speakers, playing the sound in Party Boost mode. Of course, this will make the music even more intense, but you will have to do without stereo sound in Party Boost mode.
If you want to pair multiple JBL speakers together, all models must be compatible with Party Boost mode. For example, suppose you have connected two or more Pulse 4. In that case, you can also synchronize the lighting effects of the individual jukeboxes.
Hold one speaker close to another and shake the Pulse 4 – the lighting effects of the two speakers will now adapt to each other. It couldn’t be easier. In addition, the Pulse 4 is also compatible with the JBL Connect app, which is available for free download in both the Google Play Store and the App Store.
Practical test of the Pulse 4
Since the controls of the Pulse 4 have a comfortable pressure point and are arranged on the device’s housing, the operation of the speaker is very pleasant. Moreover, establishing a connection between the Pulse 4 and a Bluetooth-enabled end device is also quick and easy.
To connect the Pulse 4 to your smartphone or tablet, all you have to do is activate the Bluetooth function of the speaker using the corresponding control button and turn on your smartphone. You then have to select the Pulse 4 from the list of available Bluetooth devices. A few seconds later, the two devices have paired, and you can start playing your favorite music via the Pulse 4.
The JBL Connect app is available for free download on the App Store and Google Play Store and is compatible with most iOS and Android devices. The app’s menu is tidy and laid out, making the application very user-friendly. You can access various additional light effects in the menu or even create your light shows. So, you can adapt the visual accompaniment of your favorite music to your individual preferences. In general, one can say that the light effects of the JBL Pulse 4 are the flagship of the speaker.
In any case, we were very impressed by the speaker’s light shows, which are reminiscent of a lava lamp. Although the Bose Portable Smart Speaker also has a light ring made of LED lamps that emit light effects that match the beat, the 360° light area of the JBL Pulse 4 does a lot more.
Sound quality and volume
The sound quality of the Pulse 4 is passable but by far not the best in its price range. While the speaker’s bass is relatively precise, the speaker weakens in the mid-range, disappointing. Unfortunately, the highs are washed out and don’t seem authentic. We didn’t like it the most; however, the S-sounds in the played vocals degenerate into a real hiss, which even increases at higher volumes. The UE Megablast 3 and Harman-Kardon Onyx Studio 5 are cheaper; they do better here.
The sound of the Pulse 4 is still better than that of the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P2 and the Bose SoundLink Color II. The bass of the Pulse 4 is okay but could be even more intense – the same applies to the volume of the Bluetooth speaker. Although this is also okay, there is still much room for improvement here. For these reasons, the sound of the Pulse 4 was unfortunately not convincing in general – the sound quality was only able to pick up 7 out of 10 possible points in the practical test.
Conclusion on the Pulse 4
The Pulse 4 is particularly recommended for those who value an extraordinary look; thanks to the futuristic design and the colorful light effects of the Bluetooth speaker, the Pulse 4 is an eye-catcher that enriches every party with a visual highlight.
On the other hand, if you value a perfect sound image, you could be disappointed by the Bluetooth speaker’s sound. The speaker’s bass is passable, but the maximum volume is relatively weak. The general sound quality of the Pulse 4 also suffers as the volume increases, so S-sounds in vocals, for example, are very unclean. To give you a better sound here, we would have hoped for cheaper models, such as the UE Megablast 3 and the Harman-Kardon Onyx Studio 5.
Nevertheless, the Pulse 4 cut a pretty good figure in the practical test – if you can make a few compromises in terms of sound and appreciate unusual optics, you will be happy with the Pulse 4 and its light effects.