Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: JBL Charge 2+ where's the plus?

It's time for an update of the JBL Charge 2. After Bose added "II" to their new Soundlink Mini, Sony made an X33 out of the old X3, now JBL added a "+" to the new JBL Charge 2 which in contrast to the other two seems to be the better portable speaker for the upcoming summer especially because of its claimed water resistance. I thought I will do a detailed review of the Charge 2+ but after trying it out, I would say that it is the same speaker as it was before without the "+". Not much has changed or improved at all, therefore if you are really interested in all the details about the JBL Charge 2+ you can also read my original review of the JBL Charge 2, just simply ignore all my ranting about any distortion or DSP issues of the first version, as the JBL Charge 2+ has none of those problems. But when buying a Charge 2 you can always check if the latest firmware is installed. The latest firmware (1.4.1) finally fixed all problems for the Charge 2 as well and made both sound and perform virtually identical. If you have a JBL Charge 2 with the latest firmware, in reality you have a JBL Charge 2+ just without the alleged water resistance. The JBL Charge 2 can be meanwhile found for much less (Deutsche Telekom started offering it for 88€ recently), therefore I would rather go for the old unit, as I don't really believe any of the JBL Charge 2+ water resistance claims. If you are still interested jump in to read what has changed or what hasn't changed at all between the two.

Putting both side by side you will just notice the different new logo. They both feel the same, have the same materials, and even the ports at the back are completely equal. Despite the water protection of the new JBL Charge 2+ all ports are completely unprotected and exposed in the same way as they were before. If the Charge 2+ was really water proof or resistant or whatever, they would have covered the ports in some way like on most other speakers with some kind of water protection. The Denon Envaya Mini, the Infinity One and all the other speakers I know that are water proof have the ports protected by a flap or cover.

The only completely water proof speaker without any protection that I know is the Fugoo, but this uses special water resistant ports and I doubt the ones on the Charge 2+ are of that type, they still look exactly the same as before. I am not sure why the new one should be better protected than the old one, maybe they added an extra sealing or something, but I cannot tell this without taking both apart, just on looks alone and even sound, they are still the same. The new one comes in different colors that were not available before and you will also notice that the passive radiators are darker now.

Of course I wanted to know how both sounded. There were already some rumors on Youtube and elsewhere on the net that the new Charge 2+ should sound better, louder, etc. When I got the JBL Charge 2+ I still had 1.4.0 installed on my own Charge 2 but finally let it update by a nearby service center. The result was that with the latest firmware 1.4.1 my Charge 2 sounded nearly the same as the JBL Charge 2+.
The only noticeable difference is a slightly higher treble boost on the Charge 2+, but without direct comparison and switching back and forth repeatedly, you won't notice it at all, they still sound the same. With firmware 1.4.1 bass was slightly reduced on the Charge 2 and brought to the same level as the JBL Charge 2+. Even the loudness of the volume steps is equal now, as with the update my Charge 2 became slightly louder during the first volume steps which are completely matched to the Charge 2+ now. This means the Charge 2+ as well as Charge 2 are both not really comfortable to use at low levels. With an iOS device volume control is mirrored between speaker and streaming device and you are getting only 16 dedicated steps. While the first volume step might be too low, the second can be already too loud, the stepping becomes only finer from the 5th step upwards and during the last 3-4 steps there is hardly any change in overall loudness anymore. It really looks as if JBL deciced to apply an inverse logarithmic volume curve, totally absurd if you ask me, they did exactly the same with the Infinity One btw, so it seems to be a trend with their speakers and I wonder how some upcoming products from them will behave in this regard.
This remains a strong negative point and although I really welcome a synced volume control, as you always have the whole volume range available regardless if controlled through the speaker or through your player, JBL does everything to make this great option annoying. They haven't improved anything since the release of the JBL Charge 2, but could have definitely refined the volume-curve further since then.

I measured both JBL Charge 2+ (black) and my own JBL Charge 2 (grey) at all available volume steps and as you can see they are more or less equal, some slight differences might result in an inaccurate positioning or simply sample variation. The only obvious difference that is probably a result of different tuning is the higher treble peak from the Charge 2+. Overall loudness and overall sound quality remained exactly the same:

What's more impressive is the very low total harmonic distortion of the JBL Charge 2+ which is considerably lower than that of all contenders. I measured it at volume step 11, which corresponds to about 80% on the Soundlink Mini II, and compared to the Sony SRS-X33 as well as to the Denon Envaya Mini, the JBL Charge 2+ has less than 4% THD at 72Hz (black curve), while the Bose has the highest peak at 86Hz with 23%THD, the Sony SRS-X33 being worst with more than 55% THD at 61Hz and still 20% THD at 100Hz and finally the Denon Envaya Mini with a peak at 110Hz and 28%THD.

How does the JBL Charge 2+ sound? I would say that it still belongs to the best perfomers in its class. The bass doesn't reach that deep, like on the Sony SRS-X33 or the Bose Soundlink Mini for example, but the strong obvious peak at around 75Hz seems to compensate for this and makes the bass appear more punchy and stronger than it is in reality. The interesting thing is, that although there is some bass reduction at high levels, JBL managed to retain more bass at maximum volume with the JBL Charge 2 and 2+, than most other comparable speakers like the Bose Soundlink Mini II, the Sony SRS-X33, Denon Envaya Mini etc. as you can see in the following measurement that I composed with all of them when set to maximum loudness. The JBL Charge 2+ (black curve) has still the loudest response below 200Hz, with the high peak at 75Hz definitely giving it even more advantage over the others.

I also think that this noticeable basshump before rolling off is based on a psychoacoustic trick to fool the human ear of hearing more bass, at the same time JBL doesn't need to boost the lower bass part that much as Bose for example, and while the Bose starts struggling at levels above half with the bass becoming distorted (as shown in the THD-measurement) because the small drivers cannot quite keep up, the JBL is still going strong up to maximum volume. In contrast to the others JBL doesn't apply any loudness compensation at low levels, it measures always the same but interestingly it never sounds "thin", it is just that it won't sound as "fat" as the Bose or the Sony.
At high levels JBL also applies some more clever dynamics processing than the competition. The compressor starts kicking in from about 8-9th volume step but is still hardly noticeable, the good thing is that the compressor is set up with a very fast attack and lets the strong peaks rather unprocessed, you will still feel and hear all the kick-drum hits even at maximum volume, while Bose and Sony tend to iron them out with their compression algorithms producing rather a mushy result. You will notice a huge difference with Dance-music. The JBL will simply sound much more driving than all the others. The only other speaker that hardly applies any dynamic compression is the Denon Envaya Mini, but this one has less bass to begin with and therefore will sound thinner than the others. But with the Denon you will still hear the music nearly unprocessed even at maximum volume, while with the JBL you will notice pumping and compression effects. Of course the Denon has definitely some kind of limiter built in as well to protect any unwanted driver-overload, but this rather acts unnoticable in the background, with far less impact than the dynamic compression from all the other devices.
The mids are pretty flat on the JBL with hardly any coloration. It sounds really neutral and doesn't give you any strange sounding vocals. It is just the treble which sounds a bit metallic. I guess that the high treble peak at around 15kHz is to blame for this, but at the same time it is probably the reason that the Charge 2+ doesn't sound muffled at all even when listened off-axis. There is some treble roll-off above 9kHz which is boosted at 13kHz again, this is not optimal but overall JBL did a pretty good job with the tuning. Although the JBL Charge 2+ does not sound that neutral as the Denon Envaya Mini, the JBL sounds definitely more fun in most cases and just gives you the impression of listening to a larger speaker. It doesn't have the exaggerated bass of the Bose, but in contrast to the Bose the JBL Charge 2+ has everything under control with no distortion or farting on kick-drums etc, regardless of loudness level.
Despite 2 separate drivers, the JBL Charge 2+ sounds pretty constrained, you won't get any real sound stage out of it, the drivers are much too close to each other, and JBL doesn't seem to apply any stereo enhancing tricks either. It is rather a speaker to be placed somewhere and walk around, but not meant for critical listening with the speaker standing directly in front of you.

I also prepared a short video showing both JBL Charge 2 and JBL Charge 2+ in action, some even think to hear better stereo separation of the new Charge 2+. If you really think to hear any differences it is definitely just an illusion. In a blind test I probably wouldn't be able to hear the difference, although I noticed the higher treble peak indeed:

The JBL Charge 2+ is definitely a solid performer and currently one of the best in its price range. But all points of criticism from the JBL Charge 2 remain still valid for the JBL Charge 2+ as well because there was no change at all. First the very rough volume control at low levels. The Charge 2+ still only tries to connect to the most recent device only and ignores all other present devices, so that you have to force a connection manually every time. It is still standing pretty wobbly, hardly placeable on uneven surfaces. It happened to me several times that outdoors with some slight wind it was simply tossed over and landed on the lawn. Although my own unit meanwhile hit the ground several times now, it is still without any obvious damage. The unprotected passive radiators are often cause for concern for many owners or potential buyers, but meanwhile I am pretty safe to claim that the JBL Charge 2+ would also easily survive any unprotected transport, it is built really well.
On the plus side is the great battery life which will give you more than 6 hours at maximum volume, ability to connect with 3 devices at the same time and the strong acoustic performance with a punchy well tuned sound at all loudness levels. If you don't mind the slightly larger size, I would definitely choose the Charge 2+ over the Bose Soundlink Mini II, the Sony SRS-X33 etc. If you don't need the water protection which I would see rather disputable anyhow, lookout for a JBL Charge 2 on sale and you will get the same device just cheaper!

+ impressive overall tuning with a nice and natural frequency response
+ sparkling treble with wide dispersion
+ great punchy bass
+ manages to keep more bass at top volume than the competition
+ low distortion
+ synced volume control with the streaming device
+ far Bluetooth reach
+ long battery life
+ track control possible through the "call-button"
+ charging of external devices

- no real improvements over the old model
- water resistance questionable as all ports are completely unprotected
- very strong volume jumps at low levels, only 16 volume steps overall
- noticeable dynamics compression at higher levels 
- doesn't automatically reconnect to previously paired devices other than the last paired device
- social mode has to be activated every time after power-on
- status tones too loud
- doesn't stand very stable
- no protecting cover or bag included
- no advanced features like NFC, AptX, wireless stereo pairing etc...


  1. Thanks for this review and for your hard work, man.

  2. Hy, thanks for your great work and Reviews!
    You recommend the Charge 2 which is on sale at the T-Mobile shop - seems they ship only to Germany! :-(
    Or is there a Special trick to ship to Austria?

  3. oluv thanks !!!
    always on time and accurate!
    thanking your reviews,
    I am now a happy owner of two denon envaya mini!
    one white for use at home
    and one black for outdoor use!
    It will be very difficult Seperate me from these two jewels!
    Thanks again!
    for your passion, and the neutral advice!

    greetings from italy

  4. Hey Oluv, which is the best speaker which is waterproof, has a long battery life and the best sound possible?

    1. maybe the new JBL Xtreme, although that's pretty large, but you can be sure that it will sound impressive unlike all these 100€ toys that always have some compromises regarding sound or loudness.

    2. What do you think about the Fugoo XL?

    3. I cannot say anything as nobody has ever heard it so far. It was postponed to August now, maybe it will be delayed even then.
      When I asked about a review unit, I got no response.
      There will be probably better and faster sources for the Fugoo XL than me.

    4. Oh they postponed it? Didn't know that.
      I kinda wanna replace my SoundLink Mini because it's not that practical for outdoor use and not as sturdy as other speakers are but it's so hard to decide which one I should buy.

    5. It says shipping late August on the Fugoo site. But the Fugoo XL is huge, it is several times larger than the Bose, and weighs 2kgs.
      If you want a replacement for the Soundlink Mini, you can check out the JBL Charge 2+ or probably the upcoming JBL Flip 3 could be great. The Flip 3 is smaller but the battery won't be that good as on the Charge 2+.

    6. Thanks a lot!
      How does the Charge 2+ do compared to a Megaboom or Infinity One?

    7. it sounds better with better bass and treble but the Megaboom is louder. It sounds similar to the Infinity One and I could never decide if I liked the JBL Charge 2 more or the Infinity One. As the JBL is half the size of the Infinity I found it more impressive in the end, and it doesn't suffer from such strong distortion as the Infinity.

    8. Well I think the Infinity One is not avaliable in my country so I'll go with the Charge 2+ anyway. Thanks a lot!

  5. Hi oluv,
    what are your thoughts on missing aptX support. Is it a noticeable benefit?

    1. I have not much experience with Aptx, except that it has virtually not latency, but quality-wise if you are streaming from Apple-devices it is likely that AAC is used as Bluetooth codec and I doubt you will notice and differences in quality between AAC and Aptx.

    2. With the Envaya I didn't notice any difference in streaming an AAC (native codec) and an MP3 (transcoded). I have to check AptX with my Mac though

  6. Thank you for the great review! Very well detailed and well worded.

  7. I just traded in my Charge 2 for the plus. I love the orange logo. Mainly upgraded because I'm near the pool and the beaches here in Central California always have that morning mist.

  8. Hi Oluv,
    Thanks for your great work on testing all these speakers, love reading your reviews. It left me with 3 options as my next vacation/garden speaker; JBL Charge 2 (plus or not), Bose Soundlink Color and Bose Soundlink Mini II (perhaps I should consider Denon Envaya Mini too?).
    I know the Mini II and Charge 2 have great bass but when I was testing in a local Media Markt it seemed as if the bass was draining the power from the mids and highs. I tested with the song "Stole the Show" from Kygo and it sounded great until the bass kicked in. From then on it seemed as if everytime the bass was 'beating' the higher tones were losing volume and dissapeared a bit.
    Is this normal for these smaller type of speakers? Or was this a coincidence and/or song-specific perhaps? I must admit I found this song almost put my PSB headphones in trouble as well.
    Anyway, I was wondering what your advice would be between these 3 (or 4 if we count the Envaya mini too) if I tell you that my priorities are: 1. best sound possible (also when playing on low volume), 2. (even) sound with enough bass (keeping the mids and highs present), 3. battery life, 4. loudness

    1. then wait for the RIVA S as i didn't notice any strange stuff with it even at maximum volume. i think with really heavy recordings all these small speakers will struggle to some degree especially when pushed hard, the Bose tends to fart while the JBL has some stronger compression going on which might be the reason for the volume pumping you heard. Usually I would favor the JBL at max. volume also because the battery life is really great and twice as long as on the Soundlink Mini when both play at maximum.
      The RIVA seems to be the best choice in this class so far from what I heard, now we only have to wait until it reaches the market.

    2. Thanks for your reply Oluv. Yes I've seen your sneak preview of the Riva S and I must say it looks very promising indeed. But when will it hit the (online) stores and will it be available in The Netherlands?
      I was leaning towards the JBL as well allthough I really like the odd shape of the Color.
      Anyway, thanks again for your advice, I will be patient a little longer and visit your website on a very regular bases.

    3. Never had much patience so went and got a grey Charge 2+ and I am very happy with it!
      Awesome sound and easily loud enough. Nice build, has a good feel to it when holding it, nothing toy- ish about it.
      Using it as a pc speaker at my work during the day, really suitable for that as well. Does anyone know if it can play through usb or is it only for charging?

  9. Small update to my findings; it seems to have difficulties when charging through usb and at the same time play connected through an audio cable, both attached to the same pc. There's a static-like noise present then. Without the usb it sounds great again.

  10. And I need to return it as it keeps losing 'connection' through a cable. The sound just stops although it's still on and the music is still playing on the pc or iPhone (tested both to make sure it's not a pc thing).
    Did you Oluv, or anyone else, experience this too? I've put this in an email to JBL as well to see what they say about it, but I'm pretty sure it's a defect unit that needs to be exchanged.

    1. I had the same problem with a charge 2. It was exchanged for a brand new charge 2plus and the problem is still there. All other problems were fixed with the new firmware. And this is still there. Not sure this is a unit defect.

    2. I had the same problem with a charge 2. It was exchanged for a brand new charge 2plus and the problem is still there. All other problems were fixed with the new firmware. And this is still there. Not sure this is a unit defect.

  11. Bought the 2+ after reading a lot on this page. Already from the start I noticed quite a lot of base distortion at all volume levels. It sounds broken?! More noticeable at higher volume and base heavy tracks. And this was even before any max test. I didn't dare to max it due to the broken sound. Anyone else experiencing this? I'm going to write to JBL and hope for the best :(. Thanks for all the great reviews!

  12. Got my second unit yesterday and has the exact same 2 problems as described... Anyone here with a Charge 2+ or w/o the + that can tell me if that unit has no such problems?

    1. I know this is old, but it seems like a "ground loop" issue. This is common in electronic circuits when pairing two devices which are connected to the same power source.

  13. @David Samuelsson - I haven't heard anything like that. Mine sounds great (when it's still actually sounds that is). Bass is great, not too much but full bodied.
    By the way, I also bought the Bose Soundlink Mini II to see if those same problems exist and it did although much less so it seems my work pc is part of the problem. This gave me the opportunity to compare them myself side by side and my findings are the same as yours Oluv. The JBL is much clearer, especially when I tested both playing "Cats in the Cradle" from Ugly Kid Joe, the Bose sounded like it was covered with a thick blanket or something.
    So the Bose goes back and as I'm gonna use it via bluetooth mostly anyway I'm keeping the Charge 2+ and be happy with it.

    P.S. Saw the JBL Xtreme when buying the Bose (Media Markt has them in stock) and hesitated but it's too big for my holiday/vacation purpose but perhaps for a later time for garden parties or something, looks awesome and I've seen the YouTube videos so I know the sound is awesome too.

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  15. Hi Oluv ,
    Thanks for your best review . I'm torn between JBL charge2 and onyx studio2 , since aux input is deal breaker for me , my only option is onyx2 but I'm worry if onyx2's sound quality is same to 1 or worst ? I'd like to fill up my room which is about 17ft x 30ft and occasionally outdoor . I mostly listen jazz , trance , pop and i'm not sure JBL charge2 could meet my expectation regarding sound quality and loudness . Onyx2 is 175$ and Charge2 is 120$ in my country , Could you please advice me on this ? Thanking you in anticipation .....

  16. Prompt for all to Charge 2 has a quiet hiss (if you bring your ear) when the music off? So it should be? I Charge2+

  17. Hi Oluv,
    Thanks for the review,really nice work.Question is , which one is better JBL Charge 2 or Denon Envaya Mini Bluetooth?
    I want to ask some question about soundbars for TV and docks.Do u have any email adress where i can send?

    1. they are both top and definitely a matter of taste. now with the latest firmware which fixes all issues the Charge 2 suffered before, I would probably go for the JBL.

    2. Thanks for the fast answer:) i am thinking to go for JBL also. But i saw a discount on dock station with bluetooth Sony RDP-X200IPN ( They are at the same price now. I know they are in different class, JBL is much portable. but what abount the sound,do u think sony is better? Which one to buy if we forget about portability?

  18. Great review! Oh, and have a great vacation!
    Fast question, is it really worth the price? (For me it costs 170 Euros)
    I want that money to be invested in good , portable speaker, and i cannot afford buying different ones! I really like it's design and sound as far as I could tell from sound tests in YouTube.
    Thanks in advance,
    best regards,
    Anonymous buyer!

  19. What is the software version of Charge 2 plus and how can i check that? by the way is there any indicator about the battery percentage, i have no idea when will the battery die.

  20. Hi guys I have noticed that there's a hiss or white noise coming from the Charge 2+ while it's on. Is anyone else noticing this?

  21. If you follow the steps and use the files supplied here, is there still a real risk of bricking your JBL charge 2? I mean it sounds like this is happening due to USB cables being removed at the wrong moment, or trying to reflash the unit. I can get a charge 2 for a good price but I know I will need to upgrade it to 1.4.1. I just want a good idea of any risks that are out of my control when attempting the upgrade.

  22. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.
    product reviews

  23. Great stuff and very informative, once i have started to research the question i found out that i have spent over 4 hours reading and watching your vids with comments, good job Oluv!
    Too bad that the Charge 2(without +) through can't be shipped outside of Germany.

  24. Great review. Thanks a ton. Would you mind sharing the track names I really like these .

  25. Hi Oluv, can you measure the impulse response over Bluetooth to find out the audio delay? So others and I know whether it is suitable for movies/gaming over Bluetooth. I think that is the only thing that needs to be tested before fully liking this speaker!

    1. attach it through wire and there won't be any delay

  26. HI Oluv,

    I have 2 JBL charge 2 plus (grey), sw ver. 1.4.8.,they supposed to be the same, but there is a difference in build, and sound and appearance.
    The charge 2 plus with "GG" in beginning of the serial number has darker radiators, brighter white LED on top and has a bit more clear and more treble sounding sound. I found on the Internet that there are more of those(with "gg" in their serial),i don't think it's a fake product.

    The one with "LT" (the more common, i ordered a few more to check) in the serial number does not have that. And this serial number has also a QR code. I would expect no difference in those charge 2 plusses... I can't explain why this is, maybe you know some thing about this??

    Btw i tested the 2 with a frequency sweep going from 50hz to 100hz on 75% volume and 60%, on both there is a strange resonance/distortion starting from 67hz and get less going on 96-100hz, like it is over modulating in the dsp or digital amp. It seems to me to be caused by the dsp, trying to boost up or process some treble/bass balance and that the dsp thinks to have treble detected during this sweep. I just used a simple youtube recording, so it (the dsp) might also be triggered by some noise in the recording. I'll test it later on a oscillator using aux connection. It's seems that more speakers have this phenomenon, maybe the same DSP?

    Greetings H

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  28. Hi Oluv,

    I'm considering picking up a portable speaker myself and am confused between the Flip 3, Charge 2+ and the UE Boom 2 ...

    Any suggestions?

  29. I have the same problem. I consider Flip 3, Charge 2(+), Boom 2 and Denon Envaya mini too. I'm looking for good battery life, good bass, water(splash)proof and not too large... Someone help us?

  30. Hi Oluv

    I've been trying to decide what speaker to buy but I'm not sure yet. I want the one with the best quality of sound, and I want it to be loud cause I want to use it while being in the swimming pool. If it's not waterproof but it still has very good sound it's okay cause I can be careful.

    My options are:
    -JBL Charge 2+
    -UE Boom 2
    - Bose SoundLink Mini II

    Is the Bose SoundLink III much better?

    1. this should answer everything:

  31. Hi Oluv! Here Victor from Barcelona. First of all congrats for your reviews, they are aweome! I have pretty much the same question as the last person who published here...
    On the JBL Flip 3 Review, you compare the Flip 3 with the Denon Envaya, as if they were playing in the same league, and I don't get that.
    But on your JBL Charge 2+ review, you compare it too with the Denon Envaya, so I don't get which one is better as the JBL Flip 3 it is not a straight competitor of the JBL Charge 2+.
    I am between the Denon Envaya and the JBL Flip 3 and would like to use mainly indoors, which one would you choose?

  32. Does this have a sleep / auto power off feature where there is no sound output? Important for me as I tend to play music to help me sleep.

  33. Hi Oluv, I have a question on my Charge 2+, I can not turn it on. I'm trying to turn it on and blinks the power button, it can be? Please help me

  34. Hi Oluv and everyone.
    I bought a JBL Charge 2+ based on Oluv's test... Unfortunately I experience quite a lot of latency in audio playback (even via cable!)... So the speaker is basicall unusable for anything more than music playback (can't watch movies or play my synths/guitars through it)

    It is though minimal, so when I went to return it, they refused to accept it, saying they can't hear the latency...
    Anyone experience similar problems with latency?