Research report
June 2021

First Look: JBL Clip 4

A cheap portable speaker with impressive sound.

I thought its predecessor, the Clip 3, sounded like a 1980s portable radio – tinny and unlistenable. JBL’s fourth generation speaker is a huge improvement.

We’ve just tested it alongside speakers costing far more. We recommend it, awarding its sound 54% (not brilliant, but impressive for a small portable speaker).

My go-to synth pop and post-punk playlist certainly sounded decent to my untrained ear at mid-volume, with more depth and bass than I expected. However, turning it up loud distorted the sound and made it treble-heavy.

Overall, the $99 Clip 4 sounds better than some portable speakers three or four times its price.

JBL Clip 4 photograph.
JBL Clip 4

Its built-in carabiner clip means you can hang it from stuff, although I found it had better bass and depth of sound when placed on a surface.

I think the clip’s a gimmick in the crowded portable Bluetooth speaker market. I can’t think of many times when I’d wished I could hang a speaker up, and I certainly don’t want to be that person dangling a speaker from a backpack when tramping, mountain biking or boarding.

The Clip 4 connected to my iPhone 12 quickly and didn’t drop its connection, even when I wandered around the house with my phone in my pocket.

The controls are large and intuitive – though you need your phone to skip backwards through tracks. I got about the claimed 10 hours from the battery at medium volume.

The speaker feels robust and is IP67 rated – it shrugged off wayward hose splashes as I was cleaning my bike and it’ll cope with getting submerged and being thrown around on the beach.

So, I’ve nothing bad to report. For under $100 you get decent sound from a small portable speaker. I’d consider buying one, though I’d probably pick JBL’s Go 3 model instead – it’s even cheaper ($70), sounds better (61%) and I prefer its clipless boxy shape.

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