JBL Clip 4 Review: Landing on the perfect design for portability

It’s hard to see how JBL could have arrived at a better design for the latest in their tiny JBL Clip series. The JBL Clip 4 looks infinitely more attractive than its preceding models – a petite oval speaker with a fabric grille all over it, attached to a built-in carabiner that can hook onto a variety of attachment points like a backpack or a tent. It’s yet another show of force from a brand that is clearly serious about competing head and tails above many others in the market for portable Bluetooth speakers that both sound good and are super convenient.

Design

As described above, the JBL Clip 4 is a rugged oval-shaped speaker designed completely for outdoor adventures. It won’t fill a room with rich sound like the punching-above-its-weight JBL Charge 5, but it does a great job for its diminutive profile. The integrated carabiner is what defines the speaker here, while JBL has made a few more tweaks to differentiate JBL Clip 3 from the updated model. Most of all, they’ve introduced USB-C charging, but have unfortunately nixed the AUX port. You’ll solely be relying on Bluetooth here, and fortunately, the Bluetooth 5.1 standard is both stable and power efficient.

The fabric wrap that covers the front and rear sections of the Clip 4 is complemented by a sturdy IP67 built, meaning the speaker should be greatly protected against dust ingress while also being fully waterproof. Compare this to the Clip 3 which only had IPX7 – fully waterproof but zero protection against dust.

Little rubber ribs run down the side of the speaker to avoid any slipping and sliding, plus add a bit of extra grip. The speaker feels really nice in the hand and the carabiner feels premium and is easy to snap on and off any attachment point.

Large physical buttons sit across the top half of the speaker, but most of your playback will be controlled via the app.

As it’s JBL, there are about a dozen colour options for the speaker, which you’ll want to pay attention to. After all, you are mostly going to think of this as an accessory that plays music, so you might as well approach it like a piece of fashion.

There’s no speakerphone, which is a bit disappointing. Speakers of this size are often great for travellers who can take them around to hotel rooms and hang them easily on a nearby hook to take business calls while moving around the room. You’ll be doing none of that with this, but you should have a pair of wireless earbuds by now that can handle calls well.

Another unfortunate omission under the head is the ability to use the Clip 4 as part of JBL’s PartyBoost ecosystem. You can’t link this speaker up with other JBL products, which is a bit of a pain point for people who have already invested in JBL as a brand. If you want to hook up speakers for a better experience you’ll need to go for something like the JBL Charge 5.

Performance

It would be unfair to expect more from the JBL Clip 4 than it can give. The bass is unsurprisingly thin but still remains admirably clean and expressive at max volume. And this thing can get a lot louder than its size implies. While the bass is just adequate, the mids and highs are really clear and vibrant. Listning to podcasts on this thing sounds great, as do lighter styles that are more vocal-forward and sparse like soul and soft rock.

Though there’s support for SBC and AAC codecs, there’s no AptX with this Bluetooth connection. Regardless, performance when it comes to streaming Netflix (or anything else) is surprisingly good with very few sync issues. I just wouldn’t keep this speaker too far from the device.

Battery

Switching up to Bluetooth 5.1 has clearly made a difference. The JBL Clip 4 battery is now rated for 10 hours, and it’s more or less on the mark. Even at max volume I would get around 9 hours from this thing, which is more than enough for those going on long hikes or cycling through the city.

Verdict & Value

The reason the JBL Clip 4 gets five stars is mostly that it’s just $90. Ninety-dollars for one of JBL’s best-looking speakers to date, with flexibility and a sense of convenience that is lost on a lot of brands who either don’t try hard enough with differential design or try a bit too hard. JBL are obviously perfectly content with the Clip series, and they offer something here which plays into its purpose perfectly. I do wish it had a speakerphone, and the bass was much stronger, but for $90 I can’t complain at all.

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Very affordable; can get very loud for its size; beautiful design with an excellent carabiner; nice textural grip; strong and stable connection; 10 hour battery life is more than I expected.
Lowlights: No speakerphone; can’t link other speakers with this.
Manufacturer: JBL
Price: $90
Available: Now

Product supplied by JBL for review.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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