JBL Charge 2+ £110
A fine all-rounder – in every sense
“It’s a smart design, with ideal dimensions for a portable and is a truly engaging listen”
Good news: the world of sub-£150 portable Bluetooth speakers is a competitive and impressive place to be. Levels of build, performance and, in particular, features have never been higher, which is great news for all of us looking for maximum return from our cash. Of course, terrific sound delivery still goes a long way to securing a product’s place on your list of potential buys but, for buyers with specific feature requests, there are some compromises to be considered.
The Philips BM6B offers a simple way to create a multi-room system – and at no stage relying on wi-fi to do so. There is much to like in this feature list, but when it comes to looks and sound quality the results are a bit ho-hum.
But neither the Kitsound Hive Evolution nor the Onkyo X3 make compelling cases as alternatives to the Philips. The Kitsound is a great-looking speaker, and robust too, but in keeping with its muscular looks we’d like a beefier, more expansive sound. Some sugar on top of that occasionally harsh treble would be welcome, too.
The Onkyo X3 doesn’t match the Kitsound in the aluminium build stakes, but it does do a better job of spreading its sound. Unfortunately, that sound lacks excitement, and at this price – and below – there are better-sounding rivals.
The cheapest speaker on test here comes from Bose –not a statement you normally associate with the American maker. But this is very much prix fixe Bose as opposed to à la carte Bose. The compact Soundlink Colour works well if you anticipate carrying it around, but its sound delivery is less vivid.
The Libratone One Style does a better job of separating itself from the herd. Well put together and well featured, it’s a solid contender. But we’re not completely smitten; many will wish it would loosen up and crank up the audio thrills.
Two models, the Cambridge Yoyo (S) and JBL Charge 2+ battle it out for test winner status. The Yoyo (S) is the bigger of the pair, and strikes us as more of an ‘around the home’ portable. It’s a lovely thing, too, complete with smart woollen jacket and gesture control system. And in return for the highest price on test you get a big, bold, room-filling sound.
The winning formula
But you must also check out the JBL Charge 2+. It’s a smart design, with ideal portable-speaker dimensions – big enough to deliver impressive sound, compact enough to chuck easily into a rucksack – and is a truly engaging listen. It’s a music genre all-rounder, too. Factor in its £110 price tag, and the JBL muscles past the impressive £150 Cambridge to claim portable pole position.