JBL Charge 2+ £110

A fine all-rounder – in ev­ery sense

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Wireless Speakers -

“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.

Rel­a­tive mer­its

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.

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