JBL Charge 2+

FOR Rich, ex­pan­sive sound; build qual­ity; ‘So­cial Mode’ AGAINST Deep bass can sound over­done

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

The JBL Charge 2+ was orig­i­nally launched at £150. And even at that price it’s knock­ing on the five-star door. At £40 less, we throw open the en­trance and wel­come a bone fide ri­val to our UE Roll 2 2016 Award-win­ner.

Share – and share alike?

A larger and heav­ier propo­si­tion than the UE – it weighs in at 600g, well over the UE’S 330g – the JBL also has some tricks up its pas­sive bass ra­di­a­tor-equipped sleeve. Most in­trigu­ing is the JBL’S ‘So­cial Mode’ op­tion. Here you can con­nect up to three Blue­tooth-equipped mu­sic de­vices, let­ting, for ex­am­ple, a group of friends listen to each other’s tunes. Democ­racy in ac­tion, you say? A sort of democ­racy, we sug­gest. In So­cial Mode, to hear your tune you just hit Play – the JBL im­me­di­ately stops what it was do­ing and plays your song. Or, in other words, to punt your mate off the vir­tual decks, hit Play. And vice versa. Great fun.

And the fun doesn’t stop with playlist queue-jump­ing. The Charge 2+ is an­other of those Blue­tooth speak­ers that doesn’t mind tak­ing the odd shower. Un­like the fully im­m­ersable UE Roll 2, though, it is just splash-re­sis­tant – it doesn’t mind hang­ing around the pool, but don’t ask it to take a dip.

Should your phone run out of juice while you’re on your trav­els, you can hook it up to the JBL – the built-in recharge­able bat­tery is good for up to 12 hours’ play­time, as well as for charg­ing de­vices via its USB port.

Come to your senses

When it comes to kick­ing up a din, the JBL’S 15W speaker sys­tem uses dual ex­ter­nal pas­sive bass ra­di­a­tors to – ac­cord­ing to the blurb – help you ‘hear the bass, feel the bass, see the bass’.

“Listen longer and you re­alise the JBL in­vari­ably sounds big and im­pres­sive”

We’ll re­serve judge­ment on whether or not you will feel the bass, but wind-up the vol­ume and you cer­tainly can spot the bass ra­di­a­tors flex­ing their mus­cles. Spin some­thing bass-heavy, such as Grace Jones’ smooth take on The Pre­tenders’ Pri­vate Life, and the Charge 2+ de­liv­ers a big, far-reach­ing sound. This rich sonic char­ac­ter soon sends you search­ing for more low-fre­quency fun, and it isn’t long be­fore we are kick­ing back to Harry J All­stars’ Liq­uida­tor. The speaker is not, though, solely for big-bass du­ties. Switch to Ja­son Is­bell’s del­i­cate How To For­get and the JBL re­veals good lev­els of de­tail – that gen­tle acous­tic is ap­par­ent – and the vo­cals are full-bod­ied and emo­tional.

Listen longer and you re­alise that the JBL in­vari­ably sounds big and im­pres­sive – great even in larger rooms – but also tends to cos­set tunes in a (slight) film of au­dio warmth. A kind of sonic bub­blewrap, if you will. It re­mains ex­tremely like­able, but the low end is cer­tainly over­stated, if still ag­ile.

Neat de­sign, solid build

There is no need, though, to check the build qual­ity be­fore you in­vest. This is a su­perbly well put-to­gether Blue­tooth speaker. The rub­berised fin­ish looks and feels great, plus helps en­sure a firm grip when you grab the unit. The soft-touch con­trol panel is sen­si­bly lo­cated and per­fectly re­spon­sive, while the slightly raised base cre­ates a steady foothold.

The JBL Charge 2+ is a supremely like­able por­ta­ble Blue­tooth speaker. Its sonic char­ac­ter is bold and beefy, and we ex­pect lots of lis­ten­ers will warm to its, well, warmth. It also feels good in the hand, and the track-shar­ing So­cial Mode is a cool touch.

It looks like it means busi­ness – and more than de­liv­ers on its vis­ual prom­ise

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