Excellent sound for the size
Easy to use and pack along
The Clip 4’s audio upgrade doesn’t come without a few drawbacks. It lost some features in the redesign, no longer including a 3.5mm input or an internal microphone for taking calls directly. It’s also rather pricey for a speaker its size. But its mix of great sound and a versatile, truly rugged design, makes this a speaker you’ll happily transport from the confines of your shower stall to the hotel, the pool, and just about anywhere else you want to jazz up your favorite tunes.
About the JBL Clip 4 speaker
Here’s a quick look at the Clip 4’s specs:
Height x Width x Depth: 3.4 x 5.3 x 1.8 inches
Weight: .527 pounds
Battery life: Up to 10 hours per charge
- Speakers/drivers: 1.5-inch driver (40mm)
Wireless Connection: Bluetooth 5.1
Wired connection: USB-C charging port
Dust/Water resistance: IP67
As one might guess, the Clip 4’s most standout design feature is that big ole clip. The carabiner-style loop that arcs across the speaker’s topside is primarily made from thick aluminum, while the hinge portion is rubberized plastic. Though the Clip 4’s loop is much larger than the Clip 3’s, it easily adapts to similarly tight spaces, and its increased size actually affords the speaker even more ways to hang.
The speaker comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable for charging (upgrading the Clip 3’s microUSB port), and a quickstart guide.
What we like
Slick and easy setup
While most Bluetooth speakers are pretty self-explanatory these days, it doesn’t get any easier than the Clip 4. Simply power the speaker on by finding the gummy power button at its backside, then slide down to the Bluetooth button beneath and hold till the speaker makes a “ping” sound. Find it in your phone’s Bluetooth settings, and you’re ready.
More durable and more accessible
We’ll talk about the lesser aspects of the conspicuous new look further below, but one thing’s for sure: the Clip has never been easier to use. The boldly labeled control keys at the front stand out much better than those on the Clip 4’s predecessors, making it easy to adjust volume with the side keys and control both play/pause and song skip with the center key.
But my favorite new design aspect centers around the power and Bluetooth keys around back. While the dimpled keys in the Clip 3 were labeled plainly enough, they’re impossible to differentiate when the speaker is hanging near a wall, meaning I often found myself fumbling to remember which was which by touch. The unmistakable raised symbols of the new buttons are as easily navigable by touch as by sight, completely solving this annoyance. It’s the little things.
The rubberized stripes on the backside may look a bit weird, but they actually act as a dampener, raising the speaker off of surfaces so it's much less likely to buzz when playing loudly on a table or countertop. And last but not least, the Clip 4’s IP67 rating means it's not just water-resistant for up to 30 minutes in 3 feet of water, but it’s also dust resistant, which should pay off down the line by keeping its internals better intact.
A full day of battery life
Battery life hasn’t changed since the previous Clip, but 10 hours (depending on volume level) is solid for a speaker this size and price. Sure, you’ll see some larger speakers (and even some cheaper ones) offer a whopping 24 hours or more, but even JBL’s popular Flip 5 only brings two more hours of playback and costs double. You can find comparable speakers with more battery, like Ultimate Ears’ Wonderboom 2, but it’s also a fair bit bigger. While 10 hours isn't amazing, it's enough to get you through just about anything short of off-the-grid travels.
It sounds incredibly good for its size
You don’t expect a lot from a speaker this totable, and frankly, while I’ve quite enjoyed the Clip 3 as my bathroom buddy for the past year, its sound always came off with a bit more ping (and a lot less bass) than I’d like. Hey, it’s just a shower speaker, right?
Powering up the Clip 4 to hear its rumbling audio trademark, I was immediately impressed by the rich and full bass response. After all, we’re talking about a 40mm internal driver, the same size as what you'll find within the earcup of your favorite travel headphones. And yet, what JBL has managed to pull out of this little thing is special. I’ve heard a lot of small speakers, and especially when you’re talking about budget models, the Clip 4 blows the majority (including its Clip 3 sibling) out of the proverbial water. Going back and forth between the two felt like going from AM to FM. Goodbye tinny bass, hello full-fledged sound.
Suddenly, this little shower hanger becomes much more. I’ve taken it on day trips, packed it along to a rustic cabin on the Olympic Peninsula, and even swapped it for my UE Megaboom 3 as my go-to speaker when relaxing in my inflatable hot tub. It doesn’t sound nearly as open, detailed, or powerful as the Megaboom, and it also doesn’t offer the same kind of 360-degree sound field. But it's much more accessible hanging from my outdoor umbrella, and the sound is clean and full enough to be quite enjoyable for podcasts and music alike.
That's not to say it's perfect. Small speakers have their limitations, and the Clip 4 tends to sound crowded quickly when tasked with highly complex mixes, such as Radiohead's "Bodysnatchers." While it does well staying away from distortion at high volumes, it's not going to be loud enough to power your next backyard party (hopefully coming soon). Still, this speaker simply sounds too good to be this small.
What we don’t like
It drops a few features
As mentioned, the Clip 4 actually loses some features found in its equally-priced predecessor. The most notable omission is the internal microphone, meaning you can’t use it to pick up calls when your phone’s out of reach. I’m absolutely fine with the trade-off given the increase in sound quality, but I wouldn’t mind having the microphone back for the Clip 5 (hint).
It also loses the 3.5mm input, which is handy if you want to use playback devices without Bluetooth. I don’t, personally, so this is a non-factor for me, and it also means the Clip 4 no longer needs its protective flap at the base, which makes the design more durable long term.
Hope doesn’t float
None of the previous Clip speakers were designed to float, and really this is more novelty when it comes to playback. Still, the Clip 3 does bob a bit, while the 4 sinks pretty swiftly. In other words, if you’re out in a rowboat, don’t drop this thing or you’ll need to make a quick dive after it.
The design is more garish
The one drawback of the Clip 4’s new design, in my opinion, is it looks more cartoonish than previous iterations. You’re not going to wonder who makes the speaker, that’s for sure, and the red and pink model I got for review took some getting used to when compared to my more stealthy Clip 3. At the end of the day, though, the aesthetics are small potatoes compared to the increased usability and sound quality, and I'm sure some prefer the snazzier look.
Should you buy it?
Absolutely, this is one of the best speakers in my arsenal
The Clip 4 sounds better, works better, and is more durable than the already-handy Clip 3. Is it the best Bluetooth speaker out there? No, and in fact, I own two speakers that easily outdo it when it comes to sound quality: the Megaboom 3, and the wondrous Bowers & Wilkins T7. That said, both of those speakers cost a pretty penny more than the Clip 4 and neither is as packable or as versatile. Most notably, the Clip 4 is the first speaker of its size that I’ve actually enjoyed listening to, and that means I’m going to bring it along—and be glad I did.
While there are a metric ton of cheaper, similarly portable Bluetooth speakers out there, there aren’t many alternatives I’d recommend. One notable exception might be Ultimate Ears’ Wonderboom 2, which is bulkier but also floats, making it a better alternative for your paddleboard excursions. If you've got to have a speakerphone, the Clip 3 is also still available, just prepare for an audio downgrade. And if you're on a serious budget, Anker's Soundcore 2 offers relatively impressive sound for a tiny rectangular box, and is equally packable, if not hangable.
Otherwise, the Clip 4 is an obvious choice for those seeking an extremely portable shower speaker you’d actually want to listen to. As the maxim goes, you should always be willing to invest in the things you use every day, and while you can get much cheaper speakers in this class, you'll hear the difference. If you’re the kind who loves to wake up to music (or podcasts) in the shower—or wherever you find yourself—the JBL Clip 4 is a fantastic investment.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Managing Editor - Electronics@ryanwaniata
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
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