JBL Charge 4 vs. Megaboom 3: One Sounds Better at Low Volumes
After a month-long trial, I determined UE Megaboom 3 is the best wireless speaker because of its brilliant design, wireless charging, and superior high-volume performance. But JBL Charge 4 provides the best sound at lower volumes indoors and is more affordable. You can’t go wrong either way.
I’ll compare and contrast these two portable speakers (JBL Charge 4 vs. Megaboom 3) by evaluating five categories: sound, design, durability, power, and software.
UE Megaboom 3
- Sound: The sound is crisp from all angles with an impressive bass. It’s better for outdoor and high volumes, but the bass can be overpowering.
- Design: It's the best-designed speaker on the market with appealing two-tone colors.
- Durability: It’s waterproof, dustproof and shockproof.
- Power: 10 hours at 60% and 5 hours at 85% volume. It can wirelessly charge too.
- Software: There's an EQ and you can power the speaker using the app.
Best for you if...
You want the more versatile speaker and to play music at high volumes for large gatherings. The sound is crowd-pleasing and most will prefer it. It has an amazing design and provides wireless charging. While Megaboom 3 is better overall, Charge 4 provides a better bang for your buck.
JBL Charge 4
- Sound: The sound is one-directional, but it has the perfect balance of lows, mids, and highs at reasonable volumes. The highs get distorted at loud volumes.
- Design: The colors are dull, but there are lots to choose from. It sits horizontally.
- Durability: It’s durable and waterproof, but Megaboom feels tougher.
- Power: 8 hours at 60% and 6.5 hours at 85% volume. You can charge your phone too.
- Software: There’s no use for the app because there’s no EQ or anything of value.
Best for you if...
You want to listen at home or at standard volumes. It’s portable enough to take on the road and can charge your devices, but it doesn’t sound great at loud volumes. It’s not a party speaker. Charge 4 is best portable speaker for most people because it’s an incredible value.
UE Megaboom 3
- It offers omnidirectional sound, meaning it sounds the same from all angles. This makes it better for listening with large groups or outdoors.
- Sound quality is mostly subjective and based on personal preference. There are situations where I prefer Charge 4< (lower volumes, while inside), but the sound on Megaboom 3 is my favorite. It’s clear and sharp with strong bass.
- It has more bass than Charge 4. It seems like Ultimate Ears went the crowd-pleasing/party route with this iteration of Megaboom. It sounds good on average, but on some songs, especially at high volumes, the bass gets too boomy and overpowering.
- Ultimate Ears lets you toggle with the equalizer to tweak the sound to your tastes, but I wouldn’t bother, unless you’re in a smaller room, then it’s smart to turn down the mids a bit.
- Bottom line: If you want to listen outside, use it for a party, or just like your music loud, Megaboom 3 is probably best for you.
- How does the sound compare to the original Megaboom? Megaboom 3 has better bass, but the volume level, mids and treble sound similar. The reason to upgrade to Megaboom 3 is for the substantial design improvements noted below. (Side note: Megaboom 2 never existed. Ultimate Ears skipped the second version to streamline their lineup name structure.)
- It weighs two pounds, is 8.9 inches tall, and sits vertically.
- It has a brilliant minimalistic design and comes in five different two-tone colors: Lagoon Blue, Nightblack, Sunset Red, Ultraviolet Purple, and Urban Magenta. The mesh material looks fantastic!
- It has two huge volume buttons on the side.
- The original Megaboom was a well-designed speaker, but it had flaws:
- There was no play, pause or skip button. Instead, you had to use gestures to play and skip. For example, if you tap the top, the music pauses, or if you double tap, the music jumps. I hated that you have to hold the speaker in your hands and tilt it for the gestures to work. They fixed this with a giant “Magic Button.”
- The micro USB charging port was previously located on the bottom, making it challenging to charge and listen at the same time. But they moved the charging port to the bottom and if you spring for the $40 charging base, you can charge wirelessly.
- UE got rid of the ugly, thick, rubber strip that went down the middle.
- There’s isn’t a port for external devices.
- If you press and hold the volume buttons, you’ll get a precise reading of the remaining battery life.
- It’s exceptionally durable and shockproof. You can drop it a few times without worry.
- It’s entirely waterproof (IPX7 rating). This means it can be submerged in a meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s dustproof too!
- It’ll float if you drop it in the water.
- UE lists 20 hours of playback before the battery needs a charge. My real world tests:
- 10 hours with 60% volume.
- 5 hours with 85% volume.
- You can wirelessly charge with the additional $40 UE charging base.
- Inside the app, there’s an equalizer where you can toggle the bass, mids, and treble. There are four preset equalizer options too. I like the “voices” preset for podcasts.
- You can connect up to 150 other UE speakers with “Party Up.” It’s not flawless due to Bluetooth limitations, but it stays in sync and doesn’t cut out nearly as much as JBLs.
- It uses Bluetooth 4.2, and you can pair it with eight devices and have it paired to two simultaneously.
- The listed Bluetooth range is 150 feet, but that’s not accurate. I found it to have the same range as Charge 4.
- “Block Party” lets you connect up to two source devices at the same time while eight different people can manage the music being played.
- The firmware is frequently updated. You’ll see improvements as the time goes on, whereas JBL doesn’t upgrade anything.
- When you hold the Magic Button down for two seconds, it’ll start playing one of your four Apple Music pre-selected playlists without touching your phone. This is a cool feature and could be expanded to other services, in the future.
JBL Charge 4
- Charge 4 offers one-directional sound, and there’s only one driver. It sounds best when there’s a wall for the sound to reflect off of.
- It’s not as bad as you’d think outside, although Megaboom 3 sounds better.
- Overall, the sound is brilliant, crisp and deep as long as the volume stays in the 60% range. While under 60%, it has the perfect balance of low, high, and mids, but the highs get screechy above 70%.
- It doesn’t have as much bass as Megaboom 3, but the bass stays stable the whole time, whereas, Megaboom 3 gets too boomy at louder levels.
- Many Internet reviewers say Megaboom 3 is louder, but I didn’t notice a difference in that regard.
- You’re stuck listening to music the way JBL intended because you can’t customize the sound, but this isn’t a bad thing.
- Bottom line: If you want to use this indoors, at lower volumes, it sounds better than Megaboom 3.
- Compared to Charge 3, Charge 4 has more bass and more power (one 30W driver compare to two 10W drivers) with a better treble. Both sound great, but I wouldn’t say the sound is an improvement or that is got worse, just that it’s different and is $40 less.
- It weighs 2.1 pounds and is 8.7 inches long. It sits horizontally, but it’s nearly the same size otherwise.
- Unlike most JBL speakers, they released ten different colors (Black, Blue, Forest Green, Grey, Pink, Red, Sand, Teal, and White). The colors don’t have much flare, but at least you have options.
- The port cover stays latched well for waterproofing but is also easy to open. It’s perfect.
- Megaboom 3 doesn’t have a headphone jack port for external, non-Bluetooth devices, but Charge 4 does.
- Like Megaboom 3, it’s waterproof (IPX7 rating) and can be in a meter of water for 30 minutes, but it’s not dustproof or listed as shockproof.
- The two side radiators (the things that bounce with the bass) are exposed. This isn’t a big deal, but when comparing the durability of two ultra-durable speakers, you have to nitpick.
- It’ll float if you drop it in water.
- JBL lists a battery runtime of 20 hours, but these numbers are calculated at extremely low volumes. My real world tests garnered these results:
- 8.5 hours with 60% volume.
- 6.5 hours with 85% volume.
- It has a 7,500-mAh battery and lets you charge your phone or other devices via a USB.
- It takes four hours to recharge via its USB-C, This is an upgrade from Megaboom 3 micro USB, but shouldn’t be a buying factor.
- JBL’s app is one of the worst I’ve ever encountered; it’s pointless. It struggles to recognize the speaker, there’s no equalizer; no accurate volume metric, and no ability to change edit settings like a standby timer. The interface doesn’t work on iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XR because the buttons are off the interface. You don’t need the app to pair with other JBL speakers. The app’s supposed to update the firmware, but I’ve never received a firmware update.
- Charge 4 uses Bluetooth 4.2 and offers a range of 30 feet, and you can connect two devices at once.
- You can pair other JBL speakers with it (“Party” or “Stereo”), but they need to be the newest generation of speakers that have JBL Connect+ (not JBL Connect). The frustrating thing is that JBL doesn’t talk about JBL Connect+ and the differences aren’t documented anywhere on the site.