Like e-books Bluetooth speakers are the apotheosis of product form. This is a disposable product that turns on and off and does exactly what you need – no more, no less. Portable Bluetooth speaker works anytime, with any phone, anywhere. You don’t need to find an outlet or have the right cable. It works with Android and iOS. You don’t even need Wi-Fi.
Smart speaker manufacturers have tried very hard to capture our imagination. And it worked; My kids sometimes ask Siri questions, but most of the time they ignore the existence of the HomePod Mini.
The JBL Pulse 5 cannot be ignored. The style of this thing makes it impossible. When I received it, I placed it in the middle of the kitchen table, turned it on and watched the children circle around it, oohing and ahahing.
It’s a beautiful 8.5″ high tube with an LED display that shines through smooth, transparent skin. It is essentially a lava lamp that plays music. You never saw pure joy until you saw 10 second graders running around your house, turning off all the lights in the house and going crazy around this thing listening to Katy Perry. The price is outrageous, especially compared to other similarly sized speakers, but the Pulse 5 might just be worth the money because of the fun extras packed inside.
Never break the chain
The Pulse 5 is the latest addition to JBL’s line of portable, illuminated Bluetooth speakers. It’s slightly larger than the 2019 Pulse 4, apart from a few other differences. It has a thick, comfortable carrying strap and a slightly better build quality with IP67 dust and water resistance compared to the IPX7 Pulse 4, which is only rated for submersion in water. (That’s good, since I just inspected mine and found broken crayons at the top of the diaphragm.)
The Pulse 5 also has Bluetooth 5.3 which means it can connect to multiple phones. It can also connect to other JBL Bluetooth speakers using JBL PartyBoost. The feature is incredibly easy to use. Just press the Bluetooth pairing button on both JBL speakers you want to pair and they sync instantly. You can pair two JBL speakers to get stereo sound, or keep adding speakers so they all play the same thing. JBL claims you can wirelessly connect over 100 speakers, but I haven’t been able to verify this claim.
Here is the first feature where the price tag begins to justify itself. Only a few JBL speakers support PartyBoost – my favorite, unfortunately. Clip 4 he is not. However, I found dusty Flip 5 since 2019 in my wardrobe and it worked! If you’re a longtime JBL fan, you can also instantly create stereo sound by pairing this new speaker with your old one.
The vast majority of the speaker’s surface is clear plastic with a backlit tube inside. Speaker diaphragms are located at the top and bottom. The Pulse 5 also has tall feet that are pleasantly soft, making it a pleasure to place on hard surfaces. (Hey, I’m taking all I can.) The loudspeaker is moving tons air, and it can get very loud. For example, a loud house.
The upper registers of the audio spectrum aren’t as crisp and punchy as on other speakers of this size – or even on the decades-old Flip 5 – but it’s hard to match the party dynamics. Nicola Benedetti Vivaldi recordings the sound is oddly stifled, even once I turned up the treble in the app. But you know, I will not listen to concerts on this topic alone at home. Robert Palmer sounds just great.
What really attracted me were the headlights. Backlit speakers can be a crappy trick – I’ve tried versions where a minimal colored pulsating ring of light added little to no value to the dynamics. But the Pulse 5 is great. You can customize the backlight in the JBL Portable app by turning on or off the backlight on the main panel and the backlight on the bottom.