HomeTechnologyJBL Pulse 5 overview: respectable sound, trippy lava-lamp mild present

JBL Pulse 5 overview: respectable sound, trippy lava-lamp mild present

The JBL Pulse 5 Bluetooth speaker, glowing blue on a media sideboard table with a stereo receiver.

“The JBL Pulse 5 is a decent-sounding, waterproof, Bluetooth speaker that places on an LED present to suit any temper”


  • Vibrant, vivid mild options
  • Dustproof, waterproof IP67 ranking
  • Clear, dynamic sound
  • Function-rich app
  • Fundamental EQing in-app


  • Mono sound
  • A bit missing in bass
  • Costly
  • No AUX enter
  • Lacks bodily controls

JBL’s Pulse Bluetooth audio system have lengthy been well-liked for his or her enjoyable and cool-looking lava-lamp mild present options, and we’re pleased to report that the newest model, the Pulse 5, is simply as trippy as its brethren, with a couple of upgrades and new options to maintain the road going robust. Whereas its 360-degree LEDs are simply the primary draw right here — they’re colourful and have a bunch of customizable mild present settings you’ll be able to alter by way of its app — the sound the JBL Pulse 5 pumps out is respectable, however solely appropriate for small- to mid-sized rooms by itself, or greater rooms when linked as much as different Pulse audio system. Beachgoers and pool partiers would possibly forgive the Pulse 5’s sound deficit as a result of it’s waterproof and dustproof, making it an incredible ally outdoor.

The Pulse 5’s hefty $250 value would possibly make it value taking a look at different JBL Bluetooth audio system, like the wonderful Flip 6 or the booming Xtreme 3. That stated, in case you’re as dazzled by the design and lovely ambiance mild options of the Pulse 5 as I used to be, and also you’re not in want of a speaker that shakes the partitions, learn on for what we preferred and didn’t like about JBL’s newest lava lamp with audio system.

Design and options

The top speaker of the JBL Pulse 5.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Developments

Just like the JBL Pulse 3 and Pulse 4 earlier than it, this newest fifth era of JBL’s well-liked upright moveable Bluetooth speaker is just attractive. Your entire outer shell of the Pulse 5 is evident plastic throughout, save for the highest and backside caps which home the Pulse 5’s prime upward-firing 0.6-inch tweeter and the underside, down-firing 2.5-inch 30-watt woofer that will get just below an inch of clearance because of the gadget’s three rubber ft.

Pushing the psychedelic aesthetic even additional, behind the clear shell is the speaker’s core of sensible LED lights, which seemingly floats, strikes, and color-shifts like a glob of melted wax in a extra fashionable lava lamp.

The one different options interrupting the circulate of the Pulse 5’s clear shell are its sturdy nylon loop strap and a fantastically compact 3.5-inch lengthy panel of bodily controls that homes the USB-C charging port, energy, Bluetooth, and PartyBoost connectivity buttons (for pairing a number of Pulse audio system collectively), in addition to a button to regulate the LEDs (on, off, and a long-press allows you to change the mode) and a power-level mild.

The JBL Pulse 5 Bluetooth speaker, blue, showing the back control buttons.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Developments

Attaining this clear circulate, nevertheless, comes on the expense of any bodily playback or observe navigation controls, which the Pulse 4 has. I usually discovered it a nuisance having to at all times attain for my telephone to regulate the quantity or pause a observe, particularly when my gadget was in one other room. Possibly the choice was made to dissuade folks from touching the clear speaker, which can not have been a foul thought contemplating the fingerprints and smudges it picks up.

By itself, a single Pulse 5 delivers mono sound (we’ll get into the way it sounds beneath), however when related to a different Pulse with the PartyBoost function, a stereo pair could be created. Or you’ll be able to hyperlink a number of suitable audio system for a much bigger sound. I solely acquired one overview unit to check out, so I used to be unable to do this function.

With no AUX in port, the JBL Pulse 5 depends solely on its Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity with the usual SBC codec assist, which is enough, however for $250, assist for increased high quality codecs akin to AAC (discovered within the wonderful, and cheaper, Sonos Roam) would have been good. It does have Bluetooth multipoint, although, so you’ll be able to pair as much as two units to the Pulse 5 concurrently in case you and a good friend need to divvy up the DJ obligations.

The Pulse 5 has one of the best mild present options of any moveable Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen, and it’s a ton of enjoyable.

Lastly, and maybe most significantly, is that regardless that the JBL Pulse 5 would possibly look extra like a speaker you’d discover in a hazy, dimly lit, wood-paneled basement, like lots of JBL’s rugged out of doors audio system the Pulse 5’s IP67 ranking makes it nearly mud resistant and in a position to be dunked in as much as a meter of water for as much as half-hour. I made a decision to check it out in my scorching tub, casually knocking the speaker into the effervescent water.

Its 3.5-pound weight plunged it down a bit of earlier than it fortunately bobbed again to the floor — it floats! To be clear, it’s not meant to be listened to in or underwater — the IP67 ranking simply implies that it might probably face up to it — so there was little sound coming from it because the water enveloped the audio system. Eradicating the speaker from the water, the sound was muffled and the bass was severely distorted, which apprehensive me at first. However after tipping the speaker over end-t0-end and draining the water out, it solely took a couple of minutes earlier than the Pulse 5’s sound cleared up.

To be clear, the Pulse 5 just isn’t a “rugged” speaker, so I’d watch out to not knock it off a desk or toss it round like a soccer (that may look cool, although). However a poolside sound and lightweight present is the right venue for the Pulse 5.

JBL Transportable app and LED controls

The JBL Portable app showing the LED controls and EQ options.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Developments

Pairing the JBL 5 to your gadget, be it a smartphone, pill, or pc, is as straightforward as pairing any Bluetooth gadget. As soon as paired, you’ll be able to after all play music out of your favourite streaming companies, or push the sound to it from no matter you’re watching on YouTube or Netflix.

The JBL Transportable app (free for Android and iOS units) is a well-designed, easy-to-use app that provides a handful of useful and enjoyable options and controls as properly. From the house display screen, you immediately see the battery lifetime of the speaker. Sound options embrace easy bass, mid, and treble EQ sliders (you’ll want to disable or keep in mind the EQ settings in your streaming app, although, as a result of they’ll each have an effect on your music) and a choice of Ambient Sounds you’ll be able to play for sleeping or background noise, akin to waves, crickets, campfire, and hen sounds that may be placed on a timer. You can too management the PartyBoost function right here, too.

However let’s get to the enjoyable a part of the Transportable app — mild controls. There’s almost no restrict to the quantity of tweaking you are able to do to the Pluse 5’s LEDs, that are in two sections: the primary base of the cylinder and radiating beneath with the woofer. the Gentle Controls choice lets you flip them on or off and a slider allows you to set the brightness stage.

For a speaker with drivers of this dimension, the Pulse 5 delivers distinctive readability within the mids and highs, particularly on vocals.

There are six Gentle Present presets every with editable sub-themes, together with Get together, Cocktail, Climate, Canvas, Religious, and Nature, all of which could be set to a selected colour or on a random colour loop. You possibly can even change the tempo of the sunshine’s altering pace to swimsuit a temper, from gradual and tremendous chill to upbeat freakout. The Pulse 5 has one of the best mild present options of any moveable Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen, and it’s a ton of enjoyable.

Sound high quality and efficiency

The JBL Pulse 5, glowing orange in the dark.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Developments

Whereas the Pulse 5’s focus appears to be extra on the sunshine present, for a mono speaker of its dimension it’s moderately loud, sounds fairly respectable, and will probably be sufficient to fulfill most individuals. For my take a look at, I used Spotify (Tidal’s lossless audio can be completely misplaced on this speaker) and began with the EQ off on each the Spotify app and the JBL Transportable app, as properly. I first examined the speaker in my small residence workplace my media sideboard unit about six inches from the wall.

For a speaker with drivers of this dimension, the Pulse 5 delivers distinctive readability within the mids and highs, particularly on vocals in tracks from the likes of Radiohead, Paramore, Unhealthy Bunny, and even heavier fare from Metallica. It could be a bit treble-forward for my liking, and a bit tinny at increased volumes, however total it sounds nice. Don’t push this speaker although — issues begin to break up a bit on the very limits, however in case you’re on the lookout for one thing to fill a much bigger room you then would possibly need to attempt the Sony SRS-SG300.

On the low finish of the spectrum, the Pulse 5 was a bit of disappointing with the no-EQ settings I began out with. At increased volumes, it was current and rumbled the desk, particularly on bass-heavy songs like Billie Eilish’s xanny, which is form of my litmus take a look at because it’s blended fairly saturated and comes by means of it doesn’t matter what speaker I hearken to it on. Nevertheless, issues begin to get attention-grabbing if you activate the Transportable app’s EQing and goose the bass. The sound fills out and will get greater and wider. Then, turning off the Transportable app’s EQ and as an alternative utilizing Spotify’s native EQ was even higher, permitting for extra flexibility and dynamics within the combine. The flat EQ setting is balanced and clear on the Pulse 5, and with some boosted bass, it sounds nice and will get loud.

The JBL Pulse 5 handles most sound conditions comparatively properly and carried out admirably in all places I put it.

With extra piercing tracks, like Smashing Pumpkins’ Cherub Rock, although, I needed to ease off on the two.4kHz and 15kHz frequency sliders that had been piercing my ears. All that is to say that in case you’re keen to do the tweaking, this factor can sound wonderful, and particularly shines at mid to decrease quantity ranges.

Shifting the speaker round — in a nook, on a bookshelf, out within the open — yields totally different sound dynamics, like several speaker, and I didn’t have any points with the Bluetooth connectivity. The JBL Pulse 5 handles most sound conditions comparatively properly and carried out admirably in all places I put it. Is it value $250? Contemplating what else is on the market at this value, I’m not so positive.


The JBL Pulse 5 is a transportable Bluetooth speaker that one would assume will probably be taken to a wide range of locations to dazzle pals and partiers with its cavalcade of lights and sound, so it’s vital that it has sufficient battery energy to take action. With a 7,500 mAh battery, JBL claims that the Pulse 5 can final for as much as 12 hours, which is about common for a Bluetooth speaker of its dimension (the Sonos Roam and Transfer, as compared, clock round 10 hours, whereas our top-rated Marshall Emberton II boasts a considerable 20 hours). The Pulse 5 takes round 4 hours to completely cost from zero with the included USB-C to USB-A cable.

Backside line

The JBL Pulse 5 Bluetooth speaker, lights off, showing the control buttons.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Developments

Within the case of the JBL Pulse 5, I’m going to say that it’s completely OK to be dazzled by all the beautiful lights and fear much less in regards to the sound. As a result of, dammit, this factor appears to be like tremendous cool, it might probably create an incredible lava lamp or get together vibe, and the sound is sweet and loud sufficient to impress. Are there moveable audio system on the market that value lower than $250 and supply higher sound high quality? Certain there are, and we’ve talked about a couple of all through the overview (you too can see extra in our roundup of the finest Bluetooth audio system). However in case you’re much less fussy about high-res audio or higher Bluetooth codecs and are on the lookout for a enjoyable, distinctive, moveable sound and lightweight present that’s as at residence by the pool (or within the pool) as it’s in your chill-out den, then the Pulse 5 could be a bit of more money properly spent.

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