Friday March 01, 2024

JBL debuts replaceable batteries for its new portable Bluetooth speakers at CES 2024
  Posted by: Engadget on Jan 8th, 2024 1:00 PM

When it comes to portable Bluetooth speakers, battery life has always been a sticking point and JBL’s latest updates are focused on improving just that. As part of its announcement today at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, the company presented two updated PartyBox models and three new personal portable iterations. Aside from the battery upgrades, they all support Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and Auracast for wirelessly connecting countless other Auracast-enabled JBL speakers. Additionally, recycled fabric and plastic play a role in their construction.

The new large-format JBL PartyBox Club 120 ($400) and PartyBox Stage 320 ($600) now include easily swappable batteries so you can party well beyond the boundaries of a single charge. The next-gen personal portables include the midsize JBL Xtreme 4 ($380) and the smaller Clip 5 ($80) and Go 4 ($50), all of which have longer runtimes on a single charge. The Xtreme 4 is also now a more reliable long-term investment with a replaceable battery for serviceability.

A collage with the JBL PartyBox 120, PartyBox 320 and JBL PartyBox Wireless Mic bundle against a blue and white gradient background.
JBL PartyBox 120 (left), JBL PartyBox Wireless Mic bundle (center) and JBL PartyBox 320.

It’s been at least a couple of years since we’ve seen a new version of these specific PartyBox models. (The PartyBox 110 was released in 2021 and the 310 came out in 2020.) Many of the general specs remain the same as the previous iterations for both models. They are still IPX4 rated, which means some drink spills or light rain should be OK. You can still do basic wireless stereo pairing with two speakers for left and right output and control themed lighting displays using the JBL PartyBox app.

Although the battery life remains the same as before with up to around 12 hours for the PartyBox 110 and 18 hours for the PartyBox 320, you can now buy additional battery packs and swap them in when needed. This takes some of the worry out of hosting long parties without an outlet nearby. We're still waiting for more info about pricing and availability for the battery packs.

Both of these large-format speakers have Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and Auracast – a new Bluetooth feature that allows many devices to join the same audio stream. According to JBL, you can connect unlimited Auracast-enabled JBL speakers together for bigger sound. We’re still waiting for further details, but it would seem likely that you’d connect via the JBL PartyBox app.

The specs list two mic inputs and one guitar input for both of these devices. Previously only the 310 had capability for all three, although it was one mic input and one for dual mic/instrument. If there are indeed now three inputs, it would make sense especially considering the new accessory bundle that’s also being announced.

For those who are into karaoke or just broadcasting their voice to a crowd, there’s also a new PartyBox Wireless Mic ($150) two-mic bundle available now. It’s noted as being compatible with all PartyBox speakers. The mics boast a rechargeable 20-hour runtime with an additional 12-hour dongle attachment and 10-minute fast charging for an additional two hours of use. They're also built to minimize handling noise and have a built-in pop filter to get dodge of unwanted breathing sounds.

The JBL Xtreme 4 speaker with shoulder strap seen against a blue and white gradient background.
JBL Xtreme 4

One of JBL’s larger, yet still personal portable Bluetooth lines is the Xtreme series. It’s big enough to warrant a shoulder strap, easy enough to carry around, yet delivers respectable sound. This year the Xtreme 4 offers much the same as the previous generation. It’s a resilient IP67-rated speaker, so you can take it pretty much anywhere, rain or shine. And you can charge other devices with its onboard power bank via USB.

The new features include an extended battery life of up to 24 hours, plus an additional six if you use the Playtime Boost Mode. It’s a nice jump from the previous 15 hours on a charge. This time around, you can also replace the battery, although it’s not really ‘swappable’. If your battery starts to fail over time, you don’t have to worry about buying a new speaker, you can just replace the battery portion itself.

As with all of today’s new announcements, the Xtreme 4 runs Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and supports Auracast. That means you should be able to join up with any other JBL speakers that also have Auracast.

A collage with the JBL Go 4 and JBL Clip 5 against a blue and white gradient background
JBL Go 4 (left) and JBL Clip 5.

There’s no word on updated Flip or Charge releases yet, so JBL’s last new offerings today are the extremely portable Clip 5 and Go 4. Both retain the IP67 rating from before, which is useful considering that they’re small enough to clip on things or put in your pocket. Both run Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and can also connect with any other JBL Auracast-enabled speakers.

The Clip 5 is said to have increased driver power to help optimize the overall audio and provide consistent bass, at least for its size. It offers up to 12 hours of battery life, plus an extra three hours in Playtime Boost mode.

The tiny JBL Go 4 is the most portable of the bunch, with an updated exterior design and strap. Its audio output remains the same as before, but its battery life is now up to 7 hours, plus an additional two when listening in Playtime Boost mode.

The JBL Xtreme 4, Clip 5 and Go 4 should be available on the company’s website in June 2024 and both the PartyBox Club 120 and Stage 320 will be available on the site in April 2024.

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

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