JBL Pulse 5 review: The flashiest Bluetooth speaker you can buy

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Techaeris Rated 8.8/10

The JBL Pulse Bluetooth speaker was introduced in 2013, and it looked distinctly different from this generation of Pulse. When JBL introduced the Pulse, it was unique and well-received. The speaker has undergone several changes, and the new JBL Pulse 5 shows that the company’s primary selling point is the Pulse 5’s flashy light show.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

We’ve reviewed previous Pulse models, and they have always been decent Bluetooth speakers emphasizing those mesmerizing lights. The JBL Pulse 5 doesn’t change much in terms of sound, it’s still just okay, and its charm comes from the light show it produces. Let’s dive into the full review of the JBL Pulse 5.

Specifications

The JBL Pulse 5 has the following features and specifications:

  • Output power (W): 30 W RMS for Woofer, 10 W RMS for Tweeter
  • Dynamic frequency response range (Hz): 58 Hz – 20 kHz (axial, -6 dB )
  • Dimensions (in): 4.2 x 8.5 x 5.2
  • Dimensions (cm): 10.7 x 21.6 x 13.2
  • Weight (kgs): 1.5
  • Weight (lbs): 3.2
  • Bluetooth profiles: A2DP 1.3, AVRCP 1.6
  • Bluetooth frequency: 2407 MHz – 2475 MHz
  • Bluetooth transmitter modulation: GFSK, π/4 DQPSK, 8DPSK
  • Bluetooth transmitter power: < 10 dBm (EIRP)
  • Bluetooth version: 5.3
  • Maximum music playing time (hrs): 12
  • Charging time (hrs): 4
  • Waterproof: Yes, IP67

What’s In The Box

  • JBL Pulse 5
  • JBL branded Type C cable
  • Quick start guide
  • Safety sheet
  • warranty card

Design

JBL Pulse 5 review: The flashiest Bluetooth speaker you can buy
Nice looking and durable.

The Pulse design has changed over the years, with the Pulse 4 ushering in the most significant design change of the line. The Pulse 4 moved to a primarily acrylic exterior which made more room for lighting but also made it much harder to hold.

The JBL Pulse 5 doubles down on the Pulse 4 design making the chassis even broader and harder to hold. I have large hands and can hold it, but not for long, as it slips through my palm due to its slick acrylic exterior. JBL has made an effort to make moving the Pulse 5 easier by adding a carrying strap to it. The strap is a nice touch and is sturdy and durable. It’s also easy to grab and slip through your fingers; thanks, JBL, for recognizing this was needed.

Directly under the strap are the power button, Bluetooth pairing button, light control button, Party button, LED charging indicator, and USB-C charging port. The rest of the chassis is a clear acrylic that shows the lighting off very well. The clear acrylic is nice, but it is slippery and shows a lot of grim and fingerprints. So be ready to clean it often. As I mentioned, it’s much broader and more challenging to pick up with one hand without the strap.

The top of the JBL Pulse 5 is where the speaker for mids and treble sits, while the sub-woofer is at the bottom. Both of these areas are finished off nicely, and the entire look and feel of the JBL Pulse 5 is very premium. You also have IP67 dust and waterproofing here, a nice value.

Overall, the design hasn’t changed much over the Pulse 4; the JBL Pulse 5 is broader, heavier, and lacks physical controls. Those are its significant differences.

Ease of Use

JBL Pulse 5 review: The flashiest Bluetooth speaker you can buy
The controls on the back are limited.

Using the JBL Pulse 5 is straightforward. It does utilize a smartphone app, but it’s not needed if you don’t want to use it. Powering up the Pulse 5 puts it into pairing mode from there; look for it within your smart device’s Bluetooth settings and click it.

There are no controls for music on the Pulse 5, so all your control will be done through whatever app you use. There are a few more features and controls within the app, which we will cover next.

Overall, the Pulse 5 is easy to use, but the lack of physical buttons for volume and tracks may sour some. Seeing these would have been nice as some may not have immediate access to their device when near the speaker.

App/Software

I’m not a fan of apps and software for Bluetooth speakers. I feel like another layer to deal with is too much for me. That said, I acknowledge that the JBL Pulse 5 has a reason for the app: its light show. Though there is a button that can change some aspects of the light show, the app gives you more options.

While I’m not a fan of apps for speakers, I can at least give JBL credit for making the JBL Portable app easy to use.

JBL Pulse 5 review: The flashiest Bluetooth speaker you can buy
The carrying strap is a good addition.

There’s not a lot going on here; once you connect your speaker to Bluetooth, open the app, and it will find your JBL Pulse 5. There are a few things you can do here.

  • Edit the name of your speaker.
  • See the battery level.
  • Choose from preset light shows.
  • Edit preset light shows.
  • Choose between a solid color or a color looper
  • Adjust light show brightness
  • Turn the light show on or off
  • Choose 360 on or off
  • Adjust the light show to the tempo of the music.
  • Use Ambient Sounds Mode with a timer.
  • Use PartyBoost to connect two compatible JBL speakers
  • Use a simple EQ to adjust the sound of your music.
  • Update the software

The app is very basic and not hard to use at all. You will find it most helpful in adjusting the light show and pairing two JBL speakers together. Overall, I only used the app to set up a quick EQ and adjust the lights once. After that, the app was rarely used.

Sound

JBL
The top speaker.

I’ve been a fan of JBL for a while now, and I still enjoy many of its offerings. But I feel the JBL Pulse 5 has strayed a bit too far from the music in favor of the pretty lights. Don’t get me wrong; I dig the light show, but not at the sacrifice of sound.

I’m not saying the Pulse 5 sounds awful; it sounds good. The bass isn’t overpowering, the mids are decent, and the highs are also good. I like that they include a 3-band EQ in the app so you can adjust the sound on the fly. But it doesn’t sound like $250 worth of sound to me.

Some competitors have a much better soundstage that offers more clarity and presence for the same or less money. JBL may have taken a step back from the previous version of the Pulse regarding sound. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend the JBL Pulse 5.

For the person looking for good sound paired with a fun light show that could brighten up a party or a small event, well, the Pulse 5 is excellent. This is not for critical listening and those who value excellent sound quality. Not at this price.

Overall, the soundstage on the Pulse 5 is just okay. It’s not spectacular but it will please most users. I think the Pulse 5 is marketed for users who want something flashy that still sounds good enough for a party. This will serve that purpose, so it’s not all bad.

JBL Pulse 5 Techaeris 4-min
The bottom subwoofer

Battery Life

Battery life on the JBL Pulse 5 is more than acceptable. I was able to use the speaker several times over a week without it dying. Those use cases were one to two-hour listening times, and I estimate that my total use without charging was at or better than the 12 hours of playtime claimed by JBL.

Battery life will vary by the user, though. The volume level and distance from the device are essential variables and will affect your battery life. Other factors such as brightness, lights on, lights off, and PartyBoost will also affect the battery, so be aware that your results may differ.

Price/Value

The JBL Pulse 5 is priced at $249.95. That’s a good chunk of money for a speaker in this range. I have enjoyed the Pulse line of speakers since they were introduced; they are a novel and fun idea. So if you’re in it for the light show proposition, this is the best portable Bluetooth speaker for that use.

If you’re looking for outstanding sound, then the value isn’t there for that use case. Don’t get me wrong; the JBL Pulse 5 sounds good, but not better than some of its competitors in the same price range. Still, the completion doesn’t have that light show, which is worth something.

Pulse 5
It’s a chunky fella!

Wrap Up

The JBL Pulse 5 continues to live up to its name and reputation as having a fantastic light show. The build quality is outstanding. But for those who would rather skip the lights and are more interested in superior sound, look elsewhere. This is your huckleberry if you want good sound and a kick-butt light show.

Last Updated on April 7, 2023.

JBL Pulse 5

$249.95

Design

9.0/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

App/Software

9.0/10

Sound

8.0/10

Battery Life

9.5/10

Price/Value

8.5/10

Nailed it

  • Still a nice looking design
  • Still has that great looking light show
  • Adding a carrying strap was a nice touch
  • Easy to use
  • Nice controls in the app for lighting
  • Good battery life
  • IP67 dust and waterproof

Needs work

  • Much thicker this year and hard to hold, this is why they added the carrying strap.
  • Clear design picks up a lot of fingerprints and smudges
  • The sound is just okay and maybe not enough for this price point
  • No physical controls, previous models all had this
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