One of the loudest Bluetooth speakers I tested was also the smallest

The JBL Clip 5 is shown alongside the Pixel 8 Pro for size comparison.

The JBL Clip 5 speaker produces a lot of sound for such a small device.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Key points of ZDNET

  • The JBL Clip 5 available for $79 on Amazon.
  • This little speaker packs a punch and can easily last up to 12 hours on a full charge.
  • Its sound can be a bit compressed and the bass isn’t very deep.

I’ve tested a lot of Bluetooth speakers over the years. In most cases, I found their mid-range sound lacking, but that’s mainly due to the nature of Bluetooth.

Sure, you can find speakers that produce crisp, clear sound with a moderate soundstage, clear bass, clear mids, and crisp highs. But for the most part, Bluetooth speakers fall somewhere in the middle, where sound quality often comes second to features and decibels.

Also: One of the most immersive speakers I’ve ever heard isn’t made by Sonos or JBL

In terms of dB, Bluetooth speakers tend to produce sound levels that directly correlate to their size. After all, small speakers often cannot produce loud sounds. Unless of course we are talking about JBL Clip 5. This Bluetooth speaker no bigger than the palm of your hand can pump out some serious decibels — and without much distortion.

JBL Clip 5 technical specifications

  • Output power – 7 W
  • Dynamic frequency range – 95 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Battery life – 12 hours of playtime plus 3 hours with Playtime Boost
  • Dimensions – 3.4 x 5.3 x 1.8
  • Weight – 0.628 lbs
  • Waterproof – IP67
  • Connect multiple speakers with Auracast
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • Colors – Red, Black, Black/Orange, Blue, Pink, Purple, Sand, Squad, White
  • Price – Amazon – $79

View at Amazon

I really appreciate the JBL sound. I’ve been testing quite a few of their products lately, including JBL Bar1000 sound systemdelivers an unparalleled home theater experience and unprecedented sound clarity.

I also understand what to expect from JBL speakers. The characteristic sound curve accentuates the bass, drops slightly at the lower end of the highs, and then gently rises to the top of the frequencies. It’s a clean, dynamic sound that can accurately reproduce sounds in a generally pleasing way, but isn’t necessarily ideal for every genre.

The default Clip 5 has JBL’s signature sound, and in its compact form, it really compresses the soundstage. What does it mean? There is less separation between instruments and/or voices. To discerning ears, that may sound a bit compressed or “muddy.” To the normal ear, it is barely noticeable.

Also: How to improve noise cancellation on Google’s Pixel Buds Pro

There is also the JBL Portable app (Android/iOS), where you can choose from three different EQ settings (sadly there’s no Custom option), upgrade the firmware, group multiple speakers together, and enable PlaytimeBoost.

To test out what this little speaker can do, I connected the Clip 5 to the Pixel 8 Pro, opened Spotify, and pressed play on Rush’s “Analog Kid” (my test song). To me, the sound is really compressed but still quite enjoyable. I could hear Geddy’s bass clearly enough, and Neil Peart’s drums were as brilliant as ever. There wasn’t nearly as much punch as I would have liked in the bass, but this is a small speaker so I wasn’t expecting to feel the kick drum hitting my chest.

Given how challenging Rush can be for speakers of this type, I turned to Orbital’s “Halcyon And On” and found it surprisingly lively. Yes, the midrange is a bit too much for my liking, but turn that baby on and you’ll find yourself dancing, whether anyone’s watching or not.

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The opening of Stephen Paulus’s “The Road Home” (a beautiful chorus) is a bit harsh at louder levels, and when the chorus really comes together, it’s a bit distorted.

Ultimately, however, the big draw of this speaker is how loud it can get. Given the size of the Clip 5, you might think it could produce half as much volume, but this baby can crank. And with the built-in carabiner clip, you can attach it to anything and take your sound with you, no matter where you go. Go for a walk, a hike, a day at the beach, on your bike; Wherever your journey takes you, the Clip 5 can hang.

ZDNET Buying Tips

The JBL Clip 5 Bottom line: If you need big sound from a small device on the go (and earbuds or wireless headphones won’t work), this little speaker is all you need. On the speaker, you’ll find a play button and volume buttons to control music, and not much else. The carabiner clip is sturdy enough that you don’t have to worry about it breaking.

This little speaker is sturdy, loud, and will keep you enjoying whatever you listen to for hours.


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