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JBL Pulse 4 vs Pulse 3 (2021): Which Pulse Sounds Better?

Not all Bluetooth speakers are made alike. But whether you’re an audiophile or a casual music listener, features like sound quality, battery life, portability, and design are always important considerations. JBL’s line of portable speakers have always been keen on meeting these expectations, including their Pulse series that’s also become well-known for its dazzling light displays. So six months after the release of its latest iteration, the JBL Pulse 4, it’s good to ask whether the new speaker is a worthy successor to the JBL Pulse 3.

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JBL Pulse 4

A waterproof Bluetooth speaker with light show, the JBL Pulse 4 is sure to liven up any indoor or outdoor party.

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JBL Pulse 4 vs JBL Pulse 3 Comparison Chart

ModelJBL Pulse 4JBL Pulse 3
JBL Pulse 4 speakerJBL Pulse 3 speaker
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at Amazon.com

Check Price

at Amazon.com

ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2Bluetooth 4.2
Battery Life12 hours12 hours
Output20W20W
Voice AssistantNoYes
SpeakerphoneNoYes
IP ClassificationIPX7 (can be submerged for up to 30 minutes)IPX7 (can be submerged for up to 30 minutes)
Frequency Range70Hz – 20kHz65Hz – 20kHz
Charging Time3.5 hours (USB C)4.5 hours (MicroUSB)
Dimensions9.6 x 9.6 x 20.7 cm9.2 x 9.2 x 22.3 cm
Weight2.78 lb2.11 lb

Design

The Pulse 4 is smaller and heavier than the Pulse 3 but ditches the bottom half speaker wrapping for a sleeker and more immersive LED panel display.

The JBL Pulse 4 (left) looks sleeker compared to the JBL Pulse 3 (right) especially with the LED panel display running the length of the speaker’s body. Both come in black and white colors. 

Between the Pulse 3 and the Pulse 4, it’s clear the latest iteration has refined its design aesthetic. Whereas the 2017 release looks more pill-like, the 2019 Pulse features a more cylindrical built that is admittedly stouter, shorter, and noticeably heavier. Compared to its predecessor, the latest iteration also looks sleeker.

By getting rid of the cloth ring that wrapped around the base of the Pulse 3, the Pulse 4’s LED panels now almost run the length of the speaker’s body, making for more immersive, 360-degree light shows. After all, JBL’s Pulse line of wireless speakers are known exactly for delivering some fascinating, and at times trippy, light shows while you’re listening to music.

In terms of design, the Pulse 3’s speaker grille wraps around the bottom half of the panel, with two passive radiators at either end of the speakers. To make way for the LED panel, the Pulse 4’s audio instead comes out of a single speaker grille at the top, while a radiator remains at the bottom. In both cases, the bottom placement of the radiators makes it easier to block when either Pulse is placed on a non-flat surface.

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JBL Pulse 3

With an IPX7 rating and 360° lightshow and sound, the JBL Pulse 3 remains a solid portable Bluetooth speaker.

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For the Pulse 3, the ports and buttons are located on the lower half of the device, placed neatly at the back. On the other hand, the Pulse 4 has arranged the controls at the top ring, discreetly melding into the speaker grille. There’s no real pros and cons for either setup, with the controls simple enough to use no matter where it’s placed. And since portable speakers are meant to be taken anywhere, JBL has also made sure both Pulse 3 and Pulse 4 are waterproof. Both brandish an IPX7 waterproof-rating and can stay immersed in water for up to 30 minutes—ideal for those pool parties, beach bashes, and even outdoor treks.

Sound Performance

Both the Pulse 3 and Pulse 4 feature powerful, room-filling sound for its size.

JBL Pulse 4 vs Pulse 3
The Pulse 3 (right) features speaker grilles at the bottom half of its body while the Pulse 4 (left) has it neatly tucked on top, together with the controls. 

When it comes to portable speakers, excellent sound performance should be the main consideration. Both the JBL Pulse 4 and Pulse 3 score highly on this end, delivering powerful, voluminous sound that can fill a room and carry the music well across an open area given their sizes.

Unlike other speakers, the Pulse series also doesn’t overemphasize the bass even though it’s fairly capable of solid bass performance. With the Pulse 4, expect an even sound across all frequencies compared to the Pulse 3 that delivers a slightly more bass-forward audio.

While playing sub-bass content, the Pulse 4 flaunts a surprisingly convincing low-frequency depth for a mono speaker of its size. Although the Pulse 3 similarly delivers a solid thump on this level, some Digital Signal Process (DSP) that is used to thin out the deep bass at higher volumes becomes more noticeable.

Put on a track with far less bass in the mix, and the Pulse 4’s strengths over the Pulse 3 is highlighted further: the percussion gets an added oomph, and vocals are placed front and center with a tinge of warmth and richness. That being said, both speakers lose their clarity at higher volumes, and it’s when the music is on full blast that the limitation of the Pulse’s small woofer becomes apparent.

Deal Finder
JBL Pulse 4

A waterproof Bluetooth speaker with light show, the JBL Pulse 4 is sure to liven up any indoor or outdoor party.

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Connectivity

Changes in the connectivity interfaces mean you can’t pair the Pulse 4 with older devices, including the Pulse 3.

JBL Pulse 4 vs Pulse 3
Both portable speakers can be connected via Bluetooth 4.2.

Fortunately, both the Pulse 3 and Pulse 4 can be paired to other speakers using JBL’s Connect+ and PartyBoost technology respectively. The difference in interface, however, means you won’t be able to connect the Pulse 4 with older devices, including the Pulse 3, unless JBL releases an update in the future. Nevertheless, if you’re pairing portable speakers using the same kind of technology—whether the Connect+ or PartyBoost—you still get the ability to connect to up to 100+ devices. For both Pulse versions, that can make for an amplified wall of sound suited for outdoor events and activities.

For the additional bucks, however, one would have expected more features in the Pulse 4. Instead, some key offerings from the JBL Pulse 3 are nowhere to be seen, including speakerphone functionality and a voice assistant. While the latter feature isn’t exactly something one would use frequently, especially when the Pulse is commonly used outdoors where noise levels can be intrusive, it wouldn’t have harmed the Pulse 4 to have included them.

Battery Life

Despite having a larger battery size, the Pulse 4’s battery life is still the same as the Pulse 3.

Here’s a closer look at the user control placement between the Pulse 4 (left) and Pulse 5(right).

Despite the Pulse 4 coming in at a smaller frame, battery life for both devices can last up to 12 hours. Because of its smaller size, the Pulse 4 also charges faster than the Pulse 3, taking only 3.5 hours for a full charge compared to the 4.5 hours of its predecessor. The 2019-release also features a USB-C port, comparable to today’s high-end smartphones, as opposed to the Pulse 3’s MicroUSB.

It’s a decent offering given the 6000mAh battery for the Pulse 3 and the 7260mAh battery for the Pulse 4. However, with the larger allocation for power, the Pulse 4’s performance should have at least gotten a boost beyond 12 hours. It’s a missed opportunity for the successor of the Pulse 3. Of course, battery life will depend on your level of use, especially with the LED light show. For moderate usage at around 50 to 60% volume, both speakers are capable of at around 10 hours of playtime—good enough for a few hours of music every day. For power use at parties, the Pulse 3 and 4 should last the night.

Verdict

The Pulse 4 is sleeker with a more balanced sound performance, although the Pulse 3 is still a solid choice for the casual listener.

Deal Finder
JBL Pulse 4

A waterproof Bluetooth speaker with light show, the JBL Pulse 4 is sure to liven up any indoor or outdoor party.

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We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.
Deal Finder
JBL Pulse 3

With an IPX7 rating and 360° lightshow and sound, the JBL Pulse 3 remains a solid portable Bluetooth speaker.

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We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.

With its sleeker design and immersive LED display, the JBL Pulse 4 is an impressive portable speaker that refines and emphasizes the best feature of the Pulse line: the light shows. Given the larger battery size for the Pulse 4, battery life is surprisingly still the same as the JBL Pulse 3. At 12 hours playing time, both devices offer decent performance that could last a few days, if you’re using the speaker sparingly, or just a few hours, if the Pulse’s LED display is on and the volume is at full blast. The Pulse 4, however, boasts a shorter charging time that should juice up the speaker for the next party in just under four hours.

Compared to the Pulse 3 however, the Pulse 4 delivers a more balanced mix across all frequencies and at max volume levels. Nevertheless, performance is impressive for both devices given their sizes. For the casual music listener who simply wants to play music by the poolside, there isn’t much of a difference between the two speakers. For those who are more discerning, the Pulse 4’s bass depth certainly adds more oomph to the music, and combined with its captivating LED display light show, is an audio-visual standout.

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Mari Bassig

Senior Editor, writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, social media, and music.