One of my favorite JBL portable speakers gets Wi-Fi and Dolby Atmos upgrades

Shower speakers: JBL Charge 5
(Image credit: Future)

JBL has unveiled that it is bringing home networking smarts to the Charge 5 and Boombox 3 portable speakers by adding Wi-Fi connectivity. 

As two of the company's most popular models, both are already compatible with Partyboost to synchronize multiple JBL speakers together over Bluetooth. But the new Charge 5 Wi-Fi and Boombox 3 Wi-Fi models will be able to support playback of up to 24-bit/96kHz hi-res music streams from streaming services such as Apple Music and Tidal over AirPlay, and Chromecast built-in. Alexa Multi-Room Music (MRM) will also boost listening options through Wi-Fi connectivity.

“At JBL, sound is at the core of our brand, however, we also recognize the importance of technology and constantly strive to enhance our fans’ user experience," said President of Consumer Audio, Carsten Olesen in a press release sent to Tom's Guide.

JBL's new Wi-Fi portable speakers versions are expected to go on sale later this month. Although we're waiting on U.S. and Australian pricing information to be confirmed, the U.K pricing for Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is already set at £549, while the Charge 5 Wi-Fi is £229. This compares to £449 and £141 respectively for the original non-Wi-Fi models, which is a considerable price increase for the additional Wi-Fi connectivity and associated features.

Better sound wherever you roam

The JBL Charge 5 rocked by an ocean wave

The JBL Charge 5 continues to be available in 6 color options including squad (pictured), while the new Wi-Fi version will only be available in black with gold accents. (Image credit: JBL / Harman)

As one of the best waterproof speakers, the existing Charge 5 is IP67-rated and ranks as one of the best JBL speakers we've tested, too. Both Wi-Fi versions offer a similar level of water protection, and the self-tune optimization helps achieve the best sound whatever surroundings they're placed in, indoors or out. 

Wi-Fi 6 support claims improved signal stability when connected to compatible home networks. This gives better range so you can take your speaker anywhere in the house. If you do take the speaker outside of your home Wi-Fi network, though, you can simply connect via Bluetooth and stream from your smartphone. Both speakers will support Bluetooth 5.3.

Interestingly, there's no mention of what impact the generally less energy efficient Wi-Fi connectivity will have on the best case 20-hour (for the Charge 5) and 24-hour (for the Boombox 3) battery life claims for the new model variants.

JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi on a white background

The JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi will support Tidal Dolby Atmos content via the JBL One control app. (Image credit: JBL / Harman)

Although I haven't reviewed the JBL Boombox 3 for Tom's Guide, I've been using this Bluetooth speaker at home for occasional outdoor sounds with family and friends, and it has been a big hit. The new Wi-Fi-enabled version will unlock Dolby Atmos format support available through Tidal via JBL's One control app, and although it's not designed as a spatial audio speaker, it will enable listeners to experience the immersive audio format when connected to their home network. 

Once again, the JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi and JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi speakers are expected to go on sale later this month. They are said to be available in a black colorway with eye-catching gold details, and we're waiting on U.S. and Australian prices to be confirmed. 

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.