The JBL Flip 5: a hardy little Bluetooth speaker that delivers decent sound even in the rain (IPX 7 rating).Charges fast via USB-C. Only Bluetooth 4.2.
Review: JBL Flip 5
What we like
With the $119 list Flip 5 JBL delivers a hardy little speaker. The camo covering on our review unit reinforced the overall rugged design, as well as the fun side of the Flip line. The IPX 7 water rating means no worries about splashes or momentary submersions.
Hiding under the hood is 20-watts of power ready to be pumped through the 44-by-80mm drivers. Output ranges from 65Hz to 20 KHz. The bass never gets out of control, but it also won’t fill a space with thumping wall-rattling depth. Digital Signal Processing helps compensate for the electronics, delivering balance if not accuracy to the sound profile. No native EQ for the Flip 5. Any adjustments will come from the paired device.
The radiators on each end of the speaker make the sound visible, which is a little retro, reminding me of watching my old college speakers with the grills removed.
While the Flip 5 doesn’t produce the best sound on the market, it is good for its size and form factor, especially when ruggedness is a requirement.
Controls line the grill and a rubber rib down the “bottom” of the device. Volume, play and party controls on the grill fade into the pattern on the camo version to the point of being obscured. They appear more easily seen on other colors. On the rib sits power, Bluetooth, and the USB-C port, along with a metal bar from which dangles a tether.
As a piece of advice, adjust the Flip 5 to the orientation that delivers the best sound for your situation. While it can hang, sit on either end or lie in a horizontal position, each affects the output. Play with it before assuming your default orientation will deliver the best sound.
Fast USB-C charging brings the 12-hour battery to full charge in 2.5 hours.
Party Mode, enabled via the JBL Connect app (iTunes, Google Play) connects to other Flip 5s for multiple speakers across a party, or for personal stereo for those who own two Flip 5 speakers.
Unlike many speakers, the Flip 5 offers 14 colors and the camo option. For those who want to express their inner sound genie, JBL offers this speaker in a personalized model with a skin of choice (+ $30).
The 7.1 by 2.7 inches (HW), 1.2 pound Flip 5 delivers ample volume and clarity to satisfy travelers and partiers alike.
What could be improved
The Flip 5 would benefit from updated Bluetooth, providing greater clarity, and improved connection distance. The JBL Flip 5 only includes 4.2 support, not a version from the latest 5.0 releases.
While sound is good for the speaker size, it does not compare to its bigger brother the JBL Charge 4 (see our review here). There is a richness and resonance that the bigger speaker possesses. Sound on the Flip 5 comes across dense and compact, like the design from which it emanates. Not bad by itself, but noticeable in comparison.
Unlike the Charge 4, that includes a base for stability, the Flip 5 leans precariously on it the rubberized power/Bluetooth ridge, which tips easily. Good thing they include IPX because even a subtle jolt can make the Flip 5 tumble with an awkward roll.
The JBL Connect app needs work on transparency of which devices within a personal collection work together. I spent way too much time trying to get the Flip 5 to talk to the Connect 4. Finally, I looked it up and they don’t work together. The app should have told me that the first time I tried to connect the two.
Older versions of the Flip support telephony. It’s missing here, which isn’t big deal, unless this is the only speaker one owns. And if that is the case, and you wanted a speakerphone, you bought the wrong speaker Also, don’t look to the Flip 5 for an auxilary 3.5mm input.
The JBL Flip 5 good enough sound is a package that enhances its value. Its compact, waterproof, portable–and it hangs. The JBL Charge 4 sounds better, but its bulkier and heavier (though it also, as the name implies, charges other devices). For most outdoor uses, the Flip 5 will do just fine, bringing decent sound to whatever event you and friends choose as your social distance hangout.
The JBL Flip 5 was provided by JBL for review purposes. Images courtesy of JBL.
For more Serious Insights hardware reviews click here.
Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.
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