The JBL Flip 5 is a simple soul with Bluetooth-only playback and modest features, but if you desire a rugged, great-sounding portable speaker and can sacrifice voice control or hands-free call functionality, you won’t be disappointed.
Review of The JBL Flip 5 Bluetooth Speaker
Thankfully, the Flip 5’s design will allow you to show off your talents almost anywhere. Just half a kilo / one pound and the size of a small thermal flask, the compact yet robust Flip 5 can be easily carried in a hand, slipped into a bag, or, thanks to the shoelace strap, hung on, say, a door handle in a bedroom or tree in a park.
Already picturing your new portable speaker soundtracking your summer picnic? Know that weather would need to be considered to save your snacks but not this speaker – its IPX7 waterproof rating means it can be immersed in water up to a meter deep for a maximum of 30 minutes.
The passive bass radiators at either end are recessed enough into the tubular housing to avoid easily damaging them, although we’d be cautious shoving it haphazardly into a bag carrying sharp or pointed objects.
We can’t imagine JBL receives many returns for spoiled speakers within the warranty, though. The Flip 5, like so many of its siblings in JBL’s line-up, is well-built, impeccably finished, and, with a simple button layout and handy battery indicator, very straightforward to use.
2. Sound Performance
That on-paper promise materializes in practice, too. Like a mutt suffering from small-dog-syndrome, the Flip 5 demands to be heard (the difference is, you’ll actually want to hear it).
Whether we subject the mini speaker to Mac Miller’s languid-yet-sharp rapping or Explosions in the Sky’s post-rock instrumentalism, the JBL delivers it with stark clarity, lashings of detail, and more than a hint of dynamics.
Had we not been so well acquainted with JBL’s penchant for sonic excellence, we’d be shocked how clear and musical this unassuming little speaker sounds. As it happens, we’re pleasantly reminded of it instead.
With Gone by Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens, both the hollow baseline and crisper percussion come through thick, fast, and defined, making it almost impossible to criticize the speaker’s low-end performance.
The equally enticing vocals that wash over the electronica come through with sharpness and precision, and thanks to the Flip 5’s spaciousness and rhythmic knack, each element in the mix seems to fit together just right.
We aren’t compelled to turn up the volume in order to feel engaged, but even when we do as we give it an open field stage, it avoids sounding distorted or like it’s being pushed too hard. We don’t feel obliged to sit close to it either, the Flip 5 confidently able to spread its sound past its modest dimensions. Stand several meters away (frisbee, anyone?) and you’ll still find yourself singing along.
JBL says you can play The JBL Flip 5 for 12 hours on a full charge (the same as the Flip 4), but that seems to underestimate its actual ability. After using it for more than 5 hours at mostly low volume, it still had ¾ of the full charge. The Boom 3 is rated at 15 hours.
4. Wireless and Setup
The JBL Flip 5 paired easily with my phone and kept a strong signal at about 75 feet indoors. It uses Bluetooth 4.2 instead of the latest standard, 5.0, but that didn’t affect performance.
The JBL Portable app (formerly JBL Connect) lets you update the firmware and manage PartyBoost, in which you can link another JBL speaker and either mirror the sound or use each speaker in a left/right stereo pair. You can also change the play/pause button to activate Siri instead; there is no voice assistant integrated into the speaker itself.
The app does little else. There are no EQ or sound modes, or other features that the Ultimate Ears app offers.
JBL’s latest offering sounds great for the price. If you don’t mind the lack of in-app EQ settings, aux-in port, battery life, inbuilt microphones, or partnering with older JBL speakers, it’s an excellent proposition for the money.
It may be low on added extras, but The JBL Flip 5 gets away with it. The solid sonic chops JBL has managed to deliver at this level simply cannot be denied.