+ Tuesday October 15th, 2019

JBL Flip 5 Bluetooth Speaker Review – Take the party with you

As our lives become more connected, we’re engaging more with streaming media – it shouldn’t be a surprise that manufacturers are using that need to grab our attention and our money. There’s a lot of options out there for those who want headphones and an ever-increasing number of portable audio options for Bluetooth speakers – one such option is the JBL Flip 5

Enter the JBL Flip 5 Bluetooth Speaker, an option that lets you take the party with you. On paper there’s some fairly impressive sound on offer and when I fired this little beast up, the immediate impression was very good.

What is it?

The JBL Flip 5 is a modern take on the portable Bluetooth speaker. Once paired it will stream all audio from your mobile device to the speaker. It’s worth noting early in the piece here that this is a speaker only – it doesn’t have a microphone, and can’t be used as a speakerphone. It doesn’t do smart assistants or other things – it just does one thing, sound, and does it well.

In simple terms, that’s all folks. But to take a more in depth look, this is actually a really good speaker for a number of reasons.

The Flip 5 weighs a touch over 500 grams and is a great addition to a daily carry, or weekend bag setup if you have the need. I’ve already found several occasions to take it out and crank it up that otherwise would have lacked a bit of energy and frankly, my family loves it.

It pumps out some really good volume for such a small device, but more impressive still is the clarity of sound that a portable speaker is capable of these days. This thing puts out 20W RMS with good sound across the range but I discovered quickly that the sound is actually better if you’re not right next to it.

I’m not an audio engineer, but I enjoy quality sound. So I was perhaps bordering on disappointed with the flat mid range and almost overpowering bass when I fired up the Flip 5. When my daughter realised it was portable (thank goodness it’s also water resistant and shockproof – sorry about that JBL) I heard great potential for their target audience. A sound that was rich, full and far better balanced in wide open spaces ie. outdoors.

The big party trick for the Flip 5 is the ability to link multiple compatible devices to stream music across multiple speakers simultaneously – This is called PartyBoost. It’s not a cheap option, but boy does it pack some punch. We have a single device for our review, but have no reason given the ease of setup to suspect that this function would be any different to setup and use.

In my testing I found very quickly that the Flip 5 is clearly designed to work while lying down, not standing on end. Pretty evident when you hear the difference in sound delivery when you try to two orientations.

I mentioned earlier that the Flip 5 is waterproof. It is, but to be specific it’s rated to IPX7, so on paper you’re talking just shy of 1 meter (3 feet) of water depth. This makes a perfect companion to carry around with you pretty much all day and take it anywhere to enjoy. Then when you get home plug the USB C port in for a quick charge and continue the party later at another location. The 4,800mAh battery lasts a long time, about 12 hours is very impressive given the volume it can pump out.

What is it good at?

There’s a few areas where the Flip 5 does exceedingly well in performance and meeting the expectations of the device. Let’s start with the build:

    • It’s IPX7 water resistant
    • It’s easy to setup
    • The battery is impressive, giving 12 hours of playback
    • The controls are ridiculously simple, my son (who is blind) figured them out

I really can’t overstate how easy the controls are to understand. There are only a handful of physical buttons: Indented buttons on the rear of the device, one for power and one to trigger a repair to a new source device. The others on the top of the speaker are raised for tactile sense. An arrow for play/pause, a plus symbol to raise the volume, a minus symbol for reducing volume and an infinity loop to enable PartyBoost mode.

The design aspects around the JBL Flip 5 are excellent, one that really shows me that JBL are serious here is the USB C charging – its a small thing but only “cheap” options are using MicroUSB now so it’s important.

Where is it lacking?

There’s a few areas that I would like to have seen improved this time around, or suggestion for improvement in the next model. The battery charging time feels like it’s just too slow for something that you’ll not want to go flat when using it. 12 hours of playback, 2.5 hours of charging time – with USB C throughput, it feels like JBL could or should have done better.

Then we get into a bit of being picky… If I’m going to part with a chunk of cash for something like this, I want it to be more than just a speaker.

I know it’s $150 but I’d like it to have a microphone for call handling. It would add significant value to the device without adding much to the price. There are plenty of other speakers on the market that do have this function so be aware not all of them do if you’re shopping around.

The other issue I take with the Flip 5 is the fact that it could have had Wi-Fi included to allow casting, if it had a microphone then assistant could be in there too. With the ever increasing population in the portability market, I can’t help but think JBL almost missed the mark on this but the saving grace is the cost.

Conclusion

Despite a couple of niggles with what the specs could have been, at $149.95 I have to say that the Flip 5 speaker does offer a pretty compelling case.

It’s a mid-level speaker and it’s reasonably lightweight which makes it portable and worth having on hand for travels or outdoor adventures. It looks good, it’s resistant to the knocks that general life will give it and most importantly it sounds great.

JBL make good quality, affordable equipment that is really reliable and produces good sound. The JBL Flip 5 is no exception to that. WIth the added bonuses of IPX7 and solid build, even if you use it daily while you’re bashing around the great outdoors, it won’t end up looking too worse for wear.

The Flip 5 is an affordable option for portable sound that will last you a while and be a worthwhile investment at under $150AUD. You can pick one up at major retail chains or on the JBL website.

JBL Flip 5 Bluetooth Speaker 4.5 / 5

Phil Tann   Associate

Phil Tann

Phil is an Android enthusiast who spends most of his time reading up on U.S. Android news so he can get the low down on what could possibly hit Australian shores. Coming from a background in IT & T sales, he’s in the perfect position to give an educated view on hardware and software.

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