The last year or two has seen a huge proliferation in the number of small battery-powered Bluetooth speakers. We’ve reviewed the Jabra SoleMate, took a look at the popular JawBone JamBox a shootout between the Braven 600 and the JamBox and, most recently, reviewed the SuperTooth Disco 2. When the JBL FLIP arrived for review it looked to be yet another in this long and growing line of portable speakers. At just $99 how good could it be? The answer might surprise you.
The JBL Flip with Bluetooth® capability is an ideal wireless stereo system for smartphones and tablets. With two 1-5/8-inch (40-millimeter) drivers and a built-in bass port, it delivers full-range JBL® sound with exceptional bass – all in a portable package. The JBL Flip offers up to 5 hours of playback time from its built-in Li-ion rechargeable battery and connects wirelessly to any Bluetooth-equipped device. With performance that comparably priced products can’t match, the JBL Flip is the ultimate wireless portable stereo speaker for any environment.
Bluetooth technology: The JBL Flip portable speaker streams stereo music wirelessly from any Bluetooth-equipped device. This arrangement makes JBL sound available for a wide range of portable devices, including tablets.
Built-in bass port: Some portable speakers struggle to produce bass, but not JBL portable speakers. The JBL Flip has a built-in bass port and generates bass that’s superior to comparable portable products.
Digital signal processing: JBL speakers – even small ones – aren’t misers when it comes to delivering great sound. The JBL Flip employs digital signal processing to generate room-filling audio with great bass from a compact speaker.
Built-in microphone and call-answer button: Not all of the sounds from the JBL Flip come from your music. There’s a microphone and a call-answer button so you can answer phone calls from the speaker.
When I pulled the speaker out of the box, Elana took one look at the round cylindrical shape and shiny white color and said, “I don’t think I like this one as much as the others you have reviewed.” When I asked why, she didn’t have anything specific to offer beyond the general, “I don’t like it.”
I flipped the speaker end over end so it sat on the table like a pillar (hence the name FLIP- get it?!?!), and she said, “Now that’s a neat trick the other speakers didn’t offer.” She’s right, the JamBox, SoleMate and Brave 600 are designed to sit with a landscape orientation only. The SuperTooth Disco 2 is designed to only sit upright. The ability to flip this speaker from landscape to portrait is a nice feature that adds flexibility and increases where and how you use it.
The speaker is small. In fact, it isn’t much larger than my iPhone.
Another size comparison. Yup, it is small.
And while the speaker sounds a bit better when it is set horizontally, it is actually easier to access the controls when it is placed vertically. When placed in this way the simple, clear and responsive controls sit on top waiting to be used. The power button is on the bottom, the volume control sits above it and the call button is at the top. Yes, like the JamBox, the SoleMate and the Braven 600 this small speaker isn’t just for listening to music. It works great as a speakerphone too. Better still, the call button works perfectly if you want to activate Siri on your iPhone 5.
On the back of the speaker you’ll find the AC port that recharges the 5 hours battery and a 3.5mm AuxIn port for those occasions when you might want to use the FLIP as a wired speaker rather than rely on Bluetooth.
And, of course, the FLIP comes with a protective carry bag. After all, if you are going to get a small speaker you can use anywhere you need a way to carry it, right? But here’s the thing – the JamBox and the SoleMate have an MSRP of $199 while this speaker has an MSRP of just $99. Yet THIS speaker has the nicest carrying case of the bunch. Go figure.
Which brings me to the most important aspect of this review — the sound. I really like the SoleMate and continue to enjoy using the JamBox, but this speaker is half the price and it sounds great.
Now “great” is a relative term. The Flip doesn’t come close to something like the Libratone Zipp or the Zipp’s big brother, the Libratone Lounge I currently have at home for review. Then again, the Zipp is more than four times the price and the Lounge is twelve times more. Moreover, the Libratone line uses AirPlay for streaming rather than Bluetooth. The FLIP doesn’t come close to the sound quality they pump out, but that isn’t comparing apple to apples. The “apples to apples” comparison pits the JBL FLIP against the JamBox, SoleMate and Braven 600 and the FLIP not only holds its own, but in Elana’s and my unscientific comparison, we found it sounded as good or — in some cases — a tiny bit better. And for almost half the price!!!!
So while the FLIP didn’t impress me on paper, I was not only pleasantly surprised but actually impressed. I didn’t expect to write this but … I strongly recommend this speaker for someone who is in the market for a small, rechargeable speaker. Learn more and order yours here.
What I Like: Small; Can be placed in either orientation; Surprisingly good sound; 5 hours per charge; Works as a speakerphone; Nice protective case included; Price competitively
What Needs Improvement: At double the price there might be something to critique but at under $100 this is a no-brainer