JBL FLIP Portable Wireless Loudspeaker Review

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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.

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From JBL:

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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The speaker is small. In fact, it isn’t much larger than my iPhone.

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Another size comparison. Yup, it is small.

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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.

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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.

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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.

MSRP: $99

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

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

8 Comments on "JBL FLIP Portable Wireless Loudspeaker Review"

  1. These are perfectly sized

  2. For my purposes it would be perfect.

  3. I know it’s rated for 5 hours of use, but does it actually come close to achieving that in real-life?

  4. good question, the UE mobile boombox is rated for 8-10 hours

  5. There are no shortage of bad BT speakers out there–ones that don’t pair, that don’t have any bass, that are ill-suited for convenient travel in a brief case. Maybe this is the exception. Up til now, the Motorola EQ7 came closest.

  6. Honestly that has not been my experience with any of the speakers we have looked at in the last year.

  7. Phillip Tracy | February 11, 2013 at 11:46 am |

    How would you compare this speaker to the Supertooth Disco 2? I know they’re in slightly different leagues (ultraportable and mid size/portable), but it seems you like the audio quality of the flip more so than the Supertooth, is that only when compared to others in the same category or would you go as far as saying the Flip has better sound quality than even the larger Disco 2? Also, which one would fare better play electronic/dub step music at higher volumes? I see that this has only half the battery life of the Supertooth, but also has speakerphone capabilities so I really just need to know which one sounds better to put one in front of the other. (Lets say I can get them both at the same price). Thank you very much, I appreciate your reviews.

  8. Thanks for the kind words Phillip.

    I’ll try to put the two head to head a bit later to better answer your questions but at least for now let me answer this way-
    Assuming I can get the two for the same price I would go with the Flip. I like the size, convenience, design and sound a bit better overall. Add in the portability and it wins pretty much handsdown. I honestly didn’t excpect much from the Flip when I first saw it and came away completely and totally impressed by it… especially for the money.

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