It is not a common approach for many Bluetooth speakers these days as brands strive for Wi-Fi and multi-room, voice control, and AirPlay. The minimalist design of the JBL Flip 5 speaker is, Therefore, unexpected – especially since it even takes back some of the characteristics of its predecessor, the JBL Flip 4. Today, we are here with our JBL Flip 5 Review. Still, the Bluetooth speakers aren’t always the ones with the most extended specification sheets, and JBL has a proven track record of quality speakers. So is the Flip 5 a trend break or another flippin’ steal from the famous American stalwart?
JBL Flip 5 Review – Design
Fortunately, the design of the Flip 5 allows you to show off its talents almost anywhere. With only half a kilo/pound and the size of a small thermos flask, the compact but robust Flip 5 can easily be carried in one hand, put in a bag or, thanks to the shoelace belt, hung from a door handle in a bedroom or a tree in a park, for example. Are you already presenting your new portable speaker soundtrack at your summer picnic? Know the weather has to be considered to save your snacks, but not this speaker – the IPX7 water density means it can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes to a meter deep.
The passive woofer radiators at both ends are sufficiently recessed in the tubular housing not to damage them. However, we are careful not to accidentally push the speaker into a bag with sharp or pointed objects. However, we cannot imagine JBL getting back many spoiled speakers within the warranty period. Flip 5, like so many of its brothers in JBL’s range, is well built, immaculately finished, and, with a simple design button layout and handy battery indicator, straightforward to use.
Whatever finish you want, you get the same upright, non-polluting portable speaker. The re’s, of course, Bluetooth playback (press the dedicated button to start pairing); JBL’s PartyBoost feature that pairs Flip 5 or Pulse, 4 speakers for stereo pairing or continuous playback in the JBL Connect app; and a USB-C port for charging – and that’s your lot. JBL has chosen not to equip the Flip 5 with a 3.5mm jack for wiring a smartphone or any other audio device, nor is there a built-in microphone for hands-free calling and activating Siri and Google Assistant.
Both are surprising omissions given their presence on the Flip 4, although Bluetooth 4.2 support maybe even more unusual compared to the newer 5.0 standard. It’s not the deal-breaker, but it does mean missing out on higher data speeds, and a dizzying wireless range of 240m (4.2 offers a range that’s about four times shorter). What JBL has improved with Flip 5 is the speed of charging. A full charge, which can be played back for 12 hours, costs one hour less – 2.5 instead of 3.5 hours.
An increase in sound quality seems promising thanks to increased (20-watt) power and a newly designed, racetrack-shaped 44mm driver with a larger cone area for greater sound amplification.
JBL Flip 5 Review – Performance
That promise on paper is also expressed in practice. As a mutt suffering from pet dog syndrome, the Flip 5 demands that you be heard (the difference is that you want to listen to it). Whether we subject the mini-speaker to Mac Miller’s languid, tiny rappers or explosions in the post-rock instrumentalism of the air, the JBL delivers it with stark clarity, a touch of detail, and more than a hint of dynamism. Had we not been so familiar with JBL’s fondness for sonic excellence, we would have been shocked at how clear and musical this modest little loudspeaker sounds.
With Gone by Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens come both the hollow baseline and the crackling percussion thick, fast and defined by, making it almost impossible to criticize the low-end performance of the speaker. The equally seductive vocals that flush across the electronics come through with sharpness and precision, and thanks to the Flip 5’s spaciousness and rhythmic character, every element in the mix seems to fit just right.
We don’t have to raise the volume to feel involved, but even if we do that while giving it an open field stage, it prevents it from sounding distorted or being pushed too hard. We also don’t feel obliged to sit close to it, and the Flip 5 is confidently able to spread its sound over its modest dimensions. Stand a few meters away (Frisbee, anyone?), and you’ll still be singing yourself along.
The JBL Flip 5 is a pure soul – perhaps too pure for some in this world – but that minimalist approach has allowed JBL to focus on performance and create one for the Best sounding portable budget speakers. Its clean design and IPX7 rating make it ideal for both outdoor and indoor use. And it keeps JBL’s track record with outstanding Bluetooth speakers. On behalf of anyone who loves good quality music on the go, it’s long overdue.
For more options, check our list of The Best Bluetooth Speakers
JBL's Flip 5 is a simple soul with Bluetooth-only reproduction and modest features, but if you want a rugged, great sounding portable speaker and can sacrifice voice control or the functionality of hands-free calling, you won't be disappointed.
- Engaging, entertaining sound
- Easy to use
- USB-C Fast Charging
- No 3.5mm input
- No mic for hands-free calls
- ‘Only’ Bluetooth 4.2