STEREO GUIDE Rating
+ Balanced sound
+ rich bass for the size
+ Waterproof according to IPX7
- No more analog input
- no hands-free function
Sound: Bass / Dynamics6
Sound: Tonal Balance / Transparency6.6
Ease-of-use / Connectivity7.8
The JBL Flip 5 is the 5th generation of the best-selling Bluetooth speaker. The US manufacturer named after James B. Lansing sold 10 million units of its predecessor, the JBL Flip 4. For the new edition, the concept changed from stereo to mono. This may at first surprise laymen and even incite negative comments. But it makes sense.
Stereo follows mono
The JBL Flip 4 still used two front-facing full-range speakers, which got support from two passive bass radiators on either side of its round body. The Flip 5 now has only a single, forward-firing oval Racetrack driver. However, the change from stereo to mono is not a disadvantage in practice, but rather an advantage.
You can’t expect proper stereo imaging from two drivers only a few inches apart. On the other hand, there is a risk of mutual sound cancellation. In addition, by limiting the JBL Flip 5 to one speaker driver with an oval cone, more surface area for deeper bass could be realized.
The dimensions of the Flip 5 compared to its predecessor have grown slightly from 7 x 17.5 x 6.8 centimeters to 7.4 x 18.1 x 6.9 centimeters (H x W x D). The weight remained almost unchanged at 540 grams. The basic design and materials have been retained. A rubber-like polymer plastic is used in areas that are susceptible to impacts. The middle part of the case, which is reminiscent of a Coke can, is encased in a robust mesh fabric.
The JBL Flip 5 is waterproof
In the 5th generation of the JBL Flip, the battery capacity grew from 3,000 to 4,800 mAh, yet the runtime is at 10 to 12 hours as in the previous generation. This is not least due to the higher output power, which leads to higher power requirements. The JBL Flip 5 is waterproof to IPX7. You can even submerge the outdoor-ready Bluetooth speaker two meters deep in the pool for a short time.
The Bluetooth speaker is available in 11 colours. And for around 10 euros extra, there is the JBL Flip 5 Eco Edition made from 90% recycled plastic in the Ocean Blue and Forrest Green colour variants.
Even though the mono concept doesn’t really mean a disadvantage: The hands-free function of the Flip 4 is missing on the Flip 5, which is why calls can no longer be accepted via the speaker. Likewise, calling the voice assistants Siri or Google Assistant on the smartphone connected via Bluetooth is not possible now. Following the motto “cheap is cool”, the analogue AUX input also fell victim to the model change.
JBL includes a USB-C charging cable and a pre-assembled carrying strap, and the fold-out inner packaging made of black Styrofoam can be used as a hard case when you’re on the go.
Practice and connections of the JBL Flip 5
The operation on the device works via rubberized buttons. In addition to controlling the volume, Start/Stop/Skip Forward, you can use the keypad to connect as many flips as you like via PartyBoost to cover large areas with sufficient level. However, especially with the camouflage version, the buttons placed on the mesh fabric of the baffle are difficult to see. At the top of the case, which can be placed upright or lying down, there is a keypad with the power button and the button for pairing with the smart phone.
Connectivity reduced to the essentials
The new PartyBoost function replaces the previous Connect+. It allows JBL owners to sync any number of JBL speakers via Bluetooth. This means even more levels for parties, because until now the limit was a maximum of 100 Bluetooth speakers from JBL. Unfortunately you can’t use old and new flips together with PartyBoost. The new wireless technology only works with JBL’s latest Bluetooth speakers. The free JBL app for iOS or Android lets you pair two Flip 5s together in a stereo pair.
In the listening test, the Bluetooth bestseller succeeds once again in improving on the Flip 4. The combination of larger housing volume and the new Racetrack driver shows effect. The refined tuning provides greater balance and richer bass. The JBL Flip 4 appears almost thin and pointy when compared directly to the JBL Flip 5.
However, the wider, oval diaphragm results in greater directivity. There is sound bundling to the front, while the predecessor could also be listened to from the side and even from behind without any significant sound disadvantages. The Flip 5 is much better directly from the front than from the back or the side. JBL is not following the trend towards omnidirectional radiation, which the Bose Home Speaker 300 , for example, is following.
It is therefore important to orient the Flip 5 towards the listening position for balanced reproduction. However, this property comes in handy under near-field conditions, for example as a desktop speaker for PC or Mac, where omnidirectional speakers then appear unbalanced and diffuse.
Overall, during the review the JBL Flip 5 made music with more volume and a better bass foundation than its predecessor. Whether it was rock with acoustic drums or electro beats, the JBL Flip 5 came across as confident and full-bodied in the bass like never before in its long career. The powerful bass measured against the compact cabinet did not push vocals into the background. The strong performance was rounded off by fresh, yet by no means harsh highs.
Verdict and alternatives to the JBL Flip 5
The JBL Flip 5 reflects the long experience that continues to secure its status as a perennial bestseller. You don’t have to spend more money for better Bluetooth sound, but you also have to make sacrifices in terms of transportability. But not only the sound is right, also the practicality and connectivity are tailored to a party-affine, active target group.
Specifications: JBL Flip 5
- Price: approximately 130 $
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 18.1 x 7.4 x 6.9 x cm
- Weight: 540 g
- Battery life up to 12 hours
- Features: waterproof according to protection class IPX7, JBL Party Boost
- More at: www.jbl.com