Stereo Guide verdict
+ Balanced sound
+ rich bass for the size
+ App with equalizer
+ Waterproof according to IP67
- No analog input
- no hands-free function
Sound: Tonal Balance / Transparency7.6
Sound: Bass / Dynamics7
Ease-of-use / Connectivity8.3
The new JBL Flip 6 has inherited the cola can shape from its successful ancestors. In fact, at first glance, it’s barely distinguishable from the previous bestseller, the JBL Flip 5. Only the larger, detached JBL logo makes it easier to tell the two generations apart.
The JBL Flip 5 also marked a bigger leap from its predecessors in terms of dimensions and design. And a lot had happened inside as well. Instead of two small, round full-range stereo speakers, there was only one oval Racetack driver in the mesh-covered baffle. What may look like a sacrifice to the layman at first glance was actually an advantage. For one thing, the two stereo speakers of earlier Flip versions sat far too close together for proper spaciousness. To do this, they produced different sound cancellations depending on the angle using so-called comb filter effects.
Let’s summarize: With the JBL Flip 5, less was more. But now JBL wants to create more sound quality again with more drivers. And that is truly not a marketing promise, already purely on paper a promising plus. The cult brand known for stage sound reinforcement at rock concerts, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, gives the Flip 6 a 2-way system as is generally known from small hi-fi boxes and many studio monitors.
Mono, but with 2-way system
Such a division of labour has undeniable advantages. The still oval Racetrack driver now only has to take care of bass and midrange. The treble reproduction in the JBL Flip 6 is the responsibility of a 1.6 cm dome tweeter. For one thing, it is smaller and therefore lighter. This allows it to follow the music signal more precisely at high frequencies with a lower moment of inertia. On the other hand, the smaller diameter reduces the directivity of the loudspeaker, which increases with increasing frequency. This is especially true in comparison to the particularly large oval chassis, where the developers aimed for the largest possible diaphragm area for powerful bass.
A 2-way configuration is still very rare to find in small Bluetooth speakers. Bang & Olufsen demonstrated the superiority of the 2-way principle many years ago with the excellent B&O Beosound A1 2nd Gen. After unpacking, we could hardly wait for the listening test with the B&O A1, the reference among the small Bluetooth speakers.
But before we get to the listening comparison, let’s take a look at the other features of the JBL Flip 6. An important selling point is undoubtedly the outdoor suitability. This raises the question of resistance to moisture and dirt, for which there is a standard. The JBL Flip 6 offers IP67 water and dust protection. That means you can submerge it in water and expose it to dust without worry.
Hard to improve: The handling of the JBL Flip 6
You can use the JBL Flip 6 as before standing up and lying down. The side buffers have recesses for this purpose, from which the sound can escape laterally. A carrying strap is attached to the right side of the case. There are two keypads on the cylinder, which is available in four colours. Firstly, there are the rubberised buttons for volume and for controlling playback from the smart device paired via Bluetooth. There’s also a button for connecting a myriad of JBL speakers with the PartyBoost feature, or making stereo pairs with two Flip 6s.
The keys are not optimally recognizable in some case colors, as the author already criticized in the predecessor. However, this was mainly related to the camouflage variant, which is not available at the launch of the 6th generation Flip. Then there is another rubber embedded keypad for pairing and power on/off. Right next to it sits the exposed USB-C charging port. Not using a cover could affect the contact in case of heavy contamination. But the American speaker specialist has to leave room for improvement for the JBL Flip 7 with its regular model changes.
However, the battery life is not suitable for differentiating between the generations. This is still a maximum of around 12 hours. But that’s still progress in a way. Finally, the output power grew from 20 to 30 watts. The increase in power is due to the addition of a 10-watt power amplifier for the new tweeter. Since the battery capacity is listed unchanged at 4,800 mAh, JBL has obviously worked on the energy efficiency of the electronics with their two Class D power amplifiers.
Connectivity is no different from the JBL Flip 5
It’s fair to say, apart from the tweeter being the highlight of the new JBL Flip 6, little has changed on the hardware side. The second highlight comes in the form of the new JBL Portable App. The provides a 3-band equalizer, with which bass, mids and treble can be raised or lowered separately. The PartyBoost function can also be controlled via this. Very practical: Firmware updates can also be conveniently downloaded from the network via smartphone with the Portable App.
JBL Portable App also for software updates of the Flip
As quickly as the Bluetooth connection to the Flip 6 was set up after the first switch-on, it took as long later with the app. The basically recognized the JBL speaker on the iPhone. However, it could not connect to him even after restarting the box and app several times. Only deleting the JBL Flip 6 from the list and setting it up again in the smartphone’s Bluetooth setup solved the connection problem. After that, the JBL Portable app first gave the Flip 6 a firmware update.
Practical detail of the app: It shows the charge level of the battery in the Wirelles speaker in the top left window. However, the main incentive to use the app, which is available for iOS and Android, might be the equalizer. However, one should not overestimate its effect. That’s not so much because there are only three bands. It’s the modest control range, for one thing. Even more, a completely different limit is noticeable in the bass.
JBL Portable App: Nice addition
At higher volumes, i.e. at about three quarters of the control range, the DSP cuts the lower limit of the transmission range. This is to protect the bass-midrange driver, which is tiny compared to hi-fi speakers, from excessive excursions in order to avoid distortion or even damage. So if you push the bass control of the equalizer to the limit at a higher listening level, you will notice practically no change. It seems much more efficient to just move the mid control down and thus take the vocal ranges back a bit compared to the basses. This makes the bass sound more powerful and even relieves the Racetrack driver in the midrange.
Analog sources cannot be connected to the JBL Flip 6. Product planners at JBL’s parent company Harman have already eliminated the AUX input with 3.5 mm jack socket from the JBL Flip 5. This also applies to the hands-free microphone. However, such deletions didn’t hurt the success of the JBL Flip even in the last generation. And now there’s already another drastic upgrade in the Flip’s speaker lineup.
The JBL Flip 6 shines in the listening test
In the listening test, the new Flip 6 shone with its broadband design and high balance. It’s hard to believe how rich and clean the drums come out of the little Bluetooth box during the live version of Toto’s rock classic “Africa”. Voices now sound even more natural and differentiated due to the 2-way construction. High-frequency resolution has also gained in the model upgrade. Not even in quantity, but clearly in quality – in resolution and subtlety. The directionality criticized in the test of the JBL Flip 5 has also disappeared thanks to the tweeter.
Up to about 75 percent of maximum volume, the little JBL produces bass that should please pop and hip-hop fans. Above this, the DSP cuts the low end bass to protect the low-mid driver. This setting then makes the Flip 6 seem a bit shriller in the mids. The use of the equalizer would not be the solution in this case as already mentioned in the previous chapter. Rather, it would be part of the problem. Nevertheless, it is remarkable what JBL squeezes out of its small cylinder in terms of level and impulsivity.
Boosters for parties?
If you need more power for parties, you can increase the level by adding a “six-cylinder” with half a dozen flips synchronized via PartyBoost without cutting the bass.
Listening comparison with the previous best in class
After this really strong performance, the comparison was with the best small Bluetooth speaker we’ve tested so far: the B&O Beosound A1 2nd Gen. This time the comparison with the reference turned out more scarcely than with the predecessors of the JBL Flip 6. Drums possess over the Danes completely down somewhat more substance. The Bang & Olufsen seems a bit darker and more sonorous than its fresh rival. For his part, he was able to score with a better attack. The American simply worked out impulses a touch more concisely. The bottom line, however, is that the B&O A1 produces the more authentic timbres and gives voices a touch more melting, making them more expressive.
One more Thing: Tronsmart wants to have a say too
The Flip 6 can put the latter advantages on the scale in comparison with the cheaper Tronsmart Studio. Because as far as bass foundation and punch are concerned, it’s right on the heels of the perennial bestseller. However, with its full-range speakers, which are driven by DSP equalisation to achieve remarkable high-frequency reproduction, it cannot compete with the JBL’s delicate dome tweeter. Its overtone reproduction seemed a touch harsher and less differentiated. Also in the transparency of the sound image, the somewhat more pressed and darker Tronsmart could not quite keep up. Still, a hell of a performance considering the significant price difference.
Conclusion of our review and alternatives to the JBL Flip 6
The JBL Flip 6 takes a giant leap forward with its new 2-way system. This becomes clear not only in comparison to the predecessor. It also shortens the distance to the best sounding small Bluetooth speaker we know of so far, the B&O Beosound A1 2nd Gen. And that ultimately makes it the best buy, as the stylish Dane costs considerably more and doesn’t handle quite as well.
However, the Tronsmart Studio has recently been released. And it does the same thing as the JBL: it offers almost as good sound at half the price. However, it doesn’t quite come with the controls and it doesn’t have a strap. On the other hand, it scores in connectivity: it not only has an analogue AUX input, but also a slot for playing MicroSD cards. But in terms of coolness. Outdoor suitability and handling it can not keep up with the bestseller. Therefore, in the end, personal taste, user habits and not least the wallet decide what is the best purchase for one personally.
Specifications JBL Flip 6
- Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: 140 Euro
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 17.8 x 6.8 x 7.2 cm
- Weight: 550 g
- Battery life up to 12 hours
- Features: waterproof and dustproof according to protection class IP67, JBL PartyBoost
- More at: www.de.jbl.com
Buy JBL Flip 6 at Amazon
FAQs about the JBL Flip 6 can be found here.
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