JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Which Bluetooth speaker wins?

JBL Flip 6 vs Sony ULT Field 1
(Image credit: Future)

This JBL Flip 6 versus Sony ULT Field 1 face-off puts two of the best Bluetooth speakers on the market in a head-to-head to see which is the better performer overall. 

Each model hails from a brand with a strong reputation and audio know-how to deliver great sound from the smallest of speaker systems. Both are portable models with strong durability and are closely matched in price, capabilities, and features. As the newer series, the Sony ULT Field 1 aims to pack more bass punch than the JBL, and if that's your thing then you'll love the power bass mode. Just know that its ULT mode is power-hungry and majorly shortens battery life. 

Each model has its feature strengths and great sound, but which is the best model for taking out to the park, beach, or on a road trip for you? Read on to find out how two of the best waterproof speakers compare and which is best suited to your activity.

JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Price and availability

Sony ULT Field 1 outdoors on grass

(Image credit: Future)

Both the JBL Flip 6 and Sony ULT Field 1 are priced at $129 — although there are some variations between territories.

As the model name implies, the Flip 6 is the latest iteration of a popular and long-running model, and Sony's new ULT Field 1 clearly wants a share of the popular $129 portable Bluetooth speaker market. At the time of writing, the JBL Flip 6 can be found discounted to $99 at Amazon available in black, white, blue, green, red, gray, teal, and squad colorways. 

The Sony ULT Field 1 is at its full MSRP right now, but we have seen it tumble to $98 in recent sales. It's available in black, forest gray, off-white, and orange.   

Winner: Tie

JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Specs compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 JBL Flip 6Sony ULT Field 1
Price$129 / £129 / AU$169$129 / £119 / approx. AU$195
WirelessBluetooth 5.1Bluetooth 5.2
Battery life (rated)12 hours12 hours
Size7 x 2.6 x 2.8 inches8.1 x 3.1 x 3.0 inches
Weight1.21 pounds1.43 pounds
ColorsBlack, white, blue, green, red, gray, teal, squadBlack, forest gray, off white, orange

JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Design

JBL Flip 6 speaker on window seat

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both the JBL Flip 6 and Sony ULT Field 1 have compact speaker designs with the brand motif embedded in the woven cloth grille that wraps around the cylindrical speaker. Each has a carry strap: a seamless loop on the JBL, and a bootlace with a fancy knot fastening the two ends together on the Sony.

The JBL is the smaller and lighter of the two models, measuring 7 x 2.6 x 2.8 inches and weighing 1.2 pounds (around 19 ounces), and has a 2-way speaker system with racetrack-shaped main driver and a separate tweeter. There are bass radiators at both ends of the tube-shaped speaker cabinet.   

Dust and waterproofing are identical for each model at IP67, meaning they are both protected from dust and dirt to the same level and can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water.

The Sony ULT Field 1 speaker is a fraction bigger at 8.1 x 3.1 x 3.0 inches and heavier at 1.4 pounds. It feels equally robust and integrates two passive bass radiators on each side of the speaker in tandem with a front-firing woofer and tweeter.

Winner: Tie

JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Controls and app

Sony ULT Field 1 being carried by its strap

(Image credit: Future)

Physical controls on the Flip 6 speaker provide essential functionality including play/pause, volume up/down, and PartyBoost, which links it with another JBL speaker. At the back, there's a power button, Bluetooth pairing, and a USB-C port for charging. An LED strip indicates the battery level. There are no auxiliary jacks or ports for external inputs, so you can only connect via Bluetooth. 

Downloading the JBL Portable app to a mobile device provides access to the latest firmware update and allows users to boost or cut bass, mid, and treble frequency levels to tailor the sound to fit their tastes and surroundings. It's a nice addition for anyone such as myself who likes to tweak the settings to get the best sound output possible. The PartyBoost tab enables you to pair it with another JBL speaker to either mirror the sound or assign speakers as a left/right stereo pair. JBL says you can pair up to 100 of its speakers.

The Sony ULT Field 1 offers a similar level of playback control on the speaker itself, including Bluetooth pairing, play/pause, and volume up/down, while the ULT mode activates Sony's enhanced bass mode. Plus, it has useful features such as hands-free voice calling, and Fast Pair for Android. 

Despite being similarly rated for durability and waterproofing, the Sony also feels better protected thanks to a rubber cover that seals off the USB-C port from water and dust. 

Users can also control the speaker from Sony's Music Center app. It's fairly basic, but there's the ability to adjust the sound and power settings, pair two of the same speakers in stereo, or connect and sync with up to 100 speakers for large music installations. The app also displays the charge level.

Winner: Sony ULT Field 1

JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Sound quality

JBL Flip 6 speaker on its side on a window seat

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Flip 6 delivers a very good sound overall, with impressive bass for a speaker this size. There's a good amount of energy to keep me playing track after track in my home office, and bass levels are surprisingly strong for such a compact speaker.

It doesn't quite manage to throw the sound outside of its physical dimensions in quite the same way as the Sony does, but the balance of frequencies it produces is richer and more finessed than I expected given the speaker's tiny dimensions. 

Vocals sit clearly above the instruments, the pounding drums, piano, hand claps, and rhythms on Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" turned out to be a lot more engaging than I anticipated. I was able to follow specific instruments and strands of the mix with ease and enjoyed the musicality it delivered on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."

Sony ULT Field 1 on stones outside

(Image credit: Future)

Both models are capable of going loud, but the Sony ULT Field 1 has the edge and impresses with its powerful bass sounds. In terms of its sound balance, though, it's not as easygoing as JBL's Flip 6. The ULT button brings an extra layer of oomph to music, but it has a tendency to overshadow elements of a song mix and lacks the sonic togetherness that the Flip 6 is capable of conveying.

By contrast, switching ULT mode off makes the Sony speaker sound more engaging across the lower-mid frequencies. It helps to improve clarity, but there's a lack of bass richness within the soundstage that many will want and enjoy.

Winner: JBL Flip 6

JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Battery life

JBL Flip 6 speaker showing rear controls placed outside on garden table

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Flip 6 gives up to 12 hours on a full charge, but that seems to underestimate its actual ability. After using it for more than 5 hours at mostly low volume, it still had ¾ of the full charge according to the battery level display on the back of the speaker. 

Recharge time goes from dead to full charge in 2.5 hours, which is respectable. A USB-C charging cable is provided but you'll need a wall charger.

The Sony's battery life seems dependent on whether you have the ULT amplifier enabled, or not. At 25% volume with ULT on, you’ll get around 12 hours of battery life, whereas at 50% volume with ULT enabled that drops considerably.

Winner: JBL Flip 6

JBL Flip 6 vs. Sony ULT Field 1: Verdict

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 JBL Flip 6Sony ULT Field 1
Price and value (10)1010
Design (20)1517
Connectivity (15)1515
Controls (15) 1315
Sound quality (25)2015
Battery life (15)1412
Total score (100)8784

Both models deliver impressive sound at the price, but ultimately the JBL Flip 6 Bluetooth speaker takes the win in this face-off. It may be an older design, but it's slightly smaller and lighter, and its balanced sound is more of a delight.

Of course, I can easily see the Sony ULT Field 1 becoming a go-to travel companion for listeners attracted by its powerful ULT bass mode. It certainly packs a surprising amount of punch for its size, but the mode is a bit heavy-handed and masks mid-range clarity as well as having a significant power drain impact on battery life.

More from Tom's Guide

Best deals

Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

After 2.5 years as Tom's Guide's audio editor, Lee has joined the passionate audio experts at audiograde.uk where he writes about luxury audio and Hi-Fi. As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.