The JBL Flip 5 is merely an incremental upgrade on the Flip 4, but while the song remains the same this is still one of the best waterproof speakers you can buy today.
What, then, does the Flip 5 bring to the table? A higher price, for one thing, though this is balanced out by an upgraded charging port and noticeably enhanced sound quality. While these might not make a compelling upgrade for existing Flip speaker owners, if you’re new to the scene and want something small, simple and sweet-sounding, you could do a lot worse. Keep reading our JBL Flip review to find out why.
JBL Flip 5 review: Price and availability
The JBL's MSRP is currently $119, and costs as much if you buy direct from JBL. There's an impressively wide array of colors to choose from, and if you stretch to $149, you can even design your own with custom patterns and text.
Alternatively, Amazon has the plain black model for $94. That's a big saving if you're not so fussed about aesthetics.
JBL Flip 5 review: Design
You’d have a hard time picking out a Flip 5 among a lineup of Flip 4s — they are very similar looking. The 7.1 x 2.9 x 2.7-inch Flip 5 is marginally bigger than the 6.9 x 2.75 x 2.7-inch Flip 4 and slightly smaller than the 7.2 x 2.8-inch Ultimate Ears Boom 3. It’s also lighter than the Boom 3, with the Flip 5 weighing in at 1.2 pounds.
If you want your speaker color to reflect your personality, The Flip 5 has you covered. It comes in 12 color options, and you can design your own (for an extra $30).
The Flip 5 has minimal controls on the device: buttons for play/pause, volume and PartyBoost to link to another JBL speaker, along with a power button, Bluetooth pairing and USB-C port for charging. An LED strip shows the battery level.
The Flip 5 loses the auxiliary input that had been in previous Flip models, so you can only connect wirelessly.
JBL Flip 5 review: Performance
The Flip 5 has overall very good sound, with impressive bass for a speaker its size. Compared to the Flip 4, the Flip 5 has more bass and spreads the sound slightly wider. The Boom 3 delivers a bigger sound overall, however.
Fiona Apple’s vocals were clear and full above the clanging instruments and rhythms on “Shameika,” and Taylor Swift’s voice was warm and easy to hear on “the last great american dynasty.” The snare and cymbals on Sufjan Stevens’ “Video Game” snapped crisply. The bass on Jason Isbell’s “What’ve I Done to Help” was deep, while the strummed acoustic guitars sounded sharp but not too bright.
The Flip 5 gets plenty loud, measuring about 96 decibels at max volume — louder than the Flip 4. But it got pretty distorted at that level; the sound was better around 85 decibels.
JBL Flip 5 review: Ruggedness
The Flip 5 has an IP7 waterproof rating, meaning you can submerge it up to 3 feet in water.
I dunked it in a sinkful of water without any ill effects. The Boom 3 can also be submerged.
JBL Flip 5 review: Battery life
JBL says you can play the Flip 5 for 12 hours on a full charge (the same as the Flip 4), 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. The Boom 3 is rated at 15 hours.
JBL Flip 5 review: Wireless and setup
The Flip 5 paired easily with my phone and kept a strong signal at about 75 feet indoors. It uses Bluetooth 4.2 instead of the latest standard, 5.0, but that didn’t affect performance.
The JBL Portable app (formerly JBL Connect) lets you update the firmware and manage PartyBoost, in which you can link another JBL speaker and either mirror the sound or use each speaker in a left/right stereo pair. You can also change the play/pause button to activate Siri instead; there is no voice assistant integrated into the speaker itself.
The app does little else. There’s no EQ or sound modes, or other features that the Ultimate Ears app offers.
JBL Flip 5 review: Verdict
Since its first version, the Flip has been one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers. The Flip 5 does just enough to keep it among the leaders. It combines an easy-to-carry design with better-than-average bass. This version costs a bit more than the Flip 4, but it is still usually cheaper than the Boom 3.
If you have a Flip 4, you probably don’t need to upgrade; the biggest difference is the number of colors you can choose from and USB-C charging. If you’re debating between the Flip 5 and the Boom 3, the choice comes down to portability versus sound: the Flip 5 is a little more portable, while the Boom 3 sounds a little better overall. You’ll be happy either way.