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JBL Flip 5 review

The Flip 5 balances size and sound in a solid portable Bluetooth speaker

JBL Flip 5 review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

Thanks to above-average sound in a small package, the JBL Flip 5 remains one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers.

For

  • Balances sound quality and size well
  • Rich bass
  • Rugged

Against

  • Limited app
  • No auxiliary input
  • No integrated voice assistant

The song remains the same for the JBL Flip 5: this incremental update to the Flip series keeps it in the running for the title of best Bluetooth speaker around $100. 

The Flip 5 improves its sound a bit and changes the charging port to USB-C; but it loses an auxiliary port and costs a little more than the Flip 4. It’s not an essential upgrade for current Flip lovers, but if you’re seeking a small, simple portable speaker with good sound, you should consider the Flip 5.

Read on for our full JBL Flip 5 review.

JBL Flip 5: 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). 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Flip 5 loses the auxiliary input that had been in previous Flip models, so you can only connect wirelessly. 

JBL Flip 5: 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. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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: Ruggedness

The Flip 5 has an IP7 waterproof rating, meaning you can submerge it up to 3 feet in water.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I dunked it in a sinkful of water without any ill effects. The Boom 3 can also be submerged. 

JBL Flip 5: 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: 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.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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: 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.