Let's face it: Portable Bluetooth speakers aren't cheap. Most of the ones you want to listen to cost about $200. At just $100, JBL's Flip 2 — a recent update to the original Flip — brings the conveniences of wireless sound to a more budget-minded crowd. Wrapped in an attractive package, the Flip 2 looks great and packs in features like a speakerphone.
The streamlined, cylindrical design of the Flip 2 looks fun. Available in black, red, blue, yellow and white (we tested the blue model), the Flip is mostly covered in a colored grille that protects the two 40 mm drivers. Two rubber end caps — the same color as the grille — seal the sides, while a rubber strip on the back prevents the cylindrical speaker from rolling off your table when you lay the device horizontally. You can also stand the Flip 2 on one end if you prefer a vertical approach.
On one end, you'll find the power, volume, phone and Bluetooth buttons; the other side is used only to connect the speaker with NFC-compatible devices. At 6.2 x 2.5 inches and 13 ounces, the speaker is small and light enough to comfortably carry in your hand as you tote it from place to place.
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Though the Flip 2 isn't weatherproof, it ships with a case to help protect it from bumps and dings when you're not listening.
Setup and Use
The JBL Flip 2 paired easily with our iOS and Android devices. To put the speaker into discovery mode, press the Bluetooth button on the side of the speaker. On an Android device, go to Settings, and look for the speaker listed in Available Devices. (You may need to touch Search for Devices.) In iOS, go to Settings > Bluetooth, where the JBL Flip 2 should appear under Devices.
If you have an NFC-equipped Android device, touch the speaker and the mobile device together for the fastest pairing — you'll see a pop-up on your device that asks if you want to pair it with the speaker. Click Yes, and you're set.
The Flip 2 maintained a strong connection from as far as 25 feet away with a clear line of sight, which is on a par with most portable Bluetooth speakers.
When it comes to sound performance, the Flip 2's greatest strength is that it can get really loud. With both drivers rated at 6 watts, it is one of the loudest portable Bluetooth speakers we've tested, and plays loudly without distortion (until you really crank it up, above 75 percent of the max volume).
But the Flip 2 has limits when it comes to sound quality. It focuses on the midranges, where vocals reside. That meant Lorde's husky voice on "Team" sounded full, but the bass behind her lacked oomph. The saxophones playing the melody on Charles Mingus' jazz classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" came across richly, but the drums felt thin. If you listen to a lot of pop and vocal-driven music, the Flip 2 will likely meet your needs, but don't expect to be wowed.
In comparison, the Braven 570 ($100) offers similar, if slightly more tinny, fidelity. While it's twice as expensive, the Fugoo Style has solid midrange, crisp treble and rich bass that gives music depth.
Within JBL's lineup, the $150 Charge offers much better bass response than the Flip 2, and the $50 Clip has slightly less fullness than the Flip 2 — but for half the price, the Clip compares very favorably.
The Flip 2's speakerphone produced clear sound on both ends of test calls and compared favorably with the iPhone's built-in speakerphone function. The calls benefited from the Flip 2's volume, too. It's a big bonus for the price level, especially when more expensive models, like the JBL Pulse and Bose SoundLink Mini, don't include a microphone.
Battery Life and Charging
JBL rates the Flip 2's battery life at 5 hours, and we saw approximately 4.5 hours of playing time before it ran out of power. In comparison, the Braven 570's 1200 mAh battery is rated to last about 10 hours, and JBL's Charge gets 12 hours on a full charge, which is about average for this size of portable Bluetooth speaker.
The speaker recharges via a microUSB port on the back. That's an improvement over the original Flip, which required a proprietary charger.
With its included speakerphone, the $100 JBL Flip 2 is a good value for those who don't want to dish out $200 for a premium Bluetooth speaker. Limited battery life makes the Flip 2 less portable, though, and if audio quality matters to you, there are plenty of other options. For example, the $150 JBL Charge offers better bass and resonance, while the company's $50 Clip — which also includes a speakerphone — represents an even better deal. But if you want plenty of volume for an affordable price, the Flip 2 is an attractive option.