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JBL Flip 5
August 1, 2019
18.1 x 6.9 x 7.4 cm
There aren’t many products that get universal recommendations. Everything from cars to kitchen knives has a plethora of opinions and reviews for people to look into before they buy. That isn’t really the case for affordable, waterproof Bluetooth speakers. For years now if you wanted a speaker that you can bring to the beach and won’t break the bank my answer has been to just get the JBL Flip. Upon its release, we spent a couple weeks with the JBL Flip 5 and found it to be a great speaker. However, is it still worth buying with the newer Flip 6?
Editor’s note: this JBL Flip 5 review was updated on February 1, 2023 to include formatting changes.
The IPX7 rating will make this attractive for shower singers and poolside chill sessions, but really anyone looking for their first Bluetooth speaker will probably like the Flip 5. It isn’t that much better than the Flip 4, but you might as well future-proof your purchase for as long as you can with the USB-C input.
How’s the build quality of the Flip 5?
If there’s one thing the JBL Flip series is known for, it’s for being tough. The Flip series started out splashproof, and eventually made the jump to being completely waterproof—and that’s still the case with the new JBL Flip 5. It’s wrapped in a durable fabric material that gives it an IPX7 rating, meaning: it can survive being submerged in up to one meter of water. On either end of the speaker is a tough rubber that protects the exposed bass radiators.
Down the back of the speaker is where you’ll find the power and Bluetooth pairing button as well as the USB-C input for charging the speaker up. Both buttons here have lights around them for when the speaker is on and connected to a source device. It’s a useful feature that I wish was also used on the playback buttons built into the fabric. While it’s easy enough to figure out which button is which thanks to the slightly protruding away from the fabric, I feel like they would be much easier to use in low light situations if they lit up or were at least painted a different color. While I enjoy the black-on-black look I think having the buttons be white or some other vivid color that pops off the speaker would help with legibility.
I’m nitpicking here because the JBL Flip 5 is built about as good as a $100 USD speaker meant for your next adventure can be. There’s a small loop built into the speaker that comes with a string so you can hang it from things like branches or even showerheads. Pro tip: if you pick one of these up I would recommend ditching the cheap shoelace string and replacing it with some strong and cheap paracord that can come in handy in emergency situations while hiking.
The design of the speaker hasn’t changed much from the JBL Flip 4. The Flip 5 is still cylindrical in shape and isn’t heavy at all weighing in at just 540 grams. Sticking this speaker in the water bottle pocket of any backpack would be a perfect fit. Another underappreciated thing about the Flip series is that they come in a bunch of different colors so whether you want teal, all-black, or even pink you can find one for you.
How do you control the JBL Flip 5?
You get the standard playback buttons like the volume up or volume down buttons designated by the plus and minus signs, respectively. Then there’s the play/pause button which will let you pause tracks or skip to the next song if you double-tap it.
Should you download the JBL Portable app?
Formerly titled “JBL Connect,” the JBL Portable app (iOS/Android) works with the Flip 5 and other JBL speakers. Here, you can equalize the sound with a three-band EQ, toggle the feedback tone, update the firmware and enable PartyBoost mode. PartyBoost is only useful if you have more than one JBL speaker that’s compatible with PartyBoost, which is different from JBL Connect+. In other words, you can’t connect a Flip 5 with a Flip 4.
To use PartyBoost, click the dedicated PartyBoost button on the speaker, then you can pair a second JBL speaker for stereo sound or even just to add more life to your party. In my experience, just one speaker was more than enough for any hike or trip to the beach I’ve ever been on. If you find yourself needing a second speaker to power your parties often then it might be worth investing in something like the JBL Boombox or the UE Hyperboom, both of which are giant speakers that you shouldn’t have a problem partying along with.
This is more annoying than you want it to be. For example, you cannot pair the Flip 4 with the Flip 5 using Partyboost. The reason is that the Flip 4 uses an older version called Connect+ and JBL doesn’t seem to pay much mind to backward compatibility. The safest bet is to pair like with like from the same generation of products, so Flip 5 with a Charge 5 for instance.
How do you pair the JBL Flip 5?
Pairing to the JBL Flip 5 hasn’t changed from any of the previous versions and it’s still just as seamless. All you need to do is:
- Press the Bluetooth button on the back of the speaker next to the power button.
- Once it begins blinking and making a beeping sound that means you’ve entered pairing mode.
- Open up the Settings app on your device and click on Bluetooth. From there you should see “JBL Flip 5” in the available devices section.
- Tap that icon, and you’re all paired up.
Connection strength is solid, and I had few problems playing music anywhere in my apartment from my iPhone 11 Pro in my pocket. When there was an issue, though, it was an issue that required powering the speaker on and off before playback resumed normally. Twice during testing, the audio just began to skip and stutter uncontrollably which was annoying—but thankfully not permanent. Simply powering off the speaker seemed to fix the issue, but it’s still not something you want to be dealing with.
Unfortunately, there are no high-quality Bluetooth codecs to speak of here so there was a huge lag while watching YouTube videos. For whatever reason, the audio never synced up with what the person was saying, and because JBL removed the 3.5mm input: there’s no real way around this issue. It’s a bit of a bummer since you can’t use this speaker with anything that doesn’t have Bluetooth.
How long does the battery of the JBL Flip 5 last?
JBL claims that you’ll get 12 hours of constant playback with the JBL Flip 5, and in our testing we got 9 hours and 27 minutes which isn’t bad at all but falls just short of the claimed 12 hours. Still, that’s more than enough for an average day at the beach or a good day hike.
How does the JBL Flip 5 sound?
Before you read too much into a heavily-smoothed chart, recognize that the Flip 5 is a budget Bluetooth speaker. The roll-off at 60Hz is something that you’re not only able to ignore completely, but you’d have to live with no matter what speaker you buy for under a few hundred dollars. Additionally, as you’re likely going to be using this in less-than-ideal environments: this is merely a ballpark measurement to give you a rough idea about the Flip 5’s performance, and a rough idea only. It won’t always be representative of what you’re going to hear, because you’re not going to be listening to this in a sound-dampened or anechoic environment. You’re going to listen to it in a room, or a noisy place like the beach, or in a yard.
JBL upgraded the driver inside the speaker to give it more of a deeper low end, and the company succeeded from what I could tell. JBL’s wireless speakers tend to bump bass notes from middle-C and lower by about 2-8dB. The Flip 5 follows this trend, and you’ll likely be happy with the sound without too much futzing with any in-app equalizers or junk like that. Take it out of the box and start using it.
Hold up! Something’s different:
This section features an old frequency response chart. We’re still ironing out our standardized speaker tests with the appropriate support equipment to update our testing and data collection. It will take a bit to get everything fleshed out, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and performance plots. These will be made obvious by a new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out!
Lows, mids, and highs
The bass response definitely sounds like it was given more of an emphasis this time around than the JBL Flip 4. It still isn’t going to be the greatest thing you’ve ever heard.
The difference is subtle, and if you’re hanging out in the yard or the beach: chances are you’re streaming off of a lowish-quality service like Spotify. If you aren’t really paying attention to the subtleties of the bass response, you won’t hear them anyway. Still, it’s a welcome addition in The Less I Know The Better by Tame Impala, where the groovy bassline is the main part of the song in my opinion. It sounds good enough to hear but the Flip 5 is unable to get super low due to the hard drop-off at under around 100Hz.
The under-emphasized midrange notes are sometimes hard to hear during particularly prominent bass lines.
This isn’t a huge deal when listening to podcasts since there wasn’t a lot going on besides voices, but in songs with a lot going on like Ghost Under Rocks by Ra Ra Riot, some instrumentation lacks clarity as things like guitars and strings battle for volume with the vocals throughout the chorus. Highs are also pretty quiet, and you may find yourself boosting the levels from time to time. Throughout the same song, the shakers and cymbals sound more like weird hisses because of how low and unclear they were.
Does the JBL Flip 5 have a microphone?
No, the Flip 5 does not have a microphone. So if you were hoping for a speaker to answer phone calls on or if you want access to your phone’s personal assistant then you won’t get that here. You’ll need the Flip 4 for a microphone.
Should you get the JBL Flip 5?
If you don’t already have a Bluetooth speaker and are looking for an affordable speaker to knock around on your next adventure, the JBL Flip 5 is absolutely worth it. It has a tough waterproof fabric, good sound, decent battery life, and its portable size makes it a great option for just about everyone. In addition to the new range of colors, JBL has also created an eco-friendly Flip 5 comprising of 90% recycled plastic which you can get at a discount through the Amazon Renewed program. For those who already have a JBL Flip 4, there is absolutely no reason to rush out and upgrade, though, especially if you want a microphone.
What about the JBL Flip 6 and JBL Charge 5?
The JBL Flip 6 improves upon the Flip 5 with its IP67 dust and water-resistant build. JBL ditches the small, red JBL logo in favor of large JBL lettering on the Flip 6. You also get Bluetooth 5.1 firmware here and 9 hours 25 minutes of battery (which is almost the same as the Flip 5). This latest iteration of the JBL Flip series still only uses the SBC codec. The Flip 6 sells for around $129 USD, which is about (give or take) $30 more than the Flip 5.
The JBL Charge 5 doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s a very good speaker nonetheless. Despite the shared cylindrical design, the Charge 5 is a completely different speaker from the Flip 5. The larger, heavier Charge 5 is meant to power a party and supplies up to 20 hours of playtime from a single charge. It also serves as a battery pack to charge your portable devices.
You may want to consider the Bose SoundLink Flex instead of the JBL Flip 5, since both have very similar frequency response and feature modern hardware like USB-C charging inputs. Unfortunately, neither speaker supports an aux input for wired playback, but you will get better battery life with the SoundLink Flex which lasts just shy of 12 hours.
Folks living on a tight budget, students, or anyone who doesn’t need a Bluetooth speaker frequently enough to justify JBL prices ought to check out the Anker Soundcore Flare, or the nearly identical, Anker Soundcore Flare 2. The Flare 2 boasts an IPX7 rating, the ability to link with other speakers, and a compact size. The sound quality won’t blow anybody’s mind, but it charges via USB-C, and can double for phone calls with its built-in mic. It’s also only around $60 to $80 USD.
Frequently asked questions about the JBL Flip 5
This is a tricky question because it varies for everyone due to difficult to quantify variables from different hardware sending the audio signal via Bluetooth. In addition, there will be latency because it’s Bluetooth, so it also depends on what is an acceptable amount of latency for you. Typically, 80 milliseconds or less is the best to aim for. Speakers supporting aptX—particularly aptX-LL (low-latency) ideally—will generally lend better results. One test appeared to favorably show the Sony XB40 at around 80 milliseconds, which supports SBC, AAC, and LDAC, and no aptX to be found, which illustrates how it’s hard to recommend hard and fast rules. With that said, JBL speakers seem to consistently have latency issues with YouTube over Bluetooth, but look for aptX Adaptive, aptX, and possibly, LDAC codecs and make sure you’ve got a good returns policy with whatever you end up purchasing, as your mileage will vary depending on your hardware.
Yes, although if you want to press any buttons you may want pick it up or put it horizontally.
It really depends on what you prioritize. If it’s price, the Flip 5 is usually a bit cheaper. The battery life in actual use is pretty similar. The Flip 5 has USB-C charging, rather than the older, micro USB on the Boom 3. If it’s waterproofness and dustproofing, the Boom 3 has the edge with IP67 rating. The Boom 3 floats in water which might sway you. Neither is going to blow your mind with audiophile quality, but they’re both decently loud and so similar that it will come down to what you prioritize.
There are a few differences between the JBL Flip 4 and JBL Flip 5. For one, the older model charges via microUSB while the Flip 5 uses USB-C. Both portable speakers let you connect to multiple JBL speakers, but the Flip 4 supports JBL Connect+, a legacy feature, while the Flip 5 can only connect to other JBL speakers that support PartyBoost. This is very limiting, but has its advantages: PartyBoost supports true stereo playback, while JBL Connect+ stereo mode struggled to maintain a connection between speakers. Real-world battery performance has doubled from the Flip 4 to the Flip 5. The Flip 5 lacks a microphone, which the Flip 4 has for speakerphone calls.