How might JBL cram an extra ounce of performance into the sixth iteration of its Award-winning Flip speaker? Add a mic for speakerphone duties? Chuck in a charge-out port for juicing up your device? Increase the battery life? No. But then JBL’s focus here has long been on two things: portability and sound quality.
To that end, the Flip 6 now supports Bluetooth 5.1 (rather than 4.2), a dust- and waterproof IP67 rating (updated from the waterproof-only IPX7 Flip 5) and a reworked driver configuration to boast even better sonics at the level.
As with its older generation model, the JBL Flip 6 is still ‘just’ a Bluetooth speaker though, and with similarly priced propositions offering voice assistance integration, outdoor-boosting buttons and other neat extras, it does seem a risky decision in 2022. And it also has to contend with competition from within, as JBL makes plenty more portable Bluetooth speakers at similar prices. Let’s see if the gamble has worked…
- JBL Flip 6 at Amazon for $99.95
Place the JBL Flip 6 next to its predecessor, the Flip 5, and, externally at least, it’s a game of spot-the-difference. JBL has eased off slightly on the “ruggedised” rubber accents on the edges of the tubular speaker, and the passive bass radiators now feel cool, textured and metallic rather than smooth and rubbery. The layout of the power and Bluetooth buttons alongside the USB-C port is the same, but they are mounted on a slightly smaller rubber panel that no longer spans the entire length of the speaker.
The Flip 6’s stability is now aided by a little rubber foot beneath the panel, to ensure it doesn’t actually flip off your desk. Previously, the joining point of the speaker’s fabric jacket was hidden by the larger rubber panel and here it is fully exposed. We mention this because JBL made a similar choice for the Go 3 and, on that smaller speaker, we found it created a weak point that became susceptible to fraying over time. Here, however, this spine feels well finished with not a skein exposed for pulling.
Elsewhere, the wrist strap is now a continuous loop of cord rather than two strands fastened with a fancy knot, and it now features a useful slider for better security around your wrist. As well as some new colourways, JBL has also gone for a bigger metallic branding this time, but it is still a refined choice and completes a functional yet good-looking build.
Under the fabric jacket, this burrito-sized speaker has been significantly augmented. It retains the same racetrack-shaped driver (driven by 20 watts of amplification) and dual passive radiators as the Flip 5, but now includes a separate tweeter, which is powered by a dedicated 10 watt amplifier. The new Flip weighs just 10g more though, and the same 17.28Wh juice pack claims to fully recharge the speaker’s 12-hour playtime battery in 2.5 hours.
The Flip 6 has a veritable ace up its sleeve when you download the JBL Portable app. Here, thanks to Partyboost toggles, you can locate other JBL Partyboost-enabled speakers (such as the Flip 5) and connect them in ‘party’ (ie. mono) mode, or in stereo if you have another Flip 6. It is not possible to create a stereo pair from a Flip 5 and Flip 6, which is a shame, but that isn’t a new surprise. On the Flip 6’s in-app dashboard, above the feedback tone slider (to turn off audible notifications when pairing/disconnecting/powering down etc.), you’ll now see a three-band equaliser to tweak the sound – a perk we have long been hoping for.
After spending some time with the bass, mid and treble sliders, we find augmenting the midrange or treble easiest to detect, as you might imagine. Sadly, bass fiends won’t glean much from sliding the bass tab up to its maximum, even if they minimise the mid and treble tabs, but in a design roughly the size of a hotdog, that is hardly surprising – and this speaker does not lack in the bass department. Although we would not recommend it for indoor listening, there are scenarios where upping the treble or mid frequencies to cut through external noise (at the beach, for example) is a bonus, and here it certainly adds value.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that you can pair two devices to the Flip 6 simultaneously.
As with its predecessor, there are a few things missing on the Flip 6’s spec sheet when pitted against some of its direct Bluetooth speaker competition. Want to conduct a phone call using the Flip 6? Sadly, that’s not possible – there are no mics here, nor is there an aux-in for wired listening, but in a portable speaker famed chiefly for its sonic capabilities, we can overlook said omissions provided the sound is indeed worth it.
- JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: which Bluetooth speaker is better?
Which – drumroll – it is. Setting the equaliser back to neutral, we stream Prince’s funk-heavy Sign O’ The Times on Tidal from our iPhone and are immediately reminded of how zippy, agile and fun JBL’s Flip offering has long been. There’s plenty of oomph and energy across the frequencies, with any perceived bloatedness melting away once the speaker has been properly run in overnight to reveal a surprisingly snappy and more full-bodied low end than we hear through the older model.
Our playlist continues to Adore, and as Prince unleashes his vocal stylings, the Flip 6 delivers a cleaner and more emotive performance overall, sounding more spacious and open than its predecessor but without losing cohesive timing across the frequencies.
At the outset of Amateur Theatre Group’s Feed Me To The Lions there’s a pleasingly three-dimensional feel to the pensive keys, kick drum and lilting guitar. During Curtains, the Flip 6 presents a surprisingly accurate sense of each band member’s position within the soundstage, too.
Across the course of our listening, the sonic differences between the five-star Flip 5 and its updated Flip 6 counterpart are striking and almost always fall in favour of the newer product – but not universally. At the end of Sign O’ The Times, for instance, the double-speed high synth solo features an extra ounce of fullness in the tweeter-enhanced Flip 6. This adds to the greater sense of clarity, but where the Flip 5 is quite forgiving and easygoing through these higher frequencies, the Flip 6 certainly exposes the harshness of some recordings. It’s a small issue in an otherwise splendid speaker at this level, but it would be nice to have a more forgiving top end.
Given that the Flip 5 is a past What Hi-Fi? Award winner, it will come as no surprise to learn that the Flip 6 is another resoundingly five-star product. The sonic upgrades in terms of clarity and breadth across the frequencies are easy to spot, and if you want more from the midrange and less from the treble, say, you can tweak it in the app. For a nominal price hike over the launch price of the Flip 5, there’s certainly more detail here, too.
We might have thought we’d close this review by advising JBL to rework the Flip now – add a few more features to keep up with the growing competition. Instead, we are left praising the sonic chops of a proposition that now offers extra durability, the option to tailor the sound plus an extra ounce of space and detail within its trademark zealous and musical presentation.
The biggest thorn in the Flip 6’s side is JBL’s five-star Charge 5 – another portable Bluetooth speaker which is bigger and more powerful, sure, but now boasts roughly the same price (and some similar specs) as the Flip 6. The longer battery life (20 hours vs 12 hours), the ability to charge your phone, and a larger-scaled sound all mean the 2022 Award-winning Charge 5 is our preferred speaker in a straight shoot-out.
But there are plenty who will prefer the slimmer JBL Flip 6 to the beefy Charge 5, and be more than happy with all it offers. And for this money, the excellent Flip 6 still gets a hearty recommendation from us.
- Build 5
- Features 4
- Sound 5
Also consider its now-discounted predecessor, the JBL Flip 5
Want voice control smarts? Read our review of the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen)
Want bigger and better? Read our JBL Charge 5 review
Size them up in our JBL Charge 5 vs Flip 6 Bluetooth speaker battle
Best Bluetooth speakers: portable speakers for every budget