Rugged & water-resistant
Multiple color options
No dust resistance
There are a lot of Bluetooth speakers on the market these days: a quick Amazon search will yield tens of thousands of results. Yet every new iteration of JBL’s Flip line delivers a Goldilocks level of design elements and sound: not too much, not too little, just right.
Sure, you could grab a solid speaker for $50 or less. But if you want that little bit of extra quality—something rugged enough to withstand years of outdoor use that doesn’t skimp on features or sound quality—the Flip 5 really nails the middle-ground between entry-level and high end.
About the JBL Flip 5
The Flip 5 is the newest addition to JBL’s popular “Flip” line of speakers, and as the fifth-generation version of this model, it has some big shoes to fill. Here are the specs at a glance:
- Price: $119.95
- Width x Height x Depth: 7.1 x 2.7 x 2.9 inches
- Weight: 1.19 pounds
- Colors: White, Grey, Sand, Pink, Blue, Green, Mustard Yellow, Black Matte, Black Camo, Red, Teal, Squad, or Design Your Own (for $30 more)
- Battery life: Up to 12 hours
- Wireless connection: Bluetooth 4.2
- Charging: USB-C
- Dust/water resistance: IPX7
- Additional features: PartyBoost
The Flip 5 is a streamlined Bluetooth speaker, which helps keep the price down, but that does mean giving up a few features: it utilizes a slightly older Bluetooth connection, doesn’t bother with dust resistance, and won’t net you speakerphone or voice assistant integration.
As far as accessories, you're getting just the speaker and a USB-C charging cable.
What we like
Fun, meet function
I don’t know what it is about the design and materials that JBL utilizes for its Bluetooth speakers, but the company has really nailed the general “feel” of this product.
Like previous Flip speakers, the Flip 5 is heavily reinforced, its ends cloaked in shock-absorbing rubber that surrounds the bass radiators. The body of the speaker likewise features a very firmly knitted fabric that is soft to the touch yet feels essentially impenetrable. The whole package yields IPX7 waterproofing, too, which means it's been tested to survive submersion in up to one meter of water for up to half an hour.
Despite the robustness of design, the Flip 5 doesn’t feel chunky, or overly engineered. There’s a playful sleekness, a welcoming roundness that immediately reassures you: “I may be dressed for battle, friend, but I’m here to have fun.”
In terms of interfacing with this little speaker, it really couldn’t be simpler. From left to right across the top, you’ll find tactile buttons for controlling volume and play/pause. The power and Bluetooth buttons are on the back, illuminated while the speaker is active.
One of my favorite design aspects is one you might not even notice at first: on the back of the speaker, next to the USB-C charging port is a battery level indicator. This white LED bar slowly fills up while the speaker is charging and drains while it’s playing. It’s a minor detail, but it makes it easy to guesstimate how much playback time you’ve got left without opening up the JBL Portable app (formerly JBL Connect).
Little speaker, big sound
The Flip 5’s portability and robust, waterproof design makes it a worthy partner for your outdoorsy, poolside, beach vibe adventures—but the real reason you’ll want to bring it along is how great it sounds.
I spent days listening to this speaker at a low volume at my desk; I brought it along to Ocean Beach and listened to it at reasonable volumes in a beach tent; and I hung it from my showerhead and listened to it over the din of running water. No matter how or where I used the Flip 5, it was nothing short of splendid.
The sound quality here is leagues beyond my older go-to Bluetooth speaker, the Sony SRS-XB2. The Flip 5’s rumbling bass endcaps and round speaker chassis provide a full-bodied sound that can be loud enough to irritate your neighbors across the street, but also quiet enough to use in an almost private capacity.
Where I’m most impressed by the Flip 5 is its bass response. JBL’s design—which pumps low-end frequencies out of both ends of the conical speaker, allowing the end caps to rumble and move freely as needed—provides a seriously satisfying level of bass, especially considering how relatively small and portable this speaker is.
Are there better-sounding Bluetooth speakers out there? Sure—the Sonos Roam, especially when playing over Wi-Fi, is capable of preserving quality in a way that the Bluetooth-only Flip 5 just can’t do. And JBL’s larger, pricier Charge 5 is another great option. This larger speaker uses the same rounded speaker and bass radiator design as the Flip 5 to deliver the similarly full-bodied sound at even higher volumes. But in this general price range, the Flip 5 is one of the best-sounding options around.
A rainbow of design options
This is a minor “pro,” but the sheer range of color options available for the Flip 5 line is definitely a plus. There are over 10 different default color schemes—our review sample was unfortunately a kinda drab Grey—making it easy to find a hue for you.
If you’re really amped about the look of your Flip 5, you can also pay an extra $30 (for a total of $149.95) to design your own. Choose a base design from amongst 20 solid colors, 13 patterns, and nine prints, or upload your own image or text. The degree of customization allows for serious variation, but whether it’s worth an additional $30 is up to you.
What we don’t like
Streamlined, for better and worse
I think the Flip 5 is priced very fairly, but it’s also true that for what you’re paying, it’s missing some features you might find yourself wanting. You’re not getting a 3.5mm input for auxiliary playback, nor can it operate as a speakerphone (there’s no microphone), or juice up your smartphone like its sibling, the Charge 5. The only real “extra” here is PartyBoost, a setting that allows you to link up multiple JBL speakers.
You can also interact with the Flip 5 using the JBL Portable app, but truth be told, there’s a limit to its usefulness. I really only used the app to update the Flip 5’s software, which took a long time (but considering the update was handled over a Bluetooth Low Energy connection, that isn’t surprising).
You can also use the app to disable the power on/power off sound and check your battery level with more accuracy than the on-device indicator, but I doubt most folks will even bother installing it, frankly.
No dust protection
You may have noticed that the Flip 5 boasts an IPX7 rating. The “7” means it’s essentially waterproof, but the “X” means it hasn't been tested for any dust/ingress protection.
This isn’t a huge issue, as it’s fairly standard treatment for a lot of Bluetooth speakers, but interested buyers should know that the protective design does have limitations. A dust protection level of 5 or higher can mean increased longevity for your devices.
Should you buy it?
Yes—if you just want a Bluetooth speaker that works
The Flip 5 does more than just get the job done: it’s intelligently designed, sounds terrific, and is exceedingly easy to use. While there are a ton of decent Bluetooth speakers available for less cash if you want stellar design and sound quality, the Flip 5 is worth the investment.
Of course, if you want even more utility, there are other options to consider. With only 12 hours of battery life, the Flip 5’s playback time is good-not-great. You can get the JBL Charge 5 for $60 more, which will not only net you 20 hours of battery life, but also comes equipped with a pass-thru charging function that will allow you to charge your phone or tablet off of the speaker itself.
Additionally, for $50 more you could grab the Sonos Roam and considerably increase your feature utility. The Roam offers Wi-Fi playback for better sound quality, it can link up with other Sonos speakers in a group, it can be controlled via voice commands, and even supports wireless (Qi) charging. You’re also getting AirPlay 2, for increased iOS utility. Just keep in mind that the Roam has even less total battery life than the Flip 5, clocking in around 10 hours only.
However, power users and technophiles aside, the Flip 5 has exactly the rich sound quality and feature set that the average Joe is looking for. If you want a well-priced Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t just meet but exceeds expectations, this is the one we recommend.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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