JBL Flip 5 vs JBL Charge 5: Which portable party machine should you buy?
Both of these Bluetooth speakers are great—which should you buy?
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When it comes to portable Bluetooth speakers, JBL has just about mastered the craft. The company’s Flip and Charge speaker lines are particular favorites, both regularly topping lists of the best Bluetooth speakers for their combination of value, performance, and durability.
We’ve reviewed the latest generation of both speaker lines—the JBL Flip 5 and JBL Charge 5—and found them both to be excellent products in their own right. With speakers this good (and this similar) it’s hard to decide which one should be your go-to Bluetooth audio companion. So we’re putting them head to head in a number of key categories to help you choose the perfect speaker for you.
This one is a no-brainer: If you want to get a great speaker on a strict budget, the Flip 5 is the obvious choice. It's offered at an MSRP of $119.95, while the Charge 5’s MSRP is $179.95.
While there are reasons the beefier Charge 5 is going to cost you an extra $60—including its pass-thru charging feature—if price is your biggest concern here, the Flip 5 is the way to go.
Our pick: JBL Flip 5
Features and battery life
From a features perspective, the Flip 5 and the Charge 5 are very similar. Both can utilize JBL’s PartyBoost mode to sync up with other JBL speakers, and both connect over Bluetooth. The Charge 5 does get you a more advanced Bluetooth version (it uses Bluetooth 5.1 versus the Flip 5’s Bluetooth 4.2), which could mean its signal quality is more reliable, but for general use this likely won’t make a huge difference—we didn't notice any issues either way.
What could make a difference is the Charge’s titular pass-thru charging feature—the Flip does nothing of the sort. You’ll find a USB-A input behind a rubber door on the back of the Charge 5 that you can use to charge up pretty much any small USB device.
This also means that the Charge 5 has a notably bigger battery than the Flip 5. You’re getting up to 20 hours of playback (and/or charging time) from the Charge 5, while the Flip 5 gets you just 12 hours. While both offer good battery life compared to the competition, the Charge 5’s larger battery and pass-thru charging mean it wins this round.
Our pick: JBL Charge 5
Design & colorways
When it comes to aesthetics, these two speakers are very similar. At first glance, you might even think the Charge 5 is just a bigger version of the Flip 5—but there are some subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences.
Both speakers are cylindrical, featuring rubber-capped ends that house their bass radiators and firm-but-yielding knitted material around their bodies. You’ll also find buttons for PartyBoost (JBL’s method for syncing multiple speakers together), Volume Down, Volume Up, and Play/Pause along the top and USB-C charging ports on the back of both speakers.
The Charge 5 is roughly 1.5 inches longer from end to end, about an inch taller, and weighs almost twice as much as the Flip 5—something to keep in mind if you’re chasing maximum portability.
The Charge 5 also has much larger JBL branding on the front, and its power and Bluetooth buttons are top-mounted for easy access, while the Flip's are on the back. Both speakers have battery level indicators, but while the Charge 5’s is clearly visible on the front, the Flip 5’s is (once again) on the back next to its USB-C port.
Lastly, the Flip 5 also has a small spot on its rear for attaching a cloth handle, making it easy to hang it from a beach umbrella or showerhead, while the Charge 5 nets you a USB port for charging other devices hidden behind a rubber-sealed door on the back.
Both devices are available in a ton of color options—six for the Charge 5, 11 for the Flip 5—and you can even customize the Flip 5’s design in a bunch of different ways (for $30 more).
The Flip 5 gives you more color options and is more portable, while the Charge 5 is a little tougher to take along, though that’s also what allows it to essentially double as a portable battery pack for your phone. Both devices ultimately give you a fun but firm design and intuitive controls—this one’s a draw.
Our pick: Draw
Durability & weatherproofing
Having used both the Flip 5 and the Charge 5 extensively, I can confidently say that both are very durable. Their respective rubberized end caps help to both protect them during falls and to float in water, and well-sealed buttons and ports help keep them in top condition even on intense adventures.
What really sets them apart is each speaker’s IP rating, which determines how much dust and water resistance a speaker has been tested to withstand. The Flip 5 has an IPX7 rating. The “7” means it can be dunked in a meter of freshwater for up to 30 minutes, while the “X” means it hasn’t been tested for dust protection. The Charge 5 has an IP67 rating, meaning for practical purposes it’s both waterproof and dustproof.
While both speakers are quite durable and should be able to withstand normal use across a wide variety of environments, the larger Charge 5 is technically the better-protected option.
Our pick: JBL Charge 5
It would be much easier to pick the best speaker here if there was a huge difference in sound quality between the two, but the truth is, they both sound pretty great. JBL’s signature cylindrical design, which pumps sound out of bass radiators at either end of the speaker, gives both speakers a warm, robust, and bass-friendly sound that ranks among some of the best options in this price range.
Sound quality isn’t wholly identical because of size differences, however. The larger Charge 5 offers a strong low-end and overall is capable of getting louder without introducing distortion.
The Flip 5 is no slouch on bass, however, and its slightly quieter nature can be advantageous in certain situations. While you’re more likely to use a solid pair of headphones for private listening, the Flip 5 is easier to use at a conservative volume.
Volume being relative to size is no surprise, but when it comes down to the pure measure of sound quality, these two are roughly equal, and it wouldn’t do to award the Charge 5 just because it’s bigger.
Our pick: Draw
And the winner is…
It’s a close one, but the Charge 5 is ultimately the winner. While $180 isn’t cheap, we feel the Charge 5 is worth every penny. It looks and sounds great, is extremely easy to use, and justifies its price by way of its highly useful pass-thru charging feature.
However, what this comparison should really suggest is where your money is going. For an extra $60 on top of the cost of the Flip 5, the Charge 5 nets you dust-proofing, device charging, and a heavier, less portable build. So if you’d prefer more portability or have alternate ways to keep your devices topped up on battery, you can confidently pick up the Flip 5 and save a little money. It’s easy to see why we’ve rated the Flip 5 as the Best Value in our list of the Best Portable Bluetooth speakers.
The good news is that whether you spring for the battery-boosted Charge 5 or the more portable Flip 5, you’re getting an awesome Bluetooth speaker either way.