Hands On Review: JBL Flip 6 Bluetooth Speaker
Every music lover should have a good Bluetooth speaker handy for times when your phone speakers just aren’t loud enough. Outdoor activities like camping, hiking, fishing, and various watersports deserve your favorite tunes as well – providing that everyone around you doesn’t mind the noise. In our constant search for the best Bluetooth speaker for outdoor activities, we recently purchased and tested the latest model in JBL’s Flip line of speakers – the JBL Flip 6.
For our JBL Flip 6 review, we brought the speaker along on a weekend sailing trip and put the speaker through its paces. During our review, we tested the sound quality, ease of connecting, waterproofing, and the companion app to see how the Flip 6 performs. We also compared the Flip 6 side-by-side with its previous generation, the Flip 5, to see how the two speakers compare against each other.
We picked up the older JBL Flip 5 speaker (read our review) last year and brought it along while we camped, hiked, paddle boarded, and sailed all summer long. It was awesome being able to take our music along and choose the soundtrack that would accompany whatever outdoor activity we embarked on. The waterproof rating on the JBL Flip line of speakers gives you the peace of mind to bring your speaker along even when it will probably get wet. We’ve brought it along while fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating. Even as we get it wet, it continues to pump out the tunes.
We love JBL’s Flip line of Bluetooth speakers and the new Flip 6 is a minimal, but solid upgrade from the Flip 5. For our money, JBL Flip speakers are the perfect Bluetooth speaker for outdoor enthusiasts due to their waterproof rating, convenient form factor, and huge sound. Compared to the older Flip 5 model, the Flip 6 is louder (due to increased its increased power output and larger driver size), has upgraded Bluetooth, and includes a tweeter for better highs. If you are looking for the best waterproof Bluetooth speaker for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and watersports, the Flip 6 is a worthwhile investment that will bring the party with you wherever you go.
Our JBL Flip 6 Review
Connecting to the Flip 6
Upon receiving our Flip 6 we charged it overnight to make sure we had a full charge for our testing. The Flip 6 comes with a USB-C charging cable, but doesn’t come with a charging cube, so you’ll have to use one you have laying around or pick one up separately to charge this device via a standard 110V outlet.
Connecting our iPhone to the speaker was easy by powering on the unit and pressing the Bluetooth button. When in pairing mode, the speaker chimes a couple of times and the Bluetooth button flashes quickly. The speaker came up immediately in our phone’s Bluetooth settings and connected quickly – sounding one last chime to indicate it was connected. Once initially connected, the speaker connected automatically to our phone within seconds of being powered on – each time sounding the “connected” chime.
The JBL Portable App
To start our JBL Flip6 review, we downloaded the JBL Portable app from the app store and opened it, finding that it had found our new Flip 6 and displayed its settings. From the app, you can quickly see the following: battery level, an equalizer, a button called “feedback tone” (turns on/off the power and connection chimes), a link to the user guide, the current firmware version, and a section for PartyBoost, which connects multiple JBL speakers together to play the same content at the same time.
Honestly, the app doesn’t serve a big purpose for these speakers. You’ll want to open it occasionally to make sure your speaker has the latest firmware and you’ll need it to enable and connect multiple JBLs using PartyBoost, but in most day-to-day use, you’ll simply power your speaker on and play music.
We did test the PartyBoost feature using our Flip 6 and Flip 5 speakers. It worked well, playing our yacht rock playlist through both speakers together. The Flip speakers only produce mono sound when you play music through them, but there is a stereo mode that can be enabled through the app if multiple speakers are connected. Unfortunately, the connected speakers must both be the same model (ie. both Flip 6s) to utilize stereo mode, so we couldn’t test the stereo feature out. It’s disappointing that different models of Flip speakers can’t be used in stereo mode, making this feature, like PartyMode, something that you’ll rarely use.
We do appreciate the equalizer on the Flip 6. Being able to tune your sound a bit to your liking is a nice feature. While the equalizer can only be accessed via the JBL Portable app, the option isn’t found when connected to the Flip 5 – making this a Flip 6-only feature.
At the end of the day, beyond the marketing bells and whistles, what is most important in a Bluetooth speaker is how it sounds. Inexpensive speakers can be found only these days for just a few bucks, but they rarely produce decent sound. Often these cheap Bluetooth speakers are hardly an upgrade from just blasting music from your phone speakers.
But the JBL Flip 6 sounds really good. Despite the small form factor that makes it easier to carry in the outdoors, the sound created by these speakers is full, loud, and without distortion. It really is pleasurable to listen to your favorite music via the Flip 6 and being able to take this great sound with you wherever you go is a nice luxury. While the lows won’t hit you overly deeply, they are they to balance the crisp highs. The mid frequencies are clear and unjumbled. The Flip 6 produces really well-rounded sound that will have you looking forward to turning in on again.
While we’re no audiophiles, the sound quality of the Flip 6 is better than other similar-sized Bluetooth speakers we’ve listened to. Like all speakers, the larger the Bluetooth speaker the higher probability it can produce clean sound at loud volumes and with that in mind, we think the JBL Flip line find the perfect balance of size/portability and great sound.
JBL claims that the Flip 6 can play music for up to 12 hours. We didn’t have the chance to test the max battery life during our JBL Flip 6 review, but after our testing, we would expect the Flip 6 to last at least 8 hours before needing a charge. 12 hours is certainly possible, but if you’re like us, you know that electronics companies love to test their products in perfectly ideal conditions and market the product with the results. We typically expect to see 75% of the rated battery capacity in real-world use, giving the Flip 6 a still-respectable 9 hours of play time.
Differences between the Flip 5 and the Flip 6
During our JBL Flip 6 review, we compared it head to head with our older JBL Flip 5 speaker to see how it stacked up. Here are the specs of the two models:
JBL Flip 5
JBL Flip 6
JBL Flip 5
JBL Flip 6
Design – The Flip 6 is almost identical to the Flip 5 in dimensions and weight. Both speakers are about 7 inches long and just under 3 inches tall and deep. Due to their cylindrical shape, the form factor is 7″ x 2.75″, and can be both stood up on their ends or laid on their side depending on the space available. The only difference in design worth noting on the Flip 6 is the larger JBL logo on the front of the speaker. We prefer the less conspicuous JBL logo found on the Flip 4 and Flip 5, but if you want the world to know that you’re rocking out to a JBL, the larger logo on the Flip 6 is for you.
Price – While both the Flip 5 and the Flip 6 are listed at a $129 retail price, you can typically find JBL’s most recent Flip model at a price of $99 with older models (like the 5) at a steeper discount. At the time of writing, the Flip 5 can be found on Amazon for $89.95 while the Flip 6 is listed at $99.95.
Power: With 30 watts of output power, the Flip 6 has 1o more watts of output than the older Flip 5. This additional power results in a louder speaker – that we can confirm by comparing the Flip 5 and 6 side-by-side. This 30% more power should result in the Flip 6 having less battery life as both models have the same 4800mAh battery. JBL claims that both speakers have a max battery life of 12 hours, perhaps due to the power savings of the upgraded version of Bluetooth (see below) found on the Flip 6.
Bluetooth version: The Flip 6 ships with Bluetooth 5.1 while the Flip 5 comes with version 4.2. The newer 5.1 version found in the Flip 6 provides increased battery life and transmission range compared to version 4.2 found in the Flip 5. We’re guessing that the improved battery life balances out the increased power usage of the Flip 6 giving both models the 12-hour max battery life rating from JBL. We did confirm in our side-by-side testing of the models that the Flip 6 had 2x the Bluetooth range as the Flip 5. We could only walk about 50 feet away from our phone with the Flip 5 before starting to lose signal but made it 100ft away on the Flip 6 before experiencing dropouts.
Sound Quality: This is where the Flip 6 really shines over the older Flip 5. The Flip 6 is louder and the higher-range of sound is much crisper than the Flip 5. The increased loudness is due to the larger driver in the 6 (45mm vs 44mm) and the larger power output (30 watts vs 20 watts). These upgrades result in more sound for your outdoor endeavors – though we rarely turn our speakers up anywhere near full volume to avoid the possibility of disturbing others around us. In most outdoor use cases, you won’t use the additional volume in the Flip 6, but it is nice to have when you do need it. The better highs on the Flip 6 are due to the addition of a tweeter that the Flip 5 doesn’t have. The tweeter in the 6 makes the already-full sound of the 5 even better and more lively.
Waterproof Rating: The Flip 6 is rated at IPX67 while the Flip 5 is rated at IPX7. Both speakers are waterproof and are protected against immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter – this is the “7” found in each rating. The Flip 6 is also rated for dust protection which at a “6” rating means it’s dust tight. While at first glance the IPX67 of the Flip 6 rating seems lower than the IPX7 rating of the Flip 5, both are equally rated for water immersion, but the 6 has the additional dust rating that the 5 does not. Both models can be enjoyed near the water without worry about getting them a bit wet.
Should I upgrade to the JBL Flip 6?
While the Flip 6 does have some nice upgrades, if you already have a JBL Flip 5, we don’t think you need to rush out and replace it with the Flip 6. We have a Flip 4, Flip 5, and Flip 6 and they all are great waterproof Bluetooth speakers that pump out quality sound. We still love our Flip 4 because it has an aux input – something the Flip 5 and Flip 6 don’t. The 5 and 6 are much more similar to each other in size, sound, and features – meaning you’re not getting a ton of “new” for the additional $100 expense. We were impressed with the 6 during our JBL Flip 6 review, but comparing it side-by-side with the 5, we were reminded that the Flip 5 is still a great speaker in its own right.
On the other hand, if having the newest and best is important to you, the improved sound, louder volume, and EQ features of the Flip 6 may be worth it – especially if you are looking for another speaker.
Should I buy the Flip 5 or Flip 6?
If you don’t currently have one of the JBL Flip speakers and are looking to pick one up, we recommend going with the newest model – the Flip 6. For the additional $10, the upgrades on the Flip 6 are worth it and as JBL comes out with new models regularly, you’ll know you have the latest and greatest from them (at least for now).
If you’re on a tight budget, the Flip 5 is an awesome speaker that is still worth the $90 price tag. You may even be able to find older Flip models on sale for less to save some additional money. No matter which speaker you choose, JBL has got it right with their Flip line of speakers. You really can’t go wrong with any of them – they all are rugged speakers in a flexible form factor that will pump your tunes while you enjoy the outdoors.
The Bottom Line
The time spent on our JBL Flip 6 review confirmed that it’s our new favorite waterproof Bluetooth speaker. We love taking our Flip 6 along with us to the beach, on the boat, at the campsite, and on the trail. It allows us to be ourselves and craft a personal soundtrack for our outdoor adventures.
If you can’t tell by the fact that we have 3 Flip speakers (4, 5 & 6), we LOVE the JBL flip line. They fit snugly in a cup holder and can be placed on just about any flat surface. The sound great and the best part is that if it rains or you’re enjoying water-related activities, you don’t need to worry about your speaker getting damaged.
JBL Flip speakers are a great piece of gear to include in all of your outdoor endeavors, but please remember to always be respectful with your music when you’re outdoors. Not all outdoor enthusiasts appreciate music crowding out the sounds of nature – especially if they don’t like your taste in music. Enjoy your favorite music while you enjoy the outdoors, but don’t forget to take in the sounds and silence of the great outdoors as well.
Still not sure? Check out our full review of the JBL Flip 5.