JBL Flip 2 portable Bluetooth speaker review: Top portable speaker takes it up a notch

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The Good The JBL Flip 2 is a highly portable Bluetooth speaker that's designed to be used horizontally or vertically. It sounds good and plays very loud for its size, has speakerphone capabilities, NFC tap-to-pair, and ships with a nice carrying case.

The Bad At around 4 to 5 hours, battery life remains so-so.

The Bottom Line Although its battery life remains a weak point and its price has gone up a bit, the Flip 2 is an improvement over the original Flip and one of the best mini portable Bluetooth speakers available.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

JBL's new Flip 2 may look very similar to company's original Flip wireless Bluetooth speaker, but it's got some key upgrades that make it a better speaker.

On the performance end, JBL has improved the clarity of both the speaker and the speakerphone, which features something called SoundClear echo and noise cancellation technology. The speaker also has a slightly higher power rating (2x6 watts, 2x5 watts for the original Flip) and like the original, it plays impressively loud for its size. It's a tad heavier at .84 pounds (381g) versus 0.78 pound (354g) for the original, but still lightweight enough to easily carry around.

The other important change is to the way the Flip charges. With the original Flip, you had to charge it with a proprietary AC adapter. The new model charges via Micro-USB, which means that you can use a standard Micro-USB cable and plug it into a computer USB port or power adapter for charging.

JBL has also added NFC tap-to-pair technology for phones and tablets that the support the feature. However, I find this feature somewhat superfluous since the speaker will automatically connect with your mobile device (or PC) after you create an initial pairing. You just need to have Bluetooth enabled on your device, then turn the speaker on for automatic pairing.

The JBL Flip 2, which comes in a variety of colors, can be stood up vertically or laid down horizontally.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For those who aren't familiar with this speaker, it's called the Flip because you can stand it up vertically or lay it down horizontally. Like with the first Flip, I can't say I noticed a difference in sound quality but I listened to it more often oriented vertically than horizontally. It has a smaller footprint in this mode, and the physical buttons (power on/off, call end/answer, and volume) end up on top where they're a little easier to see and reach. It's worth noting that there's no pause/play button or transport controls (skip track forward/back) on the speaker itself. Most people won't mind, but some users like to have at least a pause/play button on the speaker.

In comparing the original to the new model, I did notice that the designers have traded a harder rubber finish for one that's soft to the touch and has a little more grip (this helps to keep the speaker from moving around when you crank the volume).

The other change involves the included carrying case. The previous version was a simple neoprene affair. The new "hard" case is a bit swankier and offers better protection. A Micro-USB cable and USB power adapter round out the included accessories.

The Flip was one of the better sounding Bluetooth speakers for its size and the Flip 2 takes things up a notch. It's not a big notch, but it's noticeable. The Flip 2 handles bass a little better at higher volumes and has a little bit smoother, cleaner sound. It can also play slightly louder, though you will encounter some harshness when you raise the volume above 70 percent (all these speakers do better at more modest volume levels).