Philips Flex Bluetooth Speaker review: An expanding Bluetooth speaker with so-so audio quality
With so much market saturation in Bluetooth speakers these days, it seems that every model needs to boast some kind of unique feature to set it apart from the pack. Take the JBL Clip , for example, which has an integrated carabiner for easy carry, or the Sol Republic Punk 's threaded mount that lets you attach it to almost anything.
The Philips Flex (sometimes spelled Fl3x) BT2000 is just one of Philip's many Bluetooth speaker offerings, but it has an ace up its sleeve: a 12-hour rechargeable battery and expandable sides that the company claims will enrich the audio experience.
It's only available in two color options right now (bright blue with a lime-green speaker grille and a sleek black and white), but Philips is hinting at more variations becoming available in the future. When it's compressed, the size and shape of the speaker reminds me of a flat hockey puck.
It measures a little less than four inches across the top and sits 3 inches high -- like the Logitech X100 and the JBL Clip , it's designed to lie on its back with the speaker pointed upward to allow for a wide aural spread but it can stand up on its side too. Philips also includes a shoelace-style lanyard tied to a hole on the side if you want to hang it from a belt loop or tie it to a backpack.
Simplicity is key when it comes to these things, and the Flex is about as easy as it gets to pair and play music. There's only two buttons on the side of the unit: a sliding trigger to toggle between the 3.5mm auxiliary port and the Bluetooth connection, and a separate round button that puts the speaker in pairing mode.
If you're familiar with Bluetooth speakers, you'll probably notice the lack of dedicated volume control buttons on the Flex. Philips assumes that you'll never be too far away from your music source and they leave it up to you to control levels from there, but I can see this being a hassle when someone else besides the DJ wants to adjust the volume.
Although Philips doesn't give you a carrying case with the Flex, the silicone-wrapped unit feels durable enough to withstand the daily rigors of daily travel. The material has a rubbery flex to it that stands up to light scratches, and Philips tells us the speaker can take a few drops of rain; while it's certainly not waterproof, it's safe to call it "weather-resistant."
The company claims the rechargeable battery can last up to 12 hours at moderate volume levels. I didn't time an official battery drain test on the Flex, but my experience testing it for a few weeks does confirm an impressively long life -- certainly enough to keep the tunes playing for a more than full day's use. A Micro-USB-to-USB cable included in the packaging takes care of the charging.
The Flex's unique feature is its accordion-style sides that expands and supposedly adds a "sound quality boost" to your music. I'm not going to lie and say it's not super-fun to grab the top and bottom and pull out the radiator, but I didn't notice a big change in the output quality.
The speaker only has a 2-watt driver inside, so of course a few extra inches of room won't make a big difference. To that end, I'm still disappointed at the overall sound quality of the Flex, especially compared to other speakers that cost the same.
After sampling a variety of genres from hip-hop to jazz, there's no question that the Flex is unable to handle a lot of bass. Heavy distortion is common once you start amping up the volume, despite marketing claims that an internal limiter circuit exists inside to prevent this exact symptom.
Of course, you'll always get better-quality sound if you're listening to music through an auxiliary cord as opposed to going Bluetooth, but the Flex doesn't compare to the sound coming out of the JBL Clip and the Logitech X100 in a strict Bluetooth comparison.
Those devices are able to reach louder volumes with a cleaner overall sound that produces deeper bass tones and doesn't allow the midrange to drop as much as the Flex. I'd say that the Flex has about as much power as the AmazonBasics BTV2 that sells for $10 less and has a dual-firing 3-watt speaker.
The Flex's expanding radiators are fun to play with, but its high-reaching price tag doesn't match the sound quality, especially when you have the JBL Clip and the Logitech X100 offering better sound for the same price. If you're on the hunt for an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker that won't distort your music, bypass the Flex and pick up either of those or the Philips Shoqbox Mini for a more rugged option.