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JBL Flip 6 Review: One Powerful Little Bluetooth Speaker

JBL's latest Flip speaker offers improved sound with stronger bass and overall clarity.

While the latest Flip portable speaker, the JBL Flip 6, doesn't look much different from the Flip 5 on the outside, it continues JBL's tradition of making small tweaks and improvements over previous models. In the case of the Flip 6, that means improved sound quality, thanks to the two-way driver (a woofer and tweeter) and dual passive radiators that help it deliver much deeper bass than you might think. Its only real downside is that it's a little pricey at $130 (£130, AU$210). That said, the Flip 6 is one of the best designed and best sounding mini Bluetooth speakers you can buy right now.

Like

  • Very good sound for its compact size with improved drivers
  • Fully water- and dust-proof (IP67 rating)
  • Decent battery life at 12 hours

Don't Like

  • A little pricey
  • No speakerphone capabilities

Like the Flip 5, which remains on sale for about $20 less than this model, the Flip 6 is fully waterproof and can be safely submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. However, it also adds dust resistance with an IP67 rating. (The first number refers to the dust resistance, the second to water.) Battery life is the same as the Flip 5's -- it's rated for up to 12 hours of audio playback at moderate volume levels and charges via USB-C. The Flip 6 weighs in at 1.21 pounds (550 grams) compared to the Flip 5's 1.2 pounds (540 grams).

Read moreBest Portable Mini Bluetooth Speakers for 2022

Ostensibly, the speaker is called the Flip because it can be stood up vertically or laid down horizontally. I think it sounds slightly better laid down horizontally, but it's not a major difference. While it does feature dual drivers -- the tweeter is new -- this is a mono speaker. However, you can wirelessly link two Flip 6s together via the JBL Portable app for iOS and Android to create a stereo pair or just augment the sound. The app allows you to update the speaker's firmware and also has an equalizer that allows you to tweak the sound signature slightly. You won't really be able to augment the bass much, if at all, but you can accentuate the highs and mids a bit. 

jbl-flip-6-color-options

The Flip 6 comes in a variety of colors.

JBL

The step-up JBL Charge 5 ($180) is a substantially bigger speaker that's able to produce bigger sound, pump out more bass and juice up other USB-powered gadgets like phones or headphones. But the compact Flip 6 is more travel-friendly and JBL keeps managing to coax more bass and volume out of it. We're only talking something in the neighborhood of 10 to 20% better sound than the Flip 5, but it is noticeable.

Like all these compact wireless speakers, it does have its limitations. While it avoids distorting at higher volumes, if you throw a complicated track at it with lots of instruments playing, it will ratchet back the bass a bit to avoid distorting.

I had no issues with dropouts and my connection was generally rock solid. The speaker uses Bluetooth 5.1 and has support for the SBC and AAC audio codecs, but not the aptX codec that's compatible with many Android smartphones (Android phones also support AAC). 

jbl-flip-6-vs-bose-vs-charge-5

I compared the Flip 6 to the Bose SoundLink Flex (left) and JBL Charge 5 (right). 

David Carnoy/CNET

As noted above, the step-up Charge 5 has a USB-out port that allows you to turn the speaker into a power bank and charge your portable devices. The Flip line has never had this feature. It's also missing an auxiliary port for connecting an audio device with a cable and doesn't have a built-in microphone that allows for speakerphone functionality. (The Charge 5 is missing those latter two features as well.) For the majority of people, that won't be an issue. But I point it out because there are some folks who want to be able to use their Bluetooth speaker as a speakerphone. 

Aside from comparing the Flip 6 to the Charge 5, I also spent some time comparing it to the Bose SoundLink Flex, a slightly bigger speaker that retails for $150. The Bose came out the winner as it had a slightly bigger soundstage and bolder sound overall. The truth is that if you listened to the Flip 6 in isolation, you'd think it sounds really good for its size -- it does have a nice tonal balance overall. However, after I fired up the SoundLink Flex, my enthusiasm for the Flip 6's sound was tempered a tad. I remained impressed with it -- it's not far at all behind the Bose -- but I ultimately preferred the Bose's sound. That said, some people may prefer the Flip 6's design. 

Final thoughts

The Flip always carried a list price of around $130, but before the current market's supply-chain issues and inflationary pressures, its street price was closer to $100 and sometimes even less. As I said, the only knock against the speaker is that it feels slightly expensive. When you have Bose's excellent SoundLink Flex available for not much more and upstart Chinese brands like Tribit serving up very good value options like the MaxSound Plus for around $50, the Flip 6 isn't ideally positioned price-wise. Still, it's an excellent mini Bluetooth speaker that fits nicely in a backpack or even a large pocket (a lanyard is included) and its sound is definitely a notch up from that of its predecessor.

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