JBL Flip 6 review: Almost the ultimate outdoor speaker
Each offers something a little different to the next: the Flip 6 caters for those wanting a speaker that’s compact yet still able to deliver a powerful audio performance. Its feature set is relatively limited and battery life isn’t anything to write home about, but it nails the basics and is well worth considering if you’re looking for a portable speaker to soundtrack your summer.
JBL Flip 6 review: What do you get for the money?
The JBL Flip 6 is available in numerous colours and its price varies based on which you choose. The Midnight Black reviewed here will set you back £130, the camo-patterned “Squad” variant is currently available for £119, while the Fiesta Red model is the cheapest of the lot at £110.
The Flip 6 boasts an improved set of specifications over its predecessor, the Flip 5, with wireless connectivity upgraded to Bluetooth 5.1 and the build now rated IP67, which certifies it fully dustproof as well as waterproof. Codec support is still limited to just SBC, however, so there’s no high-resolution streaming capability.
The tubular housing sits at 178mm high and roughly 70mm in diameter, making it easy to slip into a bag for a day out. Weighing just 550g and featuring a convenient carry strap, it’s also light enough to lug around by hand. As well as feeling solid and durable, the overall look is suitably stylish regardless of which colour option you plump for.
The main body is coated in fabric mesh, with a metallic JBL logo emblazoned on the front and four buttons set on the top for controlling volume, playback and PartyBoost – there’s no skip back button but you can double-tap the play button to skip forward. PartyBoost is JBL’s latest multi-speaker pairing system and allows you to connect the Flip 6 to other PartyBoost-enabled speakers, including the Charge 5. Current generation PartyBoost speakers can deliver stereo playback when paired but sadly older models like the Flip 5 can only be used in Party (mono) mode.
The Flip 6 can be positioned both vertically and horizontally and features rubber caps on either end and a rubber foot on its base to help it remain sturdy in both orientations. On the back of the speaker, you’ll find buttons for power and Bluetooth pairing and a USB-C charging port. JBL states the battery life at 12 hours, with a charging time of around two-and-a-half hours from empty.
JBL Flip 6 review: What did we like about it?
The Flip 6’s speaker configuration is very similar to that of the Flip 5, with both the racetrack-shaped woofer and dual passive radiators making a return. A new tweeter has been added, however, boosting the total RMS output from 20W to 30W. The result is pleasingly balanced and powerful audio, with a satisfying sense of weight in the lower end and clarity in the mid-range.
The soundstage produced is spacious enough to keep the anthemic chanting in the chorus of Cut the Cord by Shinedown from being swallowed up by the heavy guitars, leaving plenty of room for the lead vocals to come crashing in with the titular line. Though the sound signature is defined by its warmth, it’s not unevenly weighted – Alestorm’s Mexico is a rousing, thrashing sea shanty that pulses with dynamic energy and treble remained crisp throughout.
Something with a blistering bassline, like Volbeat’s Still Counting, demonstrates the efficacy of the passive radiators. The Flip 6 is able to deliver a reasonably deep and rich bass response without the speaker housing vibrating to a distracting degree. The passive radiators also provide a pleasing physical representation of how potent a song’s bass is, particularly when volume is pushed right up.
And make no mistake – despite its relatively small stature, the JBL Flip 6 is capable of hitting some ear-ringing volumes. At around 60%, it’s more than loud enough to fill a small room, while at full whack it can comfortably spread its sound throughout a reasonably sized flat. If you plan to use it outdoors, rest assured that it’ll serve you well at any barbeque, beach trip or garden party that needs an injection of powerful sound.
There aren’t many additional features to speak of, but there’s a welcome degree of customisation available via the JBL Portable app. Here, you can toggle the feedback tones on or off, set up PartyBoost mode, and adjust bass, mids and treble with a three-band graphic equaliser.
JBL Flip 6 review: What could be improved?
Sound quality is very impressive on the whole, but the Flip 6 suffers from some distortion at high volume. This was particularly evident in the upper mid-range, with vocals and instruments in Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love losing clarity once I cranked it above 80%.
Maximum volume listening will also eat into the battery life, which isn’t particularly substantial to begin with. JBL lists the total battery life at around 12 hours, but if you’re regularly pushing the volume above 50%, you can expect a significant drop-off in how long you’ll be able to enjoy the Flip 6’s audio for.
Even based on the stated 12 hours, the Flip 6 lags way behind the similarly priced Huawei Sound Joy, which can keep going for up to 26 hours. If you’ve got a bigger budget and don’t mind a slightly bigger speaker, you’ll want to take a look at the JBL Charge 5, which offers up to 20 hours of playback and features a handy USB-A port for charging your devices.
Outside of its unimpressive stamina, the biggest issue with the Flip 6 is that it doesn’t offer much beyond the bare minimum. There’s no 3.5mm jack, nor is there a built-in microphone for taking phone calls or using a voice assistant. Compared with the Wi-Fi-enabled Sonos Roam, which supports Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect, and is compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, the Flip 6’s feature set feels rather threadbare. Granted, it’s cheaper, but all the extras the Roam packs in are well worth an additional £30 if you don’t mind sacrificing raw audio power.
JBL Flip 6 review: Should you buy it?
The JBL Flip 6 doesn’t try to push the boat out when it comes to fancy features or functionality, but what it does, it does very well. Audio is powerful but balanced, the rugged build and IP67 rating ensure the speaker can be used anywhere, and it sounds as good outside as it does indoors.
The simplicity of the Flip 6’s offering is both its greatest strength and biggest weakness, however. Unless you own other JBL PartyBoost speakers, you won’t be able to incorporate it into a multi-speaker system, and the absence of an in-built microphone means you can’t use it for calls. It’s also a little lacking when it comes to battery life.
But if you’re looking for muscular performance in a compact, portable package, and don’t mind making a few sacrifices along the way, few Bluetooth speakers fit the bill quite as well as the JBL Flip 6.