JBL Flip 6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker – Small but mighty

9/10

Summary

JBL Flip 6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker REVIEW

Yearning for a portable Bluetooth speaker that prioritises good sound over extra (and unwanted?) features? PAT PILCHER at your service.

$199.95

Could it be a sixth time lucky for JBL as they launch their latest take on the well-regarded Flip portable speaker? Does the newest Flip offer anything new? Is it any good? We are ever curious at Witchdoctor. 

First things first, what’s new with the Flip 6? For a start, it now plays nice with Bluetooth 5.1 (its earlier siblings only supported Bluetooth 4.2 or lower). It’s a lot more robust too. It has an IP67 rating, compared to the IPX7 rating of the Flip 5, so using it at the beach and other dusty or wet environments won’t be a problem. Minor tweaks aside, JBL also worked hard on the audio side of things, starting with an improved speaker configuration for better sonics. Where their competitors put a lot of effort into adding smart assistants and other frills into their portable speakers, JBL focused on delivering better audio. But the big question for me is this: Did JBL’s gambit pay dividends?

 

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Design-wise, the JBL Flip 6 looks a lot like the Flip 5. There are rubberised trimmings, but the layout of the buttons is still largely the same, situated next to the USB-C port. This makes a lot of sense as the prevailing logic at JBL is probably “if it ain’t broken, why the hell fix it?”

That said, there are a few subtle design flourishes that add to the Flip 6’s usability. Stability is improved thanks to a small rubber foot running along its centre. This ensures that everything stays put when the Flip is laid on its side and that it doesn’t do a kamikaze flip from your desk or bookshelf. Its wrist strap now feels significantly sturdier, so the Flip is unlikely to slip out of your grip as you carry it to the beach and BBQ. Last but not least, with its design, JBL’s branding is more prominent.

Tucked away inside its rounded body sits a similar driver and similar 20-watt amp to what was used previously, plus dual passive radiators on each end. JBL has included an additional tweeter with its own 10-watt amp. This probably explains why the Flip 6 weighs 10g more than its predecessors.

The Flip 6 app is now called the JBL Portable app. If you have an older Flip speaker, it’ll pair with the Flip 6 using the Partyboost mode. They’ll connect in what JBL calls “party mode” (mono). If you’re lucky enough to have another Flip 6, you can use Partyboost and get Stereo. Another useful tweak is the addition of an equaliser which can make quite a difference to the Flip 6’s output, except it isn’t available in Partyboost mode, which is frustrating.

The Flip 6 sounds solid. While its bass output isn’t massive, it proved surprisingly capable considering that it is tiny, coming in at just 17.8cm long with a diameter of 7.2cm. Bigger is usually seen as being better for speakers. Still, the Boost 6’s pint-sized form factor and 550g weight make it very portable and easy to take anywhere, which is the whole point of a portable Bluetooth speaker.

While the Flip 6 looks and sounds pretty good, a few things are missing compared to competitors’ offerings. There are no mics, so there’s no speakerphone. There’s also no aux-in for plugging in wired widgets. Thanks to the excellent sound on offer, these are not deal breakers with the Flip 6.

Getting retro and firing up some Yazoo, I was immediately taken with the energetic audio cranked out. Alison Moyet’s vocals stood out magnificently. These wee gems cranked out spacious audio with an accurate soundstage. The sound felt very musical. Considering the Flip 6’s tiny size and portable form factor, it boxes well above its bantamweight size.

Last but by no means least, the Flip 6 seemed to have no trouble keeping on and on and on and on. Its 17.28Wh battery delivered close to 12 hours of looped playtime (my long-suffering wife and neighbours were super-impressed by that test!). Its battery charged from empty to 100% in just 2.5 hours.

The Flip 6 might not have all the trimmings of its competitors, but thanks to its excellent audio clarity and dynamic range, plus the JBL Portable app, the Flip 6 delivers where it really counts. JBL’s focus on delivering improved audio over “nice to have” features makes it a winner. If you’re in the market for a small yet durable portable speaker with excellent sound, the Flip 6 should definitely be on your list.

www.jbl.co.nz

 

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