Flip 5 is a great portable bluetooth speaker, especially for the sub-$150 price range. But Flip 6 (which was released in late 2021, versus mid-2019 for Flip 5) has improved sound quality, a nicer design with a more stable base, a dust-proof rating, and an adjustable EQ.
The battery is unchanged between Flip 5 and 6, as is most of the software. But there are enough positive changes that Flip 6 is the clear winner.
If you are paying full MSRP, it is a slam dunk decision to choose the Flip 6 rather than Flip 5. Simply put, the Flip 5 isn’t better at anything.
But, the devices are both excellent speakers, so there is nothing wrong with buying a Flip 5 if you can snag a great discount. Now that Flip 6 has been released, the chances of finding a good deal on a Flip 5 are greatly increased.
The functional components of the Flip 6 are actually redesigned relative to the Flip 5.
Flip 6 adds a separate 10 watt tweeter in addition to the 20 watt woofer that is largely unchanged from the Flip 5. The dual passive radiators, which are located at the poles of the speaker and bounce with the beat of the music, are unchanged as well.
Both speakers have a clean, crisp sound. These aren’t hi-fi speakers, but the two most recent iterations of the JBL Flip score points for their balanced sound profile. Many bluetooth speakers and portable “party speakers” are designed to boost bass, and arguably take this effect too far. Flip 5 and 6 have solid bass for the size and price, but the low-end is more subtle and allows for an authentic sound that also accentuates mids and highs.
Flip 6 provides more clarity and slightly more volume. These are subtle changes, though, and only evident with side-by-side testing. The biggest difference I noticed is that highs feel more smoothed out on the Flip 6.
The most significant (and overdue) change is that the Flip 6 has a simple equalizer available on the JBL Portable app. The adjustments that are possible on the EQ are limited (1-5 settings for bass, mid, and treble), but it is still a massive upgrade to have a degree of customization.
Both of these speakers have above-average sound quality overall, but excellent for the price range (less than $150). If you are realistic about the audio performance of a portable, waterproof bluetooth speaker that isn’t much larger than a soda can, either the Flip 5 or Flip 6 is a great choice.
Sound winner: Flip 6 (small improvement to sound, large improvement with EQ)
The esthetics of the Flip 6 are significantly improved.
Flip 5 had an unspectacular cylindrical design that was practical but also boring. The newer version incorporates the JBL logo into the design of the speaker. So, rather than a small JBL badge that looked like a cheap sticker, the logo is now much larger and stylish, and adds a cool factor that wasn’t present in earlier generations.
Other than cosmetics, not much changes between the Flip 5 and 6. Both are cylindrical speakers that are weighted so that they have a “base” without actually having a flat area on the bottom. The radiators on either end are springy and bounce when music is playing. Each speaker is about 1.2 pounds, and the size isn’t changed to any significant degree.
An improvement from Flip 5 to 6 is that the Flip 6 features a rubber stand on the base. On the Flip 5, the only thing preventing the speaker from rolling was the weighting of the speaker, plus the strap which is located just behind the base. On Flip 6, there is a small rubber stand that works surprisingly well for stabilizing the device, without adding any bulkiness to the design.
From a software perspective, another design change is that Flip 6 has Bluetooth 5.1, whereas Flip 5 had the older Bluetooth 4.2.
Build quality is sturdy, and the devices are easy to grip. You can technically play the speakers in either a horizontal or vertical orientation, but the design is most appropriate for the speaker to be horizontal, sitting on the base.
Neither device has an aux port or built-in microphone. And both speakers feature USB-C (rather than micro-USB) charging. The buttons are large and tactile, making them easy and reliable to press. Even though the top buttons aren’t backlit, the feel of the buttons makes it possible to use the speaker in the dark.
Design winner: Flip 6 (better cosmetics, added base stand for stability)
Flip 6 gains the dust-proof label, with an IP67 rating. Flip 5 has an IPX7 rating, meaning it has the same degree of waterproofing, but isn’t rated “dust-proof.” Realistically, the Flip 5 holds up well to dirt and sand, so it isn’t worth choosing the Flip 6 based on this one factor.
Both speakers are well built and sturdy. The lightweight, durable design means they withstand drops better than most competitors. The only real source of vulnerability is the exposed radiators, which are present on both the Flip 5 and 6.
The Flip 6 is slightly less scratch-resistant due to the oversized JBL badge. But, it is less likely to be knocked off a table or shelf due to the rubber base stand.
Durability winner: Tie (No huge changes; Flip 5 has longer track record, Flip 6 has base stand for stability)
Both Flip 5 and Flip 6 have the same 4,800 mAh battery. As far as we can tell, there are no significant differences between the two.
JBL markets both devices as having a 12 hour runtime. In our testing, both fell short of 8 hours. This was the case even when the speakers were played at moderate volumes, in the 40-60% range.
At maximum volume, the battery lasted around 6 hours. However, because these speakers bring a surprising amount of volume, most settings won’t require anything close to max volume.
Neither the Flip 5 or Flip 6 has a power bank feature like you get with the JBL Charge series. The power bank allows you to use your speaker’s battery to charge a cell phone or other device.
Simply put, the Flip 5 and 6 just aren’t built for ultra-long battery life. A 4,800 mAh battery is not particularly high capacity. So, even though users want the new iterations of the Flip to have a power bank and improved battery life, it just probably won’t happen.
The Flip series emphasizes portability and a lightweight design, so it seems unlikely that JBL will significantly increase the size of the battery. Previous generations (Flip 4 and earlier) had even smaller (3,000 mAh) batteries. If a longer battery life (or power bank) matters to you, consider larger JBL portables like the Charge 5 or Xtreme 3.
Both Flip 5 and Flip 6 have a subtle battery indicator bar, which has its upsides and downsides. On the positive side, there is no annoying flashing light or loud “low battery” warning. On the negative side, the indicator bar is not very noticeable, so it would be possible to overlook a dying battery on your speaker.
Battery winner: Tie
Both Flip 5 and Flip 6 are compatible with the JBL Portable app, and feature PartyBoost, which is the newest JBL party mode.
JBL software is unimpressive, but still has its advantages.
Because the JBL Portable app has so few features, it is easy to navigate. The app lets you change the device name, check battery remaining, use PartyBoost, update firmware, and not much else. Without a whole host of elaborate and complex features, there isn’t much that can go wrong. (The exception is that the app and/or speaker tends to crash when updating firmware via the app. This is frustrating but not insurmountable).
With the Flip 6, JBL has finally addressed a long-standing complaint we had. Unlike previous iterations, which lack an equalizer, the Flip 6 now includes a simple EQ on the app. The equalizer isn’t anything to write home about, but it finally gives you the ability to adjust bass, mid, and treble on the Flip 6. There are no presets, which would have been a great addition (for example, having an equalizer setting for podcasts, another for hip hop, another for rock, etc.).
During testing, the battery status display on the app was inaccurate on the Flip 6. Immediately before the device ran out of battery, the app still showed roughly 20% battery life.
And the app doesn’t provide the ability to change songs or volume, either.
As mentioned in our review of the Flip 6, some competitors are more feature-rich but don’t function as well. Bluetooth pairing (via Bluetooth 5.1 on the Flip 6, and Bluetooth 4.2 on the Flip 5) is reliable, and the connection strength is better than most portable speakers we have tested.
Neither device has a built-in microphone, power bank, or any real premium features to speak of.
Overall, the Flip 5 and 6 feel like they are somewhat lacking in “smarts.” However, they regain some points due to the simplicity and ease-of-use. And the customizable EQ makes the Flip 6 the far superior choice of the two.
Software winner: Flip 6 (the first Flip model to have an adjustable EQ)
If you are looking for a quality bluetooth speaker under $150, either Flip 5 or Flip 6 is a wise decision. Sound quality is impressive, with a sound profile that is authentic and balanced.
Now that Flip 6 has been released, it may be possible to find a large discount on Flip 5. Otherwise, choose the Flip 6 since it is an improved speaker in almost every way.
Overall, it is hard to top the portability, quality, and user-friendly function of the Flip 6, especially in the sub-$150 price range.