Bose SoundLink Micro vs. JBL Flip 4: Cool Form Or Better Sound?

After weeks of testing, I determined JBL Flip 4 is a better speaker than Bose SoundLink Micro because of its superior overall sound quality. Bose SoundLink Micro sounds fantastic for its size, has more bass, and comes in a cool form factor, but it’s substantially quieter and more expensive.

I’ll compare and contrast these two portable speakers (Bose SoundLink Micro vs. JBL Flip 4) by evaluating five categories: sound, design, durability, power, and software.

JBL Flip 4: 7/10

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Sound: C+

  • It delivers stereo sound with dual passive radiators, which is one of its most significant differentiators from Bose. You can see the radiators bounce as music plays.
  • The bass is sufficient, but not as heavy as SoundLink Micro. The sound is always clean, but some will want more bass.
  • I played a wide range of music, and it consistently impressed me with its mids and highs.
  • While it doesn’t deliver omnidirectional sound, it sounds surprisingly crisp outside relative to its size. It’s a good choice for a casual cookout.
  • My biggest problem with Flip 4 is that Charge 3 is much better and only $30 more. Flip 4 seems great until you hear JBL Charge 3.

Design: B

  • It weighs a little over one pound and is about seven inches long.
  • It has a rope strap, but it’s not as practical as Bose’s rubber strap.
  • It comes in Black, Blue, Gray, Red, Teal, and White.
  • Flip 4 can sit vertically, but it’s meant to lay horizontally, even though there isn’t a base for it for sit on. It rolls until it hits the rubber control pad and stops moving. It’s not a terrible design but an interesting compromise. Listening in the car is a challenge because the sound is compromised as the speaker rolls.
  • The port cover is there to protect it from water, but it’s hard to open.
  • You can use an old-school iPod directly without Bluetooth because there’s a 3.5mm input.
  • It looks cool when the side radiators bounce as music plays.
  • The tactile buttons make it clear when you’ve activated them.
  • You choose the function of the triangle button. It can be a skip button or voice assistant button. It’d be nice to have both, like Bose, but voice assistants on portable speakers (via the phone) are useless due to the lag.
  • It has the same listed 30-foot Bluetooth range, but I got an extra five feet compared to Bose.

Durability: B+

  • The only meaningful difference from Flip 4 and its predecessor (JBL Flip 3) is the IPX7 rating. It can be submerged under a meter of water for 30 minutes, but it won’t float. If waterproofing isn’t a necessity, consider Flip 3 for a better price.
  • This is a durable speaker. It can be dropped without issues, but based on personal experience, it’s not as durable as Bose due to the exposed radiators on the side.

Power: B

  • JBL lists a playback time of 12 hours, but once the volume goes higher than 60-70%, the battery drastically decreases. You’re looking at close to four hours at max volume according to my tests, which produced six hours at 60% volume.
  • It has a 3.5 hour recharge time.

Software: D

  • The JBL Connect app is the worst. They shouldn’t have bothered. You can’t change an equalizer, manage devices, get firmware updates or get an accurate battery indicator. The only thing you can do is control the function of the triangle button.
  • You can have two devices connected simultaneously.
  • You can connect up to 100 new generation JBL speakers together that use Connect+. You can pair the speakers to be in “stereo” or “party” mode. This occasional works, but you don’t need the app to do it. JBL speakers made previously that use Connect (not Connect+) can’t pair together.

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Bose SoundLink Micro: 6/10

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Sound: C-

  • The sound is amazing for its size! The bass has some thump, and it’s not something you’d expect from a speaker this size.
  • There are one mono transducer and one passive radiator. It doesn’t produce stereo sound. In classic Bose fashion, the sound is well balanced, rich and clear.
  • It sounds best when used indoors while standing directly in front of it.
  • While the sound is clear, the volume is lacking, and sound clarity declines above 60% volume. It’s louder than the best smartphone or laptop speakers, but it’s not something I’d recommend for large or outdoor gatherings.
  • While at low volume levels I prefer SoundLink Micro to JBL Flip 4, but while at a normal volume, Micro doesn’t stack up to JBL Flip due to its size. But it’ll dominate the sound of JBL Clip or UE Wonderboom.
  • I assumed it’d be omnidirectional because the speakers face upwards, but that’s not the case. When the speaker’s flat on the table, it sounds different as you move around the table. It can even sound muddled at certain angles. It’s best to have the Bose logo facing you.

Design: A

  • It weighs 10 ounces and is about 4” x 4”, which reminds me of Echo Dot. I fell in love with this form because it’s perfect when you’re on the go.
  • It comes in Black, Bright Orange, and Midnight Blue.
  • It charges via a micro USB port. Unlike most waterproof speakers, there isn’t a hard-to-remove flap covering the ports. The waterproofing happens internally, similar to a phone with exposed ports.
  • It comes with a tear-resistant elastic strap for traveling. The strap is handy and sturdier than it appears once it’s locked in. You can strap it to backpacks, bikes, coolers, poles, shower rods, etc.
  • There isn’t a 3.5mm in port.
  • The multifunction button lets you skip songs with a double tap, pause with one tap or initiate your phone’s voice assistant with a long press.
  • I don’t love the buttons because there isn’t much feedback. For example, because the volume increases slowly as you press it and the buttons don’t feel like buttons, you can’t always tell if you pressed the button hard enough for it to register.

Durability: A

  • It has an IPX7 rating. It can be fully submerged under a meter of water for 30 minutes, but it won’t float.
  • It’s not officially listed as “shockproof” but it’s built to take a beating. I’ve seen it withstand many drop tests. The soft silicone rubber shell plays a role in its durability because there aren’t many seems or gaps.

Power: A

  • Bose lists six hours of playtime, but I found it to last more than seven hours at 60% volume and close to 12 hours at 30%. Companies underselling specs like this is unprecedented. It’s refreshing to see Bose give realistic battery times. It’s also impressive to see this much battery from something that fits in your pocket.
  • It takes four hours to fully charge.

Software: B

  • You can pair it with other Bose SoundLink speakers to create a stereo pair. Or put it into “Party Mode” that’ll play the same music source. The process of pairing and unpairing is smooth and the best you’ll see with Bluetooth speakers. However, things get messy if your SoundLink speakers are connected to multiple speakers. Make sure to disconnect all other devices to avoid issues.
  • When you turn on the speaker, it tells you the battery life and the names of the devices connected. This feedback can be disabled in the app, but it’s helpful if you’re regularly working with multiple devices.
  • You can change the auto-standby timer.
  • There’s no equalizer in the app, but I’m cool with letting Bose make sound choices for me.
  • It has a 30-foot Bluetooth range.
  • You can have two devices connected simultaneously and the Bose app remembers the previous eight devices that were paired to make the process easier. You can easily manage which two devices are connected in the Bose app, which is better than JBL’s app.
  • Bose offers firmware updates to improve the speaker, which is great, but these updates are painfully long (over an hour) and sometimes fail.

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Which is best for you?

JBL Flip 4

Get JBL Flip 4 if you want a speaker that can fill a medium-sized room with crisp sound. While JBL Flip 4 is a better value than Bose SoundLink Micro, it’s not a great investment because JBL Charge 3 (Flip’s big brother), has far superior sound and is only two inches longer than the Flip 4. Flip 4 is great until you hear Charge 3 side-by-side. If you’re leaning towards JBL, get Charge 3 for the extra $30.

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Bose SoundLink Micro

Get Bose SoundLink Micro if you want amazing sound and bass from a speaker that fits in a pocket. It’s best for personal use, rather than with friends, due to its low volume, directional sound, and distortion at high volumes. In theory, it should be good for hikers and bikers, but the sound gets lost while outside. It’s a substantial upgrade over phone or laptop speakers and an excellent pick for college dorm rooms.

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