JBL has been tweaking and adjusting its Bluetooth line-up of speakers for years. Instead of coming out with completely new form factors every 12 months, it has subtly adapted its previous generations with improvements. Following a big week at IFA 2015, JBL has released the third generation Flip Bluetooth speaker. We’ve had our hands on the Flip 3 for the last few weeks and now it’s time to share our thoughts.
This go around, JBL has opted to slim down and refine the Flip. While the previous generation model was very highly-rated its design was somewhat boring. We have always been a fan of JBL’s sound so it’s refreshing to see some improvement on the exterior with this update.
For me, packaging is a huge sign of what is to come with any new product. JBL does not disappoint in this area with the Flip 3. Pulling the side fabric tab on the box lifts the lid back to reveal a black embossed JBL logo on a piece of cardboard. Underneath, you’ll find the speaker itself along with the instruction manual and microUSB charging cable all tightly ensconced in black foam.
I really appreciated JBL’s effort here. Product packaging is such an easy thing to mail in. The form-fitting packaging, fabric pull and box all feel higher-end than its $99 price tag. JBL has pre-charged the speaker to roughly 75% its capacity, so you’ll be able to get listening right away. It is rated for 10 hours of playback on a full charge. Additionally, it can pump out eight watts of sound which is an upgrade from the prevoius generation’s six and has dual-passive bass radiators on each end.
Much like other speakers in JBL’s line-up, the Flip 3 is splashproof. It can sit in a vertical or horizontal position, weighs just under a pound and is available in colors all together (more on that later). A lanyard is included for carrying the speaker from locale to locale.
Now to my biggest annoyance with JBL’s new speaker: when the Flip 3 is powered on, off or connected to a new device an electric guitar sound emits from the speaker. It’s a small annoyance in the big picture, but it’s really cheesy. A simple beep would do the job.
JBL uses Bluetooth 4.1 technology to wirelessly connect up to three devices at once. Additionally, it has an auxiliary 3.5mm input for audio and the aforementioned microUSB port for charging. Setup is straight forward, as with most wireless options at this point. Simply press the Bluetooth button, find the wireless settings on your device and pair the two together. The Flip 3 does include JBL’s Connect App (iOS and Android) to wirelessly pair multiple speakers together to create a stereo setup.
Like any Bluetooth speaker on the market, each model has a purpose. JBL’s Flip 3 is an excellent companion for listening in small spaces like a kitchen, bathroom or entry-way. It’s able to pump out enough sound in close-quarters but would require multiple speakers paired together in larger open spaces. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been using the Flip 3 to listen to podcasts while I prepare dinner. It’s an upgrade from my iPhone 6 speakers that are often limited to one direction and not are not ideal for activities that require movement around a room.
When it comes to music playback, the Flip 3 does a decent job. Distortion occurs at higher-levels with bass heavy tracks. For acoustic and vocal-focused songs, there is no issue. As I said before, it’s all about knowing the sweet spot for each speaker. I wouldn’t take this model outside or on the boat but that is why JBL makes the Charge 2+ and the upcoming Xtreme. But for a child’s room or other small spaces, it does the job just fine.
Other Features and Conclusion:
JBL has included speakerphone functionality built-in to the Flip 3. While some may find this to be helpful, it’s a minor feature in my eyes. I would have rather JBL opted for a play/pause button instead of the answer/end call that is next to the volume controls.
In comparison, Logitech’s UE Roll 360 speaker is available for the same price and is completely waterproof. We loved that speaker during our testing but it ultimately serves a different purpose. If you’re looking for an outdoor option, we’d recommend the Roll but for indoor applications the Flip 3 is our choice. Those looking for more sound would be wise to take a peak at the Charge 2+ from JBL. For $30 more, you get a more robust option that fits more applications. We positively reviewed the Charge 2+ as a solid Bluetooth speaker and chose it as one of our top-picks.