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(Pocket-lint) - The Bluetooth speaker market has changed quite a lot since JBL’s first Flip speaker entered the market a decade ago. From built-in smart assistants to room calibration, wi-fi, waterproofing and everything in between, the list of features that can be packed into a portable speaker has grown exponentially from when a speaker with a 3.5mm jack and a USB charging point was seen as “feature packed”.

While plenty have jumped on board this bandwagon to varying degrees of success, JBL’s Flip series has somewhat kept things simple. Now in its sixth generation, the JBL Flip 6 brings with it some carefully considered tweaks and additions, but that doesn’t take away from its dedication to powerful sound on the go.

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Our quick take

There's something quite admirable about the way the JBL Flip 6 goes about its business as a small portable speaker. It doesn't aspire to more than it is, by including stacks of features that rarely get used in a product like this. Instead it focuses all of its efforts into getting good quality, powerful sound into a rugged speaker for on the go, and it absolutely succeeds.

Now in its sixth generation, it is continuing to evolve - both inside and out. For example, it now has IP67 certification for improved protection from the great outdoors, and packs a new tweeter that helps bring improved clarity and detail to its punchy, energetic performance. That comes with some downsides, and its newly ambitious high end can occasional sound harsh at top volume. However, considering this speaker can fill most rooms with toe-tapping sound with volume notches to spare, it's easily avoided.

Overall, it's a fantastic little speaker that belies its size and only builds further on the legacy of good speakers that came before it.

JBL Flip 6 review: Great sound just got better

JBL Flip 6

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Powerful sound for size
  • Clean
  • Clear midrange
  • Rugged design
  • Adjustable EQ
Against
  • Slightly harsh treble at volume
  • Battery life could be better

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Design and features

  • Dimensions: 17.8 x 6.8 x 7.2cm 
  • Weight: 550g
  • 12 hours battery life

The Flip 6 hasn’t changed a lot compared with its predecessor, or indeed the four that came before it - it’s still a cylindrical speaker, covered in fabric (in a fairly extensive range of colours) with its signature visible passive bass radiators at either end. 

It still wears its outdoor speaker credentials on its sleeve, with its rubberised end caps, but actually gets more to shout about here, with an upgrade to include dust resistance as well as water resistance, and an official IP67 rating.

Pocket-lint JBL Flip 6 review photo 8

At 550g it’s relatively lightweight without feeling cheap, and goes largely unnoticed when chucked in a bag or backpack. It’s also a great, grabbable size for on the go, sitting securely and comfortably in one hand, with a carry cord for support too. 

JBL has gone loud and proud with its branding this time round, replacing the small red JBL badge for a much bolder logo in the centre, and there’s a new rubber kickstand that stops it rolling anywhere when placed on a flat surface. 

Just above this is a very simple rubberised control panel, with buttons for power, pairing and a USB-C input for charging (the speaker, that is - the Flip 6 won’t charge your phone), plus that now sturdier feeling carry cord is anchored here too. Raised playback controls sit on the top in the same colour as the fabric, blending in nicely while still being tactile under hand, making them easy to find with touch alone. They cover play/pause and volume, as well as one click access to PartyBoost, which allows you to pair the Flip 6 with other JBL speakers - either in mono/Party mode with older generation speakers like the Charge 5 or Flip 5, or in stereo with another Flip 6.

Pocket-lint JBL Flip 6 review photo 7

This can be set up in the JBL Portable companion app, which also houses graphic EQ controls for tweaking the treble, bass or midrange should you wish.

As for what’s going on underneath all of this, the Flip 6 has had some tweaks to improve its sound too. The racetrack-shaped driver that has featured before is back again, with the same 20 watts of amplification, but it is also joined by a separate tweeter, powered by its own 10 watt amplifier for a total RMS output of 30 watts. 

Battery life stretches to around 12 hours, which isn’t bad for this size of speaker, although it is some way off the incredible 26 hours promised by the Huawei Sound Joy. It should still easily last you a good couple of days of lengthy playback though, so far from a dealbreaker (as long as you remember to charge it).

Sound

As we’ve mentioned, the JBL Flip 6 has been very keen to keep this speaker about the performance. This is a Bluetooth speaker with very few bells and whistles - it wants to play your music and sound good while it’s doing it (helped in the Flip 6 by an upgrade to support Bluetooth 5.1).

And that it does. The JBL wastes no time jumping into action when we press play on Beyoncé’s upbeat Cuff It, and it feels like this is exactly the kind of music that the Flip 6 was made for. There’s no shortage of energy in this little speaker’s presentation - even at low volume, which isn’t something that you can say often at this price. The JBL Flip 6 sticks to its character throughout.

Pocket-lint JBL Flip 6 review photo 4

Of course, push the volume here and the Flip 6 rises to the challenge without missing a beat. There’s a lot of power on hand, with a tight, punchy and full-bodied low end that sets the foundation for a confident performance throughout. It has no trouble filling a room with its sound, and truly belies its smaller size.

The midrange is also brilliantly handled, with space a-plenty, and a slightly forward presentation that ensures vocals cut through even the richest of basslines with crispness and clarity. 

There’s nothing laid back about the JBL Flip 6. It does everything it can to grab your attention and get your feet tapping, driving the music forward with a solid handle on timing across the frequencies. It doesn’t feel like a speaker you’d buy to listen to classical music on - it’s not going to be able to articulate the dynamics of dramatic orchestral sweeps as explicitly as something larger and more capable (read: more expensive) could, but if your music tastes lie in rock, pop, EDM or hip hop and R&B, your playlists will be right at home here.

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It’s only in the higher registers, and at the much higher volumes, that you might encounter a little harshness with some recordings. The new tweeter gives the Flip 6 the confidence to push higher into the treble, but while that pays off for the better the majority of the time, it can just tip it over to sounding a little uncomfortable. Thankfully its tonal and dynamic consistency across volume range means you don’t have to push the sound up to inject it with life, and the EQ setting are there for you to play around with too.

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To recap

The JBL Flip 6 is a great example of what a portable speaker in this space should offer - great rugged design and a punchy, powerful performance. It's not the most feature-packed speaker you'll find, but it does pretty much everything you would want it to - except a few more hours battery life wouldn't go amiss.

Writing by Verity Burns.
Sections JBL Speakers