There’s a reason that the JBL Flip series is one of the bestselling Bluetooth speaker ranges. They’ve managed to create tough, highly functional speakers that sound and look good, at a price that doesn’t require a second mortgage. The subject of our Flip 4 review continues this tradition, making a number of improvements over the previous incarnation.
In a crowded market, the JBL Flip 4 offers the same kind of rugged usability and features that their competitors display, but at a much more affordable price. It doesn’t excel in any one particular category but offers solid performance, functionality, and value for money.
The Flip 4 may be three years old now, but at an even lower price point, they are still worthy of investigation. So let’s take a look at what they have to offer and find out if it could be the perfect option for you…
Design & Build
The Flip 4 employs the same classic cylindrical design with passive bass radiators at each end that JBL use for their range of Bluetooth speakers. It can be either laid flat or vertically on either end, hence the name Flip.
On first sight, it looks virtually identical to the Flip 3. The main difference is that the Flip 4 uses a tightly woven mesh fabric that has received an IPX7 waterproof rating. This means that the speaker can be submerged up to a meter deep for 30 minutes. It doesn’t float by the way, so if this goes overboard in any depth, that will probably be the last you’ll see of it.
It is also dust and sand proof, adding a level of usability absent in the Flip 3, and making this highly portable speaker perfect for trips to the beach or lounging around the pool.
At just under 7 inches long and weighing just over 1lb, it will fit in any backpack without weighing you down in any noticeable way. For that reason, they also make a great speaker to take on vacation.
The JBL Flip 4 comes in a range of six colors, namely red, blue, grey, teal, white, and black. Call us boring, but we prefer the black aesthetic when it comes to Bluetooth speakers, but the choice is there if you disagree.
Volume, playback, and Bluetooth pairing controls sit atop of the speaker. The large raised buttons are easily identifiable by touch, which makes for easier use in dark conditions. At the rear, you’ll find the power button, a row of five LED lights that tell you how much juice is remaining, and the Connect+ button that allows you to sync with other JBL speakers.
A rubber port cover protects the micro USB charge port and a 3.5mm auxiliary port for wired listening. Very handy if the battery is running low.
A super handy carry chord can be used to conveniently hang the speaker anywhere, in the shower, or from the bottom of your backpack, for example.
Bluetooth pairing was a straightforward process with both the Android and iOS devices we tested pairing up quickly and efficiently. Connection remained strong around the house, even with walls and doors thrown into the equation. Outside we can report no interruptions or dropouts within a 75-foot range. After that, things started to deteriorate, but 75 feet should be more than enough for most purposes.
Up to two devices can be paired to the Flip 4 simultaneously, which is a handy feature if you have the kind of friends who constantly argue over playlists. Bingo. They can take turns now.
The Connect+ button on the rear of the speaker allows you to link up with up to 100 other compatible JBL speakers. It’s hard to imagine a situation where you’d make full use of this ability, but it’s certainly a useful feature if a couple of friends also own the correct JBL speaker. Two JBL Flip 4’s can also be linked up to create a stereo sound by individually playing either the left or right channel.
The Flip4 can also be used as a speakerphone to handle calls, and we have to say it does a very good job of this. Voices come through very clearly, and recipients of my calls reported picking up my voice clearly as long as the call was being made in a relatively quiet environment.
JBL claims an improved battery life of 12 hours continuous playback. While this was achievable when playing below 75% volume, we only managed 8 hours when playing at maximum volume. Not exactly what it says on the tin. This is definitely something you’ll want to bear in mind if you’re planning on using the Flip 4 for a whole days listening.
Considering the Flip 4’s relatively small size, it has a punchy and pleasing bass-driven sound. It’s far from the most balanced sound you will hear, but holds together well even at maximum volume. However, the bass orientated sound does leave the mid ranges a little lacking. Vocals and lead instruments sometimes feel a little overshadowed as the bass bleeds into the mids.
What you’re really getting here is a big sound that gets very loud and lends itself well to a party vibe. The focus here is definitely more on power and volume rather than audiophile refinement. This isn’t so much of a problem when it comes to Bluetooth speakers. Most, the Flip 4 included, will be used outdoors where a little more power and bass comes in handy to counter the less confined stage.
There are certainly sweeter sounding Bluetooth speakers out there, the Bose Soundlink Mini 2 springs to mind. You’ll also get a little more power out of the Beats Pill+. However, both of those options are significantly more expensive than the Flip 4. Which for such a compact speaker, has a sound that’s easily on a par with its direct and more expensive rival, the UE Boom 2.
Does the JBL Flip 4 sound better than its predecessor the Flip 3? Just about. Improved bass response and the ability to get very loud without distortion, give the Flip 4 an ever so small edge.
There’s a Flip 5?
Yes, there is. And a few key upgrades have been made. Most importantly, sound quality has been improved with a slight increase in driver size from 40 to 44mm. This gives the Flip 5 a little more clarity in the lower end, whilst still retaining a deep and resonant bass. It also increases the overall size of the unit. USB-C charging also replaces the out of date micro USB port on the Flip 5.
The JBL Flip 4 still represents good value though at over 30% cheaper in most outlets. It’s probably the better deal overall as you get the same waterproofing and battery life in a slightly more portable package. If you’ve got the extra cash floating around, the Flip 5 is the better sounding speaker, but either way, you won’t be disappointed.
JBL Flip 4 Pros & Cons
- Tough, rugged design.
- IPX7 waterproofing.
- High volume.
- Value for money.
- Mid-range a little stunted.
- Battery life could be better.
More Great Options
Not sure if the Flip 4 is for you? Do you want better sound quality and are willing to spend a little more? Or are you looking for something even cheaper?
Even though it’s three years old now, the JBL Flip 4 remains a good choice for those on a budget, especially as the price has dropped due to the arrival of the Flip 5. If you’re looking for a tough Bluetooth speaker that can pump out a surprisingly loud sound, with an IPX7 waterproof rating, the Flip 4 ticks all those boxes at a most reasonable price point.
Yes, there is superior sound quality to be found elsewhere, but this comes with a much higher price tag too. The UE Boom 2 is approximately 40% more expensive, and whilst being a great speaker in itself, it is certainly not a full 40% better. For its versatility and unbeatable value for money, the JBL Flip 4 still has a role to play in the ever-expanding Bluetooth speaker market.