JBL Flip 4 vs Flip 5: Is the New Version Worth It?


The JBL Flip 5 was released August 1, 2019 as an update to the JBL Flip 4 — already one of the better affordable portable Bluetooth speakers out there.

While the Flip 4 was not our very top-choice small Bluetooth speaker for travel, it was near the top of the list, and its lower price can make it a fantastic alternative.

We’ve compiled the critics and consumer organizations takes on it and its predecessor, the JBL Flip 4, into one mega-meta-review comparing the two, to help you decide.

First a comparison chart, and we’ll follow that with our analysis of whether it might be worth getting the new model, or just picking up the older (and cheaper!) Flip 4.

Update history of this article

First version published January 11, 2019. Thoroughly updated on July 11, 2019, with all info now available. Updated again on July 19 with newer information. Updated on Oct. 29, 2019 with more meta-opinions.

JBL Flip 4 and JBL Flip 5 Compared Side-by-Side

Is the JBL Flip 5 Upgrade Worthwhile?

It’s never a sure thing that an upgrade will sound better than the model that preceded it. This is true for JBL speakers themselves in fact; the JBL Flip 4 was widely seen as an improvement over the Flip 3, but the JBL Charge 3 was often panned by critics for not sounding as good as the model prior, the JBL Charge 2+.

The various audio and tech geeks who have carefully listened to the Flip 4 gave it generally high marks for even performance and strong volume.

The Flip 5 does sound better; in particular it goes louder and has stronger, punchier, and more convincing bass. Vocals stand forward and are prominent, and the high end doesn’t distort, even at top volumes (and it goes incredibly loud for its petite size). The new racetrack audio driver has been revamped to provide crisper definition.

There are various takes so far on the Flip 5 from others. It has been opined that the Flip 5 has excellent, appealing bass but that the clarity is not quite as strong as for example the Bose Revolve or Revolve+ — though those are much more expensive. And one audiophile YouTuber feels however that the vocals snap more on the JBL Flip 4 and that the 4 has a better soundstage than the 5. So far the Flip 5 is considered a great or even best option for its size and price, but we’ll continue to add an overview of critics’ opinions in this space as more come in the next weeks.

Some of the extra speaker power means more battery drain, but the JBL Flip 5 has a much bigger battery to match, at 4800 mAh (compared to the Flip 4’s 3000 mAh). That’s why the overall advertised battery life is the same in the end for both speakers: 12 hours. The Flip 5 can play at its highest volume for 10 hours.

The other obvious difference is the USB-C port on the Flip 5, as opposed to the old, trusty mini USB-B jack that we’re used to on the Flip 4. So it’s a bit more future-proof, and the new port is waterproof and doesn’t need a cover flap as the JBL Flip 4’s mini-USB did. The lack of a flap means one less thing that can break, and the USB-C also means that you’ll be able to use the same charging cable as you do with other such phones and computers purchased in the past year or two.

As for that waterproofing, both the Flip 4 and Flip 5 are IPX7 waterproof, meaning that they can withstand a 30-minute dunking. You shouldn’t listen to them underwater, but if they fall in the pool or sit in the shower with you, it’s not a problem.

Note that the JBL Flip 4 and Flip 5 do not float; for a similar floating speaker in the same price range, go for the excellent Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2.

The JBL Flip 5 does not have a speakerphone. (It was originally announced to include one, but JBL in the end has not included that feature.) So if you love to make calls through your speaker you’ll have to go for the Flip 4 instead, which does have a speakerphone. In any case, we think generally most people are happier using the speakerphone function directly on your phone, rather than routing calls through a separate speaker.

Like the Flip 4, the Flip 5 comes in a very wide range of colors.

If you’re looking to pair your new speaker with older JBL speakers, note that the technology for doing so has changed. The JBL Flip 4 is compatible with Connect+ speakers, and the JBL Flip 5 is only compatible with the newer JBL standard, PartyBoost, which offers a way to create true stereo on the go. JBL is not expected to release firmware updates to change older Connect+ speakers over to the PartyBoost system.

Wrap-Up: So What’s Right for You?

There are always newer, greater things on the horizon. Because Bluetooth speakers contain batteries, and all batteries have a limited number of recharges in their lifespans, you’re usually going to have to replace your speaker after 2-5 years. So this is not a decision for life.

The Flip 5 sounds more powerful, crisper, and goes louder thanks to its improved driver, and USB-C charging is a plus if you’re using that for your other devices. If this is worth the extra few bucks, go for it, but the Flip 4 is hardly a bad choice.

JBL Flip 4
Strong, even performance in a small, convenient package, 12-hour battery
JBL Flip 5
Somewhat more clarity, especially at top volumes; convincing bass for its small size; improved, more powerful driver and battery, USB-C charging

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7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    hugo
    2019-10-05
    Reply

    mate.. i had the flip 4 and i loved it. unfortunately, i lost it somewhere then I had to buy the flip 5 because they took off the 4 from stores. It’s not even by far as good as the preview version which had crispy highs and beautiful mids with just the amount of bass that its size can hold.. which becomes perfect when the speakers as close to any corner walls. the definition and clarity of the sound was quite impressive.

    the flip 5 instead has the tipical forced bass that you expect from an average speaker not focus on quality. the sound is tangled and stuffy.

    If flip 5 was 79 dollars and flip 4 129… i would pay the difference for sure.. but for now, I’m regretted and disappointed.

  2. Avatar
    Stuart
    2019-09-14
    Reply

    BIG mistake not having speakerphone like the Flip 4. Won’t be upgrading because of that. Thanks for your review.

    • Avatar
      Roy Eastham
      2019-11-04
      Reply

      I have Sony SRS XB12 with speakerphone and input jack!

  3. Avatar
    Scot
    2019-08-02
    Reply

    Thanks for the review. I think I will stick with my Flip 4’s for now. It is really disappointing that JBL keeps changing their technology so that you cannot pair the speakers. I started with the Flip 3. The 4’s do not pair with the 3’s. Now it seems the 5’s don’t pair with the 4’s.

    I have never had any issue’s with the sound of the 4 or 3 as a matter of fact. I do have the Sony XB30, which does have more bass, but the sound does not compare to the JBL’s.

    Thanks for the great write up.

  4. Avatar
    albert close
    2019-07-31
    Reply

    Mose, thanks for the evaluation. Just unpacked my new Flip´5 and was dismayed with both the lack of an external jack, which means I cannot plug it to my computer, and its inability to pair with my not-so-old Flip 4. This is ridiculous, really cannot see how HK/JBL would choose to change technologies between two releases of basically the same product. All in all the sound is a little better, bit more clear, more bass and louder, but I think I will still be using the Flip 4 more often, including the speakerphone which is missing on the Flip 5. Writing from Brazil and as music goes forro is a very local thing, really not big country-wise. Check out Maria Gadu, Tim Maia and Ultraje a Rigor for a flavor of Brazilian vast array of music stiles

    • Mose
      2019-07-31
      Reply

      I like some of those musicians too, well Tim Maia anyway!

      You’re mentioning things about the speakers that are covered in the article — it sounds like you may have only found your way to the article after your purchase? Glad to hear you agree about the better sound, sorry to hear you’re disappointed with the lack of speakerphone and aux in. Those are indeed the differences.

    • Avatar
      2019-08-13
      Reply

      Hi Albert, I am deciding between the Flip 4 and the Flip 5 and just want to make sure that if I connect and play music from my iPhone on the Flip 4, that the speakerphone won’t play the sound from incoming calls, etc. if I have the phone on silent. Thanks!

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