JBL Flip 5 vs Flip 6: A Slightly Improved Ultra-Portable Speaker for a Decent Price

We’ve been following the JBL travel speakers closely for years now, and the Flip line is now on its sixth iteration. Once again JBL has made a few excellent, small improvements.

We’ll detail what’s different going from the Flip 5 to Flip 6 below in a nutshell and give you our take on who should pick which one.

Update History of This Article

This article was first published on December 6, 2021. Completely updated on June 14, 2022 with more complete thoughts on the JBL Flip 6.

Spec Comparison: The JBL Flip 5 vs JBL Flip 6

The Feature Differences Between the JBL Flip 5 and Flip 6

Both the JBL Flip 5 and 6 speakers are nearly the same size and weight—they’re a bit bulkier and heavier than a tall beer can. Their innards are a bit different however; here are the key feature differences to note:

  • Both have oval-shaped transducers; the JBL Flip 6 adds a 16 mm tweeter intended to boost treble clarity and crispness and overall volume.
  • The JBL Flip 5 uses the excellent Bluetooth 4.2 and the Flip 6 upgrades to Bluetooth 5.1. It is unlikely that you’ll notice a difference but we have seen some speaker brands making the same upgrade have slightly improved performance in keeping video in sync. Both should have a great Bluetooth range including through walls (so if you take a phone into the next room the sound generally won’t break).
  • Battery life is the same for both at 12 hours. This is more than enough for most uses, but if you need to be away from power for even longer you can recharge several times over from a good USB-C travel battery such as this one we reviewed.
  • The JBL Flip 5 is rated IPX7 waterproof, which is a specific commitment from JBL that the unit can withstand complete submersion under 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. This is overkill for any reasonable use. The JBL Flip 6 goes one better with an IP67 rating, which means the same for water but it is also rated to keep dust out of the unit. In the real world you should be able to get either speaker dirty and run it under water to clean it without problem.
  • Both are durably constructed and withstand drops in tests; one reviewer claimed that the rubber edging got more scuffed on the Flip 6 than Flip 5.
  • The design is slightly updated on the Flip 6; the logo is larger and there should eventually be a wider range of colors. The buttons are essentially the same.
  • The JBL Flip 6 has three equalizer controls in the app and the JBL Flip 5 does not.
  • Both the JBL Flip 5 and Flip 6 work with JBL PartyBoost, which allows you to pair two of either one together for stereo mode or up to a hundred compatible speakers for bigger sound. Note that if you have one of each mode you can pair a Flip 5 and a Flip 6 together for bigger sound (but not for stereo). This means that if you already have a JBL Flip 5 it’s certainly worth making your next speaker a JBL Flip 6 and using both when you want to animate a larger space on the go. But beware of this flaw: JBL PartyBoost speakers such as these are not compatible with older JBL tech used in speakers such as JBL Connect and Connect+.

JBL Flip 5 vs Flip 6: How They Sound

The JBL Flip 5 has been a favorite of ours for a while now. Quite a while back we compared the Flip 5 to the previous JBL Flip 4, noting the introduction of the racetrack shaped driver that now continues into the JBL Flip 6. The Flip 5 was a major step forward in producing more volume and smoother performance at the top end.

As usual with the Flip speakers, it’s important to bear in mind that small, super-portable speakers such as these can only do so much; you’ll of course get better sound if you’re willing to spend more as well as carry a larger, weightier speaker such as the JBL Charge 4 or 5 or other even larger speakers that we recommend. But the JBL Flip 5 goes plenty loud enough to fill a mid-sized living room or small outdoor patio with sound. Though they often prefer much larger speakers, consumer organizations and reviewers have rated it near the top in their sound tests for Bluetooth speakers of its size, saying that it disperses sound evenly over a wide area and provides a reasonable sense of room ambiance. The bass can be too prominent for some tastes, and not enough for others, but overall there is a reasonably steady progression from bass to treble. This is not a living room speaker—not for extremely nuanced listening—but rather more for taking your tunes with you on the go. It does this surprisingly well, with lots of oomph from a small package

Going just a bit better in the same direction, the JBL Flip 6 adds a tweeter intended to provide a bit more power and clarity at the top end. Most audiophiles and tech reviewers enjoyed how the upgrade sounds.

The JBL Flip 6 goes a bit louder than the Flip 5 and has a bit more punchy presence. This is still not a speaker for throwing a major dance party but it is fine for a small room a 5-10 person gathering at the beach.

The bass goes slightly lower on the JBL Flip 6 (JBL advertises down to 63Hz vs. 65 Hz for the Flip 5); on both speakers the bass is boosted so that its presence is as strong as can possibly be expected from a speaker that fits in your hand. This may not be to everyone’s taste but we think it’s great for most use cases for such a speaker, especially outdoors.

The JBL Flip 6 also works with the JBL Portable app to offer limited equalizer controls (just bass, mids, treble) so that you can adjust the sound to fit your sonic tastes. The Flip 5 lacks this feature.

Wrap-Up: Which JBL Flip Is For You? And getting the best price…

We opt for the JBL Flip 6 ourselves. But if a significant discount eventually becomes available on the Flip 5, we’d go for it if we were looking to save a bit of money. The JBL Flip 5 is essentially the same size and weight and is recent enough to include the key forward compatible features: USB-C charging and JBL PartyBoost for connecting more than one speaker.

JBL Flip 5
Excellent overall performance in an ultra-durable and affordable portable speaker
JBL Flip 6
The updated version but with nearly the same features; slightly better clarity and volume at top end though most listeners won’t notice a difference

Sometimes used versions of JBL Bluetooth speakers are available, including especially from Amazon in the links below. Used versions tend to sound great but we’re wary to recommend them as there is no telling how many cycles the batteries have already been through, so you may not be able to use them for long as portable speakers (though it’s not a problem if you’re just planning on plugged-in home use).