JBL Flip 3 Portable Speaker [REVIEW]

April 12, 2016

12:36 pm

Portable, pill- or tube-shaped speakers are not new to the market, but they are certainly getting better sound, performance, and being driven to a more affordable price point. The JBL Flip 3 is below the premium price of the Beats Pill, has similar features, and even looks better than it.

In the box you get the speaker and a USB charging cable, but it does leave out a method for plugging it directly into the wall. You may call that a negative point, I say good riddance to one more piece of plastic to add to the charging pile. The packaging looks great, the color options are vast, and the sound really pumps out of this thing.

Functionality and Performance of the JBL Flip 3

JBL Flip 3

The sound quality from this little portable speaker is excellent for the price point. Beat’s Pill has been out for years, JBL has had two prior versions to this one, even in your impulse buy line you can find tiny bluetooth connected speakers now. However, the JBL Flip 3 has the best sound quality for this type of speaker on the market. Without comparing apples to oranges, the bass sounds good, and the treble is great. I also love the visual

Speakerphone

Sure, smartphones have built in speakerphone capabilities now, but throw in an external speaker and you can fill a small conference room. The call quality through the Flip sounds great, as does the mic quality for those on the receiving end.

Battery life

One of the biggest issues that plagues portables is a lack of power. For the JBL Flip 3, you can pump a solid 8 hours out of the speaker between charges, and if you adjust your volume a bit you can get up to an extra two hours of music. It takes about three and a half hours to fully recharge. There are also light indicators on the speaker to help show what the battery level is at, which oddly enough many other competing speakers don’t have.

Durability

Although more portable speakers are moving towards the rugged, waterproof design, the Flip 3 falls short here.

At its price point, there are quite a few other rugged portable speakers that cater to the same audience, but can take a bit more of a beating. The Flip 3 is designed to take some splash damage, which means a light rain, sweat, or perhaps a beer getting knocked over on it while grilling. It can’t be submerged, it can’t take a lot of fall damage, and you probably should avoid charging it outside while in the rain.

Connectivity

One of the more important features of portable speakers is it’s connectivity. With Bluetooth you are a bit more limited, and wifi connected speakers tend to be more costly. The Flip 3 uses Bluetooth 4.1 which has a standard range of about 30 meters. If you are going to be outside grilling, connecting it to your phone may make that a bit of a challenge if you plan on keeping it with you. With that, you may want to connect it to a bluetooth connected receiver, TV, iPad or anything else that you don’t plan on carting around with you.

Beyond Bluetooth, the Flip 3 also has the new JBL Connect feature. This allows you to connect two of the speakers together (or another compatible JBL speaker), for twice the sound. Although using the relevant app is not required, it does add a few cool features. Through the app you can set each speaker to play as either the left or right channel, creating a more robust surround sound experience.

Design

There are a ton of tube shaped and small bluetooth connected speakers on the market, but this has a really simple, sleek design. It also comes in eight different colors Due to it’s splash proofing it has rubber seals, surrounded by a smooth matte black trim, and your typical speaker mesh. Compared to the previous two versions, the design received a major upgrade and overall looks great.

The JBL Bass Radiators add a great visual element to an otherwise saturated market of speakers. I tested the speaker with a wide range of music genres, and it’s pretty awesome to watch the side radiators start to pump as the music flows through them. With that said, placing the speaker vertically can affect audio output a bit, but not too much. Personally I would recommend laying it flat regardless.

Pros and Cons

Plus

  • Great sound quality overall
  • Splash proof
  • JBL Connect: stereo mode, more controls, two speakers

Minus

  • System sounds can’t be disabled
  • Not as durable as other portable speakers in price range

Recommended to Buy

Absolutely. The JBL Flip 3 gets a 4.5 out of 5. The less than perfect score is due to it’s slightly less durability when compared to other portable speakers at this price point, but has superior sound quality and loudness.

Overall Thoughts

Overall the JBL Flip 3 is likely one of the best portable speakers you’ll find at this price point and functionality. It’s general durable, can handle a bit of water, has great sound, solid bass, and the price point is just right. It may not make as much sense to buy two for the stereo feature based on the combined price point, but if you want a robust sound experience and still be portable, they will certainly do the job.

Price: $100

Where to buy: JBL, Amazon, BestBuy

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he’s likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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