JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: which is better?

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: which Bluetooth speaker is better?
(Image credit: JBL)

Looking for the best Bluetooth speaker around? Here are two contenders for the title at this price point.

The JBL Flip 5 and UE Boom 3 are rugged, portable, and sound great. in other words, they're everything you could want from a Bluetooth speaker. But which is better?

Well, as is so often the way, it all depends on what you're looking for. Here we'll run down the feature sets of both speakers, looking at which one has the edge in which area, to give you an idea of which one is the best choice for you.

Ready? Then let's begin.

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: price

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: which Bluetooth speaker is better?

(Image credit: UE)

Bluetooth speakers vary quite a bit when it comes to price. While they're generally cheaper than hi-fi speakers, some Bluetooth speakers can still cost quite a bit. On the flip side, some are cheap as chips.

These two models sit somewhere in the middle. The UE Boom 3 launched at £130 (that's about $170, or AU$230), but can now be picked up on a deal at around £100.

The JBL Flip 5 launched at £100 ($100, AU$139), but one current deal sees it go for just £88. Bargain.

**Winner** JBL Flip 5

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: battery life

JBL Flip 5 vs Ultimate Ears Boom 3: which Bluetooth speaker is better?

(Image credit: JBL)

You can often use a Bluetooth speaker plugged into the mains, but let's be honest – a big part of the appeal is the fact they work outside. And that appeal diminishes if it needs recharging every five minutes.

Thankfully that's not the case here. The Boom 3 gives you 15 hours of use before needing a juice up, while the Flip 5 comes in at just under that, at 12 hours. So a narrow victory for the UE Boom 3.

Juice up either though, and they'll last you all day.

**Winner** UE Boom 3  

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: design and build

JBL Flip 5 vs Ultimate Ears Boom 3: which Bluetooth speaker is better?

(Image credit: Future)

Visually, the two devices are very similar, thanks to their tubular designs. But there are some differences between them.

Both are waterproof to the same rating, so should withstand being submerged up to 1m in water for up to 30 minutes. But the Boom 3 is also dustproof, which adds some peace of mind if you're heading to the beach.

The Boom 3 is slightly bigger than the Flip 5, and the high-density fabric has been reworked to make it handle almost any environment. You could take it to a building site for the day and it is unlikely to have any complaints.

Despite this ruggedness, the UE Boom 3 is still small and light enough to toss in a bag to take on your travels with you. And it comes in six colours: Night (black), Sunset (red), Lagoon (blue) and Ultraviolet (purple), and two Apple-exclusive finishes of Denim (deep blue) and Cloud (light blue).

The Flip 5 also scored high for portability, though its unlit buttons can be a bit tricky to find in the dark. It too is built to last, but the Boom 3's dustproof rating just edges it for Ultimate Ears.

**Winner** UE Boom 3

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: features

JBL Flip 5 vs Ultimate Ears Boom 3: which Bluetooth speaker is better?

(Image credit: Dixons)

Both of these speakers can do more than just play music wirelessly.

Through the JBL Connect app, pressing the PartyBoost button on the Flip 5 helps you pair two PartyBoost-enabled speakers to create a stereo pair, or to link more than 100 PartyBoost-compatible speakers in mono. Though be warned: this is not the same as the Connect+ button seen on the Flip 4, Charge 4 and older JBL Bluetooth speakers.

You can't connect the Flip 4 and Flip 5 in stereo or mono mode, for starters, and you can't connect older JBL models using the same PartyBoost feature. Your options are currently limited to more Flip 5s or the Pulse 4.

The JBL app is relatively simple – you can't adjust the treble or bass, although you can rename your Flip 5 if you like.

The UE Boom 3 isn't short of tricks, either. Tapping the Magic Button on top lets you pause, play and skip tracks, while a long-press summons playlists imported from a music streaming service. That playlist feature is currently restricted to Apple Music on iOS devices and Deezer Premium on Androids, but Ultimate Ears is hoping to add more streaming services soon.

You can add and queue up your favourite playlists from those streaming services on the revamped Boom app, long-press the top button to play them and cycle through to the next list of tunes. It may sound like a bit of a gimmick, but it’s surprising how quickly this nifty feature becomes second nature to use. It beats multiple swiping to get the right playlist on your music app.

The tidy new Boom app lets you link two Boom 3s for stereo sound. Or, if you want even bigger sound, you can daisychain more than 150 Boom and Megaboom speakers (current and previous generations) for one heck of a party.

And last but not least, the Bluetooth range for the Boom 3 has been increased to 45 metres, up from 30m before.

The more advanced app, and the fact that the device itself plays nicely with previous-generation speakers from the same brand gives this round to the Boom 3.

**Winner** UE Boom 3

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: sound quality

JBL Flip 5 vs Ultimate Ears Boom 3: which Bluetooth speaker is better?

(Image credit: JBL)

The Flip 5 puts in an impressive bass performance especially given its relatively small size. But it's not just the bass that impresses, but every aspect of its sonic abilities: the Flip 5 doesn't only relay the material it’s given, but also layers and celebrates it. Guitar solos are given ample space to shine through the treble and midrange, but never at the expense of that ever-zealous bass.

The Ultimat Ears Boom 3 doesn't improve on the Boom 2. Nothing wrong there, you might think – after all, the Boom 2 was a five-star speaker – but the competition has since caught up. As such, the Boom 3 sounds a little dated.

It's a shame, because the Boom 3 certainly has a lot to like. It's exuberant, loud – we're talking loud loud – with a bold, dynamic character. If you want a speaker that gives pop and rock plenty of detail and fun, this is a real contender. The timing is precise, and tracks charge along merrily with a good amount of drive and attitude. The Boom 3 does a solid job of getting to the core of a song and it’s a likeable listen overall.

But it always sounds a touch top-heavy. It never goes uncomfortably sharp or bright, but it could do with greater richness and solidity to make it an easier sound to listen to.

**Winner** JBL Flip 5

JBL Flip 5 vs UE Boom 3: verdict

This is a difficult one to call. On paper, the Boom 3 has it. After all, it comes out top in three categories (features, design, build and battery life) compared with the Flip 5's two (sound quality and price). But plenty of people will be most interested in sound quality and price, so for them, the Flip 5 is the better buy.

If, however, you're looking for more of an overall package that lasts longer, works with more partnering speakers and that you can take to the beach without worrying about the sand playing merry hell with its innards, the UE Boom 3 is the best Bluetooth speaker for you.


Best Bluetooth speakers 2020: portable speakers for every budget

Best budget Bluetooth speakers

Read our JBL Flip 5 review

Read our UE Boom 3 review

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test

  • nodbor
    Where I work, the JBL out sells the Boom by a very large margin. I do agree that the JBL sound is better than the Boom.