JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: which Bluetooth speaker is better?

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: which Bluetooth speaker is better?
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, JBL is top dog. It has all bases covered, from chunky devices that can juice up your phone, to rugged units built to survive the elements. The Flip range fits in just above the very cheapest Bluetooth speakers in JBL's portfolio.

Its small size makes Flip portable and easy to slip into a bag or coat pocket. It's at the cheaper end of the market too and although it might forego extras like a microphone and speakerphone functionality, JBL's Flip speaker has still proved a consistent performer over the years.

Both the latest model in the family, the Flip 6 and its predecessor, the Flip 5 have earned five stars in our reviews, and even though it's been superseded, the price of the Flip 5 has dropped which makes it even more appealing.

So which should you buy? Let's look at the differences.

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: price

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: price

The new JBL Flip 6 isn't that much pricier than the two-year-old Flip 5. (Image credit: JBL)

The JBL Flip 5 is the older of the two speakers, and launched at £100 / $100 / AU$139 back in 2019. It can now be picked up for as little as £75 in the UK.

The Flip 6 launched in early 2022 but has already been discounted from its launch price of £130 / $130 / AU$200. Shop around, and you can find it under £100 in the UK, and under $100 in the US.

The good news continues – Bluetooth speakers are usually heavily discounted during big sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So keep a look out – you could find both models even cheaper.

Winner: JBL Flip 5

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: design

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: design

As you can see, the Flip 5 has a more modest design than the model that replaces it. (Image credit: JBL)

Both devices are built to withstand the elements, hence they have rubberised sections to protect them from knocks. But unlike some outdoorsy speakers, they're still pretty slim and stylish with it.

The Flip 5 is waterproof to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes. The Flip 6 matches that, but adds dustproofing, though neither has a cover for its USB-C charging port.

The Flip 5 is designed to be laid lengthways or stood on its end, but do the latter and it doesn't stay perfectly upright because of its odd-shaped ends. JBL fixed this with the Flip 6, thanks to the addition of a small rubber foot.

Visually, the two speakers are very similar. They share the same ruggedised rubber accents, though the Flip 6 tones this down a bit. The Flip 6 has the same button layout as the Flip 5, but they're mounted on a slightly smaller rubber panel that no longer spans the entire length of the speaker.

The 6's wrist strap is now a continuous loop of cord rather than two strands fastened with a fancy knot, and it now features a useful slider for better security around your wrist. As well as some new colourways, JBL has also gone for a bigger metallic branding this time, but it is still a refined choice and completes a functional yet good-looking build.

Winner: JBL Flip 6

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: features

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: features

Dust-proofing, adjustable equaliser, Bluetooth 5.1... the Flip 6 has plenty of features missing from the Flip 5. (Image credit: JBL)

But it's what's on the inside that counts, right? Well the JBL Flip 6 has been upgraded inside as well as out.

It keeps the same 44mm racetrack-shaped driver as the JBL Flip 5, driven by the same 20W of amplification, but now has a separate tweeter, which is powered by a dedicated 10W amplifier. This does add some weight, but not much – the Flip 6 only weighs 10g more than its predecessor.

The Flip 6 retains the Flip 5's 4800mAh battery, with the same 12-hour runtime and recharging time of 2.5 hours.

Both devices are compatible with the JBL Connect app, which adds some functionality. Press the PartyBoost button on either speaker, and you can pair it with another compatible JBL unit to play in stereo (anything older than the Flip 5 isn't compatible, so don't expect your Flip 4 to join in the fun – and you can't pair a Flip 5 and 6 to play in stereo, as they have to be the same model, unfortunately). You can also use this feature to link over 100 speakers in mono, and here they don't have to be the same model. Imagine the noise.

The app is pretty simple, and now lets you alter the treble, mid and bass response.

The Flip 6 supports Bluetooth 5.1, and so can support two devices at once. That means you can play tunes wirelessly from a different device without having to unpair your main one and re-pair the other every time.

There are some omissions. Neither can double as a hands-free device for calls, nor can they take a cable via an aux-in for wired listening. They also lack support for voice-activated personal assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa. But if it's plain, old-fashioned great sound you want, you've come to the right place.

Winner: JBL Flip 6

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: sound quality

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: sound quality

The Flip 5 picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2020, largely due to its sound quality. (Image credit: JBL)

When we reviewed it, the Flip 5 was one of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers to pass through our testing labs. That's why it picked up a 2020 What Hi-Fi? Award. But does the Flip 6 sound even better?

It has its work cut out. The Flip 5 has a rock-solid wireless connection that never dropped out during our extensive testing. The speaker puts in an impressively weighty performance, but it's not too bassy. It doesn't just relay the music it's given, but layers and celebrates it, with a real sense of openness. 

But the Flip 6 takes this a step further. It packs plenty of oomph and energy across the frequencies, with a snappier and more full-bodied low end than its predecessor. The sound is a touch cleaner and more cohesive, with an even greater sense of spaciousness.

All in all, the JBL Flip 6 is the better listen. But beware – it's not as forgiving as the JBL Flip 5, and will expose the harshness of any sub-par recordings more. Make sure your source material is up to scratch.

Winner: JBL Flip 6

JBL Flip 6 vs Flip 5: verdict

For us, the JBL Flip 6 is the clear winner here. It sounds better and is more versatile thanks to EQ tweaking within the app. It's not much pricier, either, and adds dust-proofing and Bluetooth 5 to its skillset.

The one downside is that its sonic profile is so clear, it tends to expose any imperfections within the source material. This is just worth bearing in mind if you're dealing with sub-par music files.

But the Flip 5 is still a great buy. Dependable, beautiful sounding, and now more affordable than ever, it's a brilliant option if your budget won't stretch to the Flip 6.

MORE:

Our pick of the best Bluetooth speakers for every budget

Want a bigger Bluetooth speaker? Read our JBL Charge 5 review

Or our JBL Charge 5 vs Flip 6 Bluetooth speaker battle

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.