The JBL Flip 2 was like that difficult second album. We awarded it four stars back in 2014 - it wasn’t quite the immediate masterpiece of the debut Flip. Number three promises to right the handful of wrongs that saw the Flip 2 drop a star.
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Build and features
We wanted more low-end weight; JBL have topped and tailed it with bass radiators. We wanted more stamina from the rechargeable battery; five hours life has doubled to become ten.
That’s without losing all that made this wireless speaker great in the first place. Eight colour options keep that sense of personality – our sample copy is a vibrant candy red, but we also particularly fancy the teal – and its portability stretches further than increased battery life.
It’s a chunky 450g – there’s a reassuring amount of meat on those bones – but positively handbag-sized. This one’s splash proof, too: ideal for wet picnics and summer camping trips.
The Flip 3 has the ability to connect three devices at once, meaning you can each take it in turn to scythe through the boredom with your own playlist.
At home, JBL Connect also gives you the option to link the Flip 3 with other compatible JBL speakers and curate your own wireless arsenal.
All that is irrelevant, of course, if sonically it’s below par. We play Ghostpoet’s Shedding Skin album, and find out rather promptly that it isn’t.
Noticing the solidity of the low end is inescapable. The off-kilter beginning of Off Peak Dreams offers up little appetisers, as bass guitar presents a couple of notes and the drum kit finds its feet, before settling into the track’s laid back but travelling rhythm.
It builds a firm stage on which Obaro Ejimiwe’s vocal can perform, though with enough detail and agility to pick out the notes of the bass line.
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The weight of that low end acts like an anchor to keep Ejimiwe’s languid, almost conversational vocals, both composed and assured. On X Marks The Spot, Nadine Shah’s vocal line keeps its ethereal quality without sounding lightweight in comparison.
The samples and jazz-like percussion in Yes, I Helped You Pack are a test for the Flip 3’s rhythm and organisation. Within the realms of what we can expect from a £100 wireless speaker, it succeeds.
Even during the somewhat freeform bridge, there is sense to be made of the recording. The loss of traceable rhythm has a musical impact, but it stays the right side of confusing.
The Flip 3 is capable of delicacy, too. We play Keaton Henson’s album Birthdays, and are reasonably impressed by the handling of the more acute dynamics. Take tracks such as 10am Gare du Norde or You: the Flip 3 is able to trace the rises and falls in the intensity of Henson’s finger picking and highlight the fragility, almost the shyness of his vocal.
It turns out a delicate and emotional performance. Likewise, it is capable of less subtle dynamic shifts, such as the explosive ending of Don’t Swim.
For comparison we use the Ultimate Ears Roll. This 2015 Award-winner is livelier and more expressive, with a noticeably more spacious soundstage. But it doesn’t have the low end of the Flip 3, meaning it lacks some of the JBL’s warmth and solidity.
The Roll isn’t lacking for kick, but it doesn’t have the same size boot as the Flip 3. In effect, the compromises made by one (as there inevitably are in a £100 wireless speaker) are not made by the other. It’s more a case of personal preference than outright superiority.
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So JBL can celebrate a return to top form with the Flip 3. If a smooth, warm sound with plenty of bass weight and punch is what you covet, you may be able to end your portable wireless speaker search here.
See all our JBL reviews
See all our wireless speaker reviews