New year, new tech to get excited about. The CES 2024 highlights this week have been plentiful, not least for lovers of TV, audio and, as it so happens, small yellow robots that can control your home's heating and take care of your pooch when you're out at work.
JBL has made its own contributions to the technology show's product launch proceedings, launching a trio of Bluetooth speakers – the miniature Clip 5, the even dinkier Go 4 and the much-anticipated, very powerful, Xtreme 4. All in all, these latest, updated versions of three proven and popular speakers represent a relatively decent showing from the US brand – one very much in line with what we’d expect from a company that has built its reputation predominantly on rugged, portable speakers at competitive prices.
What wasn't unveiled at CES 2024, and which saw some shoulders around the What Hi-Fi? office sag with deflated disappointment, however, was the announcement of a new generation of JBL’s consistently excellent Flip speaker. Indeed, a Flip 7 – a successor to the current Flip 6 – should be due any day now if you examine the company’s general pattern of releases.
The truly excellent Flip 5 dropped at the beginning of August 2019, whereas the equally outstanding Flip 6 landed at the tail end of 2021, meaning that historically there are roughly two years between the release of each iteration. It thus follows that we’re overdue a seventh instalment, so it wasn’t unreasonable to expect its grand arrival at CES 2024.
Why am I pining for the Flip 7's arrival? Well, because it could well become one of the – if not the – year’s best portable speakers. If JBL’s track record with its previous iterations is anything to go by, it has the potential to be a true class leader in the popular £/$100 market. Currently, we find the next-model-up Charge 5 to be the most appetising of the two for its better balance of price and performance, hence its What Hi-Fi? Award 2023 win – but we would love for the more affordable Flip to regain its superiority as the better-value unit. After all, more sound for fewer pounds (or dollars) is always welcome.
The two-generations-old Flip 5 – still sold online, albeit in its final numbers – continues to deliver a competitive sound for its discounted price, even if the succeeding Flip 6, which picked up the musical mantle by adding extra layers of detail, musicality and bolstered feature set, costs only a shade more.
That leaves us wondering just how great a Flip 7 could be if it continued to work upon the groundwork laid down by two five-star predecessors. The Flip 5 and Flip 6 may be superb, but they’re by no means perfect, so a seventh-gen model could potentially rectify some of the minor drawbacks besetting the established model.
Battery life, for example, could certainly be bumped up a little considering that was an area in which the Flip 6 failed to boost the numbers already laid down by its 2019-released precursor. With the Xtreme 4 launching with Auracast, this could’ve been a great way to introduce the Flip 7 to the market with that same leading tech. And if anyone can find a way to improve sound quality from a small speaker even further, it's JBL. Perhaps some more on-unit controls or just some added visual touches to spice up an already tasty recipe would also go some way to making the Flip 7 the best speaker that JBL has ever made.
Having owned the Flip 5 and Flip 6 and spent a good deal of time with the Charge 5 (my friends occasionally have excellent taste in audio), I can confidently attest to how nice JBL's finest portables are to live with. Not only are they easy to use and a pleasure to behold, but their robust, enthusiastic sound is capable of invigorating any given situation with thrilling audio without the fuss. As fuss-free, social-oriented units for all, they're second to none.
So yes, I’m excited to see what the future holds for the JBL Flip line and the (surely) imminent unveiling of the Flip 7. It’s a shame the much-anticipated portable didn't appear at CES 2024, but when it does, it genuinely has the potential to be a bona fide world-beater.
The only thing that can really stop JBL, it seems, is the dreaded curse of complacency. Avoid falling into that trap, and I'm tipping the Flip 7 to be one of the year's finest affordable audio releases.
Read our original Flip 6 review
And our JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi review
Which is best? Witness our JBL Charge 5 vs Flip 6 Bluetooth speaker battle
Best Bluetooth speakers: portable speakers for every budget