When I first received the JBL Flip 3, I was first struck by its cylindrical, pill-shaped design that honestly looked like it came out of a sci-fi movie. Make no mistake, this was one hell of a looker. I received the grey version, and felt it looked classy, with an understated, industrial look, though no less beautiful for its simplicity. There are bright, even outrageous colours (yellow, orange, red, pink, blue, green) apart from the usual black or grey available for those of you who are more the “party” kind, and it’s telling that the promotional pictures involve people partying because this is really the kind of speaker one would take to a party.
It has similar functionality to the X-Mini Clear I reviewed a while ago, in that it is loud, relatively clear, and plays music from your Bluetooth enabled device, except without the flashy lights.
It’s 16.9 cm long and the diameter of the cylinder is 6.4 cm, and can easily be carried around with one hand. Weighing in at 450 g, it’s quite light, and about half the weight of the X-Mini Clear which was a whopping 920 g. 450 g is about the weight of three iPhones, so I’d say it’s quite light. But it’s definitely not something you’d bring around everywhere because it is just too big and too heavy for that – you’d have to take it out on day when you know you specifically want it, like when you’re going to a party or gonna hang out at the beach with your bros and gals. Okay, I don’t go out so much, so my ideas for when and where you can use this are limited, but you more outgoing types will surely be able to find a pill-shaped hole in your life where this fits.
Unlike the X-Mini Clear though, this is also splashproof (it doesn’t allow you to submerge it, and will only withstand splashes of water, like from a typical faucet). That is intriguing, and I am here to tell you that it works! After I tested it out by washing it with water, it still output sound as well as it did when it was new. That’s a testament to the fact that it is designed to be portable and rugged – if there’s rain, you need not worry about this. But still worry about your iPhone 6S. Yeah definitely worry about that, unless you use something from the Sony Xperia Z line like the just-released Z5. Supposedly, it has a “durable fabric material and rugged rubber housing” which is supposed to “allow your speaker to outlast all of your adventures” (taken from the website), so you know it’s meant for people who are going outdoors, maybe camping or hiking, which would definitely make the trip more enjoyable. I’ve read reports that this thing can handle a drop or two, and in such cases, the fabric material does not seem to exhibit any sign of damage, and the rubber housing remains pristine as ever, so I think based on such reports, it can handle a bit of a beating.
Though the JBL Flip 3 technically can’t, let’s dive in (hur hur) and find out about its ability to effectively transmit mechanical vibrations through a medium, in this case air, that would be deemed pleasant to the right ears – play music, in short.
In general, the sound can be very loud. It’s so loud that even at a rave, it would probably be clearly audible at maximum volume (but I wouldn’t know for sure because I don’t go to raves). What I do know is that it fills a huge room at maximum volume. Distortion is nigh on negligible, and if necessary, you can crank up the volume if you so desire. (Note that your battery will last you less time if you increase the volume). So yeah, it’s loud and will certainly function well both indoors and outdoors.
The sound is quite clear too, and it is easy to discern individual instruments in the music. The sound is certainly up there in terms of clarity. However, it does have its flaws, especially when it comes to bass. While treble is played nicely, it is sometimes drowned by the bass, which does seem artificially amped up. The bass feels artificial, like the kind you’d get by going to your phone equalizer and increasing the bass. It just doesn’t have the “thump, thump” that you’d expect, but instead has a sort of boomy effect, without providing legitimate bass. It is hard to describe it, but it feels more ambient than present, without the localised, sharp bass beats that I’ve come to expect from my own earphones. I have to confess, I thoroughly dislike its bass, which not only is bad, but also ends up taking away from the rest of the music, because the bass is also louder than it should be, and melds with the music in a way to make it slightly muddy when there’s too much bass in the song.
Piano and violin instrumentals are great here, as are other songs that are relatively low on bass – really, I think the sound quality is beautiful. But if you’re the type of person who loves bassy music (music like Boom Boom Pow) then you will most certainly want to look elsewhere.
An interesting feature of the JBL Flip 3 is its ability to link up with other JBL Connect-enabled speakers to form a huge chain all playing the same music. As you may have guessed, this is a feature called JBL Connect. It sounds cool, but I’m not sure how useful it would be considering most people do not have JBL speakers lying around to link up. And sadly, I do not have more than one JBL Flip 3, so I don’t know how it would sound or how well it would work, so you will have to take JBL at its word when it says JBL Connect works. My primary concern would be whether it would sound good. After all, this would only really make it louder, and louder doesn’t mean the sound quality is going to be any better. That’s certainly something to think about if you are considering buying a few to link up.
There are a few other miscellaneous features I have not talked about and think are worth mentioning. Firstly, kudos to JBL for designing the Flip 3 to allow for not just Bluetooth streaming, but traditional auxiliary cable input (for those less technically inclined, this basically means it has a 3.5mm audio jack which with the appropriate cable allows you to play music from devices which also have a 3.5mm audio jack like the ones on your smartphones, tablets and computers). This is welcome because Bluetooth consumes a lot of power, and it’s good to have options. However, I’m certainly not impressed that JBL did not think to include said cable with the speaker.
Another thing worth mentioning is the battery life. It has a 3000 mAh battery, which is roughly that of your phone, if you want a reference point. JBL promises about 10 hours, and in my testing this is roughly accurate. If you turn off the Bluetooth it should definitely last you the 10 hours, perhaps even more. This is a Good Thing – you wouldn’t want to be caught outside with a low battery, would you? It can definitely last a good day of outdoor activity, so I’d say it serves its function well. One thing to note is that while a micro-USB cable is included, there is no power adapter. I’d recommend you use your own phone charger, which is sufficient considering both have similar battery sizes.
I’m also a fan of the loop attached to the JBL Flip 3. It’s definitely very convenient for when you’re carrying it outside, and speaks volumes about how the engineers at JBL have thoroughly considered the user experience. It’s a small thing, but that by no means diminishes its utility. You could simply use it as a way to secure it in your hand, but you can also tie it to your bag and let it dangle while you hike, or loop it around your belt. There are definitely other use cases, but I can’t think of any right now. In any case, it really enhances its portability and adds greatly to its utility.
It’s also possible to have 3 devices connected to it simultaneously, and each device can “steal” the music-playing capability from the others. This could be good for sharing music with your other friends, or letting your friends share their music, but given that everything’s on Spotify nowadays I am not so sure how useful it is. But at least it’s there, which is a definite plus.
There are a few other gripes I have about it though. The status tones are way too loud. This occurs when you hit the maximum volume of the speaker or you turn it on or off or when you pair with it through Bluetooth. It’s a ridiculous guitar strumming sound and I honestly hate it especially since it is so loud and cannot be turned off or made softer. One other issue I have is that it does not have AptX support, which I have found to be extremely good when it comes to Bluetooth-streamed music, nor does it have NFC (which makes Bluetooth pairing easier). However, if it’s in the name of portability, I don’t really mind. The standard Bluetooth pairing is fine anyway, and pairing is quick and convenient.
And lastly, the price is SGD 179, which is a fairly reasonable price all things considered – the loud sound, clear quality and good highs. And the colours; while there are 8, in Singapore JBL is only selling 7: Black, Grey, Blue, Red, Orange, Teal and Pink. If you’re the outdoorsy type, or like to host parties or go on picnics and don’t want to lug around a radio (do people still do that?) or play crappy tinny music from your phone, or have a need for a portable speaker, this may be the one you’re looking for. Just beware: if you like bassy music, look elsewhere.
Don’t have the money or just want a chance to get the JBL Flip 3 for free? We have partnered with JBL for a giveaway! To enter the lucky draw, just post a comment under this post on our site or on Facebook, and you may be the lucky winner of the JBL Flip 3. Participants will have to comment by 30 October to be eligible for the draw, and it is open to residents residing in Singapore only. You will be notified by mid-Nov if you have won the JBL Flip 3.