Portable speakers have come a long way. The bulky, iconic boomboxes of the ’80s have given way to smaller, more streamlined devices with better sound technology.
The JBL Flip series is a good example of a modern, portable speaker that packs rich sound into a small body. But before you decide to purchase one, consider our head-to-head comparison between the JBL Flip 2 and its newer version, the JBL Flip 3, to help determine which is right for you.
The speakers: At a glance
What we found: The JBL Flip 2 and JBL Flip 3 are similar speakers, but they have some notable differences.
With both devices, the speaker grill wraps around the 1-pound, tube-shaped body. The tubular design makes both Flip models easy to carry.
The Flip 2 is priced at $79.95 and the Flip 3 at $99.95 on JBL’s website, though you can find both on Amazon for less.
Which device is right for you depends on how you plan on using it. The Flip 2 is a great option for home listening, while the Flip 3 is versatile and can be taken anywhere.
We evaluated both the JBL Flip 2 and 3 to help outline which one is the best fit.
|JBL Flip 2||JBL Flip 3|
|Price||$79.95 from JBL||$99.95 from JBL|
|Color||Black, blue, red, white, yellow||Yellow, teal, red, pink, orange, gray, blue, black|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, AUX cord||Bluetooth, AUX cord|
|Dimensions||1 pound, 2.5 x 6.3 x 2.5 inches||1 pound, 2.5 x 6.6 x 2.5 inches|
|JBL Connect capability||No||Yes|
|Unboxed||USB adapter, cable, carrying case, quick-start guide||Micro USB cable, quick-start guide|
|Buy on Amazon|
The speakers: Up close and personal
JBL Flip 2
NerdWallet takes you shopping: The JBL Flip 2 houses two small drivers and a built-in bass port. Reviewers said that the speaker delivers a room-filling sound with balanced bass, mids and treble at any volume. Other reviews, however, said that the bass tends to drown out the other levels when played at higher volumes.
The Flip 2’s body features only power and volume controls because users control the music from their devices via Bluetooth. Users like the battery indicator lights but also said the Flip 2 lacks a long battery life. After one full charge, the Flip 2 can play up to five hours of nonstop music, which may or may not be enough, depending on where you’re using it.
It comes with a carrying case, which implies it’s good for those on the go, but if you’re not close to a power source or don’t carry a portable one with you, the Flip 2 might not be a good choice for long outdoor trips.
Good fit for: First-time speaker buyers who plan to use the speaker at home. The JBL Flip 2 is a great speaker to use in an office, kitchen or bedroom, where you can keep it close to a power source, but also would work for occasional short outdoor excursions.
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JBL Flip 3
NerdWallet takes you shopping: Users said they liked the Flip series because the speakers felt durable and well-constructed. JBL takes that tough exterior to another level by making the Flip 3 splashproof — it can even be cleaned with running tap water. Couple that with a 10-hour battery life, and the Flip 3 is an all-weather, all-purpose speaker that can go anywhere.
The JBL Flip 3 is also compatible with the JBL Connect feature, which allows users to daisy-chain multiple speakers together, even with other models such as the JBL Xtreme, Charge 3 or Pulse 2. Users said this was a great feature for outdoor listening, noting that the sound quality really shined with multiple JBLs at work.
As far as sound goes, there were few complaints regarding quality. Many reviews said the Flip 3 filled rooms with no trouble. However, some users experienced white noise and distortions at higher volume levels; a few others said their speakers sounded blown out when playing at the max volume.
Good fit for: People looking for a durable speaker to soundtrack their outdoor adventures. Even though the Flip 3 doesn’t come with a carrying case like the Flip 2, JBL makes its portable speakers rugged enough to withstand short drops. The splashproof feature makes this speaker a summertime essential for all outdoor activities — after all, music makes everything better.
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Before you buy
Before buying a speaker, make sure your phone is Bluetooth compatible. Even though both Flip speakers have auxiliary cords, the wireless connectivity adds value and convenience.
If you plan on bringing your speaker with you while you travel or spend time with friends, the JBL Flip 3 would be a good option thanks to its long battery life and splashproof body. Linking with other speakers is a nice feature to create your own surround-sound experience.
On sound alone, the JBL Flip 2 is worth the investment. Even though the JBL Flip 2 has fewer features than the Flip 3, it’s a great speaker for the home. It can sit perfectly on a kitchen counter, work desk or wall shelf and deliver for your listening pleasure.
Nina Tabios is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected].