The first improvement that the JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker has made over its predecessor is in its waterproofing. The Flip 4 can be plunged under the surface until your heart’s content. It’s two-thirds the length of a school ruler and, at 18,16oz/ 515g (about as heavy as a football) shouldn’t be any inconvenience to carry around.
Impressively, JBL has also put a 3.5mm input on the speaker, hidden under a rubber flap alongside its micro-USB charging port, as a supplement to its Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity. Activating the Bluetooth is easy; just hold down the dedicated button on the top of the speaker, next to the playback controls. Bluetooth 4.2 also means that you can connect up to two devices to it at any time.
JBL has managed to squeeze a little more juice out of the 3000mAh battery with more efficient amplification and circuitry, giving the JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker a 12-hour battery life.
For those wanting a bit more volume, you can pair multiple Flip 4s together using the JBL Connect app. If you’ve got at least two speakers, you can make them play the same song simultaneously, or set one of them as the left channel and one as the right for a greater sense of scale. For the moment, this only works with other Flip 4 speakers, as only they support JBL’s Connect+ function, so you won’t be able to connect a Flip 4 to a Flip 3.
The JBL Connect app also gives you a bit of customisation over what the speaker’s buttons do. Specifically, you can change the play/pause button to activate your smartphone’s voice assistant, and take calls using the Flip 4’s inbuilt microphone. Unfortunately, despite its sophisticated design, there isn’t quite the same degree of sophistication in its sound quality. It’s good, but JBL has a strong reputation and we expect just a little more.
Listening to a full-on orchestra movie soundtrack, the brass horns come in with a decent stride, the high blasts confidently fill the room and, importantly, there isn’t any sense of harshness or sharpness even at higher volume levels. There’s certainly enough space in its presentation; every instrument gets its place and there’s never a feeling that one part of the frequency range is stepping over the mark. Drums, horns and strings remain distinct and the overall presentation is surprisingly wide too, especially from a speaker so small in stature.
It times nicely too, keeping up with rapid pop and fist-pumping rock as well as it handles slower stuff. Your feet should be tapping in no time.
The JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker is a good portable speaker, intuitive to use, with pretty solid sound quality, and small enough to slip into the side pocket of any rucksack. While other speakers might take pole position in pure sound quality, we’d still be happy to take this one on our travels.
If you’re shopping for your first waterproof Bluetooth speaker and don’t want to spend a ton of money, there hasn’t been a better time do so. If practicality is as important as sound quality, the JBL Flip 4 becomes much more compelling. Its water resistance is great, the thick rubber is hardy, battery life is good and a built-in strap is handy. The JBL Flip 4 isn’t the most refined speaker, but it is punchy and super-versatile