At first glance, the JBL Flip 4 speaker is just another a waterproof-ish portable Bluetooth speaker. But with the prestige of the JBL brand behind it, I was hopeful that it might stand out as being better than most. I wasn’t disappointed.
The JBL Flip 4 is essentially a cylinder in shape, 175mm long and around 70mm in diameter (one side, which bears the controls, is a little flatter and wider). It comes with a kind of rubberised fabric finish, available in six colours. The review one was red.
The speaker is rated at IPX7 waterproofing, which means it can survive up to half an hour in less than a metre of water. It’s not for swimming, but a whoopsie ought not destroy it.
Inside are two 40mm “Transducers” as JBL calls them. Which means little speaker drivers. Each has eight watts of power available. It’s portable, which means a built in battery. In this case it’s a Lithium-ion battery rated at 3000mAh and 3.7 volts. JBL says that the unit takes three and a half hours to charge, and is good for “up to 12 hours (varies by volume level and audio content)” playing time.
While it’s essentially a Bluetooth speaker, it has the nice touch of having a regular analogue audio input. Got an old iPod Classic? Yes, you can use this speaker.
Power is via a Micro-B USB socket which, like the analogue input, is hidden under a rubber cover for water proofing. If the proximity of water isn’t an issue, you can leave the speaker plugged into a power source all the time and it will work fine.
On the back are buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, play/pause and volume up and down. The speaker has a microphone so that you can use it as a hands-free device with smart phones.
JBL doesn’t specify the codecs implemented, so we can safely assume that neither of the higher quality – AAC and aptX – codecs are available. Instead the standard SBC codec will be used. (Codec stands for compression/decompression – the scheme that squeezes the music down tightly enough so it will flow across the modest bandwidth available to Bluetooth.)
JBL specifies the frequency response of the unit as 70 to 20,000 hertz. That bottom end is a bold claim for such a small device. What makes it possible is the use of two passive radiators. Each end of the cylinder that constitutes the speaker has a 40mm radiator in it. These pump fairly furiously whenever music is playing.
A passive radiator is a device that tunes the speaker to makes sure bass energy is not wasted.
You can pair two source devices to the speaker at once. You can also meld lots of the JBL Flip 4 speakers into an array. Up to a hundred can be joined for what ought to be fairly thunderous sound.
The JBL Flip 4 weighs just a touch over 500 grams. It comes with a short colour-matched cord attached. This can be used as a wrist strap. It also comes with a bright orange USB charge cable.
I continue to be amazed by the bass that consumer electronics companies are now capable of making tiny loudspeakers produce. It may not be the highest of fidelity, the lowest in distortion, but a respectable bass fill simply makes every thing seem more real.