James Stanbury

See other accessory reviews written by James Stanbury

The JBL FLIP3 portable Bluetooth speaker may not be the cheapest, but it's one to consider if sound quality is your number one priority

Overview

Playing music from your smartphone, tablet or laptop is all very well, but unless you're listening via headphones, the sound quality can be pretty thin and tinny. Fortunately there's a tried and tested solution – portable speakers!

Given the huge variety of music players on the market today, we're very glad that we can take advantage of Bluetooth wireless technology to enhance the sound. Now there is an easy way to channel all our favourite music, from practically any device, through decent little speakers. Given the size of them, we're amazed that they punch well above their weight in terms of sound quality.

We've put a good selection of the latest Bluetooth speakers to the test at Practical Caravan to find out which of them are best for caravan holidays. We tested the colourful Vibe Mushroom, which comes in blue or red and costs just £10. Then we tried out the Creative Sound Blaster Free, the Pure Voca, the Speedlink XILU, the Edifier MP211 Bluetooth speaker and more. You can compare our reviews, and the prices, at a glance here

So, what were we looking for in our portable Bluetooth speaker tests? We were keen to find speakers that gave us a good sound quality, at different volumes and provided clarity across the entire sonic range. We also looked at practical ease-of-use. How long did each speaker play for, before needing to be recharged? Could it be recharged only by USB from a computer, or could it be plugged into the mains as well? Controls and remote controls also came into our evaluation, because some speakers have volume controls and tone adjustments, while others seem to rely on the music player's own buttons. 

We looked at inputs and compatibility with various devices as well. All Bluetooth speakers use Bluetooth signals from a device as their main sound source, but some are even more versatile because they also accept analogue signals from a lead to an iPod, or a computer's headphone port, or a Walkman or DVD/video player. Others have a memory card slot and an inbuilt digital player, which turns them into a stand-alone music system. 

As a bonus, a few of the latest portable wireless Bluetooth speakers are even shower proof! So that's one less thing to worry about if you're playing music at a barbecue or picnic and a passing shower descends! 

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is the latest advancement, which looks set to overtake Bluetooth. Some of the portable speakers we've seen are compatible with NFC, which makes them just a bit more future-proof.

In this review we will focus on the JBL FLIP3 portable Bluetooth speaker, costing £69.99 at the time of our test.  

Fun seems to be the aim of this speaker and, if you don’t like the zany bright orange finish, you can choose red, pink, green, purple — or blue or grey for the more conservative among us. The great outdoors is another theme. As with some other portable Bluetooth speakers we've tested, this will cope with water as long as it’s not submerged. The manufacturers even say that the splash-proof design means you can clean it under a running tap, provided you don't immerse it completely. 

There is a built-in microphone, so that if your Bluetooth-connected smartphone rings you can answer calls wirelessly via the speaker. And of course it will play music from any Bluetooth-enabled device as well as via its little micro USB cable.

Uniquely, several of these JBL FLIP3 speakers can work off a single Bluetooth source so, at an outdoor party, one of these on each table is a welcome alternative to having a single big stereo in front. The sound quality is up there with the rival Denon, Portajoy and Edifier Bric Connect speakers, and its battery life is the usual 10 hours, thanks to its 3000mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery. 

Technical specs

Size64mm x 169mm x 64mm
Weight450g
Colours availableGreen, yellow, pink, orange, red, blue, grey, black
Shower proofYes
Battery life10 hours
Battery type3000mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery
Wireless phone/conference callsVia its speakerphone
InputsWireless, USB, jack plug
Frequency response85Hz – 20kHz
SpeakerTransducer 2 x 40mm
JBL ConnectLinks several speakers together wirelessly
SplashproofBut don't submerge it

Verdict

The JBL FLIP3 portable Bluetooth speaker is versatile and offers great sound quality. We love the fact that you can connect several of these speakers to a single source of music wirelessly. It would be great to have music at both ends of the caravan and in the awning as well. It's not the cheapest on test, however, and we've awarded it a four-star rating.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Colourful and fun
  • Use several to play the same music at both ends of the caravan
  • 10 hours of battery life
  • Shower proof
  • Micro SD slot

Cons

  • No NFC
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