JBL makes some of the best Bluetooth speakers on the planet, and its latest model is no different; the JBL Flip 6 is a simple, great-sounding, and rugged speaker that works just as well indoors as it does outdoors.
As great as we think the JBL Flip 6 is, it is missing one feature that outdoorsy types may find useful: a built-in phone charger.
If that’s something you need, there is a JBL portable speaker out there for you. The JBL Charge 5 comes with many of the same specs as the Flip 6, but adds in a USB-A port that you can use to top-up your other devices when you’re away from a power outlet.
But, is a built-in charger worth paying extra for? And, should you sacrifice a lighter build for the ability to top up your phone on the move?
We’ve tested both Bluetooth speakers extensively, and we can safely say that both offer excellent audio performances and easy setups - but, if you’re not sure which model you should spend your hard-earned money on, read on for our full comparison of the JBL Flip 6 and the JBL Charge 5.
JBL Flip 6 vs JBL Charge 5: price and availability
The JBL Flip 6 was released in December 2021, and is available to buy for $129.95 / £129.99 - that works out at around AU$175, though Australian pricing is still to be confirmed.
As the speaker is still fairly new, you probably won’t find it heavily discounted. However, sales periods like Prime Day and Black Friday usually see some excellent Bluetooth speaker deals, so it might be worth hanging on until then if you’re not in a huge hurry to buy.
The Charge 5 launched in February 2021, and is more expensive at $179 / £159 / AU$229. That’s the same price as the Sonos Roam, which comes with lots of extra features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, a built-in smart assistant, and integration with other Sonos speakers.
So, if you’re on a strict budget, the JBL Flip 6 is probably your best option, although you’re more likely to find deals on the Charge 5 as it’s over a year old now.
If neither of those prices appeal, there are plenty of other budget-friendly Bluetooth speakers to choose from; the Anker Soundcore Flare 2, for example, is much cheaper at $80 / £64.99 / AU$140.
JBL Flip 6 vs JBL Charge 5: design
The JBL Flip 6 and the Charge 5 look very similar to one another. Both Bluetooth speakers sport cylindrical builds with rubberized end caps, exposed bass radiators, and wraparound grilles. They also both come in a range of colors, but you have more choice with the Charge 5 currently; we wouldn’t be surprised if JBL gradually introduced more colors for the Flip 6 in the future, though.
The Charge 5 is the larger of the two speakers, measuring 223 x 97 x 94mm and weighing 960g. By comparison, the Flip 6 measures 178 x 68 x 72mm and weighs in at 550g, so if you need your portable speaker to be super light, this is the best option out of the two. The Flip 6 also comes with a handy carrying handle, so you can slip it over your wrist or hang it up.
Both speakers are robust enough to take outdoors, with IP67 dust and water resistant ratings ensuring that a little water or sand won’t ruin your fun.
The Flip 6 and Charge 5 also both feature tactile raised control buttons, which allow you to adjust your music playback, and put it into PartyBoost mode (more on that later). There are also buttons to pair your speaker with your music source and turn the speaker on and off; these are grouped together with the other buttons on the side of the Charge 5, but you’ll find them on the underside of the Flip 6.
Underneath both speakers is where you’ll find your physical connections. The JBL Flip 6 has only one port - a USB-C port that you use to charge the speaker. The Flip 5 is also charged via USB-C, but next to this is a USB-A port, which you can use to top up the battery of your other devices. This port is kept safe from debris and water by a little flap.
Neither speaker comes with an AUX-in port, so you’re out of luck if you want to hook it up to a record player or any other wired music source.
JBL Flip 6 vs JBL Charge 5: audio performance
Whichever of these two speakers you opt for, you can be sure that you’re getting a balanced, warm audio performance, with good clarity and decent levels of detail.
Of the two, the Charge 5 has a little more power behind it, outputting 40W compared to the Flip 6’s 30W; however, the Flip 6 can still reach very high volume levels for its size.
You may not want to crank either speaker all the way up, though; both suffer from distortion at high volumes, and you’ll get the best audio performance with the volume at about 50-60%.
Don’t let that put you off too much. Both speakers sound rich and lush, with a pleasingly easy-going soundstage that’ll suit casual listeners down to a tee - and, both come with support for JBL’s PartyBoost feature.
This clever tech allows you to pair multiple JBL speakers (up to 100, in fact) in mono for a real wall of sound experience at the push of a button. You can also stereo pair using PartyBoost, but you’re restricted to using two of the same model.
JBL Flip 6 vs JBL Charge 5: battery life and connectivity
If battery life is your main concern, the Charge 5 is the speaker you should go for. It offers 20 hours of playback compared to the 12 hours you get from the Flip 6 - and, you’re getting the benefit of a built-in powerbank for your phone or tablet, too.
Both speakers are easy to pair with your devices thanks to Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity, and the accompanying JBL Portable app allows you to check for software updates, adjust the equalizer settings with sliders for bass, mid, and treble frequencies, turn the feedback tone on and off, and read the user guide. You can also enable the PartyBoost feature via this app.
While the JBL Flip 6 and the Charge 5 are very similar, choosing between them should be fairly easy. If you’re looking for a long battery life above all else, the Charge 5 is the one to go for - and the answer is the same if you want your Bluetooth speaker to come with a built-in powerbank.
If a lightweight and small design is most important to you, the Flip 6 is your best bet - and that’s true if you’re also looking for the cheaper option of the two speakers.
Otherwise, both speakers offer very similar audio performances, the same level of ruggedness, and near-identical designs.
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Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.