JBL Essential - The Cheap Flip?

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One of the biggest target audiences for the Bluetooth speakers are the developing countries.

The growing need for good sounding yet affordable Bluetooth speakers pushed JBL team towards designing the more cost-effective version of the well-known Flip series, the Flip Essential, leaving just as the name suggests only essential functionality.

Today we are going to take a look at Flip Essential, a low-cost alternative of the Flip lineup.

Bluetooth range

Battery life

Water protection



Bottom line




Bluetooth range:

  • 100 feet

Battery life:

  • 3-10 hours

Water protection:

  • IPX7 certification
  • It is completely waterproof, it can be submerged into 1-meter-deep water


  • Affordable
  • IPX7 Water protection
  • 3.5mm audio input


  • Still uses micro-USB
  • No Connect+ or PartyBoost
  • Bluetooth 4.1

Bottom line:

The Essential is a low-cost alternative of the Flip lineup. However, the price difference between the Essential and the Flip 5 is not big enough to make the Essential a good deal.

The Box, Accessories


You can have a hard time if you want to pick a speaker from the JBL’s Flip line-up since you will find pretty similar devices.

There are the new Flip 5 and the Essential on the market, however, in many stores even the older model the Flip 4 is available.

While at first glance all these speakers are very similar, there are subtle differences.

In terms of size, the Flip 5 is the largest one, while the Flip 4 is slightly smaller and the Essential is the smallest device.

In line with this, the Flip 5 is the most expensive among the three and you can get the Flip 4 and the Essential for around the same price.

Because the cost efficiency was critical, Essential comes only in gray color.

Besides the speaker, only a micro-USB cable is included in the box, however, this is also the case with the other Flip models.

The Design

The Flip Essential copies the design of one of the previous generations of Flip, the Flip 3, however, because some functionality was cut down, some buttons lack on the Flip Essential.

The gray color looks solid and doesn’t stand out much.

The rubberized corners and back panel are durable, protect the device from fall damage.

Just like with the other Flip models, you can attach a wire loop to your Flip Essential, which allows you to carry the speaker conveniently with one hand.

The majority of the speaker is covered with durable fabric, which does not degrade over the years of usage.

The Flip Essential copies the design of Flip 3 and 4, featuring dual 40mm speakers of the Flip 4 and the round shape on the edges and older Bluetooth standard of Flip 3.

It has the same IPX7 water protection found in Flip 5, which we will talk about more in detail below.

The charging port still utilizes the older micro-USB standard instead of the USB Type-C found on Flip 5 and has an hour longer charging time of 3.5 hours instead of 2.5 on Flip 5.

However, the Flip Essential still houses the AUX input in case you want to use your speaker with your computer or any other device which doesn’t support Bluetooth.


Music Control

Unlike Flip 5, the Flip Essential houses only play/pause, volume up, volume down, Bluetooth and power on/off buttons on the grille as well as the power button on the other side.

It lacks the Connect+/PartyBoost button for connecting multiple devices together, found on the other models.

Double tapping the play button will skip the song and volume up and down buttons can either be tapped once for precise volume control or held down for more convenience in maxing out the volume or muting the speaker.


Water Protection

The Flip Essentials boasts the same IPX7 waterproof rating as the Flip 5, allowing you to use the device up to 30 minutes underwater for up to 1 meter (3ft 3in).

The charging port is covered with a rubber flap, protecting the port from water damage.

Although the flap is made from durable rubber and does not degrade quickly, to maintain the waterproofness, we recommend opening the charging port only when necessary as the flap comes a bit loose with time.

IPX7 also means that you can use the speaker in dusty conditions, without worrying about damaging it.

Mobile App

JBL’s Connect app is available to customize your Flip Essentials.

The software features are limited due to the speaker's functionality.

The app can be used to modify the speaker's name and update the firmware as well as to monitor the charge level.

Connectivity, Bluetooth range


The device supports the Bluetooth 4.1 protocol allowing for around 30 meters of connectivity range.

The playback was smooth and no glitches or interrupted playback was noticed.

You can also pair multiple phones to the speaker at the same time, however, the speaker will play your music from only one of the sources at a time.

The device also lacks the speakerphone, found on the Flip 3, which was used to make hands-free calls and for the voice assistant.

Battery Life

We found the manufacturer claimed up to 10 hours figure to be true only when listening to up to 30% of the full volume.

At the comfortable 50-55% listening volume, the speaker had close to 6 hours of playback time.

However, at full volume, the speaker gets around 3 hours of playback.

Sound Test

The Flip Essential has a similar sound profile as the other Flip models and on the whole, it has a nice balanced sound without significant distortions, which is good to listen to.

However, in a direct comparison, you can easily tell that the Flip 5 is the more advanced speaker since its sound is larger with deeper lows and stronger bass.

So the lower price and the smaller size are reflected in the sound performance as well.

Unfortunately, this was the case even when we compared the Essential to the older Flip 4.

From the three the Essential had the most basic sound.



The JBL Flip Essential is basically the reborn of the Flip 3 in a slightly newer package.

We think the idea was great to keep the essential strengths of the Flip line-up and leave out the extra functionalities to reduce the price.

However, the price difference between the Essential and the Flip 5 is not big enough to make the Essential a good deal.

While we are sure many people will not miss the extra functionalities of the Flip 5, in terms of sound quality the Essential still lacks behind.

If you can afford, we suggest to pay some more bucks and choose the Flip 5, or if you are on a budget or you need the AUX port then buy the older Flip 4 for a similar price but a better sound. 


IPX7 Water protection
3.5mm audio input


Still uses micro-USB
No Connect+ or PartyBoost
Bluetooth 4.1


Its big brother the JBL Flip 5 is a more powerful but more expensive speaker.

The Flip 4 provides similar functionalities but a slightly better sound.


  • Dimensions: 6.4 x 16.9 x 6.4 cm (2.5 x 6.7 x 2.5 in)

  • Weight: 470g (1lbs)

  • Bluetooth Version: 4.1

  • Battery Capacity: 3000 mAh

  • Charging time: 3.5 hours

  • Output power: 16W RMS (2 x 8W)

  • Frequency Response: 85 Hz – 20 kHz

  • SNR: < 80 dB

  •  Waterproof: Yes, IPX7

  • AUX input: Yes

  • Auto power-off: Yes

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