Review: 4 JBL Flip #Fail Wireless Speaker (Bluetooth + Sound) using Logitech Mini Boombox as Benchmark – KemptonTestLab

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24 Jan, 2013  Update: Review Scores for Harman JBL Flip:

Sound alone (ignoring Bluetooth): 9.5/10
1st generation Flip Bluetooth antenna: ranging from 1/10 to 4.5/10
2nd generation Flip Bluetooth antenna: 7/10

This article talks about my first 4 JBL Flips (with 1st generation antenna). See “Review six Harman/JBL Flips, two with new Bluetooth antenna design” for my review of the 2 JBL Flips (with 2nd generation antenna).

JBL Flip Antenna - Original and post-Class II Change

Jan 19th, 2013 update: See bottom of this article for 1)a brief discussion about the above picture of “JBL Flip Antenna – Original and post-Class II Change” and more. A new video of “Logitech UE Mobile Bluetooth test benchmark”.

Jan 23rd, 2013 update: See my new article with videos, “Review six Harman/JBL Flips, two with new Bluetooth antenna design”.

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Let me share with you my story of how I end up owning FOUR (4) JBL Flip Speakers that sound GREAT but with varying degree of Bluetooth problems ranging from “comically terrible” to “just terrible“.

(A) Before JBL Flip – We’ve looked at JAMBOX, Logitech mini-boombox, Logitech UE Mobile Boombox, Beats by Dr. Dre Pill, Antec SP1, Bose SoundLink II

My better half and I love music and want a good deal! Before I came to falling in love with JBL Flip, we’ve looked at almost all the bluetooth speakers that we can physically touch and test locally in Calgary (at Best Buy, Future Shop, Apple Store, Memory Express, and London Drugs)! (Notice I wrote “I came to …” because my better half probably still want to return it!)

1) What started the ball rolling for us was the unbelievably well reviewed & hyped Jawbone JAMBOX! Unfortunately, we discovered it sounded like a piece of garbage at max volume when we tested it at Best Buy, and it isn’t that loud.

2) The Logitech mini-boombox can do loud and won’t crack at max volume but lack richness in tone. Plus it isso light that at max volume, the vibration will move the speaker around! I joked that it want to jump off the table to kill itself!

3) We also tested the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox (a supposedly improved 2nd generation) in a loud-ish Apple Store, its sound (at max) totally underwhelm us especially we know how loud the first gen mini-boombox can do.

4) Beats by Dr. Dre Pill is simply an expensive piece of garbage in its sound. We are and will never be into paying lots of money to simply buy a product because of its brand name or its look.

5) Antec SP1 has low price (on sale) but also terrible weak sound to match.

6) Bose SoundLink II is probably one of the best sounding Bluetooth speaker we have come across. I haven’t tested it for Bluetooth performance but its sound is so rich and powerful and we were almost willing to pay like $330 (way above our original budget) for it. But its big size and heavy weight stopped us because we (especially my better half) do want to move it around, including to the bathroom so she can listen to music!

7) Once we confirmed none of the other works, we ended up ordering the unbelievably great priced JBL Flip from Apple Store.

(B) Some words of praise first before my review

I first thank Elizabeth, the Apple Online store customer service agent that helped me with my first faulty JBL Flip. Here is what I tweeted and I still whole hearted believe. (I may explain in another time)

Best Customer service Agent of 2012: Elizabeth @ #Apple online store! #awesomecustomerservice #waybeyondexpectation #yyc #canada

I also want to thank Chris, Senior Director of Global Branding & Marketing of Harman, for taking time last week (during the busy time before CES) to call me personally and explain to me the JBL Flip issues as he was told by Harman’s engineers. And arrange his staff to ship two replacement Flips for me.

(C) Review: 4 JBL Flip #Fail Wireless Speaker ( Bluetooth + Sound) using Logitech Mini Boombox as Benchmark 

As Harman engineer explained to Chris, Bluetooth problems were discovered in a proactive manner by Harman engineers and things were changed in the recent production run so that the two new JBL Flips Harman sends me will not have any bluetooth issues. Plus Chris reassured me that the four JBL Flips in his home all worked great with no problems. Unfortunately, my home testing showed that all 4 JBL Flips (including the two units sent to me as per Chris’ order) have varying degree of Bluetooth problems, ranging from “comically terrible” to “just terrible”. Without further delay.

YouTube clip of my review of 4 JBL Flips with defective Bluetooth (Benchmark: Logitech MiniBoombox)

Update: Chris asked and I was able to find time to add a series of JBL Flips and iPad test.

Bluetooth problems demo with 4 JBL Flips using iPad

(D) Going forward for me

The first JBL Flip might have been a simple faulty unit. But after testing and confirming four #fail JBL Flip units with respect to their Bluetooth, including two units sent directly to me by Chris with the reassurance that the two (presumably based on their serial numbers and inside knowledge of the production runs) will have perfectly working Bluetooth, I am now inclined to think there may be a design flaw in the JBL Flip itself. (Of course, it is also possible that the Harman engineers were mistaken re the good/bad Flips’ serial numbers.)

You see, I am an independent reporter and I love music. I’ve put in so much time into this so I will follow through this matter for you, my readers, and try to discover what went wrong and why. And to see how things will turn out at the end. I want to find out what will Harman do, not just for me, but for all JBL Flip customers that have similar faulty Bluetooth.

I know Chris is working hard at CES 2013 in Vegas this week so I will reach out to Chris after I publish this and may be arrange to talk to him later to figure out something.

(E) My advice for readers

If you have bought a JBL Flip with faulty Bluetooth, you really have to think for yourself and decide what and how you want to deal with the situation. After all, Flip sounds great for $100. If it doesn’t sound as good, I would have long forget about this and returned it.

Do you only hardwire your Flip to your device (e.g. a laptop or desktop computer), then these Bluetooth issues don’t concern you.

If you always put your device next to the Flip so they are very close, then the bluetooth problems I show don’t concern you too.

But if you are like me, playing music from my phone (which I carry around in my office and home) then the Bluetooth problems concern you very much. You may want to seriously consider refunding the unit and pick something else. At press time, I have no data to support me (give I’ve got four and they ALL #fail on me) that your replacement will be any better.

If you own a JBL Flip and uses its Bluetooth extensively and move around a lot, please share your experience and the environment your device and the speaker are located relative to each other. Make a video to share if you will. Something as simple as mine will give viewers a good idea of what the environment is like and how easy will it fail.

*****

Jan 14, 2013 update: The above links to a picture of “JBL Flip Antenna – Original and post-Class II Change“. I’ve been reading various FCC filings by JBL and Logitech to try to figure out what went wrong. So Harman/JBL changed the antenna design to fix some reception problems and all four of my JBL Flips (including two shipped to me directly from Harman’s HQ) have been made before the changes were implemented. They all have serial numbers before the cut off.

I will be in touch with Chris from Harman again, hopefully later today. Will share more if I have more information.

P.S. The FCC filings are actually quite informative to read. To research for this article, I’ve scan/read the two sets of JBL Flip FCC filings. And also two sets of FCC filings for each of Logitech mini-boombox and Logitech UE Mobile.

Jan 18, 2013 update: Two new JBL Flips are being sent to me “freshly made” right from the factory in China as I type this. They hopefully should get to me by Monday. Will try to test these new Flips with new Antenna when I get them. I’ve also asked Harman/JBL in providing me with the serial number cutoff for the Flips with new antenna design. Until I receive that official cut-off, if any readers having similar Bluetooth problems ask me, I will try to come up with something based on my new Flips. Will see when we cross that bridge.

In case you are interested, here are links to the public FCC filings by Harman/JBL re the Flip speakers so far.

Two results from FCC ID search using Grantee Code: API Product Code: JBLFLIP
Harman/JBL Flip, Original Equipment filings (08/31/2012)
– Harman/JBL Flip, Class II Permissive Change filings (12/11/2012)

Jan 19, 2013 update:Logitech UE Mobile Bluetooth test benchmark

4:35pm, Apr 28, 2013 update: While I can’t verify this but someone posted this JBL Flip second generation antenna design serial number cutoff  on Amazon,

They provided me s serial number cutoff of GG0054-189100. All units above this number will have the new modified JBL Flip with the new antenna.

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34 Responses to Review: 4 JBL Flip #Fail Wireless Speaker (Bluetooth + Sound) using Logitech Mini Boombox as Benchmark – KemptonTestLab

  1. AGold says:

    Nice review!
    Wondering what the serial number cutoff is for the revised antenna. I have the exact same issue and I have a couple more days left to exchange.
    Thanks!!

    • kempton says:

      Sorry for the delay, just saw your comment. I’ve asked Harman (which owns the JBL brand) many times and I have not yet been able to find out the serial number cutoff yet. I will keep trying. Until then and unfortunately, without a serial number cut off to go by, if I were you, I would exchange the Diva-like Flip. Exchange it for a few times if you need to. Remember I have four and they are all bad.
      Because of all the problems I have and the testing I have done, Harman has arranged to ship me Flips with enhanced antenna (Flip-WEA, what I call the Flips with new antenna). I am waiting for them to get on a plane and get to me in Calgary Canada asap. Will see.
      In the mean time, I plan to find time to shoot a demo/test YouTube video of Logitech UE Mobile’s Bluetooth coverage as a reference benchmark. When I played with it briefly, it flawlessly covered my whole house’s first floor. Plus, surprisingly, down to the furthest corner of our basement without any noticeable data drop!

    • AGold says:

      Thanks for the reply!
      I may exchange it this weekend for another unit… If anything, it may buy some time while new and improved units are shipped out.
      Thanks again from a fellow Canuck!
      All the best!

    • kempton says:

      My pleasure. It feels good to help others in similar boat (especially a fellow Canuck)! May I ask if you bought yours online or in a physical store like Future Shop or London Drugs, etc?

    • AGold says:

      I bought it in an Apple store… Not online.

    • kempton says:

      Thanks for the info. My two new Flips with new antenna design are being shipped to me. Take a look of my lastest (Jan 18th) update in the article for more info.

  2. aab888 says:

    Hi, im from the Philippines. Im glad i found this review about the jbl flip because i also have the same issue with mine, i went back to the jbl store where i got it and told them about the bt signal problem, tried two more units and with no luck at all. I tried to exchange it with the jbl sounds sticks w, because it seemed to have a better bt signal but i was denied even though i was willing to add cash for the price difference they said there was nothing wrong with the jbl flip i got from them, now im stuck with it. Is there anyway you can email me a document proving that jbl admittedly stating there’s a problem with the flip? I would really appreciate it. Dont want to get stuck with a faulty device, i would want to show them proof so i can exchange it for something that works. My email add is [editor’s note: email withheld from public comment]

    • kempton says:

      Hi,

      So sorry to hear you have the same problem all the way from the Philippines. As a fellow JBL Flip customer (I don’t work for Harman/JBL), I am very disappointed with how you have been treaded by the JBL store. So this is a JBL store? Not just someone selling JBL equipment? Regardless of who sell you the defective JBL Flip, you should have been treated better.

      Have a look of my article and focus on the updates at the bottom and you will see I link to two FCC filings by Harman/JBL. One is their original design, and then another with the new antenna design (the so call “class II” change). Bring that to the store and tell them, they changed their antenna design because of BT problems customers experienced. And demand they let you to exchange (with added funds) for a different product or simply refund the damn faulty product!

      Please post back what they say and how you are treated after you show them the proofs. If I were you, I would be quite pissed off if they keep insisting to mistreat you as if there is nothing wrong with the Flip! Good luck.

  3. aab888 says:

    Thanks for for the quick response, yes its a jbl store. I already gave them a printed copy of the fcc filing about the bt antenna issue and also a cd containing your jbl flip test videos posted on youtube. The manager was not around so i just gave it to the person currently in charge. Im still waiting for their thoughts on it. I hope they email me soon. Im hoping for a favorable outcome. I’ll keep you posted!

  4. Rick says:

    Hi kempton,

    Any update on the new units with new antennas? I’ve just bought my flip yesterday and I strongly agree that Bluetooth reception is awful. I’m thinking of returning them tomorrow but I’m worries that I’d get the same batch of units (bad antenna).

    Do you have the set serial numbers of bad units? So I can properly have mine replaced. Thanks a lot!

    • kempton says:

      @Rick The new units should be in my hands by tomorrow noon. I hope. But given my luck so far, I will believe it when I see them. They’ve got delayed for one day because of MLK holiday.

      If you have a deadline for returning the Flip, don’t wait and push it too far that you miss it. I will find time to test them.

      re: serial number cut off. I have not been provided with it even I asked. I will try to come up with some work around. Stay tuned for update.

  5. aab888 says:

    hi, here’s a little update on my jbl flip. so i finally got a hold of the manager, he asked me to leave the flip at the jbl store which i did the next day. the other day i went to check on it and the manager said the technicians are still checking if the flip i got really has bt issues. yesterday i got a text message from jbl service center asking me what problems i have with it, so i replied with as much details i could through sms. still waiting for any news from them.

    • kempton says:

      Wow, what a long drawn out and frustrating process! The time and energy you had spent on this already. Forgive me for asking possibly again, did you have a first gen Flip with old BT antenna (based on my very rough serial number cut-off estimate)? Read my articles for how I guess-timate the serial number cut-off if you don’t know what I mean.

  6. Jammin' John says:

    got a S/N 0326XXX today at Best Buy—-absolutely WOW…have a Wintec Filemate Clear tablet that synced in 5 seconds. fired it up, walked with it in front of my body into another room–no drops; walked down hallway , through foyer with several walls separating about 20′ actual distance—no drops. Sound is amazing for the size and Bluetooth worked extremely well—I think the fix worked…and it is a superior speaker for its diminutive size. FYI—I got it at $99 but BB upped the WHITE version to $1.19 in stores around here—check online or ship-to–store….

    • kempton says:

      A JBL Flip with a 2nd gen (i.e. working) antenna can be quite nice to have. By the way, do you find your unit auto-power down itself even when it is plugged into the charger WHILE it is being used? Some of my units have the habit of shutting themselves off even when I am using it to play music or a movie.

  7. KBrannock says:

    Any way to fix the issue with the JBL Flip auto powering itself off even when plugged in?

    • kempton says:

      Hi KBrannock, Sorry to hear you have the “auto-powering off” problem too. I haven’t checked conclusively but it seems like the problem exist in the JBL Flips with first generation antenna only. I was using a first gen JBL Flip this morning and it kept shutting itself down even as I played things. And since I swapped with a Flip with second gen antenna, it hasn’t shut itself off yet. So if you are still within your return period, I suggest you return/refund the unit you have and get a new Flip.
      P.S. You can find the cut off serial number for the second gen antenna in the article. Good luck.

  8. Cosmin Marginean says:

    Hi there,
    I have the same problem with my JBL Flip.
    I bought it in QLD, Australia at the end of January, I went back to the Harvey Norman store and the manager said something like “this is bluethoot” and recomend me to try a cable conection.
    I did, I bought a cable and now I play this JBL Flip on cable.
    Unfortunately I still have a problem (on cable to), the JBL Flip stop playing sometime but the blue led it is still on, and I need to turn it of and on again for playing again…
    My JBL Flip serial number is GG054-0067029.

    P.S. Sory for my misspelling

    • kempton says:

      @Cosmin

      As stated in an update in my article,
      “… serial number cutoff of GG0054-189100. All units above this number will have the new modified JBL Flip with the new antenna.”

      So serial number GG054-0067029 is likely a first gen JBL Flip. And my old first gen units like to auto-power off even when they are plugged in and playing audio. If you can, return or exchange for a unit with serial number bigger than GG0054-189100.

  9. John says:

    Heyya there,

    I just got the JBL Flip tonight. It sounds great. Would you say it beats Soundfreq 2 and 4 as well as Logitech wireless Bluetooth speaker? I think I read above that you didn’t care for Logitech. Thanks!! John

    • kempton says:

      @John

      I don’t remember trying Soundfreq 2 or 4 so I can’t say. But, in terms of sound quality alone, I prefer the JBL Flip much more than the Logitech wireless Bluetooth speakers (I tried two models). Mind you, Logitech’s bluetooth transmission is much much better than JBL Flip.

  10. Cosmin Marginean says:

    Hi there,
    I have returned my JBL Flip, the new one has the serial number: GG054-0115713, It is working good as far, and I’ve noticed the difference for the bluethoot conection (with this one it is OK).
    Thank you, and I hope to don’t have any problems with the new one :)

    • kempton says:

      Hi Cosmin,
      Good to hear your JBL Flip work well for you even it has a smaller serial number than the cut off. At the end of the day, as long as it works for you, that is great. I’ve always said I love the sound as long as the rest of the speaker is working well too.

  11. g.b.a. says:

    Hi Kempton,

    I’m glad I found your article and reviews.
    I was able to determine that there is really a Bluetooth problem with
    the JBL Flip speakers. (Though they really sound great!)
    My wife and I didn’t have the second thought of buying this speaker
    after hearing its great sound in actual in one of the shops here in
    Japan.
    We’ve listened to almost all BT speakers that we saw but we ended
    up buying this one.
    Unfortunately, after a month of using it, aside from the BT problem,
    we had a major issue…
    I saw from your previous post that some Flip speaker are auto-
    powering off when charger is connected.
    Our problem is worst, our speaker is now dead!
    While we are using it, even though the light is still blue, the unit
    suddenly died. And now it won’t power ON. Even if I connect the
    charger and leave it for so many hours. It doesn’t even have any
    light in the power button (red or blue).
    I can’t believe that it happened to us all of a sudden.
    We can tolerate the BT problem, but having a dead unit, it is so
    helpless.
    The shop is very far from where we are living now, but we will try to
    return the unit in the coming days…
    Hope that this problem will not happen again to anybody who is
    enjoying this lovely speaker…

    • kempton says:

      g.b.a.

      So sorry to hear of your DEAD JBL Flip! Sounds like there are some design or quality (or quality control) issues with the first generation JBL Flip. Because you are living so far away from the shop, have you thought of giving Harman/JBL support line in Japan a call and see if they can ship you a replacement by FedEx or something?

      While Harman/JBL is not quite perfect in its customer service, I think they do try to help customers out and do the right thing. Worst is they refuse to help you, unless you try, you won’t know.

      Kempton

    • g.b.a. says:

      Hi Kempton,

      Thanks for the reply.
      Luckily, I had the time to visit again the shop last week. And since it is still under warranty period, they exchange it to a new one after confirming that it is indeed dead.
      It seems the new has still some problem with the BT eventhough its serial no. belongs to the upper or newer batch.
      Especially if someone is blocking the line of sight of the speaker from the source, the sound becomes unstable.
      Anyway, I think it is still better than a dead one!
      Overall, I still love this speaker more than any other BT speaker that I had before. (Of course there are better ones but they’re so expensive!!!)

    • kempton says:

      @g.b.a.
      Really? I thought the 2nd gen Flip solved the BT “blocking line of sight” problem with an improved antenna design. I wonder if it is a production QC issue for individual unit?
      The two 2nd gen Flips I have are good enough to travel down to the basement far away from “line of sight”.

  12. Gus Kd says:

    Hi Kempton I`m in the market for a portable bluetooth speaker and I`ve read many reviews regarding the Flip .I wanted to say thank you for your extensive reviews regarding the bluetooth issues.I`ve started looking in the JBL “Charge” .Some reviews have said the Flip has a little bit better sound but it really depends on personal preference.The battery life on the charge is 12 hours and it can be charged via usb cable.As an added bonus you can charge some of your devices through the speaker.

    • kempton says:

      @Gus
      I love the Charge’s ability to charge via usb cable but I haven’t tested the sound so I can’t comment on sound. And I believe the Charge can’t be used as a speaker for your phones.

  13. Cosmin Marginean says:

    Hi everybody,
    My JBL it is back to Harvey Norman store (from tow weeks now), and I’m waiting for a new one :) with a serial number bigger than GG0054-189100.

  14. John Curtis says:

    hello,my flips ssn is GG0054-0713941. It was purchased on 8/13/13. Is this a first gen or second gen flip? im having the issue with the blue tooth stopping. I have to power down then power up to restore the blue tooth connection. Any help would be greatly appreciated. John Curtis

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