Review six Harman/JBL Flips, two with new Bluetooth antenna design – KemptonTestLab

KemptonTestLab: Only best products pass our tough tests!
Review Scores for Harman JBL Flip:

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

Review six Harman/JBL Flips, two with brand new Bluetooth antenna design

In this article I will focus on the two brand new Harman/JBL Flips with new enhanced antenna design (Flip #5 & #6 in my set of six Flips), freshly made from Harman/JBL factories in China and express couriered to me. I want to thank Andy, Global Product Line Manager of Harman Lifestyle in kindly arranging the new units to be shipped to me for testing. And special help from Chris, Senior Director of Brand Marketing of Harman International in connecting me with Andy. Without their help, I am sure my Harman/JBL Flip experiences would have been even worst!

So I won’t repeat many of the points I made in “Review: 4 JBL Flip #Fail Wireless Speaker (Bluetooth + Sound) using Logitech Mini Boombox as Benchmark“.For example, you can read what I wrote about the original antenna design and the new enhanced antenna designs for the JBL Flips (with pictures). Here are links to the raw FCC filings and a pix of the original and new antenna design in case you are very technical and want to go straight to the sources anyway.

– Harman/JBL Flip, Original Equipment filings (08/31/2012)
– Harman/JBL Flip, Class II Permissive Change filings (12/11/2012)

JBL Flip Antenna - Original and post-Class II Change

Video Clips & Flips’ Sound – They worth a thousand words

Have a watch of this video of my “review of six Harman/JBL Flips, two with brand new Bluetooth antenna design“.

My Thoughts

To be direct, I had fully expected the two new Harman/JBL Flips would be (should be) flawless. So I have been extremely disappointed again to see such a wide variation between two Flips! Watch the above review video again to see for yourself. Yes, Harman/JBL Flip #6 performed close to flawlessly, in fact very close to (but not quite as good) as the Bluetooth of the Logitech UE Mobile (see benchmark video). (updateI’ve performed additional tests on the Harman/JBL Flips #5 #6, and have discovered some additional problems. See my update at the end for a video of the test and some brief notes.)

The Flip #5’s performance was weaker in comparison to Flip #6. Why can’t I expect Harman/JBL to delivery better results simply be as good (not even “better than” but just “as good as“) as what others can do effortlessly?

I don’t want to draw conclusion from a sample of two Flips with the new antenna design because that will mean a defective rate of 50% on the production process. Was it workmanship, was it faulty Bluetooth chip, was it bad wiring, was it bad antenna component, did the wire come loose in the shipping process? I don’t know. But what I know is that any of these should not have happened.

Some people who left comments in my articles or YouTube videos attack or insult me personally, I just laughed them off. For one thing, there are some people will little expectations from their Bluetooth speakers. I, on the other hand, have seen how great distance with solid transmission that the magical Bluetooth speakers can perform if the manufacturers have done the right design, assembly, production jobs in their Bluetooth components (e.g. Logitech UE Mobile).

I don’t want to repeat what I said on camera in the concluding last bit of my review video, but I think it is fair to say Flip #5 (plus Flip #1, #2, #3, and #4) fell very very short of what I would expect from a major brand name like Harman/JBL that has a supposed track record built from years of excellent products and services. Since we are talking about brand reputation here, it is ultimately left in the hands of the like of Chris, Senior Director of Brand Marketing of Harman International, and other senior executives to decide how best to resolve these problems.

Serial Number Cutoff (SNC)

Quite a few readers and YouTube commenters have asked me what is the Serial Number cutoff (SNC) for the Flip with new antenna design so they can exchange for a “good” one without being frustrated more by needing to return/exchange/refund? I’ve asked Harman/JBL repeatedly for the SNC without any success.

Now, given the fact that one out of two of the new Flips with new antenna design I received did NOT pass my test, I don’t know having the SNC is even useful to try to address any people’s problems. But what the heck, for those JBL Flip lovers out there like myself, who don’t mind exchanging, refunding, returning their Flips until they find a satisfactory one with a working Bluetooth, let me generate a de facto SNC for you!

Let me use the serial number of my working Flip #6 (a white unit) and round it up to the next thousands. So for now, if you really really want to, you may wish to use

GG0054-0262000

as a de-facto-guesstimate SNC (dgSNC) until Harman/JBL provide customers with an official SNC. A word of warning, given one out of two Flips with new antenna design #fail my test, it still depends on luck to get a good Flip.

Now I am not 100% sure, but given all four of my initial Flips are confirmed to have the original Bluetooth antenna, based on the serial numbers of the four Flips I have, logically, anything units with serial numbers below GG0054-018000 may mean that they have the original weaker Bluetooth antenna. I can’t be sure so user beware.

Existing online JBL Flip reviews

I know and have read many JBL Flip reviews out there online. When I have a moment I like to find out:

– What versions of the JBL Flip did they conduct their testing on? Did they test using original antenna equipped JBL Flips? Or were they using brand new Flips with new antenna already?

– I plan to find out what have these reviewers actually done to test the JBL Flips’ Bluetooth transmission?

– How did these reviewers test the Bluetooth? Did they test it in a large wall-less office or in an residential home with a few walls and basement or 2nd floor?

I will try to update this article as I catch my own mistakes or find more information.

Jan 23, 2013 Update: A YouTube viewer left some good questions and I will try to address them.

Thanks for the thorough review of the JBL Flip. I am about to purchase it over here in the US and was wondering if the serial number cut off that you referenced in your blog is reliable? [see reply 1] Was planning to go to Best Buy and ask them to look at the serial numbers before I purchase it just to make sure I get the one with new antenna installed. Can the serial numbers be seen outside the box without opening the package? [see reply 2I did call JBL and the lady said that “there are no known issues on record”. [see reply 3]

 [reply 1]: Very good question. I’ve repeatedly ask for the official Serial Number Cutoff (SNC) from Harman/JBL and they have not respond to my request. Yes, like it or not, it is up to them to not release it. So my de-facto-guesstimate SNC (dgSNC) is totally unreliable to define the good batch, not by choice. But here is what, if I were you, I would assume, suspect any units with a smaller serial number than my dgSNC and treat them as a “possible candidate” for a Flip with the original antenna design. If you see two Flips, one with serial number below the dgSNC and one above the dgSNC ., I hope you will pick the Flip with a larger serial number than the dgSNC. Also make sure the place you buy the Harman/JBL Flip from (be it a physical store or online place) that they have a very good return policy. If it is from an online store, you don’t get stick with the return shipping cost or their discretion to play god and give you an RMA or not!

 [reply 2]: Yes, the serial number is printed on the outside of the boxes I have. So you can check and see before you buy.

 [reply 3]: re: “there are no known issues on record”. 

I was told by Harman/JBL that they’ve delivered a massive quantity of units and “the number of customer service calls on this product is 19″. So that may be why they consider there are no known issues on record“. 

The following are my reply and questions after reading that the service calls on this product is 19.

Do you have stats showing what percentage of your Flip customers buy the Flip and then simply hardwire them to their computers because thats their computer speakers? And what percentage of your Flip customers use the Flip’s Bluetooth but permanently place them next to their RF transmitting sources inches away?

If this is the above two cases are the most often use-cases (say 95% of Flips with the original antenna design), won’t you agree that because the 95% (my make up fake/guess number) NOT using BT (those hardwire) or those hardly stretching the Bluetooth (“inches away” from RF source), won’t you agree that these customers won’t complain because the defects don’t affect them. Not that the units don’t have defects!

Also note that how many people won’t even bother complain and simply return or exchange their purchase? Or simply think, “Oh crap, this is a $100 speaker. What should I expect from its BT performance.”

6:40pm, Jan 23, 2013 update: As per Harman/JBL request, I bought Flip #5 downstair to my basement for some more testing. You can see the problems I discovered. I also took Flip #6 out for more testing. Unfortunately, I discovered Flip #6, the best of the six Harman/JBL Flips I have. has some flaws. So I have to change my rating of it from “almost perfect” to good but a bit #flawed.

As I have said many times, the Harman/JBL Flip sound great, it is the Bluetooth that has some serious problems.

Harman/JBL Flips #5 #6 (new antenna design) Bluetooth Test – KemptonTestLab

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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