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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).
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”.
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.“