JBL has been at the forefront for quite a few years with series like Clip, Charge, and Flip when it comes to audio accessories. One of the newest Flip speakers to join this lineup is the Flip 5. It's an outdoor speaker and is touted to have solid bass. And the portable size and the IP rating are the cherries on top. Another audio accessory maker making its mark in the market is Sonos. It has some interesting soundbars and smart speakers to its credit, like Sonos Arc and the Move, and the Sonos Roam is one of the newest entities in this lineup. This is the company's first battery-powered speaker and has an IP67 waterproof rating.
More importantly, the Sonos Roam and the JBL Flip 5 have the same form factor, although the Roam is costlier than the Flip 5.
So that brings us to the important question—is the new Sonos Roam better than the Flip 5? Or, which outdoor speaker is better suited for your needs? Well, that's what will explore in this post today as we compare the Sonos Roam with the JBL Flip 5.
Since it's going to be a long post, let's get started, shall we? But before that,
At first glance, the Sonos Roam looks a lot similar to the Flip 5 (or the UE Boom 3). But glance a little closer, and you'll soon see that the Roam is much smaller. If we talk numbers, this one measures around 6.6-inches in height, whereas the Flip 5 is around 8.5-inches tall. This is because the Roam sports a cylindrical shape, making it easier to place it on any surface.
The triangular shape is more than the design and also lets the drivers project the sound forward, whether you put it vertically or horizontally.
As noted earlier, the Sonos Roam sports a waterproof and dustproof rating of IP67. This means you can take it to the pool or beach outings without worrying about water and dust damage. However, it has some limitations. While it can survive for around 30 minutes submerged in water, it can't float. For the record, the UE Boom 3 can float in water.
That said, the Roam is the first Sonos speaker to have an IP rating.
Also, it is lightweight and weighs about just 430-grams. The weight and the size make it convenient to carry it around. Just throw it into your backpack or bag and get going.
But at the end of the day, it has a slight limitation. It doesn't have a band or strap built-in to the body.
As opposed to the lightweight and triangular form factor of the Sono Roam, the JBL Flip 5 is bigger and a tad heavier and weighs around 540-grams. That being said, it's portable and the compact form factor is the cherry on top. The uniform shape also makes it easy to be carried in the bottle holder of bicycles.
Unlike the triangular shape of the Roam, this one has a smooth round shape with its signature passive radiators at the edges.
Though you can place it either vertically or horizontally, it works best when placed horizontally. Despite its bigger size, you'll be able to carry it in your hands or prop it up on the bottle holder of your bike. However, it doesn't have a built-in mic, meaning you won't be able to summon your smart assistant or attend calls when it's paired to your phone.
And yes, this IPX7-rated speaker can be submerged in water (up to a meter) for 30 minutes. Like its counterpart above, it can't float in water.
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Controls and Connectivity
The Sonos Roam has its controls on the side panels. The good thing about these buttons is that they are highly tactile and give nice feedback when pressed.
The Roam is a new-age product and comes with USB-C charging and wireless charging. It charges via standard Qi-charging pads. But you can also opt for a dedicated wireless charger for the Roam. It attaches magnetically to the speaker at the bottom. And if you want to go the wireless route, do note that it will add up to the costs.
Other than the conventional Bluetooth connection, the Roam also supports both Wi-Fi and Apple AirPlay 2. However, the feature that sets it apart from the JBL Flip 5 is its connectivity with other Sonos speakers. So if you have other Sonos speakers, you can play songs over the other Sonos speakers via Bluetooth. But, of course, you will have to group the speakers on the Sonos app beforehand.
Plus, the built-in mics allow you to summon compatible virtual assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa.
When it comes to the controls, the Flip 5 has all the controls running across the spine. In addition to the volume buttons, there's a new PartyBoost button. With it, you'll be able to pair your speaker with another JBL speaker to amplify the sound, to enable the stereo effect. Again, PartyBoost is not the same as Connect+ that is usually seen in older speakers. So if you have a Flip 4, the newer Flip won't connect to it.
When it comes to amplifying sound, the Sonos Roam can also be paired with another Roam speaker, although it's only supported over Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth.
The Flip 5 doesn't have Wi-Fi, and you will have to make do with the good old Bluetooth connectivity. But the good part is that it does it well without any hiccups, unlike the Roam, which has issues with new Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth connections.
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As we noted above, the Sonos Roam is the first battery-powered speaker from the company. And for a first, it doesn't do too bad either. On a single charge, it can go up to 10 hours of continuous playback.
On the other hand, the Flip 5 has a battery life of 12 hours from a single. In both cases, you have to keep in mind that the battery life depends on the volume. If you listen at a higher volume, the battery will run pt sooner.
Now that we discussed the specs that matter, let's address the elephant in the room: Audio Performance.
The Sonos Roam does a good job of projecting audio. The audio is loud and clear, with vocals in songs appearing crisp and clear. There's no high-pitched note, and the audio is balanced. This is partly made possible by the built-in Trueplay feature. This feature makes the Roam adjust its audio output as per the size of the room, placement, and layout.
The audio is not perfect. Balanced audio means that the bass is on the lower end, and in most songs, it gets lost in-between. At the same time, the folks at The Verge observed the speaker has a slight resonance.
As opposed to the neutral audio performance of the Roam, the Flip 5 has a full and assertive bass, which is a big plus for bass-lovers. In addition, the audio performance is punchy and, at the same time, it delivers clear and crisp vocals. Both these features make it an ideal speaker for any event, whether it's an indoor event or an outdoor one.
The new driver makes the dynamic audio, which can pump out 20W of power, and the improved DSP is responsible for thinning out deep lows.
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Verdict: JBL Flip 5
The Sonos Roam sounds great on paper and has the right set of features. For instance, you get the advantages of both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Plus, the battery life isn't too bad.
However, if you love bassy music, the balanced audio might not be the one for you. Besides that, it doesn't perform well outdoors. On the upside, if you have other Sonos speakers and want to connect them into a group, this outdoor Bluetooth speaker gives you the perfect option. But the connectivity issues are a red flag, and we'd recommend you to wait until Sonos fixes the issues.
On the other hand, the JBL Flip 5 is the culmination of the right features. You get a standard Bluetooth connection (though a generation old) and a long battery life. But, more importantly, you get dynamic audio to groove to your favorite songs. And well, that's the important bit at the end of the day.
Moreover, there are no connectivity issues. Besides that, there are many colors and patterns to choose from, and it's more affordable compared to the Roam.
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