In 2012, JBL introduced what was then considered to be the most impressive and highly portable wireless Bluetooth speaker that let users enjoy better sounding audio using their smartphone or tablet from a palm-sized device that could easily fit into a pocket. This time, the Clip by JBL is the company's latest travel and pocket-friendly offering that takes JBL's Micro speaker series of ultra-portable speakers to new heights with a more rugged and adventurous design. And although the Clip is just as small as its Micro Wireless predecessor and could be carried inside your pocket, its name suggest a more exposed means of transport. That's right, JBL's Clip features carabiner clip conveniently built into the top so you can practically hook it onto anything that can fit through its spring-loaded gate clip. Technically speaking the Clip is a wearable speaker. So should you consider picking one up? We think you should, but before you do, be sure to read up on our full and in-depth review down below!
JBL's best attempt at developing a wearable wireless speaker. Period.
With the success of JBL's palm-sized Micro Wireless speaker, other companies known for their stereo portable speakers have recently started making pocketable wireless speakers of their own. One of them being Logitech with its new X100 Mobile Wireless Speaker which shares a similar, and must we say, more uniquely designed circular form factor as JBL's Clip (albeit rubberized and made entirely using plastic materials sporting a creatively styled patterned speaker grille in contrast). And like the Clip, Logitech's X100 is a similarly priced $50 speaker option that happens to also offer the same 5-hour battery life – as well as a carabiner-like alternative in the way of a lanyard clip offering users a different method of attaching the speaker onto things. Both speakers share the same hands-free speakerphone capabilities, the same 30ft wireless Bluetooth range, and even a 3.5mm auxiliary connection for wired audio source connectivity. The Clip is JBL's best attempt at developing a wearable wireless speaker. Period. But it could habe been even better
But what Logitech's X100 fails to offer is better soundinsg audio. Not only that, but another advantage the Clip has overs its arguably more stylish rival is the fact that like its predecessor, it possess the ability to daisy chain multiple Clip or even other Micro Wireless speakers together to create a more powerful and immersive listening experience using the 10-inch long built-in retractable audio cable conveniently hidden into the Clip's body; and all while wirelessly connected to your smartphone or tablet. You can get the Clip in five different solid colors, whereas the X100 is being offered in contemporary bold and contrasty flavor combinations.
JBL's Clip speaker has the same 5-hour battery life as the Micro Wireless we reviewed long ago, as well as the same single 1.5-inch driver designed to output audio straight up when the Clip is set flat on its back. But while nothing much has changes internally except for a minor speaker driver tuning adjustment, the Clip does look significantly better than its Micro Wireless predecessor. As with any product that succeeds a certain model, JBL refined the Clip and gave it a sleeker overall design whilst staying true to its rounded form factor. Apart from a larger perforated metal speaker grille facade encircled with a finer and less bulky shiny plastic bezel, the Clip features a newly designed dual-injected material construction for added durability.
Taking a look at the surrounding edge where you'll find all of the Clip's Flip 2-inspired on-board controls, what looks like a touch-sensitive matte surface is in fact home to flat physical buttons that depress into the rubberized outer material layer. We appreciate and really like the cleaner and thoughtful new button implementation of the Clip in comparison to the Micro Wireless, which featured an unsightly volume adjustment wheel and individual buttons.
Like the Micro Wireless, the Clip also features the same exact easy-to-see blue/red LED inside of the speaker grille that acts as an On/Off as well as a charge status indicator and Bluetooth pairing status indicator. JBL isn't trying to impress us with an array of buttons and functions but with the simplicity of the overall design. With that intention in mind, you'll find on the side, the power button, a volume slider, a micro-USB port for charging, and an aux-in port to daisy-chain additional portable speakers with a 3.5mm cable. This is great if you've got more than one speaker so that you can get larger, stereo sound and of course twice the fun.
On a full charge, JBL claims up to five hours of non stop jamming, and they were pretty accurate. Depending on the volume you listen at, the battery life will vary. Good thing the battery is built-in and rechargeable though. For a device this small, you really can't get much better than this. And to think that some considerably larger portable speakers can't do any better when it comes to battery life, the Clip is still fair game.
On its left side, the Clip has a power on/off button, a Bluetooth pairing button and a multi-function button for answering/ending a call which also doubles as a button for pausing/playing music. Right next to it is the Clip's echo-canceling microphone.
On the opposite side are the volume adjustment buttons and the 3.5mm auxiliary audio input connection designed to be used for when you're connecting an additional Clip speaker.
The real question is - are you really going to use the Clip's integrated carabiner to hook it to your backpack, camera bag, gear bag and so on? The only time that I would ever see myself using the Clip's highlighted clip feature would be when I'm our backpacking in the wilderness and there's no one else around to annoy with my taste in music. And then again, with only 5 hours of battery life is the Clip really the type of portable speaker you'd want to take with you on a long trip with little to no ability to charge up your precious tech? The right answer is that everyone has different needs and a way of doing things. So if you think hooking a very small and lightweight wireless speaker to your gear bag or what have you, then I think you'll really find this a useful feature you don't even need to think twice about. It's there at all times, and fortunately it isn't a nuisance whatsoever if you don't end up utilizing it at all.
The size of this thing baffles me. Measuring 1.65-inches in thickness and just under 3.5-inches in diameter, it fits comfortably in my palm and with the amount of features and capabilities the Clip has, it is really surprising. The Clip also boasts an extremely lightweight design that packs a heavy punch when it counts. To minimize any problems you'd normally have with portable speakers, the Clip has it all. Not only does it have a small pocketable and even wearable footprint, but even the built-in auxiliary cable has its very own home to nestle in while not in use; the perfectly fitted indent allows you to quickly wrap and store the cable around the speaker while the 3.5mm stereo plug fits flush into the bottom to prevent damaging or losing it on-the-go.
Aside from the speaker itself, you also get a micro-USB charging cable but no carry case this time. Not that the Clip needs to be cradled safely inside some pouch as it is built with a strong combination of polycarbonate and metal. Not to mention the clippable mentality and durability JBL is billing the Clip to be. As you flip it around, you'll find rubber grip on the bottom to prevent the device from sliding around when set on a flat surface. Oddly enough, the Clip is not waterproof or even water-resistant. So it's questionable how durable exactly such a small speaker will be when it is hooked on the back of your weatherproof backpack while it is pouring down with rain. Not very durable under those circumstances I'm afraid. A bit of a shame considering JBL had the opportunity to truly make the Clip as durable and as travel-friendly as it made it seem to be from the start.
By far the best sounding palm-sized speaker there is
Before I get into the sound quality, I would like to point out that this tiny speaker rocks with just one driver to power it all. Obviously, if you came here thinking this is your solution to your surround sound set up, well… I hope you didn't. With a single 40mm driver handling the entire audio spectrum, we can't hold it against this poor guy for not having audiophile quality audio though, and neither should. The Clip is not a significant upgrade over its predecessor in terms of audio performance. Instead, it's simply a more refined model. We doubt you'll notice any difference in audio quality between the two. The Clip is still limited by its small size and internal hardware. We still very much like its clear JBL sound signature - the same acoustically clear audio you'd find on every one of JBL's portable speakers.
However, flip on a heavy bass beat and turn the volume up, a heavy and powerful hit comes out of nowhere, kind of like a particular bus driver's uppercut. This isn't going to rattle any license plates anytime soon, but using what JBL calls their bass port, the Clip is still better than most if not all of its comparable competition. The highs tend to overtake the mids in most cases, drowning out what could have been a superb audio experience due to lack of a low-end presence. When that happens, the clear and distinct mids begin sounding like they're far off and in the background, rather than in front and punchy. However, if you switch on some calmer indie or alternative tracks, the Clip handles them brilliantly and with plenty of clarity across the board.
Minimal bass distortion at peak volume does occur. Fortunately the Clip can get to very loud volume levels before it starts to distort a bit when used to play bass-heavy music. It's amazing how good the Clip manages to sound having only a single dynamic 40mm speaker driver and no bass radiator packed into such a small space. JBL does it once more, and we're very impressed by the results. This little device will surprise you the first time around, but after some prolonged use, you'll eventually realize the Clip wasn't meant for everyday at-home use. It's more for bringing out with you on a road trip or a party to just keep it rocking and prevent any awkward silences considering the volume capabilities on this thing is tremendous for its small an compact side. Still, the Clip can and will be able to fill a fairly large space with sound at full volume.
For comparison sake, we put JBL's Clip up against the $100 UE MINI BOOM by Ultimate Ears and while being a mono-speaker, the JBL Clip sounds remarkably close to Logitech UE's Mobile Boombox with a few exceptions of course. The JBL Clip does sound clearer than the UE MINI BOOM does just like its bigger brother the Flip 2, but also has considerably a less volume power and the least amount of bass out of the two respectively; which ultimately ends up sounding less fulfilling, and not as rich and warm. Though the Micro speakers still sound very good for what they're worth. The Micro actually benefits from having more treble in that it sounds clearer and lighter than the Mobile Boombox. On the flip side, the Mobile Boombox has the upper hand in that it sounds richer, fuller and a lot warmer compared to the Micro speakers, however, it also sounds recessed and dark which isn't good when compared directly against the JBL speakers.
Is it as good as the UE MINI BOOM then? Of course it isn’t. But then again it costs half as much and is a lot smaller. So you do get what you pay for after all. With that in mind, you're getting all of your $50 worth with the Clip that's for sure. As for other similar sized and performing speakers, the Clip sounds a tad nicer than the Logitech X100, and is cheaper and more refined but not as weather-resilient or as rich-sounding as the Boombotix Rex.
JBL Clip is the best palm-sized Bluetooth speaker you can buy right now
JBL's Clip is by far the best palm-sized Bluetooth speaker you can buy right now. Its ultra-portable, pocket friendly form factor will amaze you even more once you get a kick out of how impressively huge it sounds when you turn up the volume. On top of that it has decent battery life, great Bluetooth streaming capability, brilliantly clear sound signature, and it has an excellent build quality (albeit lacking weather-proofing) with a useful built-in carabiner clip for attaching it onto things such as yourself or the equipment you carry with you. Overall the Clip is without a doubt an improved and worthy Micro Wireless successor, which we spoke highly of as well. It's a great compact portable speaker you can take everywhere and not have to spend a considerable amount of money on something that would take up more space and be cumbersome to carry with you on a long hike.
For a comparatively low $50 price tag, the JBL Clip is a great accessory to carry around just for rocking out with some friends, after all, it was created to be ultra portable. In that regard, portability is what this little guy does best. Weighing almost nothing, you barely notice it in your pocket or hooked onto your backpack. We definitely highly recommend giving it a shot if you want something that you can take with you quickly and don't want to have to hassle with too many cords and wires. At that price point and quality, JBL's Clip speaker puts all the other similarly-sized and priced competing portable audio accessories to shame. For now at least.