Sonos Roam vs JBL Flip 5

Introduction

In this article I’ll compare the Sonos Roam to the JBL Flip 5 to help you figure out which portable Bluetooth speaker is right for you. Specifically I’ll walk through looking at the build and form factor, button access, connection technologies, smart assistant integrations, a sound comparison, and more before sharing my final thoughts and recommendation. If you’d prefer to watch my full YouTube review, you can find that linked in the title image above.

All of the images associated with this review are included inline below, but if you’d prefer to watch this review you can do that in the below YouTube video. Also, please note that you’re not able to leave a comment directly on this article. If you have a question or feedback, please leave it on the YouTube video.

And a quick note before we get into the description that if you do want to purchase the Sonos Roam you can do so by clicking here. Alternatively, if you want to purchase the JBL Flip 5 you can do that by clicking here.

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Build and Form Factor

First let’s look at the build and form factor of each device.

We’ll start with the similarities.

Both the Sonos Roam and the JBL Flip 5 have a cylindrical shape. The Flip 5 is slightly larger checking in at 7.1-inches wide, 2.7-inches tall, and 2.9-inches deep, and weighing almost two pounds. Alternatively, the Sonos Roam measures in at 6.61-inches tall, 2.44-inches wide, 2.36-inches deep and weighs just under one pound. Both speakers can easily be positioned either vertically or horizontally. The JBL Flip 5 can be stood up on either end cap, or you can position it horizontally so that it rests on the plastic bar that runs across the back of the speaker. Alternatively, the Sonos Roam be can stood upright with the volume controls visible on top, or you can sit the speaker horizontally on the rubber feet on the corners of the bottom. Finally for the things the speakers have in common in this section, they are both rated IP67, which means they are both waterproof and dustproof. The waterproof rating means they can be submerged in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes and continue operating just fine.

Vertical: Sonos Roam (left) and JBL Flip 5 (right)
Vertical: Sonos Roam (left) and JBL Flip 5 (right)

Vertical: Sonos Roam (left) and JBL Flip 5 (right)
Vertical: Sonos Roam (left) and JBL Flip 5 (right)

Plastic bar along the back of the JBL Flip 5.
Plastic bar along the back of the JBL Flip 5.

Rubber feet on the bottom of the Sonos Roam.
Rubber feet on the bottom of the Sonos Roam.

Now let’s look at some of the exterior differences.

The biggest difference is probably the lack of a carrying strap attached to the Sonos Roam. The JBL Flip 5 has a strap that makes it easy to hang the speaker in places like the shower or on a bike, or to connect with a clip to something else. The Sonos Roam doesn’t have anything built in that enables you to either hang or hook the speaker onto something. Next, the material used for the grill on each speaker is slightly different. The JBL Flip 5 grill is comprised of a wire and fabric mesh that makes it easy to hold, wraps around the majority of the speaker body, gives it a unique, clean look, and I would also assume adds to the durability a little bit. Alternatively, the Sonos Roam grill is metal and just faces front. The rest of the outer Roam shell is plastic. The metal face of the Sonos Roam feels sturdy, but I would have some concerns about the plastic part of the body not holding up under repeated drops. The Flip 5 does have the plastic bar that runs along the back, but it feels like it would hold up well under repeated drops. The final item I’ll discuss is the end caps. The JBL Flip 5 has passive radiators on each end of the Bluetooth speaker that add to it visually and enable the speaker to generate deeper tones. Alternatively the Sonos Roam just has simple rubber end caps, where the right side serves as the base of the speaker when set upright, and the left side houses the buttons used to control the speaker.

Front of the Sonos Roam.
Front of the Sonos Roam.

Back of the Sonos Roam.
Back of the Sonos Roam.

Front of the JBL Flip 5
Front of the JBL Flip 5

Back of the JBL Flip 5
Back of the JBL Flip 5

Sonos Roam rubber end caps, which double as a button panel.
Sonos Roam rubber end caps, which double as a button panel.

JBL Flip 5 rubber end caps and passive radiators.
JBL Flip 5 rubber end caps and passive radiators.

Button Access

Now let’s look at the button access on each device.

The JBL Flip 5 has four buttons that sit across the top of it and are built into the wire fabric mesh grill: PartyBoost, Volume Down, Volume Up and Play/Pause. The Power and Bluetooth buttons are located in the center of a plastic bar that runs along the back of the device. All buttons on the Flip 5 have good clickiness and response. Alternatively, the majority of the buttons on the Sonos Roam are located on the rubber pad on the left side of the speaker. There is a Microphone button, Volume Up and Volume Down buttons, and a Play/Pause button. The Power button is located on the back of the device. It’s worth noting that while the clickiness and response of the buttons on the side of the Sonos Roam were good, the Power button had neither and was terrible. I routinely found myself frustrated and pressing the button repeatedly trying to get it to either turn on or enter pairing mode.

The buttons on the top of the JBL Flip 5.
The buttons on the top of the JBL Flip 5.

Power and Bluetooth buttons on the back of the JBL Flip 5.
Power and Bluetooth buttons on the back of the JBL Flip 5.

Buttons on the Sonos Roam end cap.
Buttons on the Sonos Roam end cap.

Power button on the back of the Sonos Roam.
Power button on the back of the Sonos Roam.

Connecting to Other Speakers

Next let’s discuss the ability to connect each speaker to other speakers.

This is one of the areas where the Sonos Roam shines. Sonos has stuck with the same connection technology, so all of its smart speakers can be connected together using the Sonos app. And Sonos lets you connect up to 32 Sonos smart Bluetooth speakers together. The JBL Flip 5 uses PartyBoost as its connection technology, and it can only be connected to other JBL PartyBoost speakers. Because PartyBoost is a relatively new technology from JBL, not a lot of its speakers have PartyBoost. Additionally, JBL seems to change its connection technology every couple of years, so there’s always the risk that future speakers you get will have something different and you won’t be able to connect all of your speakers together if you want to. On the plus side, JBL does let you connect up to 100 speakers together through PartyBoost.

Smart Assistant Integration

Now let’s discuss each speaker’s integration with smart assistants.

This is another area where the Sonos Roam shines. The Roam has a built-in speaker that can be set up through the Sonos app to interact with either Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa when you’re connected to a wifi network. Additionally, you can interact with Apple’s Siri to control AirPlay content. I do want to note that while the Sonos Roam does have a built-in microphone, that mic is only for accessing smart assistants and can’t be used as a speakerphone. Alternatively, the JBL Flip 5 doesn’t offer integration with any smart assistants or with Apple’s AirPlay.

Sound Comparison

Next let’s do a quick sound comparison between the JBL Flip 5 and Sonos Roam portable Bluetooth speakers. For this sound comparison I’ll play the same 20-second sound clip from a song with deeper bass on each of these speakers at fifty percent volume under the exact same conditions. Additionally, these audio files won’t be manipulated in any way.

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Now let’s listen to a 20-second song clip from a song that hits some higher tones. Again, each of these speakers is at fifty percent volume and under the exact same conditions. Additionally, these audio files won’t be manipulated in any way.

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To my ear the Sonos Roam sounds unquestionably cleaner and more balanced. It also really seemed to handle the high and mid-range tones much better than the JBL Flip 5. Of note, when you crank the volume up on both speakers, the JBL Flip 5 is undoubtedly the louder speaker — by a lot. Additionally, the biggest advantage the Flip 5 had was its ability to produce more driving bass. So if you’re someone who places a higher value on thumping bass and overall loudness, you’re very likely going to want the JBL Flip 5. But if you care about crisper, cleaner, balanced audio and you don’t care about max volume, the Sonos Roam is probably going to be the better option. Additionally, the Sonos Roam continued to struggle to carry outdoors. It’s probably fine for a small gathering, but it’s not going to be your go-to speaker for a bigger backyard party. For that matter, neither is the JBL Flip 5, but it does a noticeably better job outside.

Power and Ports

Now let’s discuss power and ports.

The JBL Flip 5 is the clear winner with regard to overall power capacity, offering twelve hours of audio playback. The Sonos Roam, by comparison, will only give you ten hours of audio playback. However, this is where the Roam’s voice assistant integrations can work against it. Using the voice assistant integrations with either Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa will have a dramatic impact on the battery life of your speaker. I can’t quantify it reliably, but I can comfortably say that it’s meaningful, so much so that while you can set up and use a voice assistant on your Sonos Roam, it’s probably not worth it, unless you want your speaker to live on a charger, which really isn’t why you buy a portable Bluetooth speaker in the first place. Both speakers do have an exposed USB Type C port on the back for charging. As a result, you’ll want to be careful if you do expose your speaker to water to let it dry before plugging it in to charge. While both speakers are waterproof, water and electricity still don’t mix. One advantage the Sonos Roam does have in this area is that it does support Qi wireless charging, which I found incredibly convenient.

Sonos Roam USB C port
Sonos Roam USB C port

JBL Flip 5 USB C port
JBL Flip 5 USB C port

JBL Flip 5 power bar
JBL Flip 5 power bar

Sonos Roam wireless charging
Sonos Roam wireless charging

Additional Considerations

And now let’s discuss some additional considerations you’ll want to factor in when determining whether the JBL Flip 5 or the Sonos Roam is the right Bluetooth speaker for you.

Neither device has a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary cable as an option for connecting other devices. This is no surprise, as that port is being phased out on portable Bluetooth speakers. One thing I found to be a mark against the Sonos Roam was its dependency on the Sonos app for almost everything. You have to set the Sonos Roam up in the Sonos app before you can pair it with another device. Wanna check how much battery your speaker has left? You have to use the Sonos app. Wanna pair it with other Sonos speakers? You have to use the Sonos app. All are features the JBL Flip 5 makes possible directly on the speaker. Further, when you agree to use the Sonos app, you have to agree to share information about how you use your speaker and the app with Sonos. I’m not someone who lives in fear that big brother is always watching, but if you’re someone who does, you’ll probably have some real reservations about Sonos’ motives and what they’re doing with your data. And finally, there’s the price. The Sonos Roam retails for $170, while the JBL Flip 5 retails for around $120.

My Recommendation

In closing, I’d say if you’ve already got a lot of Sonos smart speakers or you’re planning buy more smart speakers over the years and you want to ensure they’ll all work together, the Sonos Roam is probably the better choice. Additionally, if you think you’ll want to use your portable Bluetooth speaker to interact with Google Assistant or Alexa, or you’ll want to use it with Apple AirPlay, the Sonos Roam is really your only option. And lastly, if audio quality is more important than overall volume, you’ll probably lean toward the Sonos Roam. However, if true portability and durability are what you’re looking for, the JBL Flip 5 is probably the tougher of the two. Additionally, if you’re looking for deep bass and volume, the Flip 5 is also the clear winner. And if you care about a speaker that’s easy to set up and use and you don’t want to be burdened by having to use an app to do everything, the JBL Flip 5 is also probably what you’re looking for. And last but not least, if price is your ultimate driver, the Flip 5 is the clear winner there. In short, while both speakers are branded as portable Bluetooth speakers, they each satisfy very different use cases within that space. And as always, because different speakers sound different to everyone, it’s always a good idea to listen to any speakers in person before you buy them to make sure you get something that sounds good to you.

Again, if you feel like the Sonos Roam is the right Bluetooth speaker for you you can purchase it on Amazon by clicking here. Alternatively, if you think the JBL Flip 5 is more in line with what you’re looking for you can purchase it on Amazon by clicking here.

About Max

Max has nearly 20 years of experience working in IT across three different industries in project management and management capacities: publishing, telecommunications and healthcare. He holds the following degrees and certifications: BS Communications, MA Communications, MBA and Project Management Professional (PMP). His tutorial-focused YouTube channel earned more than 100,000 subscribers in its first four years, and currently has more than 160,000 subscribers, 110,000,000 video views and an insane 2.4 million hours of watch time. Max enjoys learning new technology, reading and collecting comic books, listening to audiobooks and playing video games.

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