The Best Audio System – We’re looking at investing in audio systems for our technical teams, many of whom are now working along on site – do you have any opinion on the compact JBL Bluetooth systems, and which do you think would be the best option?
A: We’d say speaker systems like JBL are a good option for techs on site. Almost all the JBL range is IP67-rated, so it can be immersed in water for long periods of time – in reality that means used in the rain. They are all robust and offer easy connection using smart devices.
Which unit you select is a bit more complicated – the quality of sound and length of battery life is proportionately related to the size of the device, though when it comes to battery life, things are not so different as you’d expect.
The best of the bunch is the Xtreme 2 – it has great sound, including layered bass and sweet mids and highs, and solid battery life (about 20 hours). It’s relatively portable at 2kg, and offers audio comms via the speaker when techs are taking calls. Is it more speaker than a tech needs? Yeah. Same applies for the newer Xtreme 3, which is a little more expensive.
Next, comes the Charge 4 – it weighs slightly less than half as much at 900g, still offers excellent sound and battery life, and like the Xtreme 2, can be used to charge smart devices via an integrated USB port. This is a polished unit that combines excellent sound and portability, though you’ll need to spend 15 on a carry sling.
The Flip 5 is next in line – it weighs about 480g, sounds way better than it has any right to sound, offers great battery life, can be left out in the rain, bathed in coffee and accidentally kicked across the room without suffering ill effects.
The Clip 3 is the smallest we are prepared to recommend and it’s best for people who love classical, acoustic and audio podcasts. It does sound good for its size, but bass is largely absent, which won’t delight younger techs. Again, battery life is long and there’s water and dust proofing to IP67. You could clip it to a tool bag and hardly notice its presence.
Which is the the best audio system of this bunch? We still highly rate the JBL Xtreme 2 for all-round sound quality. We’d recommend the Flip 5 as a solution to carry on site if playing music is the intention. Its combination of light weight, robustness, long battery life and great sound makes it a no-brainer. If you care about music, it’s possible to hear tone separation when listening to the Flip 5 but taken as a whole, it’s the one to carry.
If you’re prepared to take your time waiting for specials, it’s possible to buy the Flip 5 in less popular colours for under $A100 – please note the review ratings on this story are for the Flip 5!
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