BACKGROUND I''m an owner of the [non-Ultra] Angle 3, which I used the spit out of. I''m still a huge fan of it, and it''s now lent to a friend. I eventually wanted to upgrade, so I considered a newer Oontz. First, I had to determine which was better: the [Angle 3] "Plus"...
I''m an owner of the [non-Ultra] Angle 3, which I used the spit out of. I''m still a huge fan of it, and it''s now lent to a friend. I eventually wanted to upgrade, so I considered a newer Oontz. First, I had to determine which was better: the [Angle 3] "Plus" or "Ultra". [TO CAMBRIDGE SOUNDWORKS: really bad naming convention, btw: just call them "Angle 4" and "Angle 5", will ya?] The research was clear: Ultra was newer, more powerful, and sounded better. I read the JBL Flip 4 had better sound, but was aghast at the price. I bought the Ultra.
MINE WAS DEFECTIVE
Bluetooth (BT) would connect with some transmitters, not with others. One it did connect to, I''d get dropouts, and weirdly playing at wrong speeds (both too fast and too slow); this was witnessed by another person. Sadly, a firmware update did not resolve the issue. Through lots of troubleshooting with multiple devices, I know it was the Ultra.
DEFECTIVE DESIGN: RESONANT FREQUENCY
-There''s an odd physical resonance at a certain (low) frequency. At high volumes, the internal (metal?) frame audibly rings/resonates/vibrates on certain frequencies in the lower-end. How did that get out of prototype? I noticed this before the BT issue, and it was worrying, but not a deal-killer. I don''t usually listen at higher volumes.
Let me say I really wanted to like this thing, as I''m a HUGE fan of the [regular, and cheaper] Angle 3. The [regular] Angle 3 is smaller, cheaper, is powered by a real 18650 battery [I know, I opened it to verify], has really good sound for its size [way better than anything I grew up with, for its size], and really reliable. While not perfect, I got a ton of use out of it. The Ultra [I think] has two 18650s, a larger frame [allowing more bass], more powerful, and theoretically should have better sound overall. Disappointingly, that''s not what I experienced.
The Ultra has a disappointing peaky-ness I''d say around 170Hz. This means "boomy". The true "low" bass is hard to find or boost. For instance, in a custom EQ program, setting a 40Hz filter all the way up, yielded no real audible difference (!), except distorting earlier. Bass only improved by boosting 70Hz. Sound actually IMPROVED by LOWERING the 40Hz filter to zero [40Hz is about as low as most people can easily hear, even though everything you''ll read will say humans can theoretically hear down to 20Hz. That low bass note so common in slow rap is basically 40Hz.] With the Flip 4, bumping up 40Hz yielded an improvement in sound, not detriment, and no distortion (unless ridiculously high; I''ve tried it to extremes). As with any device, you might need a precut function in your EQ if you go crazy with bass boost, which some EQ''s don''t have. But this is more about the input signal becoming too high and less about the drivers themselves being overloaded.
As much EQ''ing as I did [and I did a lot], I couldn''t get the Oontz Angle 3 ULTRA to sound satisfying. DISCLAIMER: I''m an audiophile, I hear things most people do not, or if they do they may not care. Then again, if you don''t really care about sound, what are you doing buying the Ultra, when it costs around 50% more than the regular Angle3 and is bigger and heavier.
MORE BASS DOES NOT EQUAL BETTER BASS
MIDRANGE DISAPPOINTING TOO
The Ultra has substantially more bass than the ''regular'' Angle3--so bassy to the point that it can be distracting on non-music sound where lots of bass isn''t desirable (such as audio books). Even worse, the overweight of bass energy is in the UPPER bass region (more like a cheap boombox than a fine speaker). And perhaps most importantly, the MIDS never really sounded right to me either (just thin or muffled--not ''crystal clear''). When I FIRST was playing with the Ultra, comparing it to the ''regular'', I was at first like "Oh yeah"--mainly due to "more" bass, but with time, I realized there was something dissatisfying about the sound (mids and low-lows). I was actually happier with the mids of the ''regular'' Oontz, and of course there was the reliability/QC issue.
MOST PEOPLE WILL STILL LIKE THE ULTRA!
That said, I THINK MANY/MOST PEOPLE WILL BE VERY SATISFIED WITH THE SOUND OF THE ULTRA. Especially if they''ve never had a bluetooth speaker before. For most people, "good sound" is defined as "loud". That''s all many people want to know: "how loud does it go"? I''m not one of those people--are you? If you buy a motorcycle, is that the only thing you ask: "how fast does it go?", or are other things important too?
From the videos I watched, the Ultra has similar sonic characteristics to the JBL Charge 3 and Charge 4. These are large-ish BT speakers designed more to be loud, and provide a lot of "bass", than to sound great. Ultra is cheaper and smaller than the JBL Charge 3 & 4, but almost certainly not as loud.
JBL FLIP 4 vs JBL CHARGE 3 & CHARGE 4
Enter the JBL Flip 4, which from my research kept coming up as the go-to speaker for those who really want ''good'' sound quality over ''loudest sound''. I still think the asking price is gouging, despite the quality (I could be wrong), considering that these are still pretty simple devices, so I refused to pay the retail price. I took a risk and bought a returned unit. I also noticed there are a lot of ones dubbed "refurbished" out there--with mysterious origins. The interesting thing is that right now (January 2019), the JBL Charge 3 is on blowout/deep discount and often cheaper or same price as the JBL Flip 4. If you''re debating between these two, if you just want big sound and don''t plan on carrying it around a lot (it''s pretty big), go for the Charge 3. If you are finicky about real audio quality and don''t want to play really loud a lot, go for the Flip 4 even though it costs more. The Charge 4 (not Flip 4) is actually monaural (single speaker/not stereo) and yet still seems to retain some disappointing sonic characteristics of the Charge 3 (boominess & unsatisfying midranges), while losing stereo. I used to scoff at the idea of stereo in such a small speaker system, but after tons of use, I have to say, I was wrong. I can really hear stereo effects even in my ''regular'' Angle3. Plus, if you get a Youtube video where some yahoo''s sound card put the audio channels out of phase (rare, but it happens), you''ll get no sound instead of weird sound. Or, any sound effect that depends on phase will be lost on you.
In videos I listened to, the Charge 3 & 4 sounded like they had a sweater over the speaker, esp. when comparing side-by-side with a Flip 4; that''s the best way I can describe it. That''s similar to how I feel about the Angle 3 Ultra, after comparing it side by side with the JBL Flip 4. Leading me to believe the Charge 3 and Oontz Ultra basically have similar sound, although the Charge 3 & 4 probably go louder, and are more suitable for "party" type situations, where you need quantity over quality.
JBL FLIP 4 VS OONTZ ANGLE 3 ''ULTRA''
I was going to return the Angle3 Ultra anyway, and had the luxury of demo-ing it side-by-side with the Flip 4. I''m sorry, I didn''t make a video or audio recording, one reason being I didn''t have time to find acceptable royalty-free music, plus other reasons. But I can tell you how it was. What people say about the Flip 4 is right. At sounds below ''loud'', it sounds really nice: it seems better than the Ultra at all frequencies below the highest, and the Ultra didn''t seem to best it in highs either. The Ultra goes a little louder, but both start to sound like crap at high volumes, even if they''re not distorting: the Flip 4 definitely moreso. At some point as you continue raising the volume, the Flip 4''s bass just stays the same, and only the upper mids and high frequencies get louder, with unacceptable resulting sound. I''m not sure if this is some kind of DSP [digital signal processing], or if it''s naturally that way. Many people believe there is DSP in most of these high-end BT speakers, but if that''s true, I don''t see why they wouldn''t have EQ''d the Flip 4 better, as it responds REALLY well to careful EQ''ing, to the point where I can make the non-EQ''d Flip 4 sound like ''crap'' when doing an A/B comparison, and it sounds pretty darn good without EQ already.
I am converted to the side-firing passive radiators JBL uses. It pretty much completely negates the vibration issue. Oontz is down-firing, which leads to several obvious problems.
The Flip 4''s BT range is AMAZING. When I could get a BT connection on the Ultra, its reception was, IIRC, comparable to the regular Angle3. With the Flip 4, I can take it into rooms pretty reliably that I couldn''t previously at all, and can walk through the kitchen usually without it breaking up.
Battery life of Ultra and Flip 4 are both very nice. I suspect both use two 18650 cells [a very mature lithium-ion platform used in laptops and electric cars], and if so, that''s why. The ''regular'' Angle 3 has one 18650 [verified], and still lasts a long time compared to the bigger blokes because it''s more efficient. The reason I bought the original Angle3 was because it used an honest-to-God 18650 cell, instead of a more-questionable rectangular old-school cellphone style battery. Battery quality is more important than you think, and in the world of lower-end BT speakers, that is make-or-break. Making all that bass takes lots of energy. Read bad reviews of cheapo BT speakers, and you''ll find a lot of the probs are due to poor internal, non-replaceable batteries. I''d still love to see a hi-fi BT speaker with a replaceable 18650 battery. I have a belt-clip "PA" speaker which takes a removable 18650 battery, and use it all the time for non-music audio.
The Flip 4 comes with a lanyard, but I wish it had a lanyard attachment on both sides for sling-type or around-the-neck carry, like the [original?] JBL Charge [the one that looked just like the Flip 4]. Both are substantially heavier than the regular Angle3, but are small enough to carry from room to room without being a bother. For frequent pack carry, I''d go for the regular Angle3.
Both Oontz varieties were prone to doing a weird audio shutdown/gate when fed unusual audio signals, such Line-in of a monaural telephone line through adapters. The Flip just plays it confidently out of one speaker and doesn''t flinch. All 3 have a weird sound gate, which mutes the line-in after a (pretty short) period of not detecting audio, which means that quieter passages of audio don''t get ''played'' until you turn the volume way up so the speaker board can ''hear'' the audio :( .
The ULTRA needed to be played at higher levels for it to sound its best. I largely judge a speaker by how well it sounds at lower volume levels [more difficult]. Then again, at slightly higher volumes than its sweet spot, the Ultra''s performance starts to deteriorate. (Not a good combo.)
When you disconnect a line-in from an Oontz, it automatically goes into Bluetooth-searching mode. I find this mildly annoying. Flip 4 you have to manually make it search BT, but then again there''s no way to unpair from the Flip 4 that I''ve found, without just turning the speaker off.
The Oontz you have to hold the power button down to make it turn on. The Flip 4 you just press the button, and it''s a really high quality feeling recessed button that won''t get turned on accidentally. I wish the Flip4''s Bluetooth button were the same, as I accidentally hit the Bluetooth Search button ALL THE TIME, esp when fumbling for the volume (which is easy to find on the Oontz''s).
JBL FLIP 4 ISN''T PERFECT EITHER
There are things I DON''T like about the Flip 4. I love the Oontz''s TRIANGLE shape: it''s stable, and aims at you more than not. The Flip 4 can roll around, and you run into issues with cables sticking out the back (including danger of torquing them). The Oontz''s have a MUTE function on Aux-In (very handy sometimes); I can''t find a Mute function on the JBL. The JBL''s fabric tends to attract dirt. The JBL makes a pretty loud noise on both bootup and shutdown; this is something Cambridge Soundworks learned not to do on earlier versions of the Oontz (<cough> original Angle 3). The Oontz Ultra has a noticeably much "quieter" alert sounds. I''ve woken up people turning the Flip 4 on and off (tip: the only way I''ve found to avoid shutdown sounds on the Flip 4 is to either turn it off while still connected to BT, or to disconnect BT and let do a timeout power-down ). Everyone complains about this, and JBL could easily change this with a firmware update. The Flip 4 disgustingly does NOT have APTX (for all that money you pay!), and the BT lag is atrocious. Videos of people speaking are not sync''d up. Workarounds for such audio delay are beyond the ability of most people. Apparently the Ultra doesn''t have APTX either: still surprising, but it''s less-understandable for the Flip 4, given that it''s almost DOUBLE the already-expensive price of the Ultra. If I''m right, this means you''ll get delay on the Ultra as well [I tested it mostly with music when I had it]. The only thing you can really do is watch the video through a program that can adjust audio sync [like non-mobile versions of VLC or MPC-HC], and to do that you''ll most likely have to be able to watch the video offline (i.e. download it), which is usually not practical. I really wonder if the mfr''s are purposely withholding APTx just to give us a reason to do ''another'' upgrade.
I prefer the button locations of the Oontz. The Oontz has a way to manually disconnect BT using buttons; I haven''t figured out a way to do this from the Flip 4.
The Flip 4 is VERY noisy: for something basically considered quasi-"audiophile", there''s a ton of self-noise. All these BT speakers are pretty noisy internally, buy the Flip 4 the most. It''s so bad that when I''m not playing anything, I sometimes point the Flip 4 downward, or just move it out of earshot. If you live in a noisy environment or are as hard-of-hearing as most people, you might not notice, but I live in a quiet environment and good hearing. The Flip4''s self-noise becomes a REAL problem at lowest levels (i.e. when I''m trying not to wake someone nearby). The self-noise can actually all but wash out really soft sound. That''s ridiculous. The Oontz Ultra had self-noise like any BT speaker, but it wasn''t as much of a problem.
The Flip4 is the most finicky about speaker placement of all 3 mentioned here. The high freq''s mysteriously start to be less audible outside of the sweet spot of about 1.5 feet. Don''t get me wrong, it''s still nice, but I can actually pinpoint the sweet spot down to within ~3 inches! 360 degree speakers are made, but I prefer directionality for a variety of reasons, including efficiency, sound quality, and (at low levels) disturbing others less. That said, I recently was able to borrow a set of Taotronics Bluetooth headphones, and I have to say, they''re better for not disturbing others when they''re sleeping, and I''m quite happy with them, except I can''t lie on my side with headphones, and I''m kind of anti-headphones in general, largely due to greater risk of hearing damage.
If you have kids or naughty pets, the exposed passive bass radiators on the sides of the Flip 4 could get damaged. The Oontzes seem a bit more rough-and-tumble. The JBL Flip 4 seems more refined.
The "manual" for the Flip 4 is horrible: very short on info, high on "hieroglyphs". It''s like a really long, annoying, multi-language Quick Start Guide. I think Cambridge (Oontz) provides better documentation and their support (from what I''ve read) seems to be okay and US-based. (I did not contact them over the BT issue because I knew, after the firmware update, that nothing would fix it.)
I find with all these speakers, it''s easy for them to be upside-down, or oriented wrongly. This is especially true fpr the Flip4. I frequently grab for the invisible tactile buttons and don''t feel them b/c it''s upside-down.
I first mistook the JBLConnect button as the Bluetooth button. It''s not. That''s why I needed the manual. I literally couldn''t even see the Bluetooth button on the Flip 4. I still wish the JBLC button were the BT button. I''m not crazy about the JBLConnect feature and thought I''d never use it, but one night when trying to listen to a show with someone making dinner for me in another room, I could see the use. I ended up trying to aim the speaker for both of us to hear, but a built-in repeater would be nice; I just don''t like proprietary. And if there is no delay problem with JBLConnect, which the JBL BT speakers already have, why can''t JBL fix the main units'' delay problem?
Battery life meter on Flip 4 is way too optimistic and lies. When you plug it in, it shows its true state, which is usually 1 or 2 ''dots'' lower than it portrayed itself while not charging. Seems to be a linear voltage reading, but li-ion voltage curve is not linear! IMO, if you''re even 1 dot down, you should charge it after you''re done. Then again, with the Oontz line, you get less of an indicator--especially the original Angle3.
I''m not sure about micro USB port sturdiness with the JBL. I almost boycotted JBL over complaints of too-weak USB ports on a variety of models. I''m SUPER careful about attaching & detaching USB on the Flip 4 (no more one-handed fumbling). The Oontz Ultra connector seemed sturdier, and has proved quite sturdy in my ''regular'' Angle 3.
With the Flip 4, the question is: did (almost) twice as much (retail) cost result in twice as good sound quality? I''d say NO, BUT--in reality, it was twice as much ENJOYABILITY. That''s a fine distinction, but it''s a real one. I''d say for double the price, you get about 50% better sound quality ("diminishing returns" is considered "normal" for "hi-fi"). But that 50% improvement for me, was the difference between being satisfied and not satisfied with the sound. I find myself listening to music more than I used to, just because I like the sound a lot (and I was able to make good EQ''s with my equipment--farther than most people will go). I have less listening fatigue with the Flip 4 over the Ultra. In fact, the Ultra gave more fatigue than even the original Angle3. With the Flip 4, there is "less" bass, but it is "better" bass, and with good EQ, it can produce quite stunning amounts of realllly nice bass, with nothing lacking, amazingly. I mean, the sound is better than a lot of decent bigger boombox/shelf systems. In reality, because I got an orphan Flip 4, I only paid about 20 bucks more over the retail Ultra, but it was more risky. In my case, it worked out.
For years (and perhaps still currently in January 2019), the (regular) Oontz Angle 3 (not Ultra) has been the best-selling BT speaker on Amazon, and for a good reason. The Ultra proved (for me) to be a dud design, considering the anticipated "improvements". Cambridge better get its act together, after embarrassing itself with the "Plus" and then replacing it with the "Ultra" like Microsoft replaced Vista. Don''t be ashamed to get the regular Angle 3. While nothing is perfect, it''s a proven design that is reliable and a great performer if you want smallish size and/or medium-low cost. Cambridge Soundworks is still making the regular Angle 3, despite 2 newer iterations, and that says something. I can fit a regular Angle 3 in a fanny pack, but really not larger models. If you want a more "party" type sound and don''t mind something the size of a large water bottle, consider the Charge 3 at a discount now. If you want to sit with the thing actually pointed at you and actually LISTEN to the music, and can appreciate the difference, but still want something you can carry around easily from room to room, I think the Flip 4 is best. If you want a glorified desktop-only speaker, there are even larger models out there to consider. Where does the Oontz Ultra fit in? Nowhere, in my opinion! Cambridge, get yer act together! And improve your naming convention!
I also invite Cambridge to get ahold of me for further feedback, and/or beta programs.