Along the edge of the speaker are dedicated buttons for Bluetooth pairing, Power, Call Answering/Ending (which is the Play/Pause button when you’re not fielding a call), and Volume Up/Down (these controls work in conjunction with, not independently of, your phone’s volume controls). There are no controls for track navigation, but that’s done easily enough through your connected Bluetooth device. The pairing process with an iPhone 5s was quick and simple, and the Clip auto-pairs upon powering up after the initial pairing.
The back panel houses a snap-in compartment for a built-in 3.5mm cable. The cable winds once around the diameter of the speaker like a yo-yo string and then snaps into place. It’s a nice design touch, but since the cable is hard-wired to the speaker internally, you can’t replace it if it fails. It might have been better just to include a compartment for the cable, but keep it completely separate from the body of the speaker. That said, by the time this cable fails, unless you really treat the Clip poorly or just have some bad luck, the speaker will likely have lived out its usefulness and you’ll have gotten your $50 worth.
The carabiner clip at the top of the speaker is made of a rubberized material and is easy to fasten on to belt loops and bag handles. The included charging cable (micro USB to USB) is very short, and the speaker is large enough that it can make for awkward desktop charging scenarios. JBL estimates the battery life of the Clip at a modest 5 hours of playback, but your volumes levels will have the ultimate say in how long the rechargeable internal battery lasts.
On tracks with intense sub-bass, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” you shouldn’t expect much out of a speaker the size and price of the Clip to begin with. Indeed, certain sections of the track will cause the Clip to distort slightly, but the distortion is surprisingly subtle even at top volumes. We’ve heard more expensive speakers crackle far more intensely than this. In general, you don’t get a great sense of the deep bass content this track has, nor would you expect to with a speaker so small. The best to hope for is minimal-to-zero distortion, and the Clip delivers this reliably. On less challenging tracks, distortion is not an issue in the slightest.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass content, sounds surprisingly full and rich through the Clip. His baritone vocals have a strong presence in the low-mids, while the high-mids bring out the treble edge in his vocals and the guitar strumming enough so that the overall sound signature is crisp and articulate. The drums on this track, which on bass-boosted speakers can sound unnatural, here sound almost relegated to the background. Bass lovers looking for throttle will need to search for a more powerful, larger, and more expensive speaker, but those of you seeking a decent balance between lows and highs in a small size will not be disappointed.