If you are in the market for portable BlueTooth speakers, JBL is a name you will quickly get very familiar with. One of the more reliable brands you will find on the market, the cylindrical design of JBL speakers has become synonymous with quality portable audio options. For those narrowing down their choices, it can still be hard to find the ideal speaker under one brand.
The newest, prettiest kid on the block is the JBL Boombox 3 which has been greeted with some pretty positive reception since its release, recent as it may be. While we won’t be overly grandiose about its capabilities, this may be one of the better portable speakers JBL has released.
To offer a fair comparison, we have set it up next to the JBL Xtreme 3, a brilliant on-the-go option for the nomadic music nerd. We will be covering the speakers based on their sound, design, battery capabilities, price, and more. If you still aren’t sure which speaker you want at the end of this article, bear in mind that there is no shortage of alternative options (that we review extensively) to consider.
Credit where it is due, the Boombox 3 is a great speaker that will run you nearly $500 at full sticker price. While it isn’t dense with features, the newest JBL product offers incredible audio with enough volume to drown out any social interaction with aggressive dubstep.
Its bass feels really solid for a device of its size and is backed by a battery that can comfortably run for a day on moderate volume levels. It has a good bit of water and dust resistance and feels like it will survive the outdoors for quite some time.
- Exceptional Audio
- Great Battery
- Sturdy and Waterproof
- Not a ton of features
The Xtreme 3 may offer a bit less than the Boombox 3 in audio, but it also comes at a discounted price of that is quite a bit south of $400 MSRP. Its audio ability is slightly more limited than the bigger device but it makes up for it with a stellar battery, water and dust resistance, durability, and a built-in bottle cap opener.
Well, it mostly makes up for it. This is not a speaker for hardcore audio enthusiasts, but if you need something tough and reliable – The Xtreme 3 is still a solid purchase.
- Great Battery
- Average Audio
- Heavy Static at max volumes
- Few Features
The biggest disparity between portable speakers and their bigger, less mobile siblings is the lack of bump in the sound. As unfortunate as it may be, the smaller the speaker is – the less likely it will be to pump out deafening audio or deep bass.
Because of this, companies are trying to find a comfortable balance between efficiency, portability, and the quality of the audio. To get a better perspective of how these two JBL speakers performed, let’s consider what they bring to the table.
The JBL Boombox 3 is exceptional when it comes to its sound quality. This chunky critter has a lot to brag about when you take a look at what it has under the surface, but let’s go over some of the more general qualities first.
The audio quality is about as good as you can get for a portable speaker at this price range, though you should take advantage of the adaptive EQ to bring the sharpness of the treble back a bit.
If you want a speaker that you can lug around like a portable party, this is a worthwhile choice. While it won’t win any awards for its max volume, it does get loud and can project its sound well. The bass comes in cleanly for a battery-powered speaker of middling size and is more than able to fill out the audio “profile” of a song quite nicely.
The Boombox 3 has a listed frequency range of 40 Hz – 20 kHz.
If we peer underneath the pleasant exterior we are immediately greeted by a large, oval-shaped subwoofer sitting at 7.4 x 4.5 inches. There are two 2.75-inch midrange drivers on either side with a .75-inch tweeter stacked atop each. Stacked is a good word for it as well, for the price range it’s in – the Boombox 3 is exceptional.
The JBL Xtreme 3 falls short of the larger Boombox 3, though this is to be expected when compared to a newer, larger speaker. The high notes of this speaker are its surprising volume and audio projection, though at max volumes you are likely to hear a fair bit of static or interference. While it won’t sound as clear as the Boombox 3, the Xtreme 3 can comfortably work as a party speaker for a decent-sized gathering.
As far as its frequency range, it simply does not measure up to the Boombox. Its listed range is 53.5Hz to 20k Hz and does not bring a big pop in its bass. The default audio of the device is fairly warm and not overly crisp. If you do wish to change it you can do so with the graphic equalizer found on the Connect app. Underneath the outer layer, the Xtreme 3 has two 2.75-inch woofers and two .75-inch tweeters.
Verdict – The Boombox 3 has proven that JBL has significantly worked to improve the audio capabilities of its speakers. It is considerably better than the Xtreme 3 in terms of sound quality.
Design & Durability
While the design of JBL products may be virtually identical across several products, there still are minor concerns to be aware of for durability.
While most JBL speakers provide a good bit of weather resistance, you want to make sure the material and design feels compact and sturdy. Failure to do so could result in you learning just how cheaply some expensive speakers are made. In the case of either of these speakers, this is not a concern.
The Boombox 3 is a hefty husk of a speaker sitting in at fifteen pounds and taking up a considerably wider amount of space at 22 x 10 x 12.7 inches. The JBL product comes with an excellent IP (Ingress Protection) rating of 67, meaning it is submersible in water (not that we recommend that) and reliably dust-proof.
The biggest issue most consumers are going to have to contend with is the tripled weight of the Boombox over the Xtreme 3.
While the bulkier size allows for certain advantages like battery life and sound quality, the downside is that it becomes a lot less portable. Thankfully, it is a bit less awkward to lug around as it comes with an additional topside handle to make mobility a bit more realistic.
It also has the ability to float in water should you want your jams to join you in the bathtub. To put it simply, the Boombox 3 has all the longevity you could require, but it is far less transportable.
The Xtreme 3 looks like it could be the offspring of its competitor at a much more efficient four pounds and measuring in at 5.3 x 11.75 x 5.35 inches. As far as durability, it matches the lofty standards of JBL with an IP 67 rating and material that feels high-quality and more than likely to last a good bit of time.
It doesn’t come with the topside handle of the Boombox 3, though it does offer a carrying strap (with a built-in bottle opener). The Xtreme 3 cannot float in water, though if it does fall into the nearest pond it will more than likely survive the occasion.
Where this product shines is that it can fit almost anywhere and is far more portable than the bulkier cousin it’s being compared with. If you are looking for a portable speaker you can fit in the side of a backpack, this is far preferable to the Boombox 3.
Verdict – While both are as durable as modern portable speakers allow, the mobility and decreased size of the Xtreme 3 will be favorable to a good portion of consumers.
Few things are more important to a portable speaker than its ability to play music away from a power outlet. Because of this, companies have put more emphasis on their speakers’ charge life and JBL is no exception.
Naturally, the bigger speaker is often going to have a larger battery – though both of these do a good job of staying juiced up. While we will list the manufacturer’s specified battery lives, these are rough averages at best and are determined by volume, power-draining features, and what music is playing.
The Boombox 3 has an incredible battery life of around 24 hours with a 6.5-hour charge. It offers a power-saving feature that turns it off after a few minutes of inactivity.
The battery life of this monster is without question much longer than the Xtreme 3 and secondary testing has further confirmed this to be true. The downside is that the charge time is considerably longer for a full charge, so whichever is more important to the consumer will likely be the deciding factor.
The Xtreme 3 has a very solid 15-hour battery life that will require a 2.5-hour charge. Considering the fact that this device is a third of the space and girth of its competitor – this is fantastic.
Even more worthy of praise is the speedy charge time that allows you to be accompanied by music as often as you like. While it certainly can’t compete with the battery life of the Xtreme 3, it still has a remarkable battery for its stature. Like most JBL products, it offers a power-saving feature that auto-shuts off the device after a few minutes of inactivity.
Verdict – If you want quick charge times and a good battery, go with the Xtreme 3. If you want an exceptional battery with a six-hour charge time, go with the larger Boombox 3.
When it comes to features, JBL has always left a lot of bells and whistles to the other companies. The usual add-ons most people expect in a portable speaker are there, however. To get a better idea of which fits more to your own personal preference, let’s compare what each brings to the table.
As can be expected from a portable speaker, both devices utilize Bluetooth. The Xtreme 3 has 5.1, while the Boombox 3 utilizes version 5.3.
This basically boils down to the Boombox 3 having slightly better connection performance overall. Both products take advantage of JBL’s Party Boost, which gives you the ability to connect either speaker to compatible JBL devices.
Ports & Accessories
If the newest iteration of the JBL Boombox had one glaring weakness, it would have to be its lack of inputs. It is almost three times the speaker of the smaller, older Xtreme 3 and yet has fewer inputs on it. The Boombox 3 comes with one auxiliary input, USB-A output, and the usual JBL product goodies (manual, warranty, power cords).
The Xtreme 3 might be the older, out-of-date uncle of the Boombox 3 but it came to have a good time. To start with, it comes with a strap to throw around your shoulder that has a built-in bottle cap opener. This is a peculiar choice, but an admittedly useful and funny feature for several audio enthusiasts.
More importantly, it comes with an Auxiliary input, a USB-A output, and a USB-C output. While this might be a deliberate decision, it feels weird to leave such a large device like the Boombox 3 so barren.
JBL Portable App
Out of all the different apps that are used in tandem with portable speakers, there are far worse options than JBL Connect. Sitting at a 4.2 on Google and 4.6 on The App Store, Connect works without issue for most users and is fairly efficient at offering the help most consumers need.
The downside to the app is that it is fairly barebones and will largely be unused outside of firmware updates and the graphic EQ. Considering the frustrating nature of some of these apps, that might actually be preferable.
Verdict – They are essentially identical except for an additional USB output and a strap with a bottle opener (which are found on the Xtreme 3). While both devices offer almost everything you need, they are certainly not feature-rich.
The Boombox 3 has superior audio, battery, and the invaluable ability to float in water. Additionally, it is considerably larger, heftier, and much more expensive overall.
If you are an audio enthusiast with a couple of extra dollars to toss around, the Boombox 3 will make an excellent speaker provided you have a bit more room. Though if you are okay with taking a hit to your audio quality, the Xtreme 3 is still a very competent product.