The world of Bluetooth speakers is buzzing with the new release of the JBL Boombox 3, the successor to the well-received Boombox 2. (I suppose that might be a bit obvious). Regardless, it is quickly being pushed to the forefront of the portable speaker market and for good reason – it is a great speaker.
To create an imaginary measurement of where this speaker stacks up to the competition, let’s take a look at the Sony XG500. The XG500 may not be the most popular Sony product offered today, but it is virtually identical in price to the Boombox 3. So if you are looking for a good portable speaker in the sub-$500 price range, there is more than likely one in this article you can comfortably depend on.
We will be covering these speakers in a brief comparison, then going into more detail about sound quality, design, charge life, price and features further down.
JBL Boombox 3
The Boombox 3 is a good speaker for its nearly $500 price tag, but you may want to be careful about its lack of features. The sound quality of this speaker is great although it is slightly quieter than the Sony XG500.
Thankfully, the audio comes in crisp and clear regardless of the decibel level. The battery will last you a day or better and the tough outer shell will keep this speaker safe from most external dangers. If you have a little extra cash to spend and want to purchase a worthwhile speaker, the new Boombox 3 is a strong recommendation.
- Great Audio
- Good Battery
- Durable and Resistant
- Few Features
- Slightly heavier
Sony did an excellent job with the XG500, which is almost $500 when not on discount (which is fairly often). The problem is the Boombox 3 simply outclasses it in audio quality despite being a quieter speaker.
It has good sound quality, however, and an incredible battery that can get 24+ hour battery life from a three-hour charge. It comes with several more features than the Boombox 3 and is remarkably tough and well-designed even if it isn’t quite as water-resistant.
Depending on what you want out of a speaker, we would strongly recommend it – especially if you can fetch a discount.
- Crazy Battery Life
- Very Durable
- Strong in all categories
- Pricey (though often discounted)
- The sound quality is inferior
- The plastic handle feels cheap
You can outfit a product in kevlar and toss as many rhinestones as you like on the surface but if it doesn’t play audio well, it is still a bad speaker. Sound quality isn’t significant for a speaker — it is paramount.
So when we cover audio – it has to be extensive. We are going to take a look at everything underneath the hood, the volume in decibels, frequency, soundstage, and much more.
Considering that everyone is currently giving the Boombox 3 the star treatment, we will feature it first. The Boombox 3 has shown notable improvements over its predecessor with a boisterous sound that will drown out casual conversation.
The audio quality is exceptional, though the sound can feel overly optimistic with incredibly crisp treble and boisterous percussion. While this would normally be a point-off, the audio equalizer included in the app does a great job of customizing the sound to your preference.
Boombox is a fitting name for the product — its audio feels like it comes at you with velocity and reaches far corners of your surroundings. It has an advertised frequency response of 40 Hz – 20 kHz and the bass feels better represented here than in most portable options. At higher volumes, you will notice the bass retreating a bit as vocals and drums begin to crowd the audio, though it still sounds very clear.
There was very little static, interruptions or compression at max volume though the audio quality did diminish slightly. If we were to peel back the layers we would find a 7.4 x 4.5-inch oval-shaped Subwoofer, with two 2.75-inch midrange drivers and two .75-inch tweeters.
The Sony XG500 is not going to break any records with its audio ability, though it feels proficient throughout. The biggest drawback most will notice is the distinct lack of lower bass with the Sony product.
The default audio settings result in some falsetto singers sounding a bit muted when they start showing their range. This also can be adjusted with the equalizer that comes in the Sony app.
The good news is that it does play in stereo; the bad is that the audio output feels a bit thin in projection. Thankfully, the sound is quite audible and the product is more than capable of being an efficient mobile speaker for outdoor occasions.
While it seems to get a bit louder than the Boombox 3, the audio is a fair bit more staticky at max volumes.
Going a bit deeper, the XG500 has a very interesting approach to its sound output. The “X-Balanced” speaker allows itself to play in stereo through a horizontal layout internally that sits two 4.3-inch woofers and two 1-inch tweeters. While it may fall a few notches behind its JBL competitor, it still more than holds its own for the discounted price.
Verdict – The Boombox 3 justifies its higher price with notably superior audio all around; The Sony XG500 does have a slightly superior decibel level though.
Design & Durability
Portable speakers should be easy to move, durable, resistant to weather, and hopefully not covered in rhinestones (unless that is your aesthetic).
While both speakers have a pleasant aesthetic and clever design, the thing we want to more closely examine is which speaker has a better chance at longevity. If you want to take your portable speaker everywhere, it needs to stand up to most environments.
We will get into more detail about the on-speaker menus in the Features & Software section!
JBL is fairly reliable when it comes to the tough outer shell of its products, even if they can appear and feel cumbersome at times. The Boombox 3 does not reinvent the wheel in terms of its design, but it improved on an already pretty package.
The company emblem feels a bit more elegantly represented with the built-in lettering. And the lighter black hue (compared to the Boombox 2) adds to the sleek appeal.
The Boombox 3 is a few pounds heavier than the Sony product at just over fifteen pounds, though has slightly better water resistance with an IP (Ingress Protection) rating of 67. If you want to test that claim, you can drop it into a channel and watch it float across the water.
While this feels a bit like splitting hairs, it should be said that the quality of the fabrics and plastics used on this device feels far better than that of the XG500. This bulky JBL speaker will take up 22 x 10 x 12.7 inches of room.
The Sony XG500 is fairly light for its size and easily transportable, in a design that looks crisp and futuristic, even if it may feel a bit cheap. Visually, the inward arching design of the exterior mixed with the low-light LED makes the Sony product fit in a bit more casually.
Those with a taste for minimal, illuminated exteriors will likely appreciate the XG500 a bit more than the more flamboyant Boombox 3.
The weight of the XG500 is a decent bit lighter than its competitor at twelve pounds, though this does seem to come at a cost. The handle of the Sony product feels hollow and cheap, though this may be the cost of a lighter speaker.
While it can’t float like the Boombox 3, it does offer reliable protection with an IP 66 rating. The overall dimensions of the Sony product are 18 x 10 x 8.4 inches.
Verdict – The Boombox 3 has a better quality package that is a bit more durable, though it is going to weigh you down a few pounds more.
No one wants to have to worry about how many hours they are going to be able to listen to music when they are out and about. Because of this, battery life has become one of the most important deciding factors in which speaker people decide to purchase.
Whether you are going to get four hours or forty largely depends on the battery the speaker comes with, the size of the speaker, the volume you listen at, and how many additional power-draining features are enabled.
Both devices allow you to play music while the device charges.
The JBL Boombox 3 has an advertised battery life of 24 hours after a 6.5-hour charge. Like most portable speakers, it offers a battery-saving feature that shuts down the Boombox after a few minutes have passed without it being used.
It offers a battery-life status LED just below the JBL letters. This is a remarkably dependable battery that any consumer should be more than happy with.
The XG500 is specified to have a battery that can keep pumping the playlist for 30 hours following roughly 3 hours of charge time. While the battery life is impressive, it can hardly be relied on due to the many variables that go into an individual charge (volume, audio modes, LEDs, etc).
What is more impressive is the lightning-fast charge time for such incredible battery life. You could escape to the outdoors with your favorite tunes for several days at a time with the Sony XG500.
Verdict – While the XG500 is technically better, both devices offer an impressive battery. With that said, the XG500 has a very quick charge time that edges it over the Boombox 3.
Features & Software
As audio equipment continues to evolve, we can only expect more and more beneficial features. While this is certainly a good problem to have, it can become dizzying trying to compare the several different accommodations that may come with a product.
To give a better look at exactly how these two products stack up, let’s take a categorical look at everything they have to offer.
Bluetooth is largely essential for portable speakers nowadays. While several offer USB and auxiliary inputs, the efficiency of wirelessly playing DJ is hard to overlook.
Both devices are Bluetooth compatible with the XG500 being version 5.0 and the Boombox 3 being 5.3. To give a very broad description of the differences, 5.3 offers slight improvements in the strength and quality of the connection while lessening interference.
The Sony XG500 has what they call Party Connect, which allows for up to 100 compatible devices to sync their audio and LEDs up and play in unison.
The Boombox 3 has JBL’s Party Boost, which you can use to pair up to 100 JBL Compatible speakers.
Both speakers come with a graphic equalizer through their mobile apps and the XG500 offers alternative listening modes.
To be more specific, the XG500 comes with MEGA BASS which as the name suggests brings up the bass a bit. You also get LIVE SOUND+, which claims to enhance the sound of recorded live performances or acoustic sessions.
Clear Audio+ is supposed to adjust the sound to fit the music you are listening to and can adapt in real-time to your playlist. Finally, there is DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine), which allows the speaker to improve the sound of compressed audio.
It should also be mentioned that the Sony product uses the term “X-balanced speaker” quite often, though is always vague on what it means.
Essentially, it is a horizontal speaker that has a non-circular design that in theory allows for the bass to hit a bit more viscerally. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but it does allow for stereo audio.
Ports & Accessories
The Boombox 3 has a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and a USB output. It comes with a power cord, safety sheet, quick start guide, and a warranty. While things like audio modes and built-in can openers aren’t going to determine whether or not you purchase a product – lacking inputs is a pretty big buzzkill.
The XG500 offers an Auxiliary input, two USB charging ports, a microphone/guitar input as well as a power adaptor and cord. Sony has been in the audio business for a while and it shows in its features, which feel focused on making the XG500 more versatile than the competition.
It goes without saying that the XG500 is far more feature-rich than the Boombox 3.
The JBL Portable app has a rating of 4.2 on Google and 4.6 on The App Store. As far as stereo apps go, scores this high are fantastic and certainly well above the average. The downside is that if you don’t have multiple speakers, most of the app’s usefulness will be limited to audio mixing.
Sony – never to be outdone – has outfitted its product with two different mobile apps. The first app is Sony’s Music Center which has a 4.4 on Google and a 4.5 on The App Store. It essentially performs all the functions of the JBL Portable app with additional audio modes as well as a low battery indicator.
Fiestable is the second app that you can download with your speaker and maintains a 3.8 on Google and a 2.4 on The Store. Fiestable works like a remote for your Sony audio system, though it feels like more of a headache than a helping hand. The lighting effects are poorly implemented and oftentimes people can’t even access the app itself due to bugs or software freezes.
Verdict – The Sony XG500 has more features and customization without question. The Boombox 3 could have benefitted from a few more inputs.
While there is a strong case for both speakers, which one we would recommend depends strongly on what you are looking for in an audio device. If you want crystal clear audio regardless of decibel, incredible durability, and good battery life, we would strongly recommend the Boombox 3.
For those looking for a speaker with above-average audio, large volumes, exceptional battery, and a potential price cut; we would strongly recommend the XG500. While the Boombox 3 has a new release and a fresher package, that comes with the caveat that it is far less likely to be discounted in the future.
While it won’t have the satisfying finality of picking one speaker over another; I would comfortably say both speakers are exceptional and worthy of anyone’s money.