In the modern world, technology is constantly changing and evolving. This is great for the most part, and affords us all the great tech we have available these days.
One issue that does cause this, is consumer confusion when it comes to the constant evolution of one product. Whether it’s Playstations or the new iPhone, there seem to be endless models.
While this is great for consumers, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees and whether upgrading your specific model to the next is worth it, or if it is simply a marketing campaign to boost sales for a new product.
Not only do you not want to waste your money on a pointless upgrade, but it will also waste your time doing the comparison.
The bluetooth speaker has now become one of these market-optimized products that constantly seem to be refreshed and renewed every year.
JBL is a company that adopts this marketing method. And in particular, one of their product revamps that causes some head scratching is the JBL Boombox 2 vs the JBL Boombox original model.
To the untrained eye, it seems pretty similar even though they have different pricing, and can confuse the non tech-savvy among us.
That’s what we’re here for. We have created a guide to the JBL Boombox and it’s upgrade, the JBL Boombox 2, so you don’t have to waste any time researching which model is better for your purposes. Read on to learn if this upgrade is worth the cost!
Why The JBL Boombox Series?
The JBL Boombox, whether you buy the first or second model, is essentially a modern spin on the classic boombox. The classic boombox was popular due to its portability but also great sound quality.
It meant that people, for the first time, could take their studio quality speakers into the streets and parks of the world. This was the first time that you could make your sound system mobile with ease.
Back in the 80s when the boombox became popular, the ability to take your sound system anywhere was gladly exchanged for the small nuisance of carrying it around.
The JBL Boombox series brings back the mobility and high sound quality, while still keeping the speaker design that celebrates everything we love about the original boombox design.
Expect high sound quality and clever engineering that results in a modern and practical speaker for the audiophile on the move.
However, as modern technology has progressed we now have speakers ¼ of the size with double the wattage and sound quality to the original tape deck boombox.
So why bring the boombox design back, and does the upgrade make any changes to the original product? Let’s find out.
Build And Design Quality
As mentioned, the two models are pretty similar. They both are a modern take on the classic boombox. The main advancements that have changed the design quality of the general boombox are the speakers themselves and the ergonomic design.
Gone are the sharp corners of 1980s plastic moulding, as curves are back in.
The JBL Boombox series has a full near 360 degree vertical range thanks to its cylindrical design. This allows for the speaker to wrap vertically around this cylinder, the only blind spots being the base of the speaker as it is against the floor, obviously.
This design also cleverly allows the subwoofers to inhabit the now circular ends of the cylinder design.
This is fine as the low frequencies of bass aren’t directional and can go around corners and through materials, whereas the high frequencies of vocals and synths are directional so the wrap-around design enables everyone to hear the speaker no matter where they are in context to the location of the speaker.
This is a desirable quality when outside with a lot of people, and is a great technological advancement on the original design of the boombox which was directional and had to be turned to face its users.
Both models are ruggedly designed for outdoor use and durability, which is evident in the use of IPX7 material technology which makes the speaker both water and splash-resistant to a degree.
Both speakers have this feature. It prevents damage from the common drink spill or water pistol friendly-fire at BBQs.
The first point of comparison between the JBL Boombox and the JBL Boombox 2 is the size and weight. While the JBL Boombox weighs less than 12 pounds, the new JBL Boombox 2 weighs over 13 pounds, which is a mildly noteworthy difference.
The JBL Boombox and Boombox 2 both have a similar size, which is roughly 19″ x 10″ x 8″ for each.
While this can seem like a purely aesthetic issue, those who want to get out and about with their speakers may want to consider the build and weight of the two different speakers. In this scenario, the difference is slight enough that you shouldn’t use it to make a purchase decision.
Both speakers have a large and rugged handle which makes transport and carrying much easier, enabling you to walk around with it on your shoulder if you wanted to.
Both the Boombox and Boombox 2 have some cool design options such as camo print and numerous colors.
Some people love this kind of customization so that their speaker can match their room or car, but does it warrant a price increase?
What About The Battery Life?
Surprisingly, there isn’t so much to report in this area. Both speakers have the exact same battery and battery life. This breaks down to around 24hours of battery life and 6.5 hours charge time for full battery.
This is pretty impressive for a similar type of speaker on the market, but doesn’t change how we view each model. It’s a serious push to expect someone to be using this speaker for longer than 24hours – who even has the playlist for that length of time?
However, even though both have the same battery life, interestingly, the JBL Boombox has two charging ports, while the Boombox 2 only has one.
These USB charging ports allow you to charge your phone with the speaker’s massive battery, although this will drain your speaker.
This is great if you are outdoors and your phone battery starts to die but is mainly an emergency feature you won’t use that often and doesn’t really affect the primary operation of the speaker.
The fact there is one less on the Boombox 2 doesn’t really change much, but surely reduces the build cost?
There is a point of comparison on the connectivity of the two speakers, which is the in-built software that dictates how they connect with devices as well as other speakers. While the JBL Boombox has JBL Connect +, the JBL Boombox 2 has JBL PartyBoost.
The main difference here is that these are two different firmwares that don’t interact with each other. What is meant by this, is that if you have two JBL Boomboxes they can be connected, and the same goes if you have two JBL Boombox 2’s.
However, if you wanted to connect a JBL Boombox with a JBL Boombox 2 then you can’t do that because they operate on these different firmwares.
This is perhaps a small point of comparison that matters to few users, but it’s worth considering if this is something you do regularly.
At the end of the day, this is simply a marketing tactic by JBL to force you into upgrading your speaker in order to get these more specific features.
In terms of bluetooth, the JBL Boombox has Bluetooth 4.2 and the JBL Boombox 2 has Bluetooth 5.1. Without getting into the nitty and gritty of bluetooth design, this essentially means that JBL Boombox is half as fast as the JBL Boombox 2. Additionally, bluetooth range is about double on the Boombox 2.
However, this isn’t a huge point of comparison as they both still have little connectivity issues with devices or other speakers beyond firmware differences. This is a feature that the general user will almost never recognise in normal usage.
Sound Quality: The Nitty And Gritty
The feature you will probably spend most of your attention on is the sound quality of these speakers. Some hardware and driver differences result in a slightly more stable sound for one than the other.
After its original release the original JBL Boombox received some pretty favorable reviews from the hardware critics. Its rich and full sound demonstrated how modern technology has improved upon the original boombox design of the 80s.
This is mainly thanks to its 4 active transducers and 2 bass radiators. You don’t need to know what those do or mean but that they are what endows this boombox with its massive bass quality.
The huge space for the subwoofers on the sides make for some great bass return that most portable speakers can’t match thanks to some clever build design.
Some reviewers report that the JBL Boombox 2 has much more physical return on the subwoofers, which just means you can see it move more.
This does demonstrate some new drivers but if the original JBL Boombox already had a great bass sound that it was popular for, why change it? Both the bass sounds are good and similar but ultimately different, however this difference doesn’t warrant an increase in price.
The original JBL Boombox also has an ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ setting which is interesting and works to a degree. The indoor setting reduces bass and mids, while the outdoor setting does the opposite by increasing the mids and bass.
This is a small detail that will only be noticed by the audiophile but does mean that this speaker can get pretty loud if you want it to.
This is where the main points of comparison to the JBL Boombox 2 come in. The JBL Boombox 2 actually uses different hardware which is listed as JBL Signature Pro Sound.
We find, alongside most reviewers, that both speakers sound pretty similar: they both have equally chest-thumping bass quality and some great highs and mids that make for great outdoors sound quality thanks to the speakers’ clever design.
The JBL Boombox 2 can definitely have more control and stability at high volumes but this isn’t a huge difference that your average Joe or Jill would recognize.
If you use your boombox to play at full volume while at a party then this may be a feature worth debating. However, most reviewers don’t find the difference to be a difference that justified the price difference.
The original sound quality of the pilot JBL Boombox was already so bombastic and beyond what one would normally use, that any increase in sound quality is like throwing a match on a fire.
However, those who do use the speaker on full volume regularly will appreciate the control of decibels and distortion that the JBL Boombox 2 offers.
Pricing will almost always be subject to change, but as the JBL Boombox 2 is the model successor to the original JBL Boombox you should definitely expect some increase in pricing.
The original JBL Boombox was already found to be pretty pricey in comparison to others on the market but proved to be worth its salt for those looking for an outdoor speaker with power and good sound quality.
However the increase in price with its sequel, the JBL Boombox 2, doesn’t seem that worth it in comparison to the increase of features and sound quality which we’ve established aren’t particularly drastic.
So if you have a JBL Boombox, or are considering buying one of the two models, you may be wondering if the upgrade justifies the upgrade in price.
Our Final Say: Is The Upgrade Worth Your Money?
The short answer is no, but it is worth considering what you will use the speaker for. We generally found the original JBL Boombox was a great product and that the JBL Boombox 2 didn’t improve on it enough to warrant the boost in price, although it has some redeemable features for certain uses.
The battery life and build design are essentially identical, so this doesn’t warrant the price increase. In terms of connectivity, they operate on different firmware that actually make life harder rather than easier and is an obvious ploy to encourage you to upgrade.
While the JBL Boombox 2 does technically have a better Bluetooth upgrade, this is basically unrecognizable with normal use.
The main factor that would encourage me to upgrade and pay the price difference would be if I often used the speaker for holding events outdoors and in my own home.
As the hardware upgrade for the Boombox 2 incorporates hardware that enables a more stable sound when played at high volumes, it does mean that the speaker is better equipped to play at high volume for longer periods and can handle the decibel increase better than the original can.
If you are hosting events with the speaker and regularly using the speaker at high volume you may want to consider upgrading if you enjoy the boombox design but want more stability at high volume.
Some would argue that at the price of the JBL Boombox 2 you could potentially find a better venue-level speaker on the market.
The JBL Boombox and it’s upgrade, the JBL Boombox 2, are a great example of when a company has so much popularity with their pilot product that any upgrades introduced struggle to warrant the price increase the company will want.
They introduce some features that may seem like the upgrade is worth it, but for some minor optimization of sound quality and some new snazzy prints you are paying quite a bit more.
This is likely why the original JBL Boombox hasn’t been discontinued even though the speaker was released in 2017, it’s likely because it’s sales are similar if not higher than the JBL Boombox 2. Sorry JBL, but we have to protect our readers’ pockets – great speakers, though!