In the world of portable speakers, JBL is a name that has become synonymous with consistency. They have thoughtful designs for the majority of their products as well as inspired sound quality when compared with a good deal of their competitors. I am not getting paid by JBL to say any of this, despite my ingratiating tone.
While there are several JBL portable speakers that are on the market today, we will be shining a light on JBL’s Partybox On-The-Go, Xtreme 3, and Boombox 2. By the end of this article, you will know more than enough to make an intelligent purchase, but we will also offer a quick comparison for those looking for the bullet points.
The PartyBox On-The-Go to be blunt is flawed in too many important factors for me to encourage people to purchase it. Its battery life is abysmal and the bulky plastic outside is going to likely see a lot of cuts and scrapes over time. Its IP4 rating is “water-resistant” though I would have liked to see a higher rating from a machine built for the outdoors. Its sound quality is decent and the MSRP of ~350 USD is solid, though there are better products in the same price range.
Speaking of superior products at a similar cost, the Xtreme 3 is a great purchase in a nearly identical price range. It is a small device that offers a lot of crisp audio even if its bass is admittedly a bit flat on the lower end. This device is going to survive several mishaps, keep the battery for 15 hours and easily deal with any water it may come into contact with while sounding great.
For those willing to put down a bit more money, the Boombox 2 is another great choice to invest in. Running in a price range that is closer to $500 MSRP, this speaker has a fantastic design, really good audio, and tremendous battery life. Its biggest downside would be its slightly hefty size and shape and distortion at max volumes, though it still is very much worth the price tag.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the most important thing that a speaker has going for it will always be its sound quality. To give you a better idea of which JBL speakers sound the best, let’s look at what each has to offer. Both the Xtreme 3 and Boombox 2 come with dual radiators at opposing ends of the devices if you are into that sort of thing.
The PartyBox On-The-Go is a bit deceiving due to its bulkier size, leading most to probably consider it a better speaker overall. The reality however is while its sound quality is fairly good (despite underwhelming highs) and the volume (100 watts) does get a bit higher than the Xtreme 3, it falls behind its competition when we look at the insides. It offers one 5.25 inch woofer and two 1.75 inch tweeters which feels a bit hollow considering how large this speaker really is.
Looking at the Xtreme 3 we have to immediately point out that this is a speaker punching well above its weight class compared to the other two products. It still performs competitively however with wide-reaching audio that can get fairly loud for such a small product. Its sound quality is alright though like most sub-five pound speakers the bass is not going to be as earth-shaking as some consumers might want. JBL has somehow found a way to stuff two 2.75 inch woofers and two 0.75 inch tweeters into the compact frame.
The Boombox 2 might cost a hundred-plus dollars more than its siblings, but when looking at its audio quality we start to see why. This product gets the loudest, personally sounds the best, and offers audio that feels wide-reaching as opposed to one-directional. If I had to criticize this speaker, I would bring up that at its higher volumes you are going to notice distortion and crackling more often than others. If you were to peer underneath the hood you would find two 4 inch woofers and two 0.75 inch tweeters.
Verdict – Boombox 2 comfortably takes it with a more impressive audio resume than the other two.
One of JBL’s strong points in my subjective view is the company’s ability to fuse sleek, stylish designs with tougher, robust materials that focus on longevity over luxury. This trio of portable speakers is no different – they look great and for the most part, hold up well to the harsh realities of party fouls, inclement weather, and clumsy handling.
The PartyBox On-The-Go certainly wins some style points for its flashy lighting that rotates around the main woofer. Not only can you customize this light’s color, but also the pattern in which it moves around. The biggest criticism I have for this device is that it feels very needlessly bulky and the included shoulder strap is helpful, though the plastic material is likely to scratch over time. This is inarguably going to be the least “portable” speaker of the three, by a wide margin. It sits at 16.5 pounds and takes up 23.62 x 12.36 x 14.45 inches of room.
For the sake of putting all cards on the table, the PartyBox comes with an IP4 rating. It can take a splash or two, but I would try to avoid liquids with a good amount of enthusiasm.
The Xtreme 3 contrarily is going to easily be the most portable option of the three. A lot of portable speakers that are coming out nowadays feel like they should come with a gym membership so you can bulk up in order to haul them around. The Xtreme defies this fad — it’s light, little, and it is very much water and dust-resistant with an IP67 rating. The exterior feels good to the touch and is likely to handle the occasional bump or bruise better than plastic.
The Boombox 2 looks like the over-the-shoulder speakers of the ’80s if they were constructed by a martian – that is a compliment. Its design pays homage to its forefather quite well, the top handle makes transportation easy, it is attractively simple and feels stout in your grip. This isn’t an illusion of its weightier body either, this product comes with an IP7 rating and offers that same interlocking outer shell that has become quite common amongst JBL products. It is clocking in at 13 pounds and stretches out to 12.76 x 9.33 x 21.97 inches.
Verdict – In both design and durability the Xtreme 3 feels more efficient to move around with, tougher towards the elements, and most like a portable speaker. The PartyBox On-The-Go does offer a very aesthetically pleasing light show, though due to its very limited battery you likely won’t use it much.
Speak of the devil! This trio of portable amigos has battery lives that vastly differ between the three of them. All speaker batteries will drain faster at higher volumes, especially when they have spinning LED lights on them. Bear this in mind when considering the listed times given for each battery, they are subject to change depending on how adequately you need to rock.
If it wasn’t for the battery of the Partybox On-The-Go, it might be a pretty solid portable speaker. But when a speaker has six hours of battery life, without considering the flashing woofer LED lights, bass boost function, and varying volume levels, it feels unfair to consider it a portable speaker. This product is not going to last the night at any outdoor party or social function unless it is plugged into an outlet. To keep this short and sweet, this battery is very bad, and for a product that generally runs above $300 in price that is a painful pill to swallow for any potential buyer.
The Xtreme 3 is a far less disappointing reality, with a satisfying 15 hours of battery life and a 2.5 hour charge time. There are some truly incredible speakers out there that can put out some very high numbers for battery life, though I feel 15 is a solid mark to hit. The Xtreme 3 has an impressive, dependable battery that is very competitive for its size.
The Boombox 2, reluctant to be outdone, offers up to 24 hours of battery life. This is exceptional and should comfortably put it ahead of the competition but something to remember is that it will take close to twice the time of the Xtreme 3 to charge at 4 hours. While I personally would rather have a longer battery life than a quicker charge time, others may not enjoy the prolonged silence between music sessions.
Verdict – The Boombox 2 takes it with a full day of battery, though the Xtreme 3’s quick charge time is notable. The PartyBox On-The-Go might want to take a long look in the mirror on this one.
Considering that all three of these products come from JBL we are going to have to list a lot of features that all three possess. While this may seem redundant, it’s important to know every function of a product if you are going to buy it. All three offer Bass Boost, Bluetooth compatibility (5.1 for all except the PartyBox, which is 4.2), and wireless multi-speaker connectivity.
The PartyBox On-The-Go offers a customizable LED light that syncs to the music being played, a wireless microphone, and an adjustable microphone equalizer though regrettably lacks an EQ for its own sound. It also has a USB-A port to allow you to charge your phone and a shoulder strap with a working bottle opener.
The Xtreme 3 isn’t feature-rich though the ones it does possess feel incredibly practical. It offers that familiar shoulder strap with its built-in bottle opener but also has a built-in power bank so you can charge other devices while listening to music. It also has an equalizer that you can access through the JBL Portable app and a charging port for compatible devices.
Last but not least, the Boombox 2 has a few attributes worth considering. It comes with a built-in power bank, a convenient top-side handle, and adjustable EQ through the mobile app. Lastly, you can charge your phone with this device.
The JBL Portable app is worth a passing mention, like most speaker apps it isn’t perfect and comes with several UI issues and potential glitches. Despite this, you will comfortably be able to get what you need out of it, so don’t stress this afterthought too much.
Verdict – The PartyBox On-The-Go offers a lot of attractive bells and whistles that let it edge out its competitors slightly. I enjoy that the microphone included is wireless and comes with adjustable dials.
It doesn’t feel like there is a discernible “winner” here in my eyes, but there is a very clear loser. The Xtreme 3 and Boombox 2 are solid speakers that are both very solid purchases. The PartyBox On-The-Go however feels lacking in battery and durability while also being bulky and inefficient. While some may enjoy this product, I personally would not recommend it.