JBL Xtreme 2 and 3 are both excellent portable speakers. Sound quality is exceptional, bass and volume are powerful, and you also get a stylish design with waterproofing and a power bank to charge your phone from the speaker.
Xtreme 3 adds some nice improvements, with marginally better sound and volume, as well as a tasteful redesign, USB-C charging, and improved dust-proofing.
However, the Xtreme 2 is almost identical in function, and includes one of the best built-in microphones of any portable speaker we have tested. And, because it is an “outdated” product, it is possible to find it at a huge discount.
As the time of publish, Xtreme 2 can be found for ~$170 less than Xtreme 3. Simply put, the slight improvements from Xtreme 2 to Xtreme 3 just aren’t significant enough to justify the massive price difference.
If the prices are similar, choose the Xtreme 3 since it is slightly improved in numerous ways. But if money is any consideration for you, save $100+ by purchasing the Xtreme 2 instead.
Both speakers have high ratings in nearly every category, and belong on a shortlist of best portable bluetooth speakers.
Sound quality for both speakers is excellent, with a profile that falls midway between our expectations of a party speaker and that of a hi-fi speaker. With the name “Xtreme,” users are often surprised that mids and treble are crisp and not overpowered by the booming bass.
Xtreme 3 has increased output power (50 watts vs. 40 watts for Xtreme 2), which gives you a slight upgrade in bass and total volume. Additionally, most users notice a small improvement in clarity, too. This clarity difference will only be noticeable in side-by-side testing, so it really isn’t worth making a purchase decision based on this minor difference.
Although the Xtreme 2 lags the 3 slightly, the Xtreme 2 still provides a lot of bass with impressive balance.
At MSRP, the Xtreme 3 feels appropriately priced. It isn’t a cheap speaker by any means, but the power and quality justify the price.
We haven’t tested this feature yet, but the JBL Portable app now provides an equalizer for the Xtreme 3, provided you have updated to the most recent firmware. Xtreme 2 doesn’t have an included equalizer, and it is highly unlikely that JBL will add this feature with a future update.
As such, we strongly prefer the esthetics of the redesigned Xtreme 3.
Xtreme 2 wasn’t a bad looking speaker by any means, but the new JBL logo on Xtreme 3 adds a lot more visual interest. The older “badge” style logo had the appearance of a cheap sticker that was slapped onto the front of the speaker. The new logo provides some “cool” to the device. And the kidney bean shape of the Xtreme 3, as opposed to the more cylindrical Xtreme 2, also provides visual interest.
Xtreme 3 also adds a dust-proof rating (IP67) in addition to its waterproofing, whereas Xtreme 2 was waterproof rated only (IPX7).
Both versions have a 3.5 mm aux input. JBL scores some points here for keeping the 3.5 mm aux port on Xtreme 3, which had a late-2020 release date. Most portables that have been released in the last 18 months have totally done away with the aux port. This doesn’t bother most users, but is a serious inconvenience to those of us that prefer a wired connection.
Another interesting design note here is that Xtreme 3 is larger than Xtreme 2, while also being lighter. Again, we give JBL credit here for increasing size and output while actually finding a way to make the device lighter.
Xtreme 2 and Xtreme 3 both feature USB outputs that power the power bank feature. This is a way to charge a cell phone or other device using the speaker’s built-in battery.
The button configuration on the two speakers is nearly identical, and the buttons are tactile and function well. The base is different on the Xtreme 3, also, with added rubber grips.
Both iterations have hooks built into the top of the device and come with an included strap. This feature is convenient but probably not entirely necessary. Nonetheless, for a “portable” speaker that weighs more than 4 pounds, it makes sense for JBL to have a strap to increase portability.
One significant design difference is that the newer Xtreme 3 eliminated the built-in microphone which was present on the Xtreme 2. For most users, this won’t make a difference. But it was still convenient to have a mic for those of us that utilize speakerphone or a voice assistant. The microphone on Xtreme 2 is high-quality, blocks background noise, and functions surprisingly well.
A final point – which will be discussed in the “Battery” section below – is that Xtreme 3 features USB-C charging, while Xtreme 2 charges via an AC charger. USB-C has become the gold standard in charging for portable speakers, so this is a nice upgrade.
Both speakers are well-built and rate highly for durability. Dropping these speakers from low heights shouldn’t cause any damage. Because they weigh more than 4 pounds, drops from higher heights will likely cause damage to the speakers.
As mentioned above, Xtreme 3 has an upgraded IP67 (waterproof & dustproof) rating compared to the IPX7 (waterproof only) rating on Xtreme 3. Both devices withstand water, dirt, and sand without issue. However, the fabric exterior dries very slowly, so the “waterproof” speaker will still be waterlogged for a while after getting wet.
Both devices have the durability needed for a trip to the beach or out on the boat. If you take care of these speakers, you can expect to get 3+ years life out of either.
Both Xtreme 2 and Xtreme 3 feature a 10,000 mAh battery and also have the power bank function. If “10,000 mAh” doesn’t mean must to you, don’t worry, but suffice it to say this is a large and powerful battery for a portable speaker.
JBL claims 15 hours of playback time for both Xtreme 2 and 3. We didn’t specifically test the battery life on either, but other reputable tech blogs have found that Xtreme 2 slightly outperforms its expected battery life (15-18 hours of function) while Xtreme 3 slightly underperforms (12-14 hours of function).
As mentioned above, Xtreme 2 charges via an AC outlet, which is somewhat obscure and inconvenient. Thankfully, this was upgraded to USB-C charging for the Xtreme 3. Additionally, this allows the Xtreme 3 to charge quicker than Xtreme 2, by about an hour. This isn’t a game-changer, but is a nice upgrade nonetheless.
Both devices have the power bank feature, meaning you can use your speaker to charge a phone or other device. This is an excellent feature to have. One concern with a power bank is that you can run your speaker out of battery by charging other devices. Thankfully, the large battery on both Xtreme 2 and 3 means that you won’t run your speaker empty by charging a phone.
JBL software is unspectacular, but there have been some recent improvements both in terms of app updates and firmware updates.
Both speakers use the JBL Portable app, which has limited functionality but is relatively free of bugs. The app has simple controls, like pairing speakers, renaming your speaker, and accessing a PDF of the owner’s manual. But if you are looking for a lot of advanced functionality or customization on the app, you won’t find it.
An Xtreme 3 with updated firmware now boasts an adjustable EQ on the app, which is an excellent upgrade. We haven’t tested the EQ on Xtreme 3, but we tested the same EQ on Flip 6 and found that it works well despite being limited. Thankfully, both speakers sound great right out of the box, so you may not need to touch an equalizer. But still, if I’m paying $200-$400 for a speaker, I want to be able to adjust the sound profile to match my preferences.
Xtreme 2 has Connect+ for a party mode, while Xtreme 3 has the updated PartyBoost. Both of these party modes function well, but unfortunately are not cross-compatible with each other.
Xtreme 2 scores points for having a well-designed built-in microphone. It has Bluetooth 4.2, but the bluetooth functions flawlessly.
Xtreme 3 doesn’t have a mic, but it has the updated Bluetooth 5.1. Despite this update, other reputable tech blogs have concluded that the older bluetooth on Xtreme 2 functions better and with less latency than the updated bluetooth on Xtreme 3.
Each speaker has a 1 year warranty from JBL. And JBL’s customer service does a better job than most companies, in case you ever need to work with them.
JBL Xtreme 2 and 3 are excellent portable speakers.
Xtreme 3 has some worthwhile upgrades, like (slightly) improved sound, increased volume output, USB-C charging, dust-proofing, and a stylish redesigned look.
Xtreme 2 is a great speaker in its own right, and most of the updates with the Xtreme 3 are minor improvements rather than game-changing breakthroughs. So, if you can find a good deal on an Xtreme 2, it makes sense to buy the older version and save a big chunk of change.
In my estimation, the upgrades from the Xtreme 2 to 3 are worth about $50-$80, depending on how much you value the improved esthetics and USB-C charging versus the loss of a built-in mic.
At the time of publish, you can actually find an Xtreme 2 for ~$170 cheaper than an Xtreme 3. With this large of a saving, it just doesn’t make sense to purchase an Xtreme 3 when it costs almost double the price of the slightly older version.