The right speaker has the power to completely transform your audio experience. When choosing a speaker, therefore, it is crucial to take into account several factors before arriving at a decision.
Factors such as audio quality, battery life, durability, and design can greatly impact the overall value that you get out of your speakers.
So, if you are in the market for a portable Bluetooth speaker and are looking at either of these two options, it would be prudent to learn about what each one has to offer before making a choice. Because the Xtreme 3 retails for ~$100 more than the XB43, the Xtreme 3 needs to outperform the XB43 by a wide margin in order to be the overall winner here.
Here, we take a closer look at the Sony XB43 and the JBL Xtreme 3 and compare the two on different fronts. We will be taking into consideration factors such as sound, durability, and battery life to judge which of these two speakers provide better value and, more importantly, which is the right fit for your listening preferences.
When it comes to buying a new speaker, audio quality is the most important factor on which to base your decision.
Both the XB43 and the Xtreme 3 feature a two-way speaker system that combines 2 woofers for low and mid-range frequencies with 2 tweeters for high-range frequencies.
There is not much of a noticeable difference with regard to the overall sound quality that the speakers provide — both speakers have similar strengths and similar deficiencies.
The XB43 delivers a well-balanced mid-range rendering impressive clarity to the lead instruments and vocals. Pertaining to this, the treble on this is somewhat understated which makes high frequencies less distinct and slightly muted.
As is the case with most portable speakers, this speaker is unable to reproduce enough low bass to please audiophiles, even when the Extra Bass button is pressed.
Though the XB43 is a stereo speaker and can get pretty loud, it has a narrow soundstage that is underwhelming if you are looking for immersion. This is yet another reason why we aren’t impressed by “stereo” sound from a small, single speaker.
There is also distortion when running it at volumes above 80%, which again is par for the course with bluetooth portables.
The Xtreme 3 has a neutral mid-range and a warm sound profile with impressive clarity.
It does, however, face similar problems as the XB43 when it comes to reproducing low bass. The treble range in this speaker is somewhat overemphasized, causing the balance to seem uneven at times.
Overall, though, the Xtreme 3 has a wider soundstage that delivers a more natural and immersive sound to enhance your audio experience.
The Xtreme 3 can also play stereo content with ease without having to downmix it to mono; its right and left channels are easily distinguishable. This speaker, too, has audible distortion when being played at maximum volume.
With both speakers, you get the option to customize the sound to suit your preference through the graphic equalizer in their respective companion apps.
Sound Winner: Though there really is no major difference between the overall sound quality of the two speakers, the JBL Xtreme 3 is a winner in this category simply because of its better soundstage performance. When you factor in the price difference, it would be easy for a budget-conscious shopper to call XB43 the winner.
The Sony SRS-XB43 has an excellent battery life, while the Xtreme 3 rates as good but not great. However, there is a key difference in the power bank feature, so the XB43 isn’t a slam dunk winner here.
Sony claims that it can last as long as 24 hours on a single charge (provided that the volume is set to 31%, the lights are turned off, and Stamina mode is activated). As per our tests, however, the battery lasted 12-16 hours on a single charge (at moderate volumes) which is still pretty impressive.
The speaker also has certain provisions for battery conservation such as Stamina mode and an auto shut-off function that activates after 15 minutes with no audio. It has a listed charge time of 4.5 hours (we generally don’t test this).
JBL advertises a 15-hour battery life for the Xtreme 3; our tests showed that this speaker can go a little over 12 hours on a single charge which is pretty remarkable considering the volume and overall power it provides in a relatively small, lightweight device.
Just like the XB43, the Xtreme 3 automatically shuts off after 20 minutes of inactivity, a function that can be turned off as per convenience. The listed charge time of the speaker, moreover, is significantly lower than that of the XB43 — a full charge takes only about 2.1 hours.
Both speakers can be used as a power bank to charge another device, such as a smart phone or watch. This is an excellent feature which is generally missing from less expensive portable bluetooth speakers, so we love that Sony and JBL each included it.
With Xtreme 3, you can use the USB-C port for charging another device, while the XB43 only allows you to charge a device via USB-A.
Why does this matter? Well, USB-C charging has become standard for most new devices, so many of us have immediate access to a USB-C cable. On the other hand, finding a USB-A cable might take fifteen minutes of rummaging around in a junk drawer.
So, if you feel like you already carry enough cables and chargers, the Xtreme 3 will only require one while the XB43 will require two.
Battery Winner: XB43 if battery life matters the most, but Xtreme 3 if you care more about the power bank
Build Quality and Durability
Sturdy build quality is an essential feature in portable speakers and both the XB43 and Xtreme 3 seem to take that into consideration.
Both the XB43 and Xtreme 3 feature a robust build quality. Each has IP67-rated dust and water resistance. This means that each is immersible in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes and is completely dust-tight.
The fabric netting around each speaker feels sturdy and firm in place and the rubber flaps that conceal the input openings are a nice touch for added protection.
Overall, the XB43 has a durable look and feel, as does the Xtreme 3.
The Xtreme 3 takes things a step further when it comes to portability. It also comes with a strap that feels durable and makes for easy carrying. And it weighs in at ~2 pounds less than XB43, which further enhances portability.
In terms of build quality and overall durability, both the Sony SRS-XB43 and the JBL Xtreme 3 provide excellent value. Both the products are designed with outdoor use in mind which is reflected in their solid build.
Build Quality/Durability Winner: Xtreme 3 (the carrying strap and lighter weight make the JBL product the winner by a slight margin)
Good design is another important aspect of a quality portable speaker.
The XB43 and the Xtreme 3 are both on the larger side as far as portable speakers go. The XB43 is rectangular and comes with passive radiators on both ends. It can be placed horizontally or vertically according to preference, and the model itself is available in multiple color options.
There are also RGB lights along each side, the color of which can be adjusted to your liking through the companion app. The customization doesn’t give you as many options as other party speakers, but in a sub-$300 speaker the light feature is fairly uncommon and nice to have.
The XB43 speaker is pretty substantial for a portable; it weighs in at 6.4 lbs and can be carried in one hand. Since it is battery-powered, looking for a power outlet will not be a concern.
The Xtreme 3 has a cylindrical shape and can be used either horizontally or vertically. The rubber panels attached on both sides of the speaker to keep it from slipping when placed vertically are a neat little detail.
There are no RGB lights on the Xtreme 3 but the unit itself comes in three color options so you can take your pick. This speaker is more lightweight compared to the XB43, weighing in at just 4.2 lbs.
What further adds to its portability is the removable carrying strap that attaches to the built-in hooks at the ends of the speaker, making it much easier to carry along when on the move. The strap also comes with a built-in bottle opener, yet another nifty detail that makes it perfect for the outdoors. Just like the XB43, the Xtreme 3, too, is battery-powered.
Design Winner: Xtreme 3 — although it misses out on the aesthetic of the RGB lights, its overall design is much more conducive to a hands-free listening experience in an outdoor environment. It features greater attention to detail and more portability which makes it the clear winner in this category.
The Sony SRS-XB43 as well as the JBL Xtreme 3 can be operated remotely through their respective companion apps.
For the XB43, the Sony Music Center app offers functions such as Speaker Add, Party Connect, lighting controls, stereo pairing mode, audio standby settings, version checks, firmware updates, and simple settings for the sound and graphic equalizer. It’s compatible with both iOS and Android.
The JBL Portable app has similar functions and is also compatible with iOS as well as Android but is not as effective. The app isn’t particularly feature-dense, and it is far from perfect.
Many users complain that the app refuses to detect their speakers despite being compatible. Although we did not face that issue, the app did not save our configuration despite claiming that it did; the Xtreme 3 had to be reconfigured every time it was switched on.
Importantly, both the Sony and JBL product provide a graphic equalizer on the companion app. For many of us, this is the only feature on the app that really, truly matters. So despite any complaints about either app, you get an easy-to-use EQ with both.
Software Winner: The XB43 is a definite winner when it comes to software.
No, it cannot do what Bumblebee can do in those Michael Bay Transformers movies. No one is saying that!
Both the Sony SRS-XB43 and the JBL Xtreme 3 use standard Bluetooth technology for wireless connectivity. While the XB43 uses the 5.0 iteration of Bluetooth, the Xtreme 3 uses the 5.1 iteration.
On paper, this would lead you to believe that Xtreme 3 has “better” bluetooth connectivity. In testing by other reviewers, though, the Bluetooth latency in the case of the Xtreme 3 (for both iOS and Android) is significantly higher than that of the XB43.
Despite the technicalities, for the average user, bluetooth connection on both devices is smooth and reliable.
Both models also have support for an aux input for wired connections. We always give kudos to new speakers that maintain the aux port, and we even maintain a list of the top portable speakers with an aux input.
The XB43 has a Party Connect function which allows users to connect up to 100 compatible wireless speakers. This feature syncs up the music and the lights which makes for a more immersive experience. In addition, this speaker offers features such as a power bank, Voice Assistant and the patented Extra Bass and Stamina Mode.
The Xtreme 3 also offers a PartyBoost feature that enables you to link two or more compatible speakers. It also comes with a built-in power bank with which you can charge your devices.
Other Features Winner: The XB43 and Xtreme 3 come without too many frills and offer pretty standard feature sets, so the two speakers are neck and neck in this segment.
Although the JBL Xtreme 3 fares slightly better than the Sony SRS-XB43 in terms of sound and design, the difference is certainly not worth the $100+ hike in price.
The XB43 provides excellent overall value at a more affordable price point. If you want budget-friendliness and party lighting, the XB43 is one of the best products on the market.
In relation to this, if you have the budget for it and are looking for a more immersive audio quality and greater portability, the Xtreme 3 is a suitable fit for you.