JBL Xtreme 2 vs. UE Megaboom 3: Do You Want Sound or Portability?

After a month of testing, I determined UE Megaboom 3 is the best of these two portable speakers because of its omnidirectional sound, portability, wireless charging and durability. JBL Xtreme 2 is louder with better sound all-around, but its design doesn’t make sense.

I’ll compare and contrast these two portable speakers (JBL Xtreme 2 vs. UE Megaboom 3) by evaluating five categories: sound, design, durability, power, and software.

UE Megaboom 3: 10/10

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Sound: A-

  • Megaboom 3 offers excellent omnidirectional sound. It’s crisp and loud from all directions (whether you’re sitting in front, behind or to the side). This makes it ideal for outdoor use or parties.
  • The sound is balanced and sharp with the solid level of bass at standard volumes. The bass gets boomy and overpowering at higher volumes.
  • It can’t get as loud as JBL Xtreme 2.
  • You can edit the sound with the app’s equalizer. There are four presets, and two are helpful. The “Voices” preset works well for podcasts and “Cramped Spaces” works well for small rooms. Usually, it’s not worth your time to toggle with their EQ.
  • Bottom Line: If you don’t hear these two speakers side by side, you’ll love Megaboom 3. It sounds fantastic, is plenty loud, and was my favorite sounding Bluetooth speaker before I tried JBL Xtreme 2. JBL Xtreme 2’s sound beats Megaboom 3 handily, but its form factor doesn’t make sense.

Design: A+

  • It weighs two pounds, is 8.9 inches tall, and sits vertically. It’s half the weight of JBL Xtreme 2, making it more portable.
  • The two-tone color combinations and materials are more attractive than Xtreme. UE typically releases new colors a few times a year too. They currently have Lagoon Blue, Nightblack, Sunset Red, Ultraviolet Purple, and Urban Magenta. It’s the best-designed speaker on the market.
  • There were design problems with the original Megaboom:
    • There weren’t play, pause or skip buttons. To skip a song, you had to tap, which only worked with the speaker in your hands. With Megaboom 3, you can use the Magic Button located on the top for these commands.
    • The charge port was on the bottom so that you couldn’t charge and listen at the same time. Now with Megaboom 3, the charge port is on the side and if you buy the optional base, you can wirelessly charge.
  • There are two huge volume buttons on the side. You can press them simultaneously to hear how much battery is left.

Durability: A+

  • It can take a beating and be just fine. It’s shockproof and dustproof.
  • It can be submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. And it’ll float back to the top if you drop it.

Power: A-

  • The listed playback time for Megaboom 3 is 20 hours and takes four hours to recharge. My real world tests yielded these results:
    • 10 hours with 60% volume.
    • 5 hours with 85% volume.
  • For an additional $40, you can wirelessly charge Megaboom 3 with UE’s base. Wireless charging for a portable speaker is a game changer.

Software: A

  • The UE app is superior to JBL’s.
  • There are four preset equalizer options.
  • You can connect eight devices, with two connected at once.
  • With “Block Party” eight different phones can control the music in the queue.
  • The app and the speaker’s firmware are updated frequently, which is always a good sign.
  • You can connect up to 150 UE speakers at once and get them to play the same music. This doesn’t work perfectly due to Bluetooth’s limitations, but it’s not terrible. You can make them a stereo pair or go in party mode.
  • If you hold the Magic Button for two seconds, it’ll play music from your pre-selected playlists on Apple Music without using your phone. This is a cool feature, and I’d like to see it expand to Spotify.
  • Megaboom 3’s Bluetooth range is listed as 150 feet, but I got more range with JBL Xtreme 2.

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JBL Xtreme 2: 7/10

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Sound: A+

  • JBL Xtreme 2 is the loudest portable speaker I’ve tested. The maximum volume on Megaboom 3 is the equivalent of 80% volume on Xtreme 2.
  • It sounds fantastic as high as 80% volume. Once you’re past that point, the highs get stretchy.
  • The overall sound is crisp. The bass is cleaner and more consistent than Megaboom 3.
  • As long as you’re in front of the speaker, the bass sounds fantastic, but if you’re listening off to the side, it sounds overdone and boomy. There’s no way to change the bass or other sound settings through the app.
  • You have to be in front of the speaker to get quality sound. Ideally, the speaker should be against a wall. If you’re on the side, you’ll notice distortion. Listening outside isn’t ideal.
  • It sounds like a louder version of Charge 4. I had a hard time telling the difference between the sound on Xtreme 2 and Sonos One while standing in front.
  • Bottom Line: JBL Xtreme 2 is louder and sounds better than Megaboom 3 in every way, but it’s ranked lower in this post because of its design. If you want JBL’s brilliant sound but want portability, Charge 4 is the size of Megaboom 3 and one of the best values in tech.

Design: D+

  • It’s over five pounds and a foot long. It comes with a carrying strap, but it’s huge and not portable. The size isn’t practical for this type of speaker. It’s better for home use, but you’re better off going with a WiFi speaker, like Sonos One for $200 instead.
  • It sits horizontally with two feet.
  • The port cover is hard to open and not nearly as nice as Charge 4.
  • It only comes three ugly and boring colors: Midnight Black, Ocean Blue, and Forest Green.
  • There’s a 3.5mm port for external audio devices.
  • There are six LED lights to indicate how much battery is left.

Durability: C

  • JBL Xtreme 1 was only splashproof, but Xtreme 2 is waterproof (IPX7) and can withstand up to 30 minutes in a meter of water.
  • It’s not as durable as UE speakers. That’s based on research rather than first-hand experience, but you can tell by looking at the side of the speaker where the bass radiators vibrate as music plays. It feels more fragile, and its extra weight means it’ll have greater impact if dropped.

Power: B

  • JBL lists 15 hours of playback with a three-hour recharge time. They undersold their battery times compared to Ultimate Ears. Based on my real-world tests:
    • 13 hours with 60% volume.
    • 8 hours with 85% volume.
  • JBL Xtreme 2 works as a portable phone charger with its 10,000-mAh battery.
  • It doesn’t charge with USB-C, which would’ve been the logical move considering it’s the standard for new tech products. Instead, it uses a bulky 19V, old school AC adapter with a power brick. This isn’t practical for travel because it’s heavy and it’s not a standard cable (USB-C or Micro USB) that you’d be traveling with anyways.

Software: D

  • You can keep two devices connected simultaneously.
  • JBL’s app is useless. It doesn’t even show you the battery percentage. An app isn’t necessary, so why build one if it adds nothing?
  • You can group (“Party” or “Stereo”) other JBL speakers without an app because of the dedicated “JBL Connect+” button. You hit the button on both devices, and they pair together. JBL Connect+ grouping still cuts out because Bluetooth isn’t great for these things, but it works much better than the original JBL Connect.
  • You’ll get an extra 20 feet of Bluetooth range compared to Megaboom 3.

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Which is best for you?

UE Megaboom 3

Get UE Megaboom 3 if you want great portability and the best-looking speaker on the market. It’s portable, loud enough for outdoor use and parties, and charges wirelessly. It sounds excellent when it’s not side-by-side with Xtreme 2, but the bass gets boomy and the battery runtime is weak at high volumes.

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JBL Xtreme 2

Get JBL Xtreme 2 if you want deep bass and high volume and don’t care about portability. It sounds better than Megaboom 3 and would be a great stationery home speaker. But if that’s what want, why not get a wired WiFi speaker? A speaker like Sonos One has superior sound for a lower price.

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