Review : 6 wireless boomboxes

Boomboxes are back

The modern version of the 80’s ghetto blaster is versatile, but just as loud as the name suggests.

In the 80’s, every teen movie and music video contained break-dancing and huge ghetto blasters that played hip hop. They quickly became popular due to their relatively portable size and impressive sound. The link to the hip hop culture was strong, and groups like The Beastie Boys were strongly associated with them. Then came the 90’s and the Walkman, which resulted in the downfall for loud systems in favour of convenient personal sound.

With the introduction of wireless portable speakers, the boombox seems to be on its way back. Not everyone is satisfied with a small pocket speaker for personal use at the picnic or by the pool. For each year that goes by, bigger and bigger speakers with more powerful drivers and larger batteries are making an appearance. Just last year, UE Megaboom, about the size of a can of Pringles, was considered a giant. Then came speakers in the size of shoe boxes, such as Marshall Kilburn and Beoplay Beolit 17,  and now we suddenly have speakers that require a proper carry handle again from manufacturers like Sony, Monster and JVC.

Something to think about

Before you head out and buy the first and best boombox, it’s a good idea to think about what you really need. Where are you going to use it? If you’re just going to have it on the balcony or in the garage, it may not need 100 decibels of sound pressure. However, if you want to use it at outdoor parties, you might need a little more sound pressure and a more powerful bass than if you were going to use it indoors. Do you want to take it to the beach? Then it may need an IP code so that it not only tolerates splashing, but also is protected against sand.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Are you going to be carrying it around a lot? Then beware of loudspeakers upwards of 8 kilos, they quickly become hard to lug around. Also, check how you can carry them. Is there a large, comfortable handle? Can it be carried with a shoulder strap?

You should also think about connectivity and other features. If you are going to play it for a long time, running it cordless drains a lot of battery power from your mobile phone. Using a cord is more energy-saving. If you are almost running out of power, can you borrow power from the speakers to charge your mobile phone? How is the speaker charged? Can you borrow a regular device cord from your buddy, or does it need a special charger? You can easily get stuck if you forget to bring the special charger.

Sony GTK-XB60

More flashing than thumping

Despite its party exterior, the XB60 does not play as gripping as its competitors.

Our verdict

Sleek design and impressive light show. Party mode and microphone input. USB charger.
Short battery life with all features on. Requires adjustments to sound good with different styles of music.
Drivers: 2 x 2”, 2 x 5 1/8”

Frequency range: –

Amplifiers: –

Max sound pressure: –

Connections: Bluetooth 4.2, RCA inn/ut, Mic, USB (charging)

Battery life: 14 hours

Dimensions: 55 x 26 x 27 cm

Weight: 8 kg

Website: sony.no

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Price 4000 £

We’ve previously tested Sony’s refined speakers with lighting effects in the ExtraBass-series. Like the travel friendly Sony SRS-XB30 and last year’s party speaker Sony GTK-XB5, which unfortunately lacked battery operation. This has been fixed in the Sony GTK XB60, which lasts up to 14 hours at reasonable levels and with the lighting effects turned off. But at full volume with extra bass and lamps, it only lasts for three hours! This is somewhat comparable to the others in the test. However, the carrying handles are not all that comfortable. They work well if all you’re doing is move the speaker, but not if you plan on carrying it around for a while.

There are far too many choices and settings in the app.

As usual, Sony’s devices are full of features. The most obvious are the disco lights, which pulses and flashes to the music, and can be set by music style. If you wish to be a DJ, you can hook up a microphone and shout to the guests. The speakers can be connected, either in a stereo pair or in party mode with up to 10 compatible models. Either by cable or wirelessly. There are also audio settings for different music styles as well as an extra bass amplifier. However, all these features packs the top of the device with buttons and makes the app difficult to navigate. There’s even an extra DJ-app that controls the lighting.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Bearing in mind that the XB60 is part of the ExtraBass series, and with the massive sub-woofers, we had expected something extra. That the sound pressure would push you backwards and rip the gutters off the roof, maybe? But in reality, XB60 is more modest than both JBL Boombox and Braven XXL. It handles many music styles, as long as you are prepared to tweak the Bassboost and EQ settings and the ClearAudio feature. If you do not, dance music can feel somewhat tame, and more finely tuned music may seem somewhat enclosed.

Conclusion

Sony’s speakers are arguably the most festive of them all with its cheerful lamps and strobe lights. Talk about energising the dance throughout the night! You can even be a DJ with a microphone and sound control. If the sound is not extensive enough, you can connect two or more speakers for an even more powerful volume. A single speaker is not as loud or bass heavy like many of the competitors. On the other hand, XB60 can handle a lot of musical styles, but it requires lengthy adjustments of the sound settings in order to make it really good. With all the buttons on the speaker and all the menus in the app, it might be overwhelming to work with.

 

Aiwa Exos-9

Works well at home, not when it’s away

You can't complaint about the sound, but it has its limitations as a boombox.

Our verdict

Replaceable battery pack. Plays loudly and powerfully. Balanced and good sound.
The overtones are not the most resolved. Not weather proof. Not exactly a boombox.
Element: 2 x 1”, 2 x 3”, 6.5” bass

Frequency range: 40 Hz–20 kHz

Amplifier: 200 watt

Max sound pressure: 100 dB

Connections: Aux, Bluetooth 4.0 (NFC)

Battery life: 9 hours (18 h accessories)

Dimensions: 50 x 30 x 20 cm

Weight: 7.2 kg

Website: turascandinavia.com

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Price 4000 £

After the classical Japanese brand Aiwa was engulfed by Sony in the 80’s, it eventually disappeared altogether. It has now been resurrected as an American company. Their debut product Exos-9 is a decent piece that could have been brought back from the 90’s. The aim has been to create a wireless speaker that is powerful enough to work both inside and outside. Thus, it has a nice, large replaceable battery, and you can buy a larger one as an extra accessory. A carry handle on the back makes it convenient to carry. But it is too bulky to carry over longer stretches. So the question is whether it really is a boombox? Especially since it is neither robust nor water resistant.

A smart touch panel makes it very user-friendly.

The Aiwa Exos-9 is controlled with a touch panel on the top, which illuminates nicely when you touch it. Here you can switch between four preset EQ settings for different music styles, or create your own. Naturally, you can also start and stop the playback. There is also a link button so you can connect two Exos-9, either as a stereo pair or to play the same music in two rooms. The back hides an Aux input if you don’t want to use Bluetooth. There is a USB port that can be used to charge a mobile phone that is about to die.

Of all the speakers in the test, Aiwa is the one that sounds the most “correct” and honest. There are no tricks or sculpted sound profiles. However, this does not imply that it sounds dull in any way. No, it has enough power to deafen ears. The bass is extra rich, but is very cadenced and rhythmical, without slipping in any way. But above all, it is so well-balanced that it can play any type of music. Its limitations might start to show with classical music, but it is not quite fair to address it as a drawback in this test. Exos-9 just takes what it gets and renders it so powerfully and honestly that everything works.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

 

Conclusion

In the living room, Aiwa Exos-9 is a real monster that thunders away, so loud that it hurts your ears. It is extremely powerful, and the bass is tight and definite without slipping. When you look at it, you might get the impression that it is a “party speaker” that can’t play decent music, but in reality it can. It is not the best choice if you prefer classical, jazz and other fully acoustic music. However, if you want an omnivorous speaker, you won’t get anything better at this price. However, Exos-9 cannot truly be considered a boombox since it is hard to carry around. And since it’s not protected against water and dust, you probably can’t take it to the beach.

 

A multi-faceted tank

An armoured vehicle on the outside that turns out to have unexpected music qualities on the inside.

Our verdict

Robust and IPX5 splash proof. Microphone input and USB charger. Unexpectedly good sound.
Quite heavy to carry around. No decent deep bass. Requires a special charger.
Drivers: 4

Frequency range: –

Amplifiers: –

Max sound pressure: –

Connections: Aux, Mic, Bluetooth, USB (charging)

Battery life: 14 hours

Dimensions: 51 x 24 x 21 cm

Weight: 8.9 kg

Website: solipi.no

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Price 4000 £

As the name suggests, Braven XXL is the largest of Braven’s outdoor speakers. It is splash proof, which means it can handle a little water hitting it. However, you cannot throw it in the pool. It not only looks like an armoured vehicle, it also feels really sturdy. This means it also weighs a lot. Luckily, it has a proper carrying handle. It also comes with a carry strap so that you can have it over your shoulder when you bring it around. The strap has a built-in bottle opener as a fun gimmick.

All the buttons are placed on the one short side, well protected by rubber. The adjust buttons control the volume, bass and treble. There is also a play/pause button if your phone is not in range. Behind a hatch on the other side, there is an Aux input if you do not want to use Bluetooth. In addition, there is a microphone input so you can use the speaker as a PA system. There is also a USB port to charge the mobile phone from the built-in battery. Unfortunately, the transformer sits externally, so if you forget this, you can’t charge the speaker. It is worth noting that a new XXL2 model is in progress, and it has a capacity of up to 20 hours.

Aux and microphone input, as well as USB to charge the mobile phone.

 

With such a tough look, it’s easy to believe the sound is just as brutal. It’s true to some degree, as it has significant volume, and the bass gets the table to vibrate. However, it requires that the volume is cranked up quite high before the bass really comes to life. At a lower volume, it may be necessary to turn on the bass control. But it is actually sophisticated enough to handle many music genres. Pop and rock music sound naturally amazing, but more surprisingly even acoustic concerts provide a sense of presence. The bass does not go quite as low as EDM requires, and the treble is a little harsh for orchestral music. It’s somewhat better if you turn down the treble a little. With some corrections, you can make the speaker sound good with various styles of music.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

 

Conclusion

Braven XXL has a classic boombox format and looks like something you can carry around on you shoulder like a ghetto blaster. Especially since it is as sturdy as it looks. It’s too heavy for our tastes though, and you should probably use the shoulder strap. Thanks to large, clear buttons, it’s easy to operate. Besides Bluetooth, there is Aux input and as a bonus, there is a mic input and a USB charger for the mobile phone. The sound is as loud and bass heavy as you might suspect, but it is indeed sophisticated enough to handle many styles of music. If you want improved battery life, you can wait for the XXL2 model that launches soon.

 

Monster Superstar Blaster

Great appearance and sound

Monster’s boombox is brutal to look at, but it sounds nicer than expected.

Our verdict

Can play outrageously loud and can be taken everywhere. Worth the price, can be a real bargain!
Weighs quite a lot. Bluetooth and Aux input only.
Drivers: 5 full range, 1 subwoofer, 2 passive

Frequency range: –

Amplifiers: –

Max sound pressure: 100 dB

Connections: Aux, Bluetooth 4.0, USB (charging)

Battery life: 12 hours

Dimensions: 46 x 21 x 21 cm

Weight: 7.6 kg

Website: interconnect.no

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Price 3900 £

If Braven XXL is somewhat reminiscent of military hardware, the Superstar Monster Blaster looks like it was taken from a secret lab of an intelligence agency. With its metallic soft, yet sharp forms, it resembles something that could be used to neutralise escaped aliens in Men in Black.

Its ease of use is just as simple as it is easy to read. A five centimetre wide power button on the one side turns on the device, and two equal sized arrows adjust the volume.

You can choose between an indoor and an outdoor setting. The latter setting has less bass, since it is still impossible to play deep bass out in the open. On the other hand, there are power sockets, a microphone and analogue inputs, as well as a USB port for charging.

Monster says nothing about either technical specifications, power or frequency range. But through the dark grey protection grille, you can sense the four full range drivers that are about two inches large, two on each side. A five-inch woofer takes care of the bass, with the help of two square drivers.

 

With the outdoor setting, you get even more of a party sound.

 

Wow, it plays really loud! Not loud as the colossal Soundboks of course, but loud enough to end up in a feud with anyone nearby. The sound level at a nightclub is normally 100 dB. But here it comes with a handle!

Monster Blaster plays not only loud, it goes deep too. Not as abysmally deep as the JBL Boombox, but it has excessive power in the bass drums and electric bass. If you place it on a table, the music is accompanied with the rattling from everything else. It is because the sub-woofer and the two drivers point downward, which puts the surface in motion.

Even though the bass is huge, Monster Blaster doesn’t feel too dark to listen to. It has a very beautiful and free mid-range and treble. So much that you think: “Oh, I can actually live quite well with that!”

Conclusion

The idea of the Monster Superstar Blaster has been to revive the classic boombox, and Monster succeeds unusually well with that. It is extremely rough and sturdy – on par with Braven XXL and JBL Boombox – and plays both thunderously high and with pressure in the bass. Despite this, it is so well nuanced that it can very well be used indoors and placed on a table. But the coffee cups will end up break-dancing when you turn up the volume! Also, the price is very good, compared to the others in the test. Be aware that the Superstar Blaster is on its way out of the assortment. Keep an eye out at the clearance shelves for an even better bargain.

 

Vooni Boombox

Bigger is not better

Just like the gadgets in the Hobbex youth catalogue, the Boombox is too good to be true.

Our verdict

A lot of decibels for its price. Many sound sources.
Immensely huge and terribly heavy. Cheap, ill-considered construction. Sounds terrible.
Drivers: 2 x 4”, 2 x 10”

Frequency range: –

Amplifiers: 120 watt

Max sound pressure: –

Connections: Aux, Bluetooth, Mic, USB, SD card

Battery life: 12 hours

Dimensions: 90 x 45 x 16 cm

Weight: 21 kg

Website: coolstuff.no

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Price 2500 £

When you unbox the Vooni Boombox, it is mildly amusing. It’s so big, you think it’s a joke. When you try to lift it out of the box, you end up hurting your back, and then you stop laughing. They can’t seriously believe that this is a portable music device? Party speakers in the same weight class tend to be equipped with wheels for a reason. There is indeed a carry strap, but it is only attached with two small screws directly in the thin chipboard, which the entire chassis is made of. The design is ridiculous, and it’s no surprise that the speakers are as sturdy as a cheap IKEA closet.

A huge amount of inputs, outputs, knobs and buttons.

What it lacks in quality, Vooni compensates with the amount of buttons as well as inputs and outputs. It not only comes with a line input, but an actually guitar input, as well as a wireless microphone. You also get two line outputs. The boombox seems more suitable as a PA system than an actual boombox. Besides Bluetooth, you can play music via USB memory and memory cards. And there is FM radio! Next to the inputs and outputs, there are controls for volume and tone as well as the playback buttons. The front also has a gigantic visual equaliser, but you have to play it at a dangerously high volume for it to show anything whatsoever.

Like the rest of the impression you get of the Boombox, it seems as if no one bothered to listen to the results before Vooni began selling the speakers. The soundscape is unbalanced and totally incoherent. It sounds as if you are listening to a woofer and a tweeter that happen to be close to each other. The bass goes undoubtedly quite deep, but is too indistinct. The mid-range dominates so that voices and certain instruments drown everything else. The treble sounds glaring if you press it. I actually had flashbacks to the 80’s, when buddies swapped speaker drivers in their cars without having any knowledge of acoustics or what worked together.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

Let’s imagine that the Vooni Boombox originated as a Vodka & Red Bull-drenched idea at a late night on a beach on Ibiza. How big are the drivers? Enormous. What should it contain? Everything. What sound sources should it have? All of them. What’s the battery life? Incredibly long. But won’t that make it too big and insanely heavy? Perhaps, but it’s just a matter of putting on a huge handle. Won’t it be too expensive? No, we simply screw the standard parts together in a wooden crate. But if it is to be used outdoors, shouldn’t it be robust? Well, I guess you must be a little careful. This is our best idea ever. Who’s buying shots? Not us!

 

JBL Boombox

Small speaker, big boom

Despite its relatively small size, JBL Boombox has a great sound with proper bass rendition.

Our verdict

IPX7-waterproof. Long battery life. Potent bass and good sound quality.
No tone controls. High price tag.
Drivers: 2 x 20 mm, 2 x 4”

Frequency range: 50 Hz–20 kHz

Amplifiers: 2 x 30 watt

Max sound pressure: –

Connections: Aux, Bluetooth 4.2, USB (charging)

Battery life: 24 hours

Dimensions: 50 x 25 x 20 cm

Weight: 5.25 kg

Website: jbl.com

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Price 5000 £

We have tested many of the JBL’s portable speakers, like the bass heavy JBL Flip 4 and the smart JBL Charge 3. With the JBL Boombox, they’ve taken everything they’ve learned from travel speakers and taken it to the extreme. The Pringles-size has increased to more than double in all aspects. Despite that, this is actually the lightest speaker in the test, making it very easy to carry around by its comfortable carrying handle. You do not need to be particularly afraid of it either, as it can handle a brief dip in the pool or stand outside while it’s snowing.

All the fine tunings can be done directly from the mobile app.

 

You find the usual volume, power and Bluetooth buttons on the top. All are elevated so you can easily find them using your finger. The JBL Connect button is also easy to find, allowing you to connect multiple compatible JBL speakers. You can either connect two as a stereo pair or you can connect up to 100 (!) speakers in the party mode. You’ll find the changeover switch between indoor and outdoor mode in the back. You can also set this from the JBL Connect app. There you can also choose whether the play button should function as a play button or if it should enable the voice assistant in the mobile phone, whether the speakerphone is to be activated and whether you want voice confirmations.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

On paper it seems that the JBL has less power resources than the stats from some of the competitors, but don’t be fooled by it. The boombox plays strong enough to anger your neighbours. And with the two bass drivers in the ends, it’s like having a portable sub-woofer. At the beach party you can turn up the power to 11 by switching to outdoor mode. We do not recommend you do this indoors, as the bass becomes deafeningly exaggerated. As would be expected, this is not for hi-fi ears, but if you have a more relaxed setting, it provides a compelling and festive boost to most music. It is not at the expense of the treble and the mid-range, as they emerge well in the mix.

Conclusion

JBL has taken the essence of the boombox of the old days and made the best modern version of it. The size is adequate, the design is modern and it’s actually easy to carry. It also has a battery that allows you to use it all day and night. Despite the relatively neat format, the Boombox has a level of volume that can more than keep up. Along with the pounding bass, you can get any party started. You can even throw a pool party since it is waterproof, and connect up to 100 speakers to cover an entire festival area. A clear favourite for summer parties.

 

Alternatives to 6 wireless boomboxes

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Towering convenience from Harman

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American lowrider

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Elipson Legacy 3210

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Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge

The sound crushes the competition

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Argon Audio Forte A55

Full-Grown hi-fi without a wire

Argon's active speakers Argon Audio Forte A55 have doubled the power, the number of subs - and the price. But they are still a bargain.