Actually, it is a little too big to fit in the shoulder bag. Maybe that’s why the JBL Xtreme 3 comes with a shoulder strap. In any case, the medium-sized Bluetooth speaker is a perfect companion for anyone who likes to take music on a trip.
The portable JBL speakers are hugely popular, bringing JBL to the top of the sales statistics. It’s not just because they make a lot of different speakers, in all price ranges, but also because several of the speakers actually sound good.
The huge Boombox 2 may be expensive, but then it is among the very best portables, and the smaller Charge 5 is among our favorite speakers at the other end of the price scale.
JBL’s new Xtreme 3 lies in the middle between the two, and is perhaps more of a larger version of Charge 5, than a smaller version of Boombox 2. But the principles are the same. Two pairs of speakers give you stereo sound, and then the bass is augmented by two passive radiators on the sides. Which vibrates to the beat of the music.
It is of course noticeable on the large Boombox model, but the small versions have even more benefit from the passive basses. The internal volume is so small that the active basses need the help they can get.
In Xtreme 3, which is of course dust- and waterproof, there is a 70 mm woofer in combination with a 20 mm tweeter for each channel, plus the mentioned passive basses on the sides. Therefore, do not place the speaker vertically, the side basses work best when they play freely.
The speaker is charged with the included USB-C charger, and plays for up to 15 hours. That is hours less than the Boombox 2, which has a much larger battery that lasts for 24 hours. It’s also five hours less than the compact Charge 5, which lasts up to 20 hours.
But in addition to Bluetooth 5.1 which can be connected to two mobiles at the same time, you also have the option of connecting an external audio source via a 3.5mm minijack cable, and the mobile can be charged from the USB port under the rubberized hatch on the back.
While the Charge 5 is so small that it can be carried in one hand, the Xtreme speaker requires two hands. Or the included shoulder strap, which has a built-in bottle opener (!). It does not get to be more Rock And Roll than this!
The music can only come from Bluetooth, and there is no app like the Ultimate Ears user, which makes it easy to adjust bass and treble, or connect multiple speakers.
The latter can actually be done, but with a button on the speaker. It’s called Partyboost, and if you connect two speakers, you can get stereo sound. If you connect several, you can get even more impact in the party, and you can connect both small and large (JBL) speakers wirelessly.
Bass-heavy and tough
The JBL speaker is very solidly built. Not only is it weatherproof, you get the impression that it really can withstand being out in all weather conditions. The shoulder strap makes the large speaker more portable, and if you have not forgotten to charge the battery, it manages to keep the party alive into the wee hours.
It does not deliver nearly the same volume, or bass pressure, as the large Boombox version, but the Xtreme 3 plays louder and with more powerful bass than the smaller Charge 5.
Which made me wonder if JBL has deliberately chosen a different tuning of the sound on the Xtreme 3. It has a slightly more woolly midrange, which is also not as well focused as on the Charge speaker. Which also has a far more audible treble. Indoors it may be a little sharp when playing loud, but outdoors the marked treble in Charge 5 simply gives a clearer sound.
On the Xtreme version, the sound is warmer, the bass is fuller, and has more weight and power. It is especially noticeable when playing Tidal’s selected (editors’) favorites, where there is a predominance of pop, rock, R&B, and distinctly rhythmic music, which fits perfectly with the sound image created by the JBL speaker.
Personally, I would probably choose another speaker for Leif Ove Andsne’s recording, Mozart Momentum – 1785 – for finesse and sophistication is not the strength of the JBL speaker.
Not on so many other portable Bluetooth speakers either.
The large JBL Xtreme 3 is the right choice if you think small portable speakers are too tinny. It manages to get the party started to a greater extent than the smaller JBL Charge 5, but fails to deliver the same huge soundscape as the Boombox 2. But it is a good compromise, favorably priced and solidly built with weatherproofing. It just asks to be taken out, where it will convince most people with its great sound, punchy bass and engaging dynamics.