JBL’s very loud, bossy, bass-forward portable speakers are great for picnics, tailgating, and—with their complete waterproofing—the pool or beach.
The JBL Charge 5 fulfills this role in a speaker about the size and shape of a wine bottle placed on its side—and weighs just a bit lighter than that boozy bottle of pinot magic in your picnic basket.
The JBL Xtreme 3 is a bit bigger and twice as heavy but really fulfills the same role nicely. It also tends to cost about twice as much. In this article we’ll help you decide between the two; first with a side-by-side table and then with a deep dive into our takes and the opinions of the wisest and snobbiest audiophiles from around the web.
Update History of This Article
Side-by-Side Comparison: JBL Charge 5 vs JBL Xtreme 3
The Big Step Up in Size, Weight, and Price from the Charge 5 to the Xtreme 3
To put it simply, JBL’s Charge 5 and Xtreme 3 share most of the same features—and they’re exactly what we look for in a rugged outdoor speaker. We think most people will be just fine with the JBL Charge 5 as it really does kick out an awful lot of volume and performs beautifully while doing so.
That said, if you can handle the extra weight and price, we do love the step up to the JBL Xtreme 3. It not only offers much more volume and bass, but it sounds great inside as well for careful listening at more refined moments. If your back and wallet can take it, make the step up.
And if both of these speakers seem too big for you, consider JBL’s smaller Flip 5 or (previous version) Flip 4, or else our favorite Bluetooth travel speaker. And if you’re wondering what it would be like to make yet another step up in size and price in the JBL world, you could compare the Xtreme 3 to the even bigger JBL Boombox 2.
How They Sound
The JBL Charge 5 is certainly enough portable speaker for most. We have noted how the Charge 5 was a minor step up from the already-powerful Charge 4, and critics who listen to tons of portable speakers don’t hesitate to put the Charge 5 at the top of categories for speakers at this size and price.
The Charge 5 gets extremely loud—more than enough to fill a large living room, or small-to-mid-sized outdoor party, and generally performs well and maintains its composure at these top volumes, with little distortion. The bass is forward and potent, and there is some sense of space in spite of this being a highly portable unit.
Overall the mix is even enough for most tastes—which is good as there’s no way to control EQ settings via JBL’s app. Clarity is excellent, and the speaker sounds best from the front—you will want to place it on its side (not vertically) and directly facing the listeners. If you’d prefer similarly sized hardy portable speakers with both EQ adjustability and 360-degree sound, check out our reviews of the excellent Ultimate Ears Boom 3 or Megaboom 3—though note that those lack JBL’s useful powerbank functionality (described below).
The JBL Xtreme 3 is weightier and more premium road speaker. It’s a small step up from the previous original Xtreme and the Xtreme 2 as we note in our comparison (that article is particularly worth checking out for those who like the Xtreme 3 but are wary of its higher price). This is the sort of speaker that leaves critics gushing as it’s big enough to really pump out bass that is felt and and not powerful and feigned. It is particularly built to excel in outdoor environments, where bass can quickly get lost at a distance. The sound signature remains even and bass-forward as with the JBL Charge 5, and for indoor listening many find that there is improved clarity and nuance. Once again, this is a front-facing speaker and will sound best when placed horizontally and facing you.
Both the JBL Charge 5 and Xtreme 3 have the PartyBoost feature, which allows you to pair them with any other JBL PartyBoost speaker (available with all recent JBL speakers) via the app. This is not backward compatible with previous JBL standards like JBL Connect and Connect+.
Feature Similarities and Differences
The JBL Charge 5 and Xtreme 3 have nearly the same feature set. Here’s what you should know, in order from most to least important in our (highly subjective) opinion:
- Rather uniquely among such speakers, these both offer a “powerbank” feature which means that you can charge your phone or tablet from the speaker’s battery via a standard USB-A output. (Just grab a USB-A to USB-C cable to connect to any modern device.) The Xtreme 3 additionally offers USB-C out.
- These speakers are both IP67 waterproof and dustproof. This means they could survive being dropped in a pool or bathtub; the feature is really rather overkill but should be a good indicator that they’ll stand up to quite a bit of outdoor abuse.
- Battery life is rated at 20 hours for the Charge 5 and 15 hours for the Xtreme 3; reviewers and users tend to report that JBL’s battery rankings are pretty accurate but of course your results will vary according to conditions and the volume that you’re listening at. In any case, it’s more than enough for a day of outdoor work and a late-night party after.
- Both have Bluetooth 5.1, which can help with video syncing.
Wrap-up: Which JBL Outdoor Portable Speaker Is Best for Rocking Your Party?
We think most of you will be happy with the JBL Charge 5, but the price bump to the Xtreme 3 is absolutely worth it, if you can swing it. Do check various color options at the links as sometimes there are surprisingly good deals if you opt for a presumably less-popular color.