Do you want the finest bass and loudest-but-still-smooth sound from a portable speaker for tailgating, yard parties, and beach dances? The two best speakers out right now for these purposes are both from JBL: The JBL Xtreme 3 and Boombox 2.
Which should you get? Depends on things like whether you need extreme battery life or really extreme battery life, excellent bass and volume or even-more-ridiculously excellent bass and volume, and a chunky or starting-to-get-a-bit-heavy-for-one-hand size and weight. For the former for all of these, choose the Xtreme 3. For the later, and if you’re willing to pay quite a bit more, go for the Boombox 2.
My personal take is that for most outdoor grooving the Xtreme 3 is fabulous and plenty of speaker already; I’d say rare is the person who really needs to bother with the extra weight and expense of the Boombox 2. But do your own comparing in the table below and then peruse my full explanation of the sound and feature differences after that.
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Side-by-Side Comparison: JBL Xtreme 3 vs JBL Boombox 2
Isn’t the JBL Xtreme 3 loud enough? Do you really need the extra oomph of the Boombox 2?
The JBL Xtreme 3 is, hands-down, our top recommendation for outdoor party speaker for really blasting a loud and yet beautifully controlled sound around a big yard or terrace, or over the sound of waves crashing on the beach.
And we’re not the only ones who think it’s good. The top YouTube audio critics and tech reviewers have generally praised the Xtreme 3’s clarity, warmth, and particularly satisfying bass for a speaker of its size and price. There’s not an immense sense of stereo soundstage but for a portable speaker it does great. This latest-model Xtreme 3 is a slight improvement from its predecessors, the Xtreme and Xtreme 2, with basically the same form factor and sound profile.
The JBL Boombox 2 is JBL’s latest model that is another step in terms of price and size—and it’s a fairly big step up in both of these. (For the best prices do check all of the sites we link to in the table above—sometimes some of them have it at a discount.) The Xtreme 3 can be gripped at its diameter in one hand (like an American football) whereas the Boombox 2, at twice the size and weight, really does remind you of those 1980s boomboxes that played cassette tapes. For those simple reasons we think most of you will be happier in the end with the Xtreme 3: you’ll have another hundred bucks in your pocket and a speaker that’s much more convenient to take anywhere.
But if you do snag the JBL Boombox 2 you’re certainly getting a significant step up in power and sonic range. The various critics that have weighed in loved how even it sounded; it held its composure even at top (very loud volumes). The bass is even deeper and more present than the Xtreme 3, which can help it in outdoor settings when bass can be particularly prone to falling away at a distance.
That said, even the Boombox 2 is not a refined speaker for demanding indoor listening, where you might want to be able to set your own EQ or have less-boosted bass (which can reverberate off of surfaces). If you’re willing to settle for a less-durable, less-outdoorsy speaker than the Boombox 2, check out our large Bluetooth speaker recommendations for the types of speakers you’d mostly use indoors, but be able to place on the patio if needed, when it’s not raining.
The Boombox 2 is JBL’s largest speaker that can conveniently be carried in one hand; for the next step up consider our review of the JBL PartyBox 100. And if the Boombox 2 is unavailable at the moment or if you are eying its cheaper predecessor, consider our comparison of the original JBL Boombox with the Boombox 2. Finally, if the Xtreme 3 seems too expensive or big for your needs, you could consider stepping down to the very similar JBL Charge 5, which is half the weight and price.
Key Feature Differences Between the JBL Xtreme 3 and Boombox 2
Aside from the size and sound differences discussed above, there’s not too much to worry about in terms of other differences between the Xtreme 3 and Boombox 2. They are both designed with essentially the same interface and features, with quite similar uses in mind.
Here are the (rather slight) differences:
- The Xtreme 3 is rated IP67 waterproof whereas the Boombox 2 is IPX7. This means that both can survive under a meter of water for 30 minutes, but the Xtreme 3 is also rated to handle dust. While this may mean that it will stand up a bit better to an environment like the beach or a workshop, in practice for most people both speakers are more than rugged enough.
- The Xtreme 3 offers USB-C charging (cable and wall adapter included), meaning it can charge from other cables you may have around or a good USB-C external battery if you’re on the road away from power. The Boombox 2 comes with its own standard wall plug for charging.
- Battery life is advertised at 15 hours for the Xtreme 3 and 24 hours for the Boombox 2. Both are much longer than most reasonable people will need, but it’s nice in both cases that you can plug in your phone (which is likely the source of your music) and charge it from the speaker’s battery. Many other such Bluetooth speakers lack this feature and it can be a lifesaver for an outdoor party.
- The JBL Boombox 2 has a 3.5 mm input for connecting an older device like an iPod via a mini cable. The Xtreme 3 does not.
The features in common include:
- Both have Bluetooth 5.1 and both can connect to multiple speakers via the app with JBL’s PartyBoost-compatible speakers (their most recent ones). This means that you could, if you really wanted, get both an Xtreme 3 and and Boombox 2 and listen to the same music on them together, linked via the app. These speakers are not compatible with previous JBL standards such as JBL Connect or Connect+; that’s because JBL is frankly evil. But most people do not connect multiple portable speakers together in any case.
- Both come in black and a “camouflage” version which regular readers have informed me is “because America”. The Xtreme 3 also has a blue version.
- Both come with JBL’s one-year warranty; this is a reputable brand in spite of what I said a moment ago about their deal with the planned-obsolescence devil. You should be able to count on both speakers to last for many years (though the batteries in all such speakers do eventually give out after many cycles).
Wrap-up: So Which Is Right for You?
Our preference is the more manageably sized, cheaper Xtreme 3, ourselves. Fight with us in the comments if you like.