Wireless, portable speakers are increasingly the most common way many of us listen to music and JBL was the number one highest-selling Bluetooth speaker brand globally in 2020.
But does the brand deserve its popularity, or is it all hype?
Their latest set of speakers have recently been released in New Zealand, including the JBL Xtreme 3.
I've been using one for the past few weeks and here are my thoughts.
First and foremost, this thing sounds terrific.
It's actually surprising how big the sound it can push out is and it does a particularly good job with bass. You're not going to get the clarity you get with expensive, wired hi-fi, but for most types of music in most situations you'd want to use this in, it's all good.
It's also impressive how loud this can get without distorting - useful for when people get too excited and crank it all the way up.
I got it when it was a little too cold to go to the beach, but on my balcony it pushed sound in all directions far better than I was expecting it to.
- Transducers: Two 70mm woofers and two 20mm tweeters
- Frequency response: 53.5Hz - 20kHz
- Rated output power: 25W RMS per woofer and 25W RMS per tweeter (AC power mode)
Beyond the sound quality, the other most important factor is how well the Xtreme 3 copes with the elements as an outdoor speaker.
With an IP67 waterproof / dust rating, you can rest assured if this gets rained on or falls in the pool, it'll survive. It also means if it gets covered in sand or drinks or something, you can just spray it off and she'll be right.
It's also fairly light at just under 2kg and has a shape that makes it easy to fit in plenty of bags, or to just carry if you're not walking far. There's also a carry strap it comes with if you want your hands empty while moving it about.
Battery-wise, you get around 13 - 15 hours of play time and then it'll be fully charged after two-and-a-half. Also, you can keep using it while it charges thanks to an in-built powerbank, which is handy.
The 'PartyBoost' feature is also pretty great. With it you can link up multiple speakers and play music through both, or even pop them in front of a screen for wireless, stereo sound with your movies and TV.
This is on the pricier end of the Bluetooth speaker range, launching in New Zealand with an RRP of $430.
You're definitely getting what you pay for, but it might be overkill, depending on what you want to use this for.
Looks-wise, aesthetics have somewhat been less prioritised than durability. A speaker that is rugged enough to handle as much as this isn't going to be as pretty as some others on the market.
Also, despite the large size and available real estate on this device, the controls on it are fairly limited. Of course, most people will be controlling what's playing through it on another device, but it may be convenient to have a few extra buttons on the speaker - especially skip back.
The sound quality is also not as good as you'd get in other speakers. As described above, the audio is generally fantastic, especially in terms of bass; but this is a fairly expensive unit and for not much more you could get a wired speaker with way better fidelity.
The JBL app doesn't have any adjustable EQ functionality, which may be useful. Of course most players like Spotify and Apple Music do, and you may want to use those to get a better sound and tone down the bass boost.
Some people use Bluetooth speakers in their car, but the Xtreme 3 is an awkward size and shape to do this with. I guess it depends on your car, but in my little hatchback it just rolled around on the passenger seat.
I think the worst thing about the Xtreme 3 would be its ability to annoy other people. The shoulder strap that comes with it might be handy if you want to be a walking soundsystem at a beach or pool party and does have a handy bottle opener on it.
But surely, in any situation, sitting it down would be better than carrying it around? Nobody should be allowed to walk around the street blasting tunes as loud as this can, and it could get even worse than that.
Like, if someone cranks one of these up on the bus it would be so obnoxious they should face at least a year behind bars, I reckon.
But this is a product review, not a society review, and I digress.
This is a really great portable speaker and a solid example of why JBL is so popular.
None of what I've listed as bad points are really that bad - unless you're looking for a different device as this one's not quite right for you.
It comes with a fairly hefty pricetag but for what you get, is very comparably priced to other brands and I reckon good value for money.
For bass lovers looking for a rugged portable speaker that can handle a lot of outdoor use, this is definitely one of the best options out there.
Newshub was supplied a JBL Xtreme 3 for this review.