JBL Xtreme 3 Speaker Review: Powerful, portable and pricey

I don’t know what JBL did but their speakers lately have been hitting more home runs than the brand usually does. And with this current winning streak, of course the reliable, bass-obsessed brand is going to lift their game for their Xtreme series of wireless Bluetooth speakers. As such, the JBL Xtreme 3 is one of their finest products to date.

Design

Fine; that semi-circular look is getting old. It’s practical, but still unappealing when compared to the more sophisticated aesthetics being employed by companies like Bang & Olufsen, Sony, Sonos and Samsung. JBL like their gaudy lights and rugged looks, and that’s fine, because a strong performance makes up for any ugliness.

I mean, the carry strap included with the speaker has its own bottle opener. It’s not like JBL want this speaker to sit on the bookshelf at a dinner party, impressing guests with how seamless it fits in with your apartment’s design scheme. This is a speaker intended to be placed next to red cups full of cheap beer at college parties (or yellow cups full of sparkling at picnics).

To reiterate just how outdoorsy this speaker is, there’s even a neat camouflage colourway which is interesting, but quite loud. Black or blue look much better for the 5.4 x 11.8 x 5.3 (HWD) inch speaker.

At just under 2kg, the cylindrical Xtreme 3 is fine to carry around. JBL hasn’t diverged from the previous design language here, so it still feels chunky despite its portable build. The built-in handles (for aforementioned strap) help with this, but its fine to just pick this up and lug it around.

An IP67 rating means the Xtreme 3 is reliably water and dust resistant and can be submerged up to 1m for 30 minutes with no issue. If you want a poolside speaker, the Xtreme 3 is about as good as you can get.

On top you’ve got the typical physical controls so standard they are almost not even worth mentioning at this point. If you’ve owned an Xtreme speaker in the past, you know what to expect. Bluetooth button, volume controls, play/pause, and the bass-friendly PartyBoost. Pressing the play/pause button twice skips forward a track, and its so responsive that I’ve never had an issue like I would with some other speakers. Unfortunately there’s no backwards function though.

Towards the bottom and the back, behind a cover, is where the speaker’s connectivity is. That’s a USB-C port for charging, a USB-A port so the speaker can act as a power bank for other devices, and a 3.5mm AUX port. Disappointingly, JBL don’t include an AUX cable with the speaker.

Performance

Beneath the speaker’s grille your 90db max is tempered by dual 25-watt, 70mm woofers and dual 25-watt, 20mm tweeters. And that’s a perfectly fine set-up, especially now that JBL have seemingly found a sweet spot for their sound signatures. No longer is the brand overly aggressive when it comes to bass. JBL have become much more balanced over the past few years, and that’s reiterated here.

The sound is great. Bass is nice and responsive if not a bit muddy at higher volume (surprisingly, sub-bass remains solid across the range), mids and highs are nice and present with plenty of clarity. It’s exactly the type of performance you’d want from a speaker like this, with nothing I tested falling anything short of impressive. Although there is a tendency for more detailed sounds, like jazz, to sound a bit cluttered when the volume is high. You won’t get the granular details like you would on a solid pair of headphones with a wide soundstage.

Surprisingly, the Xtreme 3 doesn’t bother including any speakerphone functionality so you’re unable to take calls using the speaker. That’d be disappointing if I was travelling with this, as I like to use my speakers in hotel rooms and take many calls through it. But given the major use of a speaker like this would be at picnics and parties, it’s a negligible omission.

Battery

JBL are promising around 15 hours of playback but, of course, results vary based on use. If you’ve got this cranking at max volume, which is usually how I test these speakers, then that figure dips a few hours. But not by much. And that’s impressive for the JBL Xtreme 3. Very rarely would you need more than 10 hours.

Verdict & Value

JBL have hit another home run with the Xtreme 3. It’s a solid, rugged, and beastly portable speaker that can handle a great deal of bass and push up to around 90db. Granted, it’s not as attractive as some other speakers on the market now, but you’ll be hard-pressed finding something this powerful that adds to extra benefit of IP67.

Plus, if you’re already in the JBL ecosystem, using PartyBoost to link speakers makes this an even more valuable player. The question is whether or not you want to fork out $400 to so. While it’s a solid speaker with a really balanced approach, it’s still a hefty investment.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Really solid performance and can get quite loud; reliable IP67 rating; easy to connect to other JBL speakers; doubles as a power bank; great battery life.
Lowlights: Bass can topple slightly at max volume; boring design.
Manufacturer: JBL
Price: $399
Available: Now

Product supplied for review by JBL.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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