Portable Bluetooth speakers are pretty commonplace these days. They range in price from $20 all the way to hundreds of dollars. It can be tough to choose which one to buy, and it’s hard to tell just what sets a speaker and company apart. Our latest Bluetooth speaker review takes a look at one of JBL’s newest offerings. Find out just how it stands up to the competition in our JBL Xtreme review.
What’s In The Box
JBL includes the following with the JBL Xtreme:
- JBL Xtreme Bluetooth Speaker
- Power Adapter
- Shoulder Strap
This is the first Bluetooth speaker I’ve seen that comes with its own shoulder strap, I’ll admit I was intrigued when I saw it was included.
Before we begin, take a quick look at the JBL Xtreme launch video to get an overview of the speaker’s capabilities.
Now that we have that out of the way, and you’re still not convinced if you want one or not, read on!
First off, this speaker isn’t your average portable Bluetooth speaker — and the included carrying strap is a perfect indication of that. It’s not light, weighing in at over 4 1/2 lbs. It’s big.
The JBL Xtreme is wrapped for the most part in a woven fabric that gives it a very unique, and attractive, look. JBL’s logo is embedded square in the center of the front of the speaker. Near the bottom of the speaker is five LED dots that indicate remaining battery power, JBL Connect status, and Bluetooth pairing status. The lights are very small and remain off for the most part, but when they are on, they don’t detract from the overall look of the speaker.
Each end of the speaker houses the bass radiators with the JBL logo imprinted on them. These bass radiators vibrate with the bass while playing music. The Quick Start Guide mentions that you shouldn’t touch these, as tempting as it may be to feel them as they vibrate.
At each end of the top you’ll find two shoulder strap connectors, and the shoulder strap clips on easily and feels very secure when hoisted over your shoulder. In the middle section of the top of the speaker, you will find the button array. The buttons (from left to right) include Bluetooth pairing, volume down, power, JBL Connect, power up, and playback controls. The back of the speaker features a microUSB port (for firmware upgrades only), an AUX connection, 2 USB charging ports, and the power adapter plugin. If you have one device plugged into a USB port, the JBL Xtreme will charge it with a 2A output, if you have two devices plugged in, the speaker will charge them with a 1A output for each device. All the ports on the back are recessed into the speaker and sealed off with a bright orange zipper that just happens to match the JBL logo orange. The bottom of the speaker has a couple of rubber coated feet which it rests on when set down on a flat surface.
The top controls are pretty self-explanatory. Press the Bluetooth button to connect a device, volume up and down to control the volume, power to turn it on and off, and press the play/pause button to play or pause playback, answer an incoming phone call, or press twice to skip to the next song. The JBL Connect button allows you to connect two JBL Xtreme speakers together and the connected speakers will play from the same source. In addition, up to three devices can be connected via Bluetooth at the same time allowing you to take turns to play tracks off your device.
The speaker itself is splashproof — not waterproof so don’t be submerging it or dropping it in the hot tub or pool, and when the zipper is closed over the available ports, you don’t have to worry about splashes, spills, or rain drops wrecking your speaker. With the zipper closed, you can even clean it under the tap should it get dirty or suffer from a sticky spill.
Our review unit came in blue, you can also purchase the JBL Xtreme in red or black. This is definitely one impressive and durable looking Bluetooth speaker.
So it looks great, but how does it sound? The sound on this thing is off the charts. Not only is it loud, but with the four active transducers and two visible JBL Bass Radiators, it sounds fantastic. After a bit of tweaking my equalizer on my Nexus 5, every genre of music that I played from rock to rap to jazz to classical sounded amazing and was very crisp and clear. I found for best results to leave the volume on my device at about 50 percent and then control the volume using controls on the JBL Xtreme. Maxing out my phone volume and the JBL Xtreme volume did produce some muddied bass, but by scaling back the volume on my phone the distortion quickly subsided and the speaker was still more than loud enough.
After unboxing the speaker and playing around with it for a bit, I updated the software on the speaker using the JBL Connect app (more on that below). The process was easy, the app makes sure you know not to close the app while the update is running, and even though it said it could take up to 30 minutes it took less than five minutes to update the JBL Xtreme wirelessly. I thought the speaker sounded good before the update, after the update I definitely noticed that it sounded even better so if you do pick one up, you’ll definitely want to make sure you update the software on it first.
Make no mistake, this is without a doubt the best sounding Bluetooth speaker I’ve heard to date.
JBL even has a JBL Connect app for the speaker. While the app is named the same as the JBL Connect feature, it does have other functions not related to JBL Connect as well.
If you do have two speakers connected with the JBL Connect function, the app can be used to switch connected speakers from Party to Stereo mode, as well as switch between right and left channels so you don’t have to physically move the speakers. In addition to this, you can also name your speakers in the app, identify which speaker is which (the corresponding speaker will make a sound when selected in the app), and also update the firmware on the speaker (as mentioned previously).
It’s a simple app but makes it easy to update your speaker, and if how well it did that is any indication, makes it easy to control your JBL Connected speakers.
One feature that more Bluetooth speakers are adding is the ability to answer phone calls from your paired device and act as a speakerphone. Using Voice Logic technology, the JBL Xtreme features a noise and echo cancelling speakerphone and in our quick test I had no issues hearing the person calling, and likewise they had no issues hearing my responses.
Battery life is always a big concern, whether it be in a smartphone or portable speaker. Packing a 10,000mAh battery, JBL claims the speaker will last up to 15 hours of playback — varying by volume level and audio content of course. It came charged out of the box but I topped it up anyways just to make sure, and I ended up getting 17 hours out of it before the battery indicator light started flashing red – and still got another hour out of it after that before shutting it off. Recharging from almost empty to fully charged took around the 3.5 hours that the specification sheet said it should take.
Regarding battery life, one of the nice things about this speaker is that you can charge your device at the same time. Of course this will reduce the time available for music playback but even if you were to fully charge a phone with a 2,000-3,000mAh battery, you’ll still have lots of juice left for hours of music playback.
Price is always a factor, and the JBL Xtreme is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum when it comes to portable Bluetooth speakers. It will set you back $299.95USD but if you are someone who is going to be listening to a lot of music through a Bluetooth speaker, it’s well worth the cost. It has a great, durable design, and as I mentioned before this is definitely the best sounding Bluetooth speaker I’ve heard to date.
There’s no mistaking why JBL dubbed this speaker the Xtreme. It looks great, packs a punch, has great battery life, can recharge your devices, and can even survive the beach, poolside, or slightly rainy day. If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker with great sound and is going to last, you just might want to shell out a few extra dollars for the JBL Xtreme.