JBL first announced its new Xtreme Bluetooth speaker back in July alongside the revamped Flip 3. It is the largest and most expensive speaker in JBL’s portable Bluetooth lineup. As such, slim and quiet are not terms that we’d use to describe this new product. Instead, JBL has packed this speaker full of battery life and power to fill large spaces with sound while still remaining portable.
Read on for more details on JBL’s newest Bluetooth speaker.
First Impressions and Design
Right out of the box it’s immediately obvious that this is a larger Bluetooth speaker than we are used to from JBL. Having previously reviewed the Charge 2+ and Clip+, the difference was striking. JBL includes two accessories with the speaker that make the size standout even further. A full-sized 19V power source for charging the Xtreme is a big change from the typical wall charger and microUSB cable included with other models. Additionally, there is a carrying strap, which lends itself to the sheer size and weight of the speaker.
The Xtreme weighs in at just over 4.5 pounds and has a robust design. Thick molded plastic runs around each end of the speaker and can also be found on the built-in feet that keep the cylindrical form from rolling over. A square orange JBL logo boldly stands out in the center of the speaker as the only splash of color on our all-black model. JBL continues its familiar design with passive bass radiators on each end that actually move and provide a fun visual when the music is really bumping.
Much like the Flip 3, JBL has opted to use fabric as the predominant material on the speaker. My main complaint in this area rests with playback buttons, which are the same color as the fabric. The buttons don’t particularly standout from the rest of the system due to the low height and matching color of the body. While the controls function properly, I didn’t like the fit and feel of the buttons as much as JBL’s other speaker offerings.
Another small, but interesting detail on the Xtreme, is the zippered port cover on the back bottom third. JBL does rate this speaker as splashproof but the Charge 2+ has many of the same ports uncovered. All together there are five plug-ins: one for power, two USB ports, a 3.5mm auxiliary line-in and a service port. We’ll hit on the connectivity later but it’s worth mentioning the design. It wasn’t the easiest to access the ports, I needed one hand to hold the flap open while plugging any peripherals in.
Sound and Performance
If you’re interested in purchasing JBL’s Xtreme, chances are you’re looking for something more robust than the average Bluetooth speaker. As someone that spends a lot of time outside and by the water, it’s appealing to me for the potentially larger soundstage in outdoor spaces. There is no shortage of power to pump out the volume on this speaker. It’s going to crank out enough sound for indoor spaces without working the system too hard or loosing audio quality. When I pushed the speaker to its limits in my house, I could notice some issues with clarity. This was particularly noteable on bass heavy tracks causing the vocals to be drowned out.
I had high hopes for the Xtreme in outdoor settings and for the most part, it lived up to the challenge. It’s a tough proposition for many speakers to provide clear audio outdoors. Even more so, when you’re moving or there is action going on around you. Obviously, the audio isn’t going to be as clear as an enclosed space but the Xtreme didn’t back down from the challenge either. As a sidekick to an outdoor meal or cookout, JBL’s top-of-the-line speaker performed admirably. On the boat, it received a passing grade. There aren’t many Bluetooth speakers that are going to be crystal clear in that type of situation, there simply isn’t enough juice in a portable build. The JBL Xtreme stands tall amongst its competition (and siblings) in this area.
Battery Life + Extras
As I mentioned above, there are a slew of connectivity options on JBL’s new Bluetooth speaker. The built-in 10,000mAh battery provides 15 hours of playback on a single charge. Additionally, it can act as a power bank for your USB devices. Throughout my testing, I never ran into an issue with battery life. When you think about it, 15 hours is a long time. That easily covered a whole day outside for my family, listening to music at 60-80% volume levels. Naturally, if you had it cranked up higher, the battery would die sooner.
One more note on the battery, the ability to charge your devices via the USB port is really handy. I would plug my iPhone in while we were outside and get a quick charge if I started to run low. While this isn’t a defining feature, it’s a nice bonus.
The Xtreme also has support for JBL’s Connect feature that allows users to pair multiple speakers together for a unified listening experience. We used this setting during a party with the aforementioned Charge 2+ and Flip 3, dropping them throughout the house in different rooms. While it’s not true multi-room audio, if you’re ingrained into the JBL ecosystem it is a useful feature.
If you’re in the market for a larger Bluetooth speaker with big-time sound, the JBL Xtreme is a viable option. While the sound isn’t as refined as some higher-end options like the Beolit 15 (review), its rugged design and big sound stage are a great companion for those with an activity lifestyle. The Xtreme carries a list price of $330, Amazon currently retails it for $300 in black, red and blue.
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