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JBL Xtreme 3 Review 2021

JBL’s latest update to its portable Bluetooth speaker lineup, the Xtreme 3, comes at the right time when outdoor gatherings are the norm. As the name suggests, this $349.95 speaker isn’t subtle—it’s large, powerful, and intended for those who want to bring the bass to the party. It has a fully waterproof build, making it ideal for outdoor gatherings. While its improvements over the Xtreme 2 are nominal, it’s one of the best outdoor-friendly speakers for bass lovers, and that earns it our Editors’ Choice award.

A Big, Tough Speaker

Available in black, blue, or camouflage and measuring 5.4 by 11.8 by 5.3 inches (HWD), the 4.4-pound Xtreme 3 has a cylindrical build with passive radiators on either end. A large JBL logo is emblazoned on the front face of the speaker, which has wraparound grille and built-in handles for the included removable strap to latch onto. The adjustable strap has rubber grips that will keep it from sliding around on your shoulder, and it attaches to the speaker with carabiner-like fasteners. On the bottom panel, there are more rubber strips to keep the speaker stable on flat surfaces. 

The Xtreme 3 has an IP67 rating, which is about as high of an ingress protection rating as you’ll see on consumer products. It means the Xtreme 3 is waterproof and safe from dust—it can be submerged up to a meter for 30 minutes without issue. Bluetooth signal can’t survive underwater, but the point is that you can take this speaker poolside, use it in a storm or on the beach, and it should perform without issue—and you can rinse it off after.

An array of controls are situated on the top, between the handles. There are buttons for power, Bluetooth, volume, play/pause (pressing it twice skips forward a track, but there’s no backward navigation), and PartyBoost, which links the Xtreme 3 with other compatible JBL speakers.

The back panel houses a connections panel that’s protected by a snap-shut cover—when this cover is open, that waterproof rating goes out the window. Here, you can connect the included power adapter to the USB-C port, and there’s also a 3.5mm aux input, but no cable is included. A USB-A port is available for charging devices using the Xtreme 3’s battery.

Behind the grille, the Xtreme 3 employs dual 25-watt, 2.8-inch woofers and dual 25-watt, 0.8-inch tweeters, delivering a powerful rumble augmented by the aforementioned dual radiators. The frequency range is listed as 53.5Hz to 20kHz. The speaker is compatible with Bluetooth 5.1, and supports AAC and SBC codecs.

The JBL Portable app for Android and iOS is a one-size-fits-all app for many JBL products. It will immediately recognize the paired Xtreme 3, and once paired, you can use it to link up speakers via PartyBoost, or you can update the firmware and adjust audio feedback for controls in the settings menu. And that’s about it. Including adjustable EQ—or any listening modes at all—in the app would have been nice, especially at this price. Still, it’s a good idea to download the app for the firmware updates alone.

We’re a bit bummed to see that the speakerphone functionality from the Xtreme 2 isn’t included here. It’s not essential, but the ability to take calls without picking up your phone is surely a useful option.

JBL estimates the speaker’s battery life to be roughly 15 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels.

Powerful Audio for Bass Lovers

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Xtreme 3 delivers powerful low-frequency depth. At top volume levels, the DSP (digital signal processing) kicks in and prevents distortion by thinning the bass out a bit—things don’t sound brittle at all, but it’s a less robust bass depth than you get at, say, 75% volume level. That said, it’s still quite powerful—the Xtreme 3 can get pretty loud—and the passive radiators add some physical vibrational thump to the proceedings.

JBL Xtreme 3

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Xtreme 3’s general sound signature. The drums on this track get some added heft in the bass department—they sound fuller and heavier than they would through a more accurate sound system. But the bass boosting isn’t over the top: It stops short of sounding unnatural, and the added rumble it brings is guaranteed to please bass lovers. Callahan’s baritone vocals receive an ideal blend of low-mid richness and high-mid crispness, and the higher-register percussive hits and acoustic strumming get a bright, detailed presence, as well. In other words, there’s plenty of sculpting and boosting to go around—the bass is dialed up, but the highs are also pushed forward in the mix to balance things out. It’s certainly not a sound signature for purists, but those seeking some powerful bass depth from a portable speaker will not be disappointed.

See How We Test Speakers

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives an ideal high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness. The vinyl crackle and hiss in the background also seem to take a step forward, so there’s plenty of high-mid and high frequency sculpting, as mentioned. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with less power than we might have expected, given the powerful bass response on the previous two tracks, but the sub-bass on this track is a bit below the radar for the Xtreme 3’s drivers. We get a sense of its depth, but not the full subwoofer-like intensity. Instead, the drum loop’s sustain sounds a little more beefed up than usual. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid high-mid clarity and no real added sibilance.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get some added low-frequency punch, but not so much that they sound unnatural—the spotlight still belongs to the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals. There’s some added depth to the lower-register instrumentation, but it doesn’t throw the balance off. The Xtreme 3 will please bass lovers, or anyone seeking some added bass depth without sacrificing high-frequency clarity. At top volumes, the DSP thins the bass out a bit, but at all volumes, the Xtreme 3 delivers a robust, powerful sound signature.

The Perfect Picnic Speaker

Like it predecessor, the JBL Xtreme 3 is a winner. An IP67 rating means you can take the speaker anywhere, and the removable strap makes it easy to do so. Audio output is powerful, with impressive bass depth, but also avoids distortion at top volumes. JBL didn’t do much to mess with the recipe here, and that was wise, as Xtreme 3 earns our Editors’ Choice award for bass lovers looking for a portable, rugged speaker. If this price is a bit high for your budget, consider the $180 JBL Charge 4 or the $250 Sony SRS-XB43, both of which deliver strong audio from smaller, outdoor-friendly frames. If you have more money to play with and really want to bring the rumble, meanwhile, consider the $500 JBL Boombox 2, which is larger and louder than the Xtreme 3.

Pros

  • Powerful, bass-forward audio with four drivers and dual passive radiators

  • Outdoor-friendly waterproof build

  • Can be linked with multiple JBL speakers

Cons

  • Expensive

  • No speakerphone function

The Bottom Line

JBL’s Xtreme 3 speaker delivers robust bass depth in a rugged, waterproof build ideal for outdoor gatherings.

JBL Xtreme 3 Specs

Channels Stereo
Bluetooth Yes
Wi-Fi No
Multi-Room No
Physical Connections 3.5mm, USB
Portable Yes
Water-Resistant Yes
Speakerphone No
Voice Assistant None

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