JBL is one of the most recognizable names in portable Bluetooth speakers. Its offerings cover the spectrum in terms of size, price and form factor, but its newest portable Bluetooth speaker — the Xtreme 2 — is the one of its largest and best sounding. At $300, it’s also one of JBL’s most expensive. Released this summer, the Xtreme 2 is the second-generation version of the Xtreme, and has upgraded drivers so that, according to JBL, make the speaker sound better with even more bass. Additionally, the Xtreme 2 is waterproof and comes with a clip-on shoulder strap, which is definitely unique. The only speaker that’s bigger than the Xtreme 2 in JBL’s collection is the JBL Boombox, which costs a hefty $450.
The Good: The JBL Xtreme 2 is one of the most striking portable Bluetooth speakers, not necessarily because of the way it physically looks — it’s a large cylindrical omnidirectional speaker, after all — but when it is playing bass-heavy music, you can actually see its woofers pulsating with the beat. It can be mesmeric, similar to the much higher-end Devialet Phantom, only in a portable Bluetooth speaker. The speaker sounds good and comes with an optional strap, which is unique and makes the speaker easy to travel with. It has a great battery life. It’s waterproof enough to be dunked in a pool (or the ocean) and survive. Its built-in, noise-canceling microphone effectively makes this a really good speaker. And it has a USB Type-A port, so you can use the speaker to charge other devices.
Who They’re For: This is for anybody looking for a large portable speaker. It’s great for parties because it plays omnidirectional sound and has great bass. Also, integrated into its strap is a beer bottle opener, in case you had any doubts over the speaker’s target demographic: it’s for people looking to have a good, loud time.
Watch Out For: There aren’t any wifi-enabled features with this speaker and, thus, there’s no virtual speaker like there is with the UE Blast and Megablast. (Although, you can program a bottom on top of the speaker to initiate Siri or Google Assistant from your phone.) The speaker charges via an aux cable, which many of the other gadgets I carry aren’t compatible with. It’s fairly expensive.
Alternatives: There are a number of alternatives in the increasingly competitive market of portable Bluetooth speakers. The UE Boom and Megaboom are both more affordable if slightly smaller options. There’s the UE Blast and Megablast if you value wifi functionality. The Sony SRS-XB41 is another terrific Bluetooth speaker for parties, especially if you like bright lights and quirky features. Bose’s newest SoundLink speakers are also good.
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Review: The Xtreme 2 has a certain charm to it that other Bluetooth speakers lack. Its dual woofers, one on either end, pulsate with the music and it looks pretty cool. It reminded me of when I was testing the Devialet Phantom, and while they are very different speakers, the JBL Xtreme 2 can be captivating.
The Xtreme 2 is great for outdoor parties or for being placed in the center of the room. Despite its size, it’s actually not the loudest Bluetooth speaker that I’ve ever come across – I think the Sony SRS-XB41 still holds that title – but it does sound better at high volumes. The four drivers handle the highs and midrange admirably, and its punchy bass is what it’s best at.
Its battery life is amazing. On the box, it says it can get up to 15 hours on a single charge, but I think it lasted much longer. I went a whole weekend listening to the speaker and it was still at 33 percent on Monday morning when I brought it back to the office. (Granted, I wasn’t always blasting music at super high volumes.)
There are a few things that I can criticize about the speaker, other than its price. It has JBL branding on both of its woofers, and I always prefer a more subtle design. It charges via an aux cable, which seems limiting as most laptops and other gadgets require a different kind of cable. And I know its part of the waterproof design, but the rubber enclosure protecting its ports can be really difficult to pry open.
Verdict: The JBL Xtreme 2 is a party speaker, through and through. It sounds best at high volumes and when placed in the middle of the party (or the room). There is an app, but you don’t really have to mess with it. And it does come with some convenient features, like its shoulder strap and its ability to charge your other devices. Bottom line, if you want a big portable speaker, this is a great one to buy. Although, you should know that if $300 is a little too rich for your blood, there are other Bluetooth speakers that have many similar qualities.
What Others Are Saying:
• “JBL has delivered a durable waterproof speaker capable of big sound with the Xtreme 2. Between the sound quality, battery life, and extra features you can’t really go wrong with it. However, it’s also a bit on the pricey side starting at $300 and most likely out of many people’s price range. .” — Jason England, Android Guys
• “The Xtreme 2 is an improvement on the original. From a sound standpoint, it seems to be about 15-20 percent better and is in the same ballpark as JBL’s non-portable Link 300 speaker (the Link 300 sounds slightly better). It blows away JBL’s smaller Bluetooth speakers and is fuller sounding and plays louder than UE’s Megaboom and Megablast portable speakers, which are smaller, and now retail for $250 each.” — David Carnoy, CNET
Drivers: 4 (two 2.75-inch woofers, two 20mm tweeters)
Frequency response: 55Hz–20kHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: up to 15 hours; 3.5 hours to charge
Water-resistance: IPX7 waterproof
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