JBL Xtreme 3

JBL Xtreme 3 review

The JBL Xtreme 3 is the company’s portable Bluetooth speaker – literally, it has a shoulder-strap carry handle that you can clip on or off – with an almost army-esque appearance and enormous, bubbly amounts of bass.

As with its Xtreme 2 predecessor, it’s not the prettiest or most sophisticated-looking speaker on the market. But this isn’t attempting to be a fancy-pants inside device from Bang & Olufsen – it’s all about being bold and durable, thanks to its new full dust- and water-resistance, and perfect for the great outdoors.

Is the JBL Xtreme 3 the portable party speaker to bring to those park picnics and pool parties when the world opens up?

Design and Build

  • Dimensions: 299 x 136 x 134mm / Weight: 1.97kg
  • Ports: USB-C charging, USB-A out, 3.5mm in
  • Included carry handle, clips on/off
  • Durable fabric and rubber design
  • Physical control buttons on top
  • IP67 dust and water resistance

We recently examined the smaller JBL Charge 5, the company’s first speaker to signify a significant design shift, embracing the new, larger JBL logo. The Xtreme 3 is similar to that small speaker but much larger.

Almost, anyway. The two large metal loops on top of the Xtreme 3 are unmistakable, and the supplied carry handle can quickly latch onto them for carrying this speaker around over your shoulder. This feature will divide the pack: many will prefer a more inconspicuous design with a carry handle, while others will appreciate the convenience of not having to give up a hand to carry it around.

The physical control buttons are located between the carry clips and include on/off, Bluetooth connectivity, independent plus and minus volume controls, and a JBL app/multi-speaker pairing control.

The ‘feet’ of the two previous Xtreme designs have been replaced by rubberized diagonal embossed lines that ensure the speaker remains upright without unnecessary visual protrusions. It has a much cleaner appearance.

The Xtreme 3’s sturdy mesh shell and near-cylindrical shape are designed to give maximum space to the two open and exclamation-marked extremities, which are where the air flows out to deliver the most bass potential. It’s fascinating to watch these panels warble when the bass surges out.

The JBL’s sources are quite basic: Bluetooth 5.1, a 3.5mm AUX input, and a USB-C charging connector hidden behind a panel at the rear. Oddly, this panel is still difficult to remove (a complaint we had about the predecessor), since we are frequently required to use another object to pry it open. For whatever reason, the USB-C connector is similarly hidden – more obvious here because it’s usually exposed on the smaller Charge 5 – so charging requires you to get under the Xtreme 3’s flap.

We can see why the panel needs to be firmly closed in order to conform to the dust- and water resistance (it’s IP67 rated, which means you can throw the product in a pool and it won’t stop operating) – but, again, the Charge 5 has the same rating and doesn’t need to hide its USB-C connector.

Sound Quality

  • 2x 70mm woofers, 2x 20mm tweeters, dual passive radiators
  • Frequency response: 53.5Hz – 20,000Hz
  • 100W total power output
  • JBL PartyBoost app
  • 15hrs playback
  • Bluetooth 5.1

The JBL Xtreme 3 is extremely loud. It has four drivers and two bass radiators, with a total power output of 100W. While that figure isn’t huge, this speaker is nevertheless capable of delivering large amounts of sound to large groups of people – and its volume doesn’t have to be turned up to 11 to entertain. It’s extremely loud while being crystal clear, which is always a sign of high quality.

The best thing about this JBL Xtreme, as we said about its predecessor, is its bass delivery. This variant adds a couple of Hertz to the low-end, bringing it up to 53Hz and delivering low-frequency with gusto. It can catch hold of massive 808 bass hits, for example, and deliver them with vigor in bass music. It’ll also handle other genres just as well, if not better because bass guitars can’t really tune below 60Hz anyhow, thus that frequency is ideally positioned to truly drive.

Even with a high volume output, the onboard battery can last up to 15 hours – no increase over the predecessor, it should be noted – but you’ll just have to turn it down a little to get there. We’ve mostly been using it as an official speaker, but we’ve also brought it into the kitchen when cooking, where it’s easily given a couple of days’ worth of nonstop music.

While the sound is powerful and clean, with plenty of bass, don’t be fooled by the cylinder appearance into thinking it’s all-directional output. It isn’t. The Xtreme 3 is primarily a front-on speaker, with no output from the back. That isn’t inherently a bad thing if you don’t want to unduly direct sound to people in a public setting, but there are rivals who profit from the fact that sound output is omnidirectional.

There’s also the JBL PartyBoost app if you want to join your JBL speaker with another to use in stereo mode, or with even more (up to 100, supposedly, which we’re sure nobody has ever done). But it’s a fun idea.

Pros

  • Loud and crisp sound quality
  • Boshes out the low-end – there’s plenty of bass here
  • Fully dust- and water-resistant (IP67)
Cons

  • Design still a bit ‘loud’
  • Clip-on carry handle is hardly subtle
  • Rear flap is too fiddly
  • Not 360-degree sound

Verdict

The JBL Xtreme 3 improves on its predecessor by adding dust protection (as part of the IP67 designation), a couple of extra Hertz lower frequency response at the low end, and aesthetic improvements that, despite the now-massive logo, make it seem better overall.

That said, it’s not the most visually appealing speaker ever, but it’s built for the great outdoors, with the capacity to withstand water slaps and submersions, as well as fistfuls of sand or dust.

That carry handle design is going to split the pack, but there aren’t many other items giving such a sensible option, so there’s no disputing it will be seen as a highly functional answer by some.

The most essential aspect of this speaker, though, is that it produces a lot of bass. No matter what musical genre you throw at it, the sound is powerful, sharp, and really thumps. Overall, this is what will sell this speaker and make it worthwhile to pay the asking price.