JBL Xtreme 3 stereo BT speaker is ready to rumble (sound review)

The JBL Xtreme 3 is a stereo BT speaker with attitude. It is capable of an ear-piercing 90dB with excellent sound and has a carry strap with that all-important bottle opener.

Why no corkscrew, you ask? Wine bottles these days have Stelvin screw caps. Hey, perhaps a compass may have been useful. All jokes aside, ‘Xtreme – like name, like nature’.

JBL caters for all

Before we review this, let’s look at JBL’s BT portable waterproof range – it is the largest of any brand, and there is something for everyone.

Note prices are RRP as of 11 October 2023. There may be discounts for Black Friday and other sales.

  • Go Essential ($49.95), and Go 3 ($59.95). These small, great, IP67 waterproof mono speakers are suitable for personal listening. The Go 3 comes in a range of colours, hits 85dB (loud) and has a mid-centric sound signature with a hint of mid-bass.
  • Clip ($89.95) is much like a Go with a backpack carabine lanyard. Its rugged design is for camping and backpacking. It is mono with decent high-bass, solid flat response to 13kHz and then a gradual drop to 20kHz. It has a slightly warmer sound than the Go series.
  • Flip Essential 2 ($129.95) and Flip 6 ($169.95) are your typical BT portable speakers with decent battery life, the characteristic big passive radiators at each end and rubberised fabric to take knocks. These have some mid-bass from 50Hz (excellent) and a flat (good) response to 18kHz. This is authentic JBL sound, which is hard to do in an IP67-sealed speaker.
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  • Charge ($199.95) and Charge 2 Essential ($179.95) add bigger batteries to act as a power bank. It also can use the JBL App for Android and iOS. They can join with up to 100 like-minded JBL speakers using Party Boost, including Xtreme 3, Boombox 2, Pulse 4 and Flip 5. It reaches 85dB, has significant low-to-mid-bass, powerful high-bass and flat to about 8kHz (low treble). It covers all the essential audio characteristics. The top end is a little harsh, but back off a few dB, and that goes. Read JBL Charge 5 BT, IP-rated portable speaker – seriously good
  • Pulse 5 ($379.95). We have not reviewed the Pusle range, which has a 360° light show, IP67, long battery life, PartyBoost, and deep bass.
  • Xtreme 3 ($399.95 – this review) can belt out a stereo, refined yet overloud 90dB from four speakers, two passive radiators delivering terrific low-mid-high bass, and that JBL Original Pro sound signature.
  • PartyBox Encore ($349.95) and PartyBox 310 ($699.95). We have not reviewed the Encore, but previous models had terrific 100W mono party sound, an RGB light show, wired mic input and stereo pairing. Loud and proud.
  • Boombox 3 ($699.95) is the mother of all portable speakers with stereo, 180W, and up to 24 hours of playtime.

Now you know the range, on with the indefatigable JBL Xtreme 3.

Australian review: JBL Xtreme 3

WebsiteBluetooth Speaker range page, Product Page and Manual
Price$399.95, but shop around as it has been seen at $319
FromJBL Online, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Good Guys, Betta, Bing Lee, Myer, Officeworks
Warranty1-year ACL
Made inChina
CompanyJBL (Est. the mid-40s) is short for James B Lansing. (Yes, he was the Lansing in Altec Lansing.) It is now part of the Harman group of companies owned by Samsung.
MoreCyberShack JBL news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Passable (meets low expectations), Pass (meets expectations), Pass+ (near Exceed but not class-leading) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. You can click on most images for an enlargement.

First Impression – Aggressive big style – Pass+

It is the JBL Charge 5 on steroids. The main difference is stereo 2.0 sound (no mono downmix), a carry strap (supplied), a hook on either end and a 3.5mm Aux-in port, which is handy for overcoming BT SBC limitations.

It is 298.5 x 136 x 134 mm x 1.968kg but feels bigger. It comes in Black and a steel Blue.

After reviewing the Charge 5 (mono) and this (stereo) side-by-side, this is the undisputed JBL BT portable sound king (and the Charge 5 is pretty good).

BT – Pass+

It has BT 5.1, 16-bit/44100Hz, SBC codec. It is supposed to support multi-point (two concurrent devices). We tested with an OPPO FindX5 and Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, and it is not straightforward. It will connect to either device but won’t swap to the other. So it Fails the multi-point test, e.g. seamless swapping without having to re-pair Bluetooth. This is not an issue for most users.

BT distance is a maximum of 30 metres, and given that it has a -10dBM signal strength (twice as powerful as Charge 5), it is quite reliable to 25m.

JBL Portable App Android and iOS – Basic – Pass

The JBL Portable App is for firmware updates, PartyBoost, shows battery charge and has a basic EQ. You can also turn off the startup sound and refer to the online guide. It is not necessary to use the App.

JBL PartyBoost or Stereo pair (not tested)

PartyBoost can join with up to 100 like-minded JBL speakers. These include Xtreme 3, Boombox 2, Pulse 4 and Flip 5. It can stereo pair.

Placement – Pass

It is for landscape use – the front-firing speakers and side-firing radiators don’t work well in corners or bookshelves. Nor should you try portrait mode. While JBL has thoughtfully designed the end caps to lift the speaker off the surface to help disperse the passive bass, it only works moderately well on sound-reflective surfaces. Remember this is a forward-firing stereo speaker, so put it in the middle front of your listening area.

Battery – Pass

JBL claims up to 15 hours of playtime from its 7.2V/5A/36W battery. This is (as every other speaker brand does) a rubbery marketing figure and depends on volume (tested usually at 50%), the Bluetooth host providing a strong -10dBm EIRP signal (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power) and placed within one meter and any bass boost or EQ disabled. In short, it is something you cannot achieve.

There is a battery indicator light bar on the front. We tested a continuous loop from a BT 5.3 host as follows:

  • 50% volume (55dB)– 10 hours
  • 75% volume (75db) – 7 hours
  • 100% volume (85dB) – 5 hours

Charging – Pass

It charges at 20V/3A/60W for a 2-hour charge. But we found it prefers 20V/2A/40W for about a 4-hour charge. The USB-C charger inbox supports 5/9/12/15/20V @3A from 15-60W. You can use this charger for any USB-C PD device or any other USB-C PD charger to 60W.

Power bank – Pass

The USB-A port is capable of 5V/2A/10W and the USB-C for 5C/1.5A/7.5W charging. To put that in perspective, the 36Wh battery should charge an iPhone about three times. This reduces playing time. It can charge two USB devices while charging, increasing the speaker’s charge time.

IP67 – Pass+

1m for 30 minutes, provided the charge-out socket cover is in place. It does not float.

Missing – no deal breakers

  • No mic (it is not a hands-free or Wi-Fi voice assistant speaker)
  • No USB-C data

Watts inside? (mains power)

  • 2 x 25W, 70mm round woofers (Left/Right)
  • 2 x 25W, 20mm tweeters (Left/Right)
  • Passive bass radiators (each end)
  • Volume: 90dB at a push
  • Claimed frequency response – 53.5Hz to 20kHz
  • We estimate that wattage RMS drops about 10% on battery power.

How does it sound? Exceed

JBL calls it original Pro Sound, and it is pretty much a neutral sound signature (the best) with added bass. This speaker produces excellent sound, especially as it is IP67-rated.

Low bass cuts in from 40Hz (claimed 60Hz) and rapidly builds through mid-bass to 100Hz, where it is flat (good) to 7kHz, has a slight dip to avoid harshness (good) and then flat to 20kHz. I cannot stress enough that this is close to nirvana for an all-in-one stereo speaker.

It gets loud – 90dB with some distortion, but back off a few dB, which is not an issue.

The stereo sound stage is about 30cm wider than the speaker, with decent Left/Right separation. We also tested with Dolby Atmos content, which gave about 30cm height and a hint of surround.

CyberShack’s view – The JBL Xtreme 3 is a hidden gem

Why? Few BT speakers are genuine Left/Right stereo, let alone have four speakers and amps like the JBL Extreme 3. Few have that lovely low-and-mid-bass for excellent Blues Brothers Jazz. Few have crisp treble for Manhattan Transfer instrumentals and crisp notes.

It competes sound-wise with the $799 Sonos Move 2 – portable oomph anywhere, not so much in ‘elegance’, but in a great sound signature and rugged IP67 rating. And it is half the price.

I can’t find any direct stereo competitors at this price. There are heaps of mono speakers.

Rating

  • Features: 95 It has everything expected of an IP67 BT portable speaker and its stereo.
  • Value: 95 – It is class-and-price-leading.
  • Performance: 95 – excellent sound signature and loads of volume.
  • Ease of Use: 90 – Charge and go. You don’t need the App.
  • Design: 90 – All these BT waterproof speakers look the same, but this is stereo.

JBL Xtreme 3 stereo BT speaker

$399.95 but seen as low as $319
9.3

Features

9.5/10

Value

9.5/10

Performance

9.5/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

9.0/10

Pros

  • Stereo (will mono downmix)
  • Excellent flat, neutral sound signature – impressive for a water-resistant speaker
  • Nice, satisfying bass
  • Big battery and power bank facility
  • Class and price leading sound

Cons

  • None - it meets or exceeds marketing specifications.