JBL Xtreme Review
I have reviewed many speakers over this past year or so; from cheap tiny speakers to fairly large and expensive speakers that promise the world to the listener. However, none of them compared to the JBL Charge 2+ I reviewed last August. I loved the speaker and I still use it when going fishing as it is splash proof. Something about the JBL Charge 2+ kept drawing me back to it, the build quality is outstanding and the sound quality for such a small speaker hasn’t been touched again over this past year or so. Based on how much I loved the Charge 2+ I was ecstatic to hear I could review the JBL Xtreme, the JBL Charge 2+’s big brother. Could the JBL Xtreme finally give the Charge 2+ a run for its money? Is the Xtreme worth the $250 price tag? Let’s take a look at JBL’s latest big Bluetooth speaker, the JB Xtreme.
There’s no doubt, JBL and HARMAN know how to stylize products in accordance with the latest fashions, and it shows with the package the JBL Xtreme comes in. The box is large, much bigger than what I would have thought for a Bluetooth speaker, but that is forgiven once taken apart. Every detail was thought of when creating the box for this speaker. The classic orange and white box is still here with black lettering, creating a one of a kind look only JBL can pull off with such fashion. The front of the box shows the JBL Xtreme (our review sample was an awesome red) while the back of the box tells you a bit about the product. The 15 hour playback time and splashproof design highlight the design of the speaker while the 10,000 MaH battery is sure to draw users in. The bright orange top of the box along with a carrying handle really draws the eye in, showing us JBL is not only making a powerful speaker but also showing the consumer they are not afraid to create an aggressive yet sleek look for the speaker.
The insides of the speaker are what us techies will be interested in, and luckily JBL packed the Xtreme with some serious power. Packed in the JBL Xtreme you will find a 2×20 watt Bi-amp, meaning roughly double the power of the old faithful JBL Charge 2+. If we remember going back a few months we stated the JBL Charge 2+ was possibly one of the best sounding and loudest speakers of its size. Could JBL actually double the loudness of the Charge 2+? This answer was about to be answered when I opened the box.
Opening the box revealed a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, sliding open the pull tab on the top of the box reveals an all white cover, this is opened by pushing your finger through and gently popping open the top, sort of like a soda can. Upon opening the top you will find the JBL Xtreme at the bottom protected by two pieces of foam on both sides. Taking a look at the top cardboard we just took off you will find all the hardware included with the JBL Xtreme. The Xtreme comes with everything you need to get the speaker off and running. Taking a look we found the charging cable, the power brick for the charger, the quick start guide, safety sheet, and a surprising addition a shoulder strap for the speaker. While yes, this is the first time I have ever reviewed a speaker with a shoulder strap; it is an almost necessary addition to the speaker once you get a hold of it. At just a little under 5 pounds, it is a heavyweight when it comes to Bluetooth speakers, with the inclusion of the shoulder strap makes it much easier to wield around during parties or even just to carry music with you around the house. The strap is fairly close to a guitar strap, making it easy to replace with a guitar strap if you find a guitar strap more fits your style. However, we don’t recommend you do that since the JBL Xtreme’s strap seems like it can handle plenty of abuse and the clips on both sides are actually very heavy duty.
Upon taking the JBL Xtreme out of the box it was obvious why JBL included the carrying strap. I have fairly large hands, large enough to hold a basketball with one hand; but I can barely carry the Xtreme with one hand. The combination of its torpedo-like structure and weight make it fairly hard to get a good grip on it in a hurry. This is the only complaint I can think of with this speaker, however, so if you plan on strapping it up, or giving it a permanent home on a shelf then you can by all means ignore this as you will not have to worry about it.
Taking a look at the speaker itself reveals some seriously cool ideas I’ve never seen before. On the very top of the speaker, you will find the two anchors where the strap can be placed. These anchors are made out of steel and not plastic ensuring these can take a ton of abuse before showing signs of breaking. If I was brave I would experiment with how much weight these anchors can handle, but what I can say is that it seems the anchors will more than likely outlast the strap given. If this happens the strap can be easily replaced. The anchors are placed above two indentations as well, making it super easy and simple to place a strap on the Xtreme, no need to buy JBL straps for the Xtreme if you ever need an extra. Just hook it up with carabiner clips and you are done.
In the top middle of the speaker, you will find all necessary controls to playback music and answer calls. On the very left you will find the Bluetooth button, you can press this to pair with another device. JBL products feature a ‘party’ mode. Meaning you can pair a few devices up all at once and take turns playing music. It’s super simple and the Xtreme handles all the work for ‘party mode’ automatically. Next to the Bluetooth button you will find a simple volume down button, this works as expect with no surprises.
The middle buttons are fairly interesting, these are the only two back-lit buttons, but they serve a few purposes. The left button is the power button and Bluetooth status. If the light is blinking blue then it is in ‘search’ mode, once it pairs to your phone it will turn solid blue. If however, you have a line-in (no cord included with model, unfortunately) cord plugged into the 3.5mm input on the back of the speaker the light will turn white letting you know that you are in fact drawing power from the line in jack and you are ready to listen to music that way as well. Next to the power button you will find a sort of square infinity sign. This little button is quite possibly one of the best inclusions I have seen in a speaker. This button will let you connect two JBL Xtreme together wirelessly. From there you can use the JBL App (more on this later) to either make the speakers play together, or you can have one speaker play the left channel and the other play the right channel making a set of speakers that can rival soundbars and surround systems. This couldn’t be any easier to use as well, just press the button on both speakers and have them within a few feet of each other and once again the JBL Xtreme will do the rest of the work for you.
On the top right side, you will find the volume up button. During normal listening times, I turn my speaker all the way up and control volume with my phone, this makes things much easier knowing when I put my phone on full volume my speaker is also maxed out, but if you want to do this the other way around JBL gives this option as well. The far right button controls music playback and calls answering. Many times, I see reviews stating this speaker doesn’t feature fast forward or rewind; I a here letting you know that yes, this speaker fully features this in one small button. Press once to play or pause your music, press twice to skip forward to the next song, or press three times to skip backwards to repeat the song or skip backwards. Another very cool feature is you can press this button to answer a call. The JBL Xtreme includes a microphone so you can talk to the caller directly from the Speaker itself. I have used this quite a few times and I have never had any troubles talking or hearing what they are saying even with loud background noises. JBL’s clear voice technology really works wonders, I just wish phones would include this technology s its better than what is featured eve in my Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.
The very front of the speaker includes a large bright orange JBL logo and two speakers on each side of this logo. I love the orange JBL logo as not only does it show people around the room who makes the speaker, but it actually makes it easy to see in the dark. At dusk, the JBL logo is bright enough to shine the light off of the sun so it makes it easier to find than without this logo. I see this coming in handy especially for those summer night time campfires. The front facing speakers are perfectly spaced for a great sound field. While no it cannot recreate surround sound, the speakers are placed just far enough that you have an easy time figuring out what is coming from the left and right speakers.
On the two sides of the torpedo shaped speaker, you will find a mirror image of the same deign, the two sides are the bass radiators for the speaker. These bass radiators include the JBL logo in an all gray finish that looks very high end. will move to the bass especially when turned up very loud. These things can seriously move some bass. Much more than I ever thought possible with a Bluetooth speaker. No worries about blowing these bass radiators out as JBL has implemented a cut-off point just to make sure you never have to worry about it. When the bass becomes more than the bass radiators can handle the bass will be cut down to a lower level. You will only notice this on very bass heavy songs with the sound turned all the way up to max, if you are outside you will hear this implementation even less. Around the bass radiators, JBL also included a few indentations so you can stand your Xtreme up on its side to rock out. This makes sure the bass radiator that’s covered will not break and still will be able to move air in and out as well. While I much rather like the Xtreme to sit upright, this could be a nice implementation if you wanted to set the Xtreme in a large cup holder or something similar.
Underneath the speaker, you will find the model number of your speaker and rubber feet that provides a few millimeters of clearance in case a bit of water is able to run under your speaker. This keeps the speaker from sitting in water. The feet also do a magnificent job of keeping the speaker from moving when the bass really kicks. Even with the music up as loud as it could go the speaker never moved not even a millimeter and to me, that is very impressive. Towards the front you will find a few lights, these are your battery indicators. When all the lights go out the speaker is dead, JBL thought of everything once again with the inclusion of turning these lights off unless you press a button on the speaker of the battery level is getting dangerously (not really) low. This saves battery life even if it is just by a minuscule margin.
The JBL Xtreme comes in Blue, Red and Black, all three have a grey accent that is found n the sides and undercarriage of the speaker, but what sets the color’s apart is he stitching that is found throughout the speaker. Personally, I have never seen a Bluetooth speaker that features a uniform stitched body like the JBL Xtreme, but judging from all oft he benefits it provides easy to see that this could be the technology of the future. Not only does the stitched pattern help with gripping the speaker with one hand, but it makes the Xtreme splash proof. I have run this speaker under my sink and I was amazed to find the water just beads directly off of the stitching. Usually, you will see where the water hit the speaker with a dark spot, not this speaker. The water beads directly off the speaker seamlessly. Even when wet, the speaker is easy to grab thanks to this stitching. One other benefit is its ease of cleaning. Let’s face it, outside is dirty and even the most protected things are prone to dirt. Luckily, the stitching makes it super easy to clean. Just run it under some water and run with your hands and the dirt washes right off. This Bluetooth speaker is splashproof so you can take it out in the rain, hook it up to your ATV, take it to the beach or just about anything in between. Just make sure NOT to submerge the speaker in any way as the Xtreme is rated only for splashes.
Speaking of waterproof, how does JBL make sure the internals are safe? This is quite simple in theory, but I have once again never seen this on a Bluetooth speaker before. The back of the speaker features a small zipper that you can unzip to access the charging port and line in port. There is also a micro UAB input but this is blocked up and states ‘Service Only’ so it’s best not to use this port unless instructed by JBL to do so. This zipper is waterproof and protects the speaker from getting any water in the internals and from what I have witnessed it works very well.
So, why didn’t JBL just make the Xtreme charge via Micro USB like we all love so much? This is because of the power draw of the speaker. This speaker produces 40 watts of power at its loudest level, this is more than double what I have ever seen before, and with a lot of power, you will find a lot of power draw. When used while plugged in, the JBL Xtreme will use more power than a micro USB cable uses to charge the speaker meaning even while plugged in the speaker would eventually run out of battery. Not only this, but the huge 10,000 MaH battery would take ages to charge via micro USB. Luckily, JBL included a proprietary charger for the JBL Xtreme. I know what you are thinking, “Ew, proprietary chargers!” let me put your mind at ease by letting you know this speaker can last an incredible 15 hours on a single charge. This makes the problem of needing a charger available at all times fairly non-existent.
15 hours is a very long time for a Bluetooth speaker, so long in fact that your phone might die before it is even depleted. That’s when the Xtreme comes in once again. JBL included not only one but two USB ports to charge your devices. You can charge your phone and your tablet at once, I even charged my drone battery with this Xtreme with no problem at all. The charging speed differs however when two things are plugged in. When one thing is plugged in the Xtreme will charge your phone at 2 amps, when two things are charging at once, the 2 amps are shared by both USB ports giving you 1 amp per USB port. If your Xtreme is not on charge at the time, the JBL Xtreme’s power eve will, of course, drop while charging your phone as well so that 15 hour time might drop to 12 hours depending on your phone’s battery level and size of your battery on your phone. This 15-hour battery life can also fluctuate with how loud you have your speaker, the louder you have the speaker, the more power the speaker draws and the quicker the battery depletes.
This speaker needs a firmware update when you first buy it but once again it is very easy to update. All that you need to do is download the JBL app for iPhone or Android and go through the steps. The whole process takes right around 10 minutes and makes the JBL Xtreme sound even better than it did before the update. Connecting the JBL speaker to a Bluetooth device couldn’t be any simpler, just turn the speaker on and turn Bluetooth on your phone, find ‘JBL Xtreme’ on your list f devices and you are done! A little guitar riff will play and you are ready to listen. I am very impressed by how easy JBL makes just about everything I can think of easy to use and very user-friendly, something many companies need to grasp better.
We have discussed just about everything there is to know about this speaker but one thing, how does it sound? There is just one word that comes to mind; Perfect. There is really just no two ways about it. The JBL Xtreme is the best sounding and loudest Bluetooth speaker I have ever heard and will hear for a very long time. The 40 watts of power make the JBL Xtreme almost as loud as my much more expensive home theater system, and to be completely honest it sounds better as well. Listening to Lossless tracks through Deezer proved t be one of the most enjoyable audio experiences I have ever had. Listening to ‘The Boxer’ by Simon and Garfunkel provided one of the best audio experiences I have ever heard from a Bluetooth speaker. The soft lyrics accompanied by the acoustic guitar showed chills on my arms, something that has only ever happened before in movie theaters.
I seldom listen to music at low volumes but this speaker showed me just how enjoyable a speaker could be even without the sound being blasted through my ears. That’s not to say songs like ‘Pistol Packin’ Momma’ by the great Bing Crosby has any other way to be heard but turning it up as loud as it could go. Even songs made 60 years or more ago sound excellent on the JBL Xtreme. The scratchiness of the record provides quite an enjoyable sound that can only be produced by a well-made speaker. Luckily, with the release of Fallout 4 I have gotten a whole new love for very old music and this speaker really shows off its prowess with these older songs as even my surround system couldn’t compare to the clarity of the music. New music provides just as enjoyable experiences, my current favorite track, “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd literally rocks the house when turned up to max volume. I can feel the bass from just this speaker vibrating my downstairs floor while the speaker is upstairs sitting on a shelf. It is amazing how well this speaker produces music and I doubt any speaker can come close to the loudness and clarity of the JBL Xtreme at the sub $300 price point.
I have two Bose products in my house, a Soundlink and a full-size Wave music system. At this point, they will never be played again. The artificial music that is played through the Bose music systems cannot come close to the sound the JBL Xtreme produces. The Wave music system does not run on ad needs plugged in at all times, yet it just cannot get as loud and cannot produce crisp, clear highs like this speaker can produce with no problem. For roughly half the price of the Bose Wave, the JBL Xtreme completely crushes the competition. Unfortunately, I cannot compare this to anything by Harmon, JBL’s parent company at this time as I do not own anything by them, but from recent reviews on Amazon, reviewers have stated this is every bit as good as the similar Bluetooth speaker by Harmon. While this speaker does not produce 360-degree audio this speaker just sound great no matter what you throw at it.
Overall, the JBL Xtreme is possibly one of the best audio experiences I have ever experienced. “Carolina on My Mind” by James Taylor highlights everything this speaker can do and more. The bass is there and you can really feel it and hear it in the music, the mids are never washed out even when the highs are overbearing, and the highs are warm and clear. Gaming is yet another highlight of this speaker. Fallout 4 produces awesome results; gunshots, old music, explosions, everything is there and present is such a way I thought I was using my surround system. If you want to game but your TV is just not cutting it for you anymore the JBL Xtreme is also the perfect Soundbar replacement for games and movies. When you want to spend some time outside with your music, unplug the speaker and head on outside with just as good quality as you had with your video games and movies. I really wish I could think of anything bad to say about this speaker but nothing comes to mind. The JBL Xtreme is perfect in every way.