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JBL Xtreme 3 review

JBL’s rugged wireless speaker serves up a sonic surprise Tested at £300 / $350 / AU$400

5 Star Rating
Wireless speaker: JBL Xtreme 3
(Image: © JBL)

Our Verdict

The JBL Xtreme 3 is a versatile and talented wireless speaker that’s as happy chilling at home as it is being the life and soul of a party

For

  • Rugged build
  • Impressive detail and dynamics
  • Strong sense of timing

Against

  • No smart features
  • No hands-free for phone calls

JBL’s penchant for outdoorsy wireless speakers like the Xtreme 3 has produced some cleverly designed, competitively priced and impressive sounding products over the years. Multiple generations of Flip and Charge models have received positive reviews, while the previous generation Xtreme secured five stars when we tested it way back in 2019. But what about this new iteration, the Xtreme 3?

As the name hints, the JBL Xtreme 3 is a wireless speaker built to deal with a range of listening scenarios, whether it’s powering a pool party or a get-together at the local park, or providing the background music to a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. But, as you’re about to find out, there’s a lot more to this speaker than just a sturdy exterior.

Build

Wireless speaker: JBL Xtreme 3

(Image credit: JBL)

It might be waterproof, dustproof and wrapped in a ruggedised shell, but JBL’s also managed to give the Xtreme 3 a certain aesthetic charm. The material that the speaker’s wrapped in gives a neat finish which is surprisingly pleasant to the touch. The JBL logo, elevated slightly from the front of the speaker, also looks smart with its gunmetal finish and orange edging. If you’re a bit underwhelmed by the black finish of our review sample (pictured), you’ve also got the option of a blue or jazzy camouflage finish.

Behind the grille are two 7cm woofers for low frequencies and two 20mm tweeters for the highs, while at either end of the speaker you’ll find a chunky passive bass radiator. These actually provide a bit of theatre for the listener – you can see them pulsing enthusiastically along with every bassline they’re fed. The fact they’re completely sealed around the edges, combined with the resilient exterior material means that, should the Xtreme 3 somehow find itself in the middle of a swimming pool or sandstorm, it should emerge unscathed.

The Xtreme 3 boasts 100W of total power, which is up from the 80W of its predecessor, the Xtreme 2. This power boost coupled to improved drive unit sensitivity, caused by the move from ferrite magnets to Neodymium, means that the Xtreme 3 is claimed to go a fair bit louder, too.

Features

Wireless speaker: JBL Xtreme 3

(Image credit: JBL)

On top of the 2kg cylindrical-esque speaker, you’ve got physical buttons for pairing, power, volume and play/pause, plus a separate button for pairing compatible JBL speakers. JBL’s PartyBoost mode allows you to connect compatible speakers together for stereo sound, or you can simply link multiple speakers for a basic multi-room set-up.

You’ve also got two hooks which you use to attach the supplied shoulder strap. But that’s not all: the strap also contains its very own bottle opener so the speaker is permanently ready to get the party started.

Underneath you’ll find a flat base covered in strips of super-grippy material which should give the speaker extra purchase on whatever surface you choose to place it.

JBL Xtreme 3 tech specs

Wireless speaker: JBL Xtreme 3

(Image credit: JBL)

Bluetooth 5.1

Inputs 3.5mm

Outputs USB Type-C, USB Type-A

Finishes x3

Battery life 15 hours

Dimensions (hwd) 13.9 x 29.8 x 13.4cm

Weight 1.97kg

There’s a rubberised cover on the back of the speaker. Peeling it back reveals a 3.5mm input plus USB Type C and USB Type A outputs. We say outputs because these are provided so you can use the JBL’s battery to power any devices which might be perilously close to running out of juice. Hook up a smartphone or tablet and the battery indicator beneath the JBL logo will glow to show charging has started.

If you don’t use it for charging duties, the built-in battery should give you around 15 hours of playtime. It should take around two and a half hours to charge from empty.

Bluetooth 5.1 is supported and you can have two devices connected at once so people can take it in turns to play their tunes.

In terms of drawbacks, there aren’t many. The Xtreme 3 doesn’t have any real smart functionality, nor can you use the speaker for hands-free phone calls. The former isn’t the end of the world but the latter could come in handy from time to time.

Sound

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a speaker destined for the great outdoors would be more preoccupied with the amount of bass it’s producing, rather than the quality of it, but the JBL Xtreme proves to be careful and considerate from the lowest of lows to the highest highs.

Bassheads should be more than satisfied with the healthy amount of bass that’s conjured up, but there’s quality as well as quantity and it never comes close to upsetting the overall balance of the speaker. The Xtreme 3 performs confidently and never appears out of its depth no matter how complicated the musical arrangement is.

Wireless speaker: JBL Xtreme 3

(Image credit: JBL)

We start off with Self Esteem’s She Reigns – a track that demands delicacy and intimacy – and the JBL delivers in fine style. There’s good separation around the lead vocal, you can picture just how close the voice is to the mic. Guitar strums sound precise and defined and intertwine perfectly with the expressive vocal.

This track also showcases the JBL's captivating dynamics. It’s a strong showing for a wireless speaker and we can’t think of many rivals at this money that are as deft at communicating such subtle shifts. The Xtreme 3’s delivery is aided by a notable absence of background noise which allows you to hear the subtle differences in the track, whether it’s the weight of drum strikes or string plucks. The way the speaker presents the information to the listener really draws you into the performance.

We then set the Xtreme 3 the task of following the funky upbeat rhythm of Kiss The Sky by Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra. There’s a real swagger to the song which oozes out of every surface of the JBL, from the percussion to the strings to the soulful vocal. Dynamics and timing are top-notch and the song’s knitted together so well it’s virtually impossible to spot a single loose strand.

Wireless speakers don’t tend to produce the biggest or widest of stereo images, but the JBL manages to deliver good separation and focus too, and its ability to time well helps to knit the different elements together.

Verdict

A wireless speaker with an edgy title like Xtreme 3 obviously hints at what lies ahead should you part with your hard-earned cash. But don’t be deceived. Yes, the JBL is a solid and sturdy product that should cope with anything you throw at it. But it also harbours a level of sophistication and sound quality that will surprise many. We haven’t come across many wireless speakers at this price that sound as sonically gifted. Sure, it can get the party started, but it will also soothe the hangover that follows.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 5
  • Build 5

MORE:

Read our round-up of the best wireless speakers 2021

Read our review of the Sonos Move

Our pick of the best outdoor speakers 2021: portable, wireless, waterproof

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