What exactly makes a product 'portable'? According to JBL, all it needs is a carry strap, and you're ready to go.
The Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker certainly isn't small and light, but it does promise you a premium package and great sound as we've come to expect from JBL Bluetooth products. However, as I mentioned in my Pulse 2 LED speaker review, the sound isn't the be all and end all of these products.
This review will be looking at how JBL presents this product as a complete package. That means that I will be looking not only at sound quality but the included accessories, pricing, build quality, and more.
Once again marketed as splash proof, the Xtreme Portable comes packaged with a massive 10,000 mAH lithium-ion battery that can last a claimed 15 hours of constant play time.
This splash-proof technology can reportedly withstand running tap water (but not submersion), with this offering further providing two passive bass radiators on each side of the frame as seen with previous JBL models.
Connections are provided through Bluetooth or AUX 3.5mm, with this device again being able to connect to three simultaneous smartphone devices through the wireless service. Other connection ports on this product include two USB ports for charging and a charging input port. The charging port is exactly that, a port, not micro-USB. To power up this product, JBL has included a power pack that claims to provide 3A of flow, rated at 19V directly from the wall.
The internal drivers include two 63mm woofers and two 35mm tweeters, all powered by two 20W bi-amps. A technical specification analysis shows that this product functions at a frequency response of 70Hz - 20KHz and is rated at a signal to noise ratio of over 80 dB. JBL claims that the included power pack will see your speaker reach full charge within 3.5 hours, and the makers also say that the USB out ports will charge devices at a combined maximum of 2A. Measuring in at 126 x 283 x122mm, this hefty product comes in at 2112 grams or 4.6 pounds.
Pricing & Availability
Set to sting the wallet at around $228 when bought from Amazon (with free shipping), this is one of the most expensive portable speakers I have reviewed recently. This kind of price tag puts it ahead of even the Razer Leviathan PC Sound Bar and Sub, closely matching against many 5.1 computer PC setups.
While $230 can be bested by other products on the market, I haven't played around with many portable options that rival this costing, so I will be comparing it to standalone computer speakers that I have reviewed previously. This is rightfully so, I believe, because this portable speaker is damn big for what it is and functions like a 2.1 or 5.1 channel speaker setup does.
What's in the box?
Qualifying as portable thanks to its included carry strap, JBL has also thrown in its 3A wall charger and a bunch of manuals.
The quick start guide is once again well laid out with easy to understand images. However, I would have appreciated a little more word to go along with them. No matter how clear the pictures, sometimes it's still a little hard to understand them without words to accompany it all.
The included wall charger is an annoying accessory as I'm a huge fan of micro-USB, but I believe this was packaged for a few reasons. Firstly, I think is has to do with the overall presentation of this product as JBL is trying to present it as large and in charge, with wall charging plugs reminding you of large household products such as Hi-Fi speakers, helping your mind associate this product with class and quality. Next up is the sheer charging power. At 19V 3A, this is going to charge much faster and more efficiently than most USB chargers on the market, which provide you with 1.2A - 2.3A charging speeds. This slower speed may make users think that the speaker is weak and slow, especially if they try to charge the massive 10,000mAH battery through a standard 0.5A computer USB socket.
There's no carry pouch included. Because it's so large and water resistant, the Xtreme is essentially a carry bag of its own, I guess. The included power pack would be too big to fit into a slim carry pouch anyway, so this is the best you're going to get. Once again there's no included AUX cable, event though there's an AUX port. This is weird, and I'm still not sure why.
Let's dig deeper
This thing is damn heavy! Rated at 2.12kg or 4.6lb, this hefty unit will likely become a pain if you're planning to lug it around in a backpack or on long distance travel. While 'portable' by name, it isn't so much in nature.
However, if you're driving somewhere (like to the beach) and you have room in your car, this speaker may be a perfect fit. Weight aside, this thing is seriously well constructed and once again a testament to JBL's craftsmanship. The function buttons provide a nice and firm, yet softened, clicking feel, with the rubber foot stands providing a secure and stable perching platform.
These rubber stands are a nice inclusion but may cause an issue when placing this product on uneven ground. I'm worried that it will be prone to tipping over or rolling down a hill on unsteady surfaces, using its weight to build up momentum. This aside, this speaker should take a few knocks in its stride and won't go down without a fight.
The 10,000 mAH battery is a nice inclusion for anyone looking to charge their products too, with these ports being hidden under a cool little zipper on the bottom of the device. The reason I talk about the battery here is that many other speakers provide you with only 2,600mAH - 5,000mAH sizes and give you USB outlet ports, but they're going to run flat so quickly that I'll end up with a little bit of phone charge and no music to enjoy. 10,000mAH should be plenty enough for a day at the park.
Lastly, there are no cool LEDs with this product. Likely not included to help the price stay below house mortgage levels, LEDs similar to the Pulse 2 would have made this an incredible package and indeed a centrepiece for any twilight BBQ or gathering of friends.
It's Time to Party
I tested this product through my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, utilizing Spotify Premium and YouTube to play a variety of tunes, ranging from hardstyle to metal, rap, hip-hop, and pop.
The last JBL speaker I reviewed kicked the bass response section out of the park, and I'm happy to report that the Xtreme Portable does much the same thing. In all senses of its being, this thing is essentially the Pulse 2 but bigger in stature and sound. The passive bass resonators help the sound become punchy and precise, with each thump resonating quite well but not vibrating, shaking, or being muffled. The major test for this speaker was once again 'Warcry' by AudioFreQ, showcasing how the Xtreme Portable handles incredibly punchy and quick reverse bass. It performed well with this track, never missing a beat or a drop. However, other songs didn't fare quite so well.
I found that tracks with quieter and more subtle bass like ASAP Rocky's 'Goldie' sounded a little muddled and weird. This was present when the speaker was set at under 30% volume, however, turning the volume up nullified this issue. The issues with muffled high-end clarity as with the Pulse 2 were not audible in this model which is great, meaning that a better all round package is presented.
Some of the music I tested this product with included:
Seriously big sound: This massive product will have no problem projecting to a family gathering outside.
Clear, punchy bass: Taking the Pulse 2's great bass and making it even better, the Xtreme provides some serious kick.
The battery: The massive 10,000mAH battery gives you plenty of wiggle room for play time and draining Bluetooth related phone operations.
The size: While the large battery is great, this speaker is seriously cumbersome.
Quiet muddled bass: Listening to songs with quieter bass on lower sound settings is a little off, but turn the volume up and they sound great.
While the Xtreme isn't truly portable, it manages to take the high scoring sound of the JBL Pulse 2, expand on what it has to offer, and provide subtle improvements.
The crisp clarity and punchy bass are rivalled by none with this particular model. The sound performance is matched with the impressive internal battery and massive sound stand environment that this product offers and this speaker should be at the top of your list when looking for a heavyweight Bluetooth contender.
The downsides come with the expensive pricing, a large overall size, and hefty weight. In the end, these factors don't matter if you're after raw power.
|Quality including Design and Build||95%|
|Bundle and Packaging||80%|
|Value for Money||85%|
The Bottom Line: Portable by name but not by nature, JBL's Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker should be at the top of your list if you're looking for pure power and performance in sound.
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