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REVIEW: JBL Xtreme 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

JBL’s latest addition to their bulging line-up is quite the disruptor. There’s no polite ringing of the doorbell by this party animal of a speaker; it’s straight round the back and making a splash (figuratively speaking – it’s IP67 waterproof for rain or spills but don’t go dunking it in the pool any time soon).

Upon unboxing, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the Xtreme 3 is larger than we’ve come to expect of Bluetooth speakers. But maybe that’s just because we haven’t heard it yet.

Sporting a rugged fabric finish in an almost iridescent, steely blue (it also comes in black), the Xtreme 3 carries enough weight to let its holder know it means business.

It’s not one you’d go carrying around the room or taking on long walks but if you are one to migrate the party, no worries – it comes with an adjustable shoulder strap that clips onto the top.

What’s more, that strap’s buckle doubles as a bottle opener. How any times have you patted yourself on the back for bringing the tunes, only to find you forgot the key to cracking the beers? Oh, small joys – they’ve thought of everything.

Not only that, if your connected device runs out of battery, you can actually charge it off the speaker’s built-in power bank, so the tunes don’t stop just because you forgot to charge your phone that day.

Turns out the JBL Xtreme 3 can put its money where its mouth is; the feisty little beast can party.

A common disappointment with Bluetooth speakers is their inability to throw their audio; it may sound good enough up close but further away it’s tinny and thin.

This one, however, can throw its voice. And that’s not to say it’s all volume and no substance. What we mean is that it can fill a space without losing too much detail.

It’s still a portable Bluetooth speaker so let’s be real – it’s not going to match any bone-thudding bass depth of a decent hi-fi stereo or subwoofer.

But for its breed, the Xtreme 3 is an extremely pleasant surprise, making use of four drivers and two pumping JBL bass radiators to achieve what is undeniably some pretty powerful output.

We throw it a few sub-bass tests in the form of Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’ and Cream’s ‘Badge’. So far, so good. Jack Bruce’s impossible four-stringed aptitude is prominent, and Clapton’s vocal is bright. It can still reach us in another room (with the doors open) so it passes the space-fill test.

Now to send it a low-end curveball: Lana Del Rey’s ‘Summer Bummer’. Uh oh, it falls down a little – the subtly ghetto boom is tinnier and stretching a little thin here, if not almost lost as the vocals verge on stamping it out.

But let’s look at what else this speaker can do.

It’s a team-player, for one. With JBL’s ‘PartyBoost’ technology you can connect multiple JBL speakers (ones that are enabled with the same tech). This comes in handy if you want the same audio throughout, say, one whole house where the rooms are spread out.

Or perhaps it’s one large space but you’d quite like to blast your guests with sound from multiple angles, in which case you can use a gang of speakers.

Another option is using PartyBoost to connect two Xtreme 3 speakers as a stereo configuration.

You can also wirelessly connect two smartphones or tablets simultaneously, so you and a mate can battle it out in song wars without doing the fiddly connect-disconnect-reconnect dance or having to boot someone off the speaker so you can hop on.

JBL’s Xtreme 3 is every bit a social Bluetooth speaker. It’s obviously built for group settings and fun times.

But what makes it a cut above is that JBL has clearly focused attention on audio quality, with two 25W RMS woofers and two 25W RMS tweeters putting out some impressively clear and far-reaching sound, which, for the most part, could almost be mistaken for that of a basic stereo system.

It’s not a petite, cutie of a portable speaker but then nor is it a bulky piece of equipment; it sits somewhere between being carry-friendly and portly enough to be taken seriously.

When it comes to technical performance you can absolutely take this party-lover seriously – even when it’s opening your beer.

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