- JBL Boombox 2 vs 3 Compared – The Battle of the Heavyweights - September 5, 2023
- JBL Boombox 2 Review: Bigger, Better, NOT for Everyone - September 3, 2023
- JBL Boombox 3 Review and Unboxing – ‘More’ Of Everything - August 23, 2023
A Boombox on its own is a small sound system able to rock a party. It’s loud, powerful, and lasts as long as you need it to, yet JBL has, over time, improved the original design, first with the Boombox 2 and now with the latest Boombox 3, which promises to deliver ‘more’ of everything.
As a lucky owner of both, besides enjoying the incredible stereo PartyBoost experience, I took the time to test them in detail and shine some light on what makes each special.
It’s a battle of the JBL heavyweights to ultimately give you a better idea of which is the best for you – whether you’re a party animal, an outdoor adventurer, or an audiophile searching for the best speaker that stays true to the records.
Bottom Line Up-Front: The Boombox 2 and 3 are similar in power, volume, battery life, and size, yet the JBL Boombox 3 is a clear winner with its superior sound quality, stereo field, frequency separation, and slight improvements in design.
Neither will disappoint when it comes to entertaining guests, yet the Boombox 3 goes further, pleasing even the pickiest audiophiles.
Two of the Same Kind
The Boombox 2 and 3 are a giant leap forward from the original Boombox launched in 2017. The design has improved, and the sound is undoubtedly deeper and more refined, but the pros and cons have remained the same. Here’s a general overview of what to expect if you own any, clearly indicating which is the best
The sound quality, volume, battery life, and resistance to the elements are exceptional for both speakers, with the Boombox 3 adding more of everything to the mix.
Great tone is heavy and hard to carry; both speakers fit this quote well. JBL tried to make the Boombox 3 slightly more ergonomic, yet it is still significantly big and weighs even more than the Boombox 2. Another thing that JBL hasn’t improved on is the EQ on the app; it’s very basic, with only three editable frequency bands.
Out of the Box
JBL took noticeably more care of the Boombox 3 with the packaging. The boxes are almost the same size, with the Boombox 3 being just slightly bigger to fit in quality and environmentally friendly shock absorbers compared to the typical styrofoam of the Boombox 2.
Obviously, this doesnt impact your listening experience, but it still impressed me how JBL cares about the small things with each new release. Even so, I’m still waiting for them to include a bag with the Boombox, not a piece of cloth or plastic bag.
The Loudness Battle
The Boombox 2 and 3 are very loud, but most importantly, they sound full and warm at their loudest.
The most prominent mistake reviewers make with speakers is testing them in an empty room where nothing is happening. To truly test loudness, you need to see the impact when the venue is filled with people.
Everything sounds loud when it’s just you and the speaker, yet when the place is packed, suddenly, the bass disappears, and the tunes are not that loud anymore.
Having a fair share of experience mixing live bands, I wanted a better perspective of the extra power of the Boombox 3 – so I did just that, switching one or the other on and off during parties. It bothers the guests for sure, but it needs to be done to get an actual, real-life scenario review of the volume.
For small parties or as a companion for your trip, even though the Boombox 3 is louder, you won’t feel much difference from the Boombox 2.
When it’s a matter of entertaining a large number of people, the extra subwoofer of the Boombox 3 and more Watts of power will come in handy and make a difference in how the music hits everyone – especially on the quality of the low-end that remains punchy and deep without muddying the sound.
Ultimately, the Boombox 3 wins the loudness battle, but not by much. If you’re not the type to throw big parties or prefer extra loud volumes, the Boombox 2 will do the job perfectly.
If you play the same EDM track on the two speakers at an average or even high volume, they will sound highly similar, hardly hinting towards which is the best. When you crank it up to the loudest, they still are very similar, but the Boombox 3 retains more warmth, has fewer artifacts from compression, and a deeper low-end.
The same will happen if you play bass-heavy music that’s based on drums and bass: Trap, Hip-Hop, most Pop, and DnB, due to how modern mixes work. These genres typically sound good even on a phone speaker, so naturally, they will sound polished on a high-end speaker.
The Boombox 3 has more headroom and sound separation than the Boombox 2 – you will feel the difference if you play music that is not bass-heavy: Rock, Funk, Jazz, and anything with acoustic instruments that uses most of the stereo space. For this style, the Boombox 3 is just better at any volume.
When I played some metallic with the two speakers at the loudest, the high-end of the Boombox 2 started to give in and just slightly hurt the ears, especially when the snare drum hit and I almost had the natural reflex of closing my eyes like during soundcheck.
With the Boombox 3, there still is a slight harshness, which is natural at very volumes, but the highs didn’t hurt my ears, and the song only felt slightly ‘squashed.’
The difference is not that massive, even for a trained ear. You can only clearly tell the difference in quality between good and exceptional audio gear when you push it to the limit.
In a few words, The BoomBox 3 is built like a small sound system, with all the needed drivers that a small stage has, while the Boombox 2 is built like an outstanding speaker, but it’s still a speaker with fewer ‘options’ than a sound system and that can ultimately handle fewer people at the party, less quality at every volume and ‘smaller’ bass.
Built Quality & Design
One smart move from JBL makes The Boombox 3 the clear winner – the speaker does not have an external charging unit, only a regular AC cord you can find anywhere. This means you don’t need to remember to carry anything more than the speaker.
There’s no such thing as an ‘original AC cord’; any you find will work perfectly well. With the Boombox 2, however, you need to remember the Laptop charger size and carry it along with your other chargers. For someone like me, deep in the studio gear world, cables and chargers have become a phobia; the less I have around, the better.
Other design elements are mostly a matter of taste. JBL made the Boombox 3 lightly more modern and minimalistic, replacing the plastic handle with a metal one and only a few inches thinner. There is nothing major or unexpected here; the Boombox 3 wins this one only due to the built-in charge upgrade.
Connectivity & Battery
Connecting to a JBL is always easy, no matter the model. Both speakers concert in a flash, use the same app and have a powerful signal. I never had latency or lag issues while being the solo DJ or sharing duties with another phone.
The difference in Bluetooth versions, 5.1 for the Boombox 2 and 5.3 for the newer speaker, does not affect sound quality. For the rest, neither has a type-C slot, so there are no winners here.
The Battery lasts incredibly long for both; the Boombox 3 has the edge here with almost a day’s charge of normal usage more.
Both speakers are built as tanks; you can throw them in a river, and they will still work. I’m not worried or picky about which one to get with me outdoors, whether it’s a sandy beach or a rainy day – they’re both so strong I am okay with lending it to friends who are notorious for spilling drinks.
The Boombox 3 wins this one as it adds dust resistance besides the well-known waterproof checkbox. I find the first one even more handy than the latter; dust or tiny grains of sand getting in the speaker is a far more common scenario than a $500 speaker floating inside a pool.
Dust is a slow and silent killer – now, it’s early to tell, but I’m confident that in 2-3 years of heavy use, the Boombox 3 will retain its sound quality better, while the other might need a cleanup or two. Still, if the Boombox 2 is all you can get, I would not let this be a decisive factor not to buy it.
Portability – Heavy and Heavier
There are no winners here. It’s easy to tell that the Boombox 2 and 3 share the same disadvantages in portability. They are large and heavy, not fit for any outdoor adventure that doesn’t involve a car – as such, I don’t find the extra 1kg of the Boombox 3, or its slightly improved ergonomics or minimally smaller size, make any difference in this comparison.
You will get tired of carrying any, and if 1kg means better sound quality, I’m fine with that. And don’t get fooled by the picture; I was near my grip limit when the shot was taken!
JBL Partybox Speakers
If you exclusively want to use the speaker for partying and are not a big fan of walking, biking, or trailing, why not go for an even larger Speaker that costs about the same as a Boombox?
Partybox speakers are flashy and massive and more often need to be plugged in, but they challenge a sound system in all senses. It has a monstrous volume and bass, even more than the JBL Boombox 3 if you get the latest Partybox.
However, I’d pick the Boombox 2 and 3 connected together in PartyBoost mode to the latest Partybox, as the stereo image is incredible if you put place them correctly.
JBL Xtreme Speakers
If you want a more portable speaker with loads of volume, the Xtreme series is the limit of what you can carry in your backpack and still climb a mountain. They are neither light nor small in the Bluetooth speaker context and will still require you to leave out something else if you’re packing light.
The sound quality of any Xtreme series speaker though is not comparable to its Boombox counterpart – the size makes it bigger, louder, and more detailed.
Rocksteady Stadium Portable Bluetooth
The Rocksteady is not a single speaker but a portable Bluetooth surround system you can customize with two up to four speakers. Individually, the speakers don’t compare to the quality of any of the Boomboox 3 or 2; as a set, they make for an excellent surround experience for any social event.
The downside is the difficulty of having four separate speakers to move around. However, if you want a movable system for your house you occasionally take for a party; the surround sound makes it worth it. Obviously, the cinema experience is one of a kind with all four speakers connected.
Question: How Many Watts of Speaker Power Do I Need for a Small Party?
Answer: If you’re having to have a small outdoor party, around 100 Watts of power are perfect for 20-30 people at an average-high volume. Indoors, even 80 Watts or less will do. If you have around 50-70 people attending, you will need anything from 120-200 Watts outdoors and slightly less indoors.
Question: Does Floating Hurt a Boombox Speaker?
Answer: Floating in a pool won’t damage the Boomobx 2 or 3 no matter how long you leave it; salty sea water, however, will eventually damage the fabric over time.
Question: How Many People Can the Boombox 3 Handle at Its Loudest?
Answer: Plugged in, with 180 watts of power, the Boombox can handle a party of around 50-70 people outdoors and about 80-90 indoors.
Final Thoughts: Is the Boombox 3 Worth the Extra $100?
I trust my ears, and they say ‘yes’ the Boombox 3 is not only ‘more of everything’ but adds an extra level of detail and power that both party attendees and audiophiles will appreciate. The Boombox 2 follows closely in some aspects but ultimately never reaches its rival’s refined listening experience.
This said, you can’t go wrong with either choice if you can manage the size and weight. As a lover of listening to music at its best, beyond only the loud party experience or casual background music, I’d recommend you go for the extra quality of the Boombox 3.
It’s a small price difference for a priceless audio experience, whether you are a bass freak, want to make people move, or enjoy listening to every detail of classic records. Even if you’re not the picky kind or claim you don’t have a ‘trained ear, you might not hear the difference, but you will surely ‘feel’ it.