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The combination of impeccable sound and design made JBL the giant everyone knows in the audio world. Unlike many, they never compromised one for the other, settings a standard for portable speakers for over a decade. The Boombox 3 is the maxed-out version of all these JBL’s qualities: a speaker between an audio system and a weekend trip companion.
From the size, you can correctly guess it’s loud and lasts for as long as you need it, but what’s more to JBL Boombox 3 that would make you pay the hefty price and carry it around? How does it deliver in real-life scenarios when all the audio specs are just numbers on a website?
I dove deeper than the surface to find this out, from the unboxing experience to testing the speaker with various genres, rooms, and outdoor trips – from the point of view of a bass lover who loves to throw small parties with friends and studio musician with a keen ear for frequencies.
Bottom Line Up Front
The JBL BoomBox 3 is the epitome of the JBL massive sound, reaching beyond a typical Bluetooth speaker to small sound system in a portable, stylish, and extra robust unit.
It’s loud, with deep bass, excellent frequency separation, and a bright, dynamic high-end; I’ts fine-tuned for all genres, and even the pickiest audiophile will have a pleasant listening experience listening to all the spectrum from jazz to modern EDM and hip hop up to the heaviest of metal.
The downside to having all these perks is the size and weight, making it hard to carry outdoors, and some ‘missing’ extras that would have made it from great to exceptional.
Impressive From The Start
You know how big JBL is when your friends ask, ‘Hey, does anyone have a JBL?’ instead of, ‘Hey, does anyone have a speaker?’ I waited for that exact questions the first weekend I tested the Speaker on an outdoor social occasion – the perfect situation.
We were heading to play a few shows with my band in the south of the country before taking a day off camping, and I sneakily enough ‘hid’ the speaker in the van among my guitar gear so no one would pay attention to it. It’s a large speaker, so the only option was to hide it in plain sight, wrapped in the white cloth that comes with the packaging.
Needless to say, it lived up to the expectations of the guests. You know a speaker is good If a bunch of musicians and sound techs didn’t complain about the sound but are astonished by what comes out of that ‘small’ box.
There’s little inside the Boombox3 box, only the speaker, AC power cord, and the usual warranty/manual. I liked how JBL went the extra mile to protect the speaker with shock absorbers, yet I was not thrilled about the white cloth it came wrapped in.
I would have preferred to have a bag included with the speaker. Even though it would not help make it significantly easier to carry, I’d still pick a simple bag or case instead of a cloth which won’t serve for any use later. Finding out there are specific travel cases and straps made for the boombox; I felt JBL could have done more with this by adding at least one.
The design of the Boombox 3 is very modern and slick, and it truly felt less massive than I thought it would be from the pictures.
I like how nothing stands out too much, not even the logo, which, unlike the other Boomboxes, doesn’t yell JBL with the orange cover. The same is true for the led display, which didn’t flash needlessly when pairing the phone.
My favorite thing about the design is the lack of an outside power adaptor. I didn’t need to remember to take the original charger with me and was relaxed knowing AC cables could be found everywhere if necessary.
What impressed me the most was not the waterproof part, as I’m not the type of traveler to put the speaker in water, play loud music, and watch the bubbles come out of the side radiations.
The dust resistance perk is what caught my attention the most. It means woofers and twitters stay intact and never get anything inside – a far more common scenario than throwing the speaker in a river. I’ve had speakers degrade in just a few months after taking them to sandy beaches – It’s good to know it won’t happen with the Boombox.
Overall I don’t see how you could break or damage this unit wherever you take it unless it falls from a considerable height.
I had the smoothest connectivity experience one could ask for the first time I turned it on. I only pressed the button once, and there was no need to hold it down for the speaker to connect to the phone. Connecting two phones was equally as easy, and neither lagged going around a fairly big campsite.
As long as I had the speaker on sight I could freely move around from tent to tent and mingle at the party while being the DJ.
What I don’t like is the lack of USB C slots. I would have installed one or more USB C slots for charging and playing music from phones. Like many modern ones, my smartphone doesn’t have an aux, so there’s no way I could connect it.
The JBL App
The JBL Portable App is straightforward. It was installed in seconds from the moment I first connected my phone/ My google account’s name appeared on the Speaker, and I could start using it.
I still have to try party mode. So far, I don’t have to, as the Boombox 3 is loud enough, and from experience, unless I find another JBL of similar quality, keeping them playing at the time mainly hinders the quality of the better one.
The only thing I’d like JBL to improve on the App is the EQ. I wanted to remove a bad frequency from the mid-range when listening to music in my office, a typical room with bad acoustics. However, it was impossible with only three frequency bands at my disposal.
I understand that the App is inspired by the music lover who wants either more bass, substance (mids), or details (highs); however, for audiophiles or people with a trained ear, a more detailed EQ can solve many problems.
There’s not much to say about the battery. I only charged it once the first week, playing music for a few hours daily, and it even got through a loud outdoor party with a 60% charge while also charging my phone. The power bank feature is a lifesaver to keep the party alive or come to your aid outdoors.
If we only strictly speak about Bluetooth Speaker, this Boombox 3 is the best-sounding speaker I have ever tried, and the arson I would always buy it.
My absolute favorite thing is that the Boombox 3 is built like a sound system, not a speaker. The big sub-woofer in the center, two woofers, tweeters above them, and passive radiations make for an incredible sound separation – a small stage in a box.
All instruments sit in their place, and everything pops out at the right level. I could hear the tiniest detail in songs, and as a musician could tell the noises the hands of the players make when rubbing against the strings – just fabulous. Movies, on the other hand, had an almost cinematic experience of the low-end shaking the room once the orchestral soundtrack starts on an action scene.
At low volumes, when playing music at home, in the office, or working out, I didn’t need to crank up the volume to get a great sound. This is extremely useful, as I can’t and don’t always want to listen to loud music – it’s mostly a soundtrack to my work and trips with occasional bursts of loud songs.
At high volumes, The low end becomes deeper, with the just right air ‘push’; even the highs stay clear with only tiny bits of distortion, which becomes inaudible, blending with the song. There’s no speaker with 0 distortion level; this JBL is close to that.
Nothing ever sounded harsh, whether I played a polished Depeche Mode track or a Metallica heavy tune.
Outdoors the Boombox 3 sounded fantastic. Fuller and warmer than any other Bluetooth speaker I have tried. What impressed me was how it projected the sound in all directions; I only had to leave it pointing toward me while barbequing and could walk around the sides of the garden, still hearing most of the stereo image of the songs.
Indoors it’s the same, yet I only pushed the volume a little indoors if the room wasn’t great. My studio is perfect as it’s furnished with wood to absorb the sound; my office, on the other hand, reflects the sounds everywhere and can make any speaker sound harsh. A better EQ (10-band) could solve that.
The Pop, Dance, Trap & EDM listening experience was exceptional. I could hear the details as if I was listening to it in the producer’s studio – and I tried this in my Hip Hop producer friend’s studio!
Most modern music insists on the subs, the bottom of the low-end, and delivering a solid punch in the middle (not the L or R speaker), both tasks at which the Boombox 3 is exceptional. When designing speakers, I suspect the brand has exactly this in mind.
The Rock, Funk, Metal & Jazz listening experience was great but could be improved. The Boombox 3 surprised me positively, almost matching up to my expensive studio monitors in the detail of the live instruments.
My go-to band for testing sound systems is Steely Dan. I put up ‘Josie,’ a jazz-rock tune from the best studio musician and engineers of the time, and got one the best listening experiences with a few notes on what to improve.
The warm low mids, where the bass note (not the sub) sits, were slightly inaudible, and it sometimes felt like a gap between the bass and the highs. A sonic ‘hole’ that wasn’t filled – I fixed it with the EQ, but not at the optimal level I wished for.
Another thing I noticed I still have is the speaker’s light compression which makes airy songs sound slightly ‘narrow.’
“Good tone is heavy and hard to carry,” a famous rockstar once said when asked why he carried around enormous stacks of cabinet speakers rather than renting different ones for each tour.
Even though we are decades ahead, the quote remains true for most audio equipment, and the Boombox 3 is no exception.
6.7kg seems like little in the context of a big Speaker, yet it’s not a weight I could carry in a hiking, biking, or trailing trip, nor around the city for more than a few minutes. I’m sure it’s easier to carry than speakers of the same size due to the ergonomic design – but it’s not a play-while-walking kind of speaker.
The metal handle is robust, yet it does get hot in the sun, and I would have preferred to have at least a shoulder strap for the speaker. Considering the weight, it wouldn’t be very comfy, but it would help ease some pressure.
The Boombox 3 won’t fit in any normal-sized backpack and was still heavy on my backpacker camping bag, taking up the same space as my sleeping bag. The size would be fine if it were not heavy; on the upside, it didn’t take up much space in the car.
Since I always carry a small speaker for hiking trips, I took a big of them side by side to show you the difference.
BoomBox 3 Alternatives
If the sound or size doesn’t convince you, here are a few other alternatives to consider.
The PartyBox 110 takes the concept of a party speaker to the limit, being almost double everything of the Boombox 3 in volume, weight, and size. It’s massive, featuring guitar and mic inputs. It’s the full-party package but requires a power source to operate and move with wheels.
If you need quality and high-volume at a stationary (mostly) indoor situation place, the Partybox 110 is ideal.
Similar in design to the BoomBox 3, the Motion Boom is slightly smaller, lighter, and has a sound quality that almost catches up with the BoomBox but never quite matches it. It’s a great alternative cause of the price/quality balance and the fact that it’s easier to carry around, yet it’s not as well built, stylish, and resistant to weather as the JBL.
This small affordable portable speaker rivals the Boombox in resisting extreme conditions and still has excellent sound quality. It does not compare to the JBL in a head-to-head sound comparison test, yet it has its perk due to the easiness of carrying it in your backpack and the long battery life.
Final Verdict – 9 out of 10
The sound is fantastic; the product is built as a tank and looks great at the same time. With these in mind, there are only two scenarios where I would not go for the Boombox3; first, if you want an easy-to-carry speaker on your outdoor adventure, and second if you can’t or don’t want to use its power and volume.
With great sound come great responsibilities, and the BoomBox 3 is one of those high-end audio products worth looking out for! It’s not just ‘more’ of everything; it’s a refined improvement to the Boombox series.
JBL Boombox 3 Pros
- Stylish design, very slick and modern, with improved ergonomics
- Excellent build quality, able to handle all weather and conditions
- Connects instantly to multiple devices and does not lag in a moderate/long distance
- Great sound with balanced frequencies, lots of low-end but still crisp, and clear midrange and highs
- Impressive frequency separation allows you to listen to all song elements clearly.
- Great for modern clean-sounding punchy genres (EDM, HipHop, Trap, etc.) and almost as suitable for ‘dirty’ classic genres with more dynamics and denser mixes (Rock, Jazz, Metal, etc.)
- Reliable, long-lasting battery with a helpful power bank feature to charge devices.
- Uses a standard, easy-to-find AC power cable with no outside adaptor
JBL Boombox 2 Cons
- Heavy and hard to carry
- The EQ on the App is not very detailed
- It does not have USB-C ports
- The SBC audio codec could be improved to a higher quality one
- It does not come with a bag
Question: JBL Boombox 3 Plugged in vs. Battery Power Mode?
Answer: There’s no significant difference in the frequency response, sound quality, and volume if the unit is in battery mode or plugged in. The sub-bass is slightly less powerful – still, you need to put the plugged and plugged speaker head to head to notice the difference.
The battery will drain much faster if you play at a loud volume, and it’s not a great idea to charge your phone if you don’t have a plug and need to keep the party going for long hours.
Question: Does AUX sound better than Bluetooth on the Boombox 3?
Answer: If the audio files you are playing go beyond the SBC codec’s limitation bit rate, sample rate, and depth, the AUX will provide overall better audio quality. However, the difference is minimal, and depending on the setting, song, and volume, it becomes almost inaudible.
Question: Is The JBL BoomBox3 Audio Coded Poor?
Answer: SBC is considered the most basic Bluetooth audio codec, comparable to a CD. The latter is old tech but still delivers more quality and headroom than the music you stream on YouTube and Spotify.
If you don’t see the issue not on paper but use your ears, the difference is minimal, next to unnoticeable, even for the most fine-tuned ears.