The world of Bluetooth speakers is wide. There’s everything from small, compact speakers included with that new phone you bought, and monsters that can easily replace a stereo system. These two fit somewhere in the higher end of the spectrum.
The JBL Xtreme and Bose Soundlink 3 are both $300 Bluetooth speakers. In the true form for both companies, Bose went for form over function and JBL vice versa.
At the same price point, both speakers sound fantastic. However, the build quality and design are the points that couldn’t be further from each other.
My Bottom Line up Front: I prefer the Bose Soundlink available here as it’s slightly better on the mid-ranges. IF you are planning on some rugged use, however, I can definitely see the JBL Xtreme being a good option.
|Bose Soundlink 3
|70Hz – 20kHz
|50Hz – 20kHz
|12.5 x 8 x 7.5 inches
|1.9 x 10.1 x 5.2 inches
JBL’s Xtreme Bluetooth speaker is a focus on the build. The speaker is made to be used, outside, in the woods, or wherever you could possibly want to take it. Of course, the sound quality is fantastic, but what stands out is the circular design and JBL waterproofing.
In terms of features, the JBL Xtreme is stacked for a Bluetooth speaker. In addition to the Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, the speaker boasts some other things to make connecting more convenient and enhancing the experience for JBL ecosystems.
Up to three devices can be connected to the speaker. Whatever device sends the latest signal is what the speaker listens to. This is nice for a party where more than one person is controlling the playlist. Instead of unpairing and repairing, the music never stops.
There’s more to ensure the party doesn’t stop too. JBL includes one 2A USB out and two 1A USB outs. The speaker doubles as a power bank, whether it’s plugged in or not.
The speaker integrates with your smartphone beautifully. A microphone with noise and echo canceling is built into the speaker, meaning you can take calls with a touch of a button on top of the speaker. You never have to handle your device.
The same button doubles as access to Siri or Google Now. Press it and the services will be brought up. The microphone will work just the same as the one on your phone.
What sets the speaker apart is JBL’s Connect technology. Multiple speakers that support the Connect tech can be connected together wireless. After that, they can all stream the same source and pump up the sound of the party.
This speaker is built to be beaten up. JBL has managed to put both form and function into one speaker. While it doesn’t sport a luxury feel, the design is modern and fun, all while standing up to the elements.
Let’s start with the looks. The speaker holds the same cylinder-like design as the other JBL Bluetooth speakers. The grille wraps all the way around, with a JBL badge on the front and branding on both sides. The bottom has small rubber feet to ensure the speaker doesn’t roll, and the top all the buttons as well as two metal hooks for putting a strap on the speaker.
There are four function buttons and two buttons for controlling your smartphone. The function buttons are for Bluetooth pairing, volume up and down, and play/pause. They’re blackout to the sides of the central smartphone controls. These two buttons control answering calls and accessing Siri or Google Now.
To keep things fun, JBL offers the speaker in black, red, and blue. The color just affects the grille and function buttons. For me, classic black is the way to go.
What makes the speaker special is how it’s made, though. The Xtreme is built completely out of fabric and rugged rubber. These materials will hold up to the elements better than metal or plastic, making them ideal for outdoor use.
JBL also advertises that the speaker is splashproof. There’s no official waterproofing rating on it, so be weary. The speaker can handle some water, but don’t go dunking it every chance you get.
Sound-wise, the JBL Xtreme has some chops. While it isn’t the loudest speaker out there, it’s still enough to get some music playing at a party. Thankfully, the music sounds great as well.
The rated frequency response for the speaker is only down to 70Hz. For some, that may seem like a lack of low-end. Yes, it doesn’t reach into the subs, but the speaker really doesn’t need to. JBL includes two passive bass radiators on the speaker to enhance the low end.
These radiators bounce the low-end frequencies around, amplifying them before they leave. This type of design shows the engineering expertise of JBL and results and full and satisfying low end.
The passive bass amplification works in the favor of the speaker in other ways as well. Since the Xtreme isn’t struggling to push out loads of low end, the rest of the frequency spectrum is freed up for the drivers to handle optimally.
The midrange is surprisingly present. I expect a scooped characteristic with the most trendy-looking speakers. Such is not the case here. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t dips. The Xtreme falls victim to the peak and valley type sound. The midrange isn’t smooth, but I’d rather have a cut-up midrange than none at all.
The top end is very present. It’s not shrill or harsh, but audio certainly sounds hyped up through this speaker. Hihats are articulated and it sounds like you can hear the spit inside of a vocal. This really comes down to preference, but, for some, this may be a turnoff.
JBL Xtreme Overall
The JBL Xtreme is a wonderful speaker. Both the extensive features and the rigid build quality puts the speaker in a class of its own. If you’re on the go, and the expandability and connectivity, this speaker is
The sound quality falls slightly behind. The low end is rich and full, the mid-range doesn’t sound smooth. While it’s unfortunate, it’s not a bad trade-off for what’s here.
Bose Soundlink 3
The Bose Soundlink 3 is a far cry from the JBL Xtreme. Despite clocking in at the same price point, the focus is completely different. Instead of opting for durability, Bose focused on design, making a speaker that looks great and sounds great. Just don’t throw it in your pool.
This speaker doesn’t lack features, but they may not be as obvious as features on JBL’s Xtreme. The subtly shows attention to detail in some areas but lacks marketable features that pay offer with true value.
Externally, the speaker has a detachable power cable that ideal for travel. The power adaptor folds completely flat, making it easy to carry around. It may not seem like a huge deal, but it’s helpful to save some space when packing a bag.
Speaking of power, that’s the only way to charge the speaker. An optional 12V adaptor can be purchased to charge the speaker in a car. That may be useful for older vehicles, but most newer cars have auxiliary cables, so the uses don’t seem huge.
There is an aux input on the back. While Bluetooth is fine in most cases, sometimes the fuss isn’t worth it. Plugin a 3.5mm cord, and the speaker will automatically play audio from that source instead.
Bose doesn’t have the multiple device support that JBL has. Only one device can be paired at a time, which is a low point for this speaker. However, the most recent six devices are remembered, making repairing
Again separating from the JBL speaker, the Soundlink 3 has a clean and modern design. I wouldn’t call it fun, but there are enough options to really make the speaker your own.
The speaker is a slim rectangle, with clean lines. The silver grille wraps around the speaker, with black accents on top and bottom. On the roof of the speaker are six different buttons. You get a power button, Bluetooth button, Aux switcher, volume up and down, and a mute button.
Unfortunately, this a real low point for the Soundlink 3. The lack of smartphone controls can be overlooked, but there is no excuse for not having a play/pause button. There is no smartphone integration whatsoever. It’s a shame.
The body is made out of metal and plastic. It’s not as useful when throwing the speaker around outside, but it does make it feel more elegant overall. It feels luxurious, marking the biggest difference between the two speakers.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add flair. Bose sells a range of rubber skins for the speaker in different colors. With them, you add protection and set yours apart from the pack. At $30 a pop, you may want to pass through.
There should be no surprise here. The Bose Soundlink 3 sounds great. The entire response is smooth, not consistent with the hyped sound of trendy speakers. The sound here is rich and pure.
However, engineering choices aren’t too far off. The speaker still houses two passive radiators for bass, relieving some of the low-end pressure from the drivers. The bass is full and punches through, but it’s not the focal point like it is on the JBL.
Instead, the bass feels refined. The punch is there, but not so much so as to sacrifice the clarity of
The biggest difference is in the midrange. Instead of having the valley-type sound of the JBL, this speaker has a smooth midrange. It’s much more present than the JBLs, in a way that is more natural. This is the real high point of the sound.
The top-end is significantly dialed down. The speaker is still present, but not so much as to sound overhyped. The sound is natural, with a crispy top end that isn’t shrill and doesn’t stick out of the rest of the sound.
Bose Soundlink 3 Overall
The Soundlink 3 has its own share of problems, but that’s to be expected. The standout points are in the look, thoughtful features, and smooth midrange.
However, the design feels dated. The lack of integration with smartphones really draws back the experience. Again, it feels like Bose opted for form over function.
Conclusion: JBL Xtreme or Bose Soundlink 3?
So, there’s a question. What speaker is better for you? Ultimately, that comes down to your needs. Both sound great, with the Bose edging slightly out with a more defined mid-range. Really though, you couldn’t go wrong in the audio department with either of the speakers.
The real determining factor is where the speaker needs to go. Yes, the Bose has some convenient features for traveling. I would say that the Bose is good for traveling and the JBL is better for exploring. The luxury look and finish of the Soundlink 3 shouldn’t be tossed around, and the JBL can easily handle that beating.
For me, the Bose makes more sense. I don’t need to throw my speaker around or expose it to the elements. The beautiful finish is complimentary to me equating audio devices to pieces of furniture.
However, that’s just me. The speaker that works best for you is, well, up to you.