Disclaimer: JBL sent the Xtreme BT Speaker to me for the purposes of a review here at Headfonics. We thank JBL for this opportunity.
To read more about our reviews of JBL products on Headfonics click here.
JBL really surprised me when they asked me to take a listen to their new Xtreme BT speaker. It is funny…reviewing this speaker really swindled me right back to a decade ago, back when I was a speakerphile and just before my foray into the headphone world.
While reviewing this speaker, I had a bit of a furnace lighting experience inside me that sparked my interest in speakers again.
No, this speaker wasn’t modeled after Bill Paxton’s character in the movie Twister, but damned if it isn’t a very nice sounding Bluetooth experience. I’ve never been a fan of BT Speakers and coming off Sony’s recent letdowns in the BT universe, I must say that I am impressed by this Xtreme model.
JBL seems to have invested quite a bit of time and effort into making a powerful, nice-sounding speaker here and I’ve been enjoying it in my home for the past few months. There are a few important features that JBL packed into this model, so let’s list them one by one. Ready? Phew.
Here we go.
- -Bluetooth 4 connectivity as well as input in via 3.5mm
- -Water/splash-proof (so long as it isn’t submerged, JBL says it will be fine)
- -10,000maH rechargeable battery for up to 15 hours of cordless play, or usage via normal outlet plug
- -Passive radiators for a hefty bass experience
- -Noise/Echo removal during calls
- -Can connect to more Xtreme’s via JBL Connect
Jeez, this thing is super dense at a whopping 2,221g. For such a small speaker that is around the size of a small shoebox, you might never expect something so massively weighted. Truly, this thing feels rock-solid in build and puts out no cheapness vibes when I handle it.
The exterior feels firm and snug with no lose sounding parts or rattling, but one gripe I have is the lack of a higher quality feel to the physical buttons on the unit. I am in a grey area about how to feel about them, knowing that they are protected under a rubber top for protection against wetness or splash damage.
Hard to complain about it, but I’ve found myself feeling like the buttons indent further into the device than I feel comfortable with and the looming sense of me pressing too hard is always poking my brain. It is probably an unjust gripe, but it does bother me.
I am not going to test the durability of the unit by splashing water on it, so I’ll just trust JBL on that factoid and look the other way. However, I can say that it hasn’t done a very nice job of handling shower steam in my bathroom.
I often like to tote the speaker with me into my washroom so I can listen to my tunes via BT streamed by my home computer, roughly two months of this on a daily basis and the unit seemed to power through without much of a problem.
However, the speaker did blow the bass after this review as penned. For some reason that is unknown, after the review was completed in text, I boxed it up and stored it for a week or two until publication was ready.
After JBL asked me for the publication time update, I took the unit back out and plugged it in, noticing the bass was overblown and something was wrong with it. I’ve not a clue what caused it, but my sneaking suspicion is that I probably shouldn’t have subjected it to that much steam for so long.
But, I am a bit baffled as to why it sounded so good for so long, but then sounded blown on the bass after being stored. It sounded perfectly fine the day I put it back in the box. Weird, but probably entirely my fault.
The Bluetooth and Calls
Bluetooth has really come a long way, Sony proved you could provide high-quality BT to a headphone and not have it sound like garbage, and it seems JBL has done the same with speaker tech.
This is a great sign, I hate wires. Death to wires, BT is the future and I am happy to see companies investing time in making great-sounding BT products these days.
The Xtreme pairs simply enough with BT dongles and BT devices of various types, I use a $9 Azio PC Bluetooth dongle for home usage and it sounds lovely with my Xtreme. Quite a difference in sound quality between that Azio and my Galaxy cell phone though, the latter of which I wouldn’t recommend pairing with good sounding BT devices. My PC registers the Xtreme quickly and I’ve not had any syncing issues with any BT devices that I’ve tried to pair with it.
The range appears to be roughly 30ft, less if you have more BT devices steaming in the area. The connection has not ever cut out on me and I’ve left the BT connection up for weeks and never experienced any drops.
Calls are a bit finicky and I did have some brief cutouts, but thankfully no dropped calls. Call quality is firm and solid, it is really strange to hear friends and family sound that large through speakers, and the experience was unsettling to say the very least.
I suppose that conference call frequenters will love it, but this was an entirely new experience for me and it absolutely left me wide-eyed.
Sony Xtreme BT Speaker Sound Impressions
The low end of this speaker is immensely potent for a speaker of its size. I was able to completely fill and overpower the eardrums of an entire party center room for my niece’s birthday. As a joke, I turned on Bassgasm by TEPB, which is a track that is more like a subwoofer test than a real song. The result was the majority of the patrons laughing and raising their eyebrows at how nice the bass experience was. (Me too.)
In terms of clarity, it is impressive compared to most BT speakers, but there is a hell of a quality difference between the Xtreme and my trusty Audioengine A5’s, which are the exact same price. The A5’s are very pure and clean, thinner and far less potent.
The Xtreme is thick, much muddier, and far more powerful and potent in quantity: two completely different experiences. I think it is more than fair to judge a BT speaker next to one of the best $300 and normal speakers available in the Audioengine A5.
Sadly, the Xtreme doesn’t compare in the slightest in clarity and texture, but it sweeps the floor with the A5 for bass quantity. If you are at a younger persons’ party, the Xtreme is the better choice and it would “Bring the house down” with fun factor and bass.
The A5 would be the one you want for something like a baby shower or a social gathering: the snob party, so to speak, where smooth clarity in the background is what you want to experience.
The Xtreme handles Youtube podcasts and films very nicely, providing the desired oomph on the low end to some bassier voices, let’s say some from the Roosterteeth podcasts online, that I feel to sound overly thin on my A5’s. T
here is such a thing as being too pure and too thin, which isn’t a problem on the Xtreme at all, but is a problem on the A5. Comparatively, the Xtreme has more left to it: a more solid and dense feel to it but at the cost of clarity.
Everything sounds weighted and firm, even voices I know to be on the lighter side of the spectrum, as well as tracks that I know to not house that much bass to begin with. Summed up, the Xtreme is very exaggerated and boosted on the low end. It is not for purists.
I’ve been enjoying the speaker a lot for Youtube binging and Blu-ray movies, probably more so than when I use my A5’s. It is really nice to be able to keep the BT connect active, as well as keep the volume relatively high for home listening, all so I can toggle the volume freely via the computer controls of the video player.
I’d much rather not have to lug myself up to dial-up or down the volume knob on the A5 and I’ve found the A5 to sound overdriven if I keep it at a higher volume than what I consider normal.
I think the Xtreme handles louder dB’s much better and stays relatively in control, which is something very noticeable when people scream or suddenly laugh, or even when something suddenly appears in the movie. I think in those cases, you don’t want speedy drivers with a fast decay, as they end up sounding too snappy and lacking a nice sense of a weighted appeal.
I enjoy listening to audiobooks from Audible and thankfully their terrible audio quality is not really relayed through the Xtreme. Some headphones do this nicely, most speakers don’t. But, in this case, the Xtreme handles 128kbps files surprisingly well…at least until there is a heavy explosion or bassy instance in the track.
As soon as that happens, the midrange and treble become completely overshadowed and washed out. The spoken word in most audiobooks of a lower quality still seems prominent and clear enough to enjoy.
Again, the heft of the sound signature of the Xtreme really helps with this and there is no contest for which speaker (A5 vs Xtreme) that I would rather listen to an audiobook with. The Xtreme takes the win once again and despite being less clean sounding.
The solidity factor is good for the price and it reflects even with lower quality recordings, most speakers seem to sound worse when you feed them low bitrate tracks.
Surprisingly, the Xtreme houses no serious sibilance problems that are often associated with BT products. This speaker puts out a nice, smooth, and clean treble for the price and lets me enjoy films and Youtube without wincing at bullet fire or explosions, glass breaking sound effects and people yelling.
The upper end also carries a very nice weight, but I am a bit trouble by the lack of clarity at the $300 price point. Yes, this is a BT speaker, but I am not sure if it is okay or not to judge BT products with normal wired products.
Even though I often use the Xtreme via a wired 3.5mm connection, I’ve found no difference in sound quality between using wired interconnects or the BT functionality. This is great considering the BT side of the equation, but I wouldn’t call this $300 performance.
I feel like the treble experience is a bit shadowed and too reserved, especially so when you factor in the hefty bass the speaker offers. With that in mind and when all things are considered, I simply want more treble.
If that were possible to do without gaining snap, I say go for it in a revision. But, right now and as is, I think the Xtreme is just a bit too soft on the treble to keep it engaging enough for my interest. That could be a good thing and a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for.
Again, the Xtreme doesn’t hit hard up top, but it also doesn’t quite do much for me on a personal level and my ears ignore the upper end completely, due mostly to how nice the Xtreme handles midrange for those podcasts and Youtube sessions.
Vocals aside though, the treble needs work, but you should feel okay in knowing that it does a passable job and what is offered is a step in the right direction.
The Xtreme doesn’t fill my 20×25 living room at all. Dynamics and stage presence is low in terms of performance. It isn’t until you crank this up at some type of open venue that you can really get a nice sense of what the speaker is capable of.
If you are sitting at a desk and place the Xtreme nearby, the low-level volume won’t play nice with the Xtreme and you will get a very lacking sense of staging in general. However, if you crank up the volume and set the speaker at 10+ feet out, things improved a lot. The staging prowess increases more the further you set the speaker back from you and in turn, the volume needs to be raised as well.
This is not a product intended for multimedia usage, although you can get away with it as I have been. At this price, I’d be opting for a set of $350 Kvart and Bolge floor speakers…which sadly…completely wreck the Xtreme 100:1. It is actually one of the most unfair comparisons in the audio world that I could make and I can’t see anyone willingly opting for the Xtreme vs the Kvart’s just for the use of Bluetooth.
Bluetooth is great, but at this price, there are so many other options out there that sound significantly larger, fill small rooms much more efficiently, and also are immensely cleaner and more accurate. The truth is that BT functionality doesn’t make it exempt from me wanting or requiring comparison to any other $300 or so speaker out there.
The Kvart’s annihilate this speaker in a similar fashion to the HD800 wrecking house on the Apple iBuds. Speakers are speakers to me and the technology used doesn’t affect the price, so when there are $350 speakers out there that totally clean house and make the Xtreme sound like a megaphone underwater, then that is something to be strongly considered.
True, the Kvart isn’t portable, but then again I would much rather tote those to a party than the Xtreme. I have arms and legs, I can pick them up and they aren’t that heavy. So, the portability factor means little these days as most bookshelf and floor speakers are equally as portable, although you never see anyone move them into party rooms as you would something like the Xtreme.
Their loss, really.
Look, BT is the future for us and I think JBL did a good job with this speaker. It isn’t meant for critical listeners and it is clearly intended to be toted around in college dorms, between party locations, and used for all-purpose listening.
It does all that very well and is very well rounded, nothing sounds bad with it. From movies to gaming, Youtube to audiobooks, the Xtreme handled most everything I tossed at it very well and without much of an issue.
I really enjoyed the hefty sound and weighted appeal to the low end and mid-range, but the treble bothered me a bit. I think they could tune it a little differently and in this case, I think more is better.
The Xtreme is rugged enough to survive water splashing, so JBL says…however…my unit broke down a little after about 2 months of usage. I am not sure if it was my fault through subjecting it to steam, or if it was just bad luck. But, the Xtreme I have here blow out a little on the bass and now has a problem starting up properly. When I start a track, it won’t play unless I remove the 3.5mm cable and plug it back in.
After that, the sound will crawl back and fade in. That isn’t normal, obviously. This review was penned in a positive light before that problem occurred. Again, I completed the review for the most part and the experience was positive, I’d rate it very well. I boxed it up for a little while and then reinstalled it about 2 weeks later (recently) and found the bass blown out a bit: A wonky sound.
I can’t confirm what the problem was, but I can say that I was legitimately saddened by and that I couldn’t use it again. That is a good sign for me in that the speaker left a very nice impression on me. I really don’t think any other BT speaker in this tier sounds this well rounded, but I do think there are plenty of other BT options out there that best it in clarity across the board.
I suspect this was my fault, as splashing water and surviving tumbles, which the Xtreme boasts it can handle, are really less of a problem than subjecting the innards to steam like I have for so long. Ah well. The experience was nice while it lasted.
JBL Xtreme BT Speaker Technical Specifications
- Frequency Response 70 – 20 kHz
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio >80 dB
- Battery type Lithium-ion Polymer (7.4V, 5000mAh)
- Weight (Metric/English) 2112 g
- Power Supply 19V 3A
- Music playing time up to 15 hours (varies by volume level and audio content)
- Colour Black
- Bluetooth frequency range 2.402 GHz – 2.480 GHz
- Bluetooth transmitter power 0 ~ 4dBm
- Bluetooth transmitter modulation GFSK, 8DPSK, π/4DQPSK