JBL Xtreme Portable Wireless Speaker Review


Are you ready for some aural stimulation? We know we are. We've waited a long time for this to arrive, and today it finally has. This is the new Xtreme by JBL. It's JBL's most powerful model to date, and it's packed full of awesome features and of course exorbitant amount of audio goodness. It might even be the best sounding portable wireless speaker we have tested so far. Released a few months early in Europe, the Xtreme has finally made its North American debut where it is expected to go head-to-head with some of the leading brands like Ultimate Ears, BoseSony and even Bang & Olufsen. How good is JBL's new Xtreme speaker and how does it stack up against the competition? More importantly, how will it fare against Fugoo's new XL speaker. Find out all that and more in our in-depth review down below!


The Xtreme isn’t just another portable wireless speaker, it’s a portable wireless speaker system. One that can deliver outstanding audio performance all things considered while also enabling you to wirelessly connect multiple speakers simultaneously to play from the same audio source in a multi-room scenario - or in a simply large immersive audio experience that is easily transportable and does not require an external power source. It's the sort of portable speaker you'd bring out to the basketball court, pool party, friends and family BBQs, places where you'd like to share music and not have to worry about outlets, cables or water. It's a good looking piece of kit as well.


I can tell you right away I'm absolutely digging the Xtreme's bazooka-like design. This bulbous form factor makes it seem durable, sleek and easy to stash inside gear bags - if that's something you feel like doing. The Xtreme's exterior is wrapped up with this nylon fabric mesh that has been made popular by the UE Boom. It's also the same type of material JBL uses on the Flip 3, and it makes the Xtreme highly resilient. It's water-resistant so it can keep on playing even when it's raining, built very solidly and overall has a high quality construction with seamless rubberized built-in button controls and side edges.


As much as I think the Xtreme is well put together, I'm not sure how it'll fare if dropped. Yes it's solid all around, but it's also pretty heavy and there's little material to help absorb all that impact. Underneath that fabric it seems that the Xtreme's core construction is made out of strong plastic instead of sharing the same plastic and metal makeup of the Charge 2+, but instead is more similar to the UE Megaboom, only on a larger scale and with less rubber. As of this moment, the Xtreme is going to run you $300, and it's available now in three colors: black, blue and red – all feature a black rubber trim. 


How big can thing thing really be in person? It's big. My hands aren't that small and I could barely hold onto it with one hand. 


In this family portrait of a size comparison, it totally dwarfs JBL's Flip 3 – which is similar in size and shape to the UE Boom 2. Both are considered portable speakers, but only one can be carried with you without weighing you down.


It’s so massive in fact that it comes with its own shoulder strap just to make carrying it a little easier and more convenient. That said, you could still jam it into a backpack. Yes it’ll take up more space than your laptop and tablet combined, but it’s definitely doable. The Xtreme is one hefty beast weighing in at a little over 4.5 pounds, which is kinda of a bittersweet situation. The heavier the speaker, the better it should perform sonically. Of course this means that a few portability points are sacrificed in the process.


Speaking of the included shoulder strap, also included is an actual power brick used for charging the Xtreme from a power outlet. You cannot use USB power to charge this beast sadly. But there is some good news. The Xtreme can be fully topped off in under 4 hours, while its internal 10,000mAh rechargeable battery can last up to 15 hours when used wirelessly at medium volume. It's also worth noting that the Fugoo Style/Sport and Tough XL also includes a power brick for charging, but it's smaller than the one that the Xtreme uses. Another welcome addition that Fugoo includes with its slighter less expensive XL model are cables for audio and charging external devices, which aren't included with the Xtreme. That said, the Xtreme does come with a strap whereas with the Fugoo XL it's sold as a separate accessory.


The Xtreme has various multi-function on-board controls located at the top of the unit like most other speakers. From left to right: backlit Bluetooth pairing button, volume down, power button with a an illuminated status function (turns blue when paired/white when powered on), JBL Connect button for connecting multiple speakers together, volume up, and a play/pause button that can also be used to skip songs forward (double tap) as well as answer an incoming call using the Xtreme's speakerphone feature. Of course you can also accept a call or make one using your smartphone while the Xtreme acts as your speakerphone with its built-in noise and echo-canceling microphone. 


Right underneath the JBL logo you'll find a row of white LEDs that tell you the remaining battery life of the Xtreme just like the Charge and Flip models. Each time you turn on the Xtreme or press a button these will light up and turn off after a little while. You can also tell how much battery is left by using the JBL Connect app. There aren't any fancy spoken battery status prompts like there are on the UE Megaboom and Fugoo XL speakers, unfortunately.


Flipping the Xtreme around we find an unusual zipper that reveals a set of ports. The zipper protects the ports from water and other debris so make sure it's fully closed when you're done charging. Inside you'll find a 3.5mm auxiliary audio input, two regular sized USB ports and a power input used for charging the speaker. There's also a micro-USB port but JBL says it's meant for service diagnostics.


Like JBL's Charge 2+ model, you can of course use these two USB ports to charge any two devices at the same time like an iPad and an iPhone thanks to the Xtreme's backup battery feature, which utilizes its huge 10,000mAh battery. But if you charge a single device then it'll charge quicker using 2A of power instead of just 1A. Overall I found charging to be quick and very useful when caught with a low battery and away from a power outlet.


You can technically use the Xtreme as it stands vertically on one of its sides. The rubber rim around the two, exposed aluminum-accented bass radiators ensures that air can escape when positioned on a flat surface, but there's really no advantage to using the Xtreme in this way. The sound doesn't improve in this orientation, but it does look cool I'll give it that - plus this can actually save some space too.


You can download the free JBL Connect app available for the Xtreme, but all it does is look for available firmware updates and shows you how to pair multiple JBL speakers together (supports Xtreme, Flip 3 and Pulse 2 models). The app isn't needed for connecting two or more speakers together might I clarify. Whenever an update is available for the Xtreme, it'll simply pop up rather than you having to look for it yourself which is always good.


We've reviewed and tested countless speakers, some portable and some that aren't. The Xtreme is hands down the most powerful model that my ears have gotten to experience. It's big, hefty and sounds as one might expect. Rich, full, clean and clear. From what I've thrown at it, the Xtreme never distorts no matter how loud it plays. And gets loud. Really loud. Loud enough to saturate my two bedroom, 1,100sft apartment with my tunes at its highest volume setting. It's really an impressive speaker that leaves a lasting impression on you. Watching movies at home using the Xtreme as your only sound source can arguably replace your inexpensive soundbar thanks to its powerfully rich sound. That's how capable this thing is.

The Xtreme delivers exactly what we've come to expect from JBL, only this time bass isn't lacking. Highs are bright, mids sound forward and don't lack detail and aren't saturated by the bass, which in itself is amazingly impressive. If you love tight and punchy bass, a deep and thick low-end - you're going to really enjoy the Xtreme. It has the best audio and bass performance out of all the portable speakers JBL has ever released. The bass never seems to be too overpowering or excessive, but there are some that would say that the Xtreme can actually become bass heavy at times. I wouldn't necessarily think it is even though there's indeed loads of bass to enjoy. You can never have too much bass...well, unless it starts to trample over everything else.


Although the Xtreme can easily fill a very large space with sound, it's got some limitations just like any other portable speaker. Sadly and to my own surprise, the Xtreme sounds best at regular listening levels as its extraordinary deep lows and mid-level bass loose some of their impact and body when you raise the volume a little over halfway. Still though, there's enough bass to hold you through the rest of the way - only its not as impressive. This of course will only really impact bassy tracks so if you're listening to classical, rock or acoustic music you wouldn't be missing anything. 


If you’re all about sound quality when it comes to portable speakers, the Xtreme has you covered from all angles.  Actually, that wouldn't be technically true as it doesn't sound as good if it's facing you backwards. When it comes to competition, the Xtreme blows away pretty much everything else. Ultimate Ears' UE Megaboom is the first on the Xtreme's hit list. Both speakers will cost you $300, but only the Xtreme truly provides a full bodied audio experience filled with convincing bass and large sounding soundstage. Not only that, but it also outperforms some noteworthy rivals such as the Riva Turbo X, Sony SRS-X55, SoundBlaster Roar 2, JBL Charge 2/2+, Bose SoundLink 3 and SoundLink Mini 2...to name a few. $300 most certainly gets you a whole lot of speaker. But so can $280 if you take a look at Fugoo's Fugoo Style XL offering.


The Fugoo Style/Sport/Tough XL is perhaps the Xtreme’s biggest rival, and for good reason. It’s a beast of a speaker. Fugoo’s biggest portable speaker yet shares a lot of qualities with JBL’s Xtreme. And on paper at least, the XL sounds a hell of a lot more impressive too. The Style XL costs just as much as the Xtreme at $300, is fully waterproof and can actually float on water unlike the Xtreme; while also having a rugged drop-protection design. It’s also a 360-degree sounding speaker with two additional tweeters making a total of 8 drivers compared to the 6 found in the Xtreme, a hugely impressive 35-hour battery life, and upgradable firmware. Needless to day, that right there looks to be a force to be reckoned with. So how does the Fugoo XL really perform in practice? For starters, the Style XL is nearly as large as the Xtreme, but not quite so. It’s also a full pound lighter, making it easier to carry around. The design features a similar fabric outer mesh that looks like hemp. I’m not a fan personally and I much prefer the more modern look of the Extreme’s arguably more contemporary styling to be honest. Even the original Fugoo Style looks better than this fact brownish looking material that Fugoo has chosen for the Style XL.


When it comes down to sound quality, the Fugoo Style XL has the Xtreme beat with its outstanding balanced audio dispersion. Sound comes out from both sides of the speaker unlike the Xtreme's front directional output so it can be enjoyed from any angle. But the Xtreme's highs and mids sound brighter and a tad clearer. And that's surprising since the XL actually has two more tweeters than the Xtreme does. It should be noted that the Fugoo XL also has outstanding bass performance with huge, deeply rich lows and nicely rounded mid-level bass response. While the XL's highs and mids sound a little more recessed, the XL's lows are in fact deeper than the Xtreme's. Alas, even in outdoor mode the XL isn't as loud as the Xtreme. 

As for sound signature, the Fugoo XL sounds very warm with recessed treble next to the Xtreme's brightly full sounding signature. Still, it doesn't mean that the XL sounds inferior it's just that it needs a little more tweaking using EQ or perhaps a firmware update to introduce more clarity. But maybe that wouldn't be enough. You see, the XL isn't as loud as the Xtreme and even distorts pretty badly at its highest volume level unlike the Xtreme, which is disappointing. 

At this point I'd pick the Xtreme over the Fugoo XL purely based on its audio performance as it outshines it considerably when it comes to clarity. Yes it's got way better battery life, 360-degree sound and it's fully waterproof, but if sound is more important to you, you should erase the Fugoo XL off of your shopping list. That said, if you care more about deep bass and dislike the Xtreme’s bright, treble-infused sound signature, we think Fugoo’s XL is a fantastic alternative.


When you're out considering which portable speaker to purchase, JBL's Xtreme is hard to overlook and beat when looking for the complete audio experience. There's a lot to like in the new Xtreme like it's durable water-resistant design, great all-day battery life with dual external device charging functionality, effortless Sonos-like wireless expandability using two or more JBL speakers, relatively portable form factor and of course the incredibly rich and huge sound quality. At $300, JBL's Xtreme is the speaker to beat. And we think it'll take a while until something better comes along. Maybe the newly released $230 Beats Pill+ from Apple? In the meantime, the Xtreme is one of our favorite and top picks for the best portable wireless speaker. That being said, the Xtreme isn't perfect. It sounds its best at medium volume, requires a power brick to recharge, and it can't replace the ease of portability that most other speakers afford such as the Charge 2+ from JBL. A close runner-up to the Xtreme would be Fugoo's Style XL at $280.