Mini speakers tend to get an oversized amount of attention in the Bluetooth audio landscape. That's because people tend to like highly portable speakers that deliver relatively big sound for their tiny size but don't cost too much. JBL's Xtreme 2 ($300, £250, AU$350), the next generation of the company's well-regarded jumbo portable Bluetooth speaker, is a whole other beast.
While the Xtreme 2 isn't quite as big as the typical boombox of yesteryear (JBL's even larger Boombox is), it's designed to put out nearly as much sound. JBL has upgraded the drivers in the Xtreme 2 so the speaker has bigger, fatter sound with even more bass than its predecessor. And now it's fully waterproof.
The Xtreme 2 does sound better than the original, though you'll notice the difference more indoors than outdoors (the Xtreme 2 doesn't seem to play any louder but has modestly improved bass). It also sounds very much like a JBL speaker. By that I mean it's got some good kick in the bass -- it goes pretty deep -- and that little bit of treble push, sometimes referred to as "presence boost," to bring out the detail. The midrange can sound subdued (the vocals are a touch recessed and not quite as natural sounding as one might hope), but overall this is a portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers big sound in a medium-sized package. It's well suited to listening to today's pop and hip hop music.
Part of the reason it sounds a bit better is that's it's simply bigger. It weighs in at 5.28 pounds (or 2.4 kilograms), which is more than what the original Xtreme weighed (4.66 pounds or 2.1 kilograms). The sound also seems to holds together better (refrains from distorting) at higher volumes. The presence boost gives the sound a slight edginess, which comes out more at higher volumes, so I generally kept the volume below 75 percent -- 60 percent is actually plenty loud. There's a volume control on top of the speaker along with a pause-play button.