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JBL Xtreme 2 review: A jumbo Bluetooth speaker made for tailgating

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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.

The Good

The JBL Xtreme 2 Bluetooth speaker delivers very big sound for a medium-sized portable Bluetooth speaker. It's fully waterproof, can charge devices from a built-in USB-out port (you supply the cable), has a built-in microphone for speakerphone calls

The Bad

A little pricey. Its slightly treble push can make the speaker sound a little too bright and edgy at high volumes.

The Bottom Line

The JBL Xtreme 2 is a jumbo-sized Bluetooth speaker that trades light and easy portability for much fuller sound, both indoors and outdoors.

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.

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It looks like a mini bongo drum with the strap attached.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With a detachable carrying strap and 10,000-mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery that's rated for 15 hours of playback at modest volume levels, the Xtreme 2 is designed to be portable, although you could certainly use this as a home speaker in a small to medium-sized room. Due to the size of its battery, it comes with its own AC adapter and doesn't charge via microUSB like smaller portable Bluetooth speakers do. You'll find an audio input under a gasket along with a USB out for charging devices (you supply the cable). It also has speakerphone capabilities.

Unlike JBL's Link series speakers, the Xtreme2 doesn't feature Wi-Fi audio streaming via Google Chromecast. Nor is it voice enabled, via Alexa or Google Assistant. This is strictly a Bluetooth speaker, although you can use the JBL Connect+ app to wirelessly link to up to 100 JBL Connect+-enabled speakers to augment the sound. I had no problem pairing it with an iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus -- and it retains pairing with two devices simultaneously, too.

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There's a USB out port for charging your devices.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Xtreme 2 is an improvement on the original. From a sound standpoint, it seems to be about 15-20 percent better and is in the same ballpark as JBL's non-portable Link 300 speaker (the Link 300 sounds slightly better). It blows away JBL's smaller Bluetooth speakers and is fuller sounding and plays louder than UE's Megaboom and Megablast portable speakers, which are smaller, and now retail for $250 each.

Ultimately, my only gripe with the Xtreme 2 is its price. It's not so extreme, but I'd still like to see it cost a little less. If it seems like a bit too much for you, you can pick up a refurbished version of the original Xtreme for $150, which is probably the better deal at the moment.

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The Xtreme 2 is fully waterproof and seems more durable than the original.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A reminder of the basic JBL Xtreme 2 specs, according to JBL: 

  • Wirelessly connect up to two smartphones or tablets

  • Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery supports up to 15-hours of playtime (charges in 3.5 hours)

  • IPX7 waterproof (speaker can be submerged in water)
  • Weighs 5.28 lb or 2.4kg
  • JBL Connect+-enabled (link up to 100 JBL Connect+-enabled speakers together)
  • Updated drivers and passive bass radiators

  • Colors: Midnight black, forest green, and ocean blue

  • Equipped with noise- and echo-canceling speakerphone

  • $300 (£250, $AU350)
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8.0

JBL Xtreme 2

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Sound 8Value 7