Massive sound

JBL Xtreme 2

Ooooh, shiny

JBL Pulse 3

The JBL Xtreme 2 is an absolute unit of a Bluetooth speaker. But that size also lets you enjoy fantastic bass, ear-splitting volume, and it can go anywhere with you without you having to worry about it getting wrecked.

$247 at Amazon

Pros

  • Excellent, well-balanced sound
  • 15-hour battery life
  • Can charge your devices
  • IPX7 water-resistant
  • Connects to over 100 other JBL Connect+ speakers

Cons

  • Big and quite heavy
  • Battery performance isn't great at high volumes

The JBL Pulse 3 is absolutely stunning, and its light show and dazzling presets are perfect for visually enjoying your tunes. Its volume is superb in smaller rooms, but it can get lost in large gatherings or outside.

$150 at Amazon

Pros

  • Gorgeous multicolor LED array
  • Great bass response
  • 12-hour battery life
  • IPX7 water-resistant
  • Excellent speakerphone call quality

Cons

  • Battery life diminished by light show
  • High end isn't very crisp
  • Doesn't quite get loud enough to power a party

Brawn vs. beauty

The Xtreme 2 and Pulse 3 are speakers for two very different situations. The $100 price difference really shows in the build and sound profile of each of these, but the decision should be pretty simple when you consider your wants and needs.

Xtreme 2 Pulse 3
Battery life 15 hours 12 hours
Weight 5.2 pounds 2.1 pounds
Water resistance IPX7 IPX7
Battery bank 10000mAh N/A
# of color options 5 2
Charge time 3.5 hours 4.5 hours
Frequency response 55Hz - 20kHz 65Hz - 20kHz

There is no clear winner between the JBL Xtreme 2 and Pulse 3; they're for different people. The JBL Xtreme 2 is for people who want a very loud, very large speaker that they can take quite literally anywhere. Its IPX7 water resistance means it can survive submersion in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, and its outer fabric is durable and rugged, so it really can go anywhere with you.

At 5.2 pounds, the Xtreme 2 is a behemoth of a "portable" speaker, but JBL gets it and includes a carrying strap, so you can sling it over your shoulder and be on your way. And with a speaker so big, it might as well be multifunctional, so the internal 10000mAh battery can also charge your phone and other devices via USB.

There's no clear winner — you either want thundering sound or a dazzling light show.

The Pulse 3 is a bird of a different feather. While perfectly portable, it is better suited to indoors, since the plastic surrounding the LED array is likely to shatter if you drop it from a foot or two off the ground. It also doesn't quite hit the same heights as the Xtreme 2 in terms of sound, since, while its bass response is more than ample for a speaker of its size, its high end is kind of muddy, especially at high volumes.

But the real reason you'd buy the Pulse 3 is for the brilliant ambiance created by its LED array, which comes in the form of several gorgeous presets, including a fireplace-like orange flicker that's simply dazzling. The Pulse 3 is also water-resistant to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, and its 12-hour battery life is impressive, though it doesn't have the same charging capabilities as the Xtreme 2.

So the main deciding factors here are price ($150 and $247), and whether you'd prefer a portable speaker that can power an outdoor volleyball tournament (Xtreme 2) or a portable speaker that's still more suited to the indoors, with an impressive light display that adds another dimension to your listening (Pulse 3). If sound is of the utmost importance, no matter the size or light show, the Xtreme 2 is the better buy.

Thunder and stone

JBL Xtreme 2

An absolute unit in every way

The JBL Xtreme 2 is a powerful Bluetooth speaker with excellent volume, powerful bass, and charging capabilities for your devices. It's very heavy for a portable speaker, but its included carrying strap helps lighten the load.

The lava lamp of speakers

JBL Pulse 3

Bask in the glow of great sound

The JBL Pulse 3's main attraction is its LED array, which displays as one glowing light, with multiple presets to enjoy along with your music. It doesn't get loud enough and it's a bit fragile for the outdoor life, but it's a beautiful conversation piece for the living room.

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