JBL Pulse 3 vs. JBL Xtreme 2: Which Bluetooth speaker should you buy?

JBL Xtreme 2

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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.

JBL Xtreme 2

Massive sound

Excellent, well-balanced sound
15-hour battery life
Can charge your devices
IPX7 water-resistant
Connects to over 100 other JBL Connect+ speakers
Big and quite heavy
Battery performance isn't great at high volumes

JBL Pulse 3

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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.

JBL Pulse 3

Ooooh, shiny

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

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Header Cell - Column 0 Xtreme 2Pulse 3
Battery life15 hours12 hours
Weight5.2 pounds2.1 pounds
Water resistanceIPX7IPX7
Battery bank10000mAhN/A
# of color options52
Charge time3.5 hours4.5 hours
Frequency response55Hz - 20kHz65Hz - 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.