JBL reaches into new territory with one of its top speaker designs, making this roving party machine comfortable to settle down into the average living room. Does it belong there? That’s up for debate, but it can certainly deliver the home hi-fi goods.
- Powerful, deep bass
- Unusually good ruggedisation for its size
- Airy and clear imaging
- Quite heavy to use as an everyday portable speaker
- Expensive, particularly this Wi-Fi version
- Bullish appearance won’t suit some rooms
- IP67 water resistanceThe Boombox 3 is water resistant to an extent it can handle submersion in water.
- Multi-roomCan operate as a multi-room home speaker, unlike the standard Bluetooth-only model.
- Up to 24 hour battery lifeThis speaker’s battery lasts up to 24 hours, as long as you are relatively conservative with the volume
The JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi must be one of the largest portable speakers I’ve ever reviewed.
JBL pushes the envelope here on what people are willing to carry around to outdoor events, without pitching an actual PA speaker. The JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is still very much a regular wireless speaker for folks looking to simply enjoy music, though.
It’s a bit of a star performer to that end too. Larger scale lets the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi dig down deep into the lowest bass registers. It has that classic JBL mix of power and tasteful tuning. And in this Wi-Fi version the Boombox has half an eye on a semi-permanent spot in your home, and it’s able to work as a multi-room speaker.
Design-wise I find this one of JBL’s least easy-to-recommend wireless speakers, as the size, appearance and £549 cost squeeze its mainstream appeal a little. However, this is still an impressive wireless speaker if it suits your needs.
- 482 x 257 x 200mm
- Metal and plastic design
- Rubber bottom foot
The first thing you need to make sure before buying a JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is whether you want a wireless speaker this large. I’ve always through of the JBL Xtreme as a larger speaker series, but it’s dwarfed by the Boombox.
Having lived with the JBL Boombox 3 Wi-FI for a while now, though, it’s not the size that continues to stand out. It’s the weight.
The Boombox 3 weighs around 6.6kg, six times as much as the Charge 5. This is not the sort of speaker you’d want to carry during, say, a 15-minute walk to the local park. And unlike the step-down JBL Xtreme 3 there’s no shoulder strap, just a giant metal handle with rubbery strips underneath for extra grip.
If this speaker is going to travel a way, you probably want to put it in a car boot or extra-(extra) large rucksack.
It is fairly tough, though. The JBL Boombox 3 is rated for IP67 water and dust resistance, meaning it can be submerged in water.
The main body is covered by a tough nylon weave, and the passive radiators at each end are protected by chunky outcrops of plastic. These radiators are less vulnerable than you might guess. They aren’t traditional speaker drivers, and can easily shrug off being flicked, pushed or lightly punched.
These also contribute to the JBL Boombox 3’s aggressive appearance, alongside the extra-large JBL logo on the front. Make sure you are game for this style, as well as the high weight.
- Bluetooth 5.3
- Spotify Connect, Alexa Multi-room, Chromecast
Previous generations of the Boombox, and most JBL speakers I’ve used over the years, have been Bluetooth-only. There is a Bluetooth version of the Boombox 3, but the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi has Bluetooth and, you guessed it, Wi-Fi.
You use the JBL One app to set the speaker up, and can then stream audio to it over Spotify Connect, Chromecast or AirPlay. It can also integrate with the Google Home for multi-room, although the JBL One app provides multi-room features too. It also lets you pair two of these speakers in a stereo array.
I had no issues getting the Wi-FI features to work. But, as a long-term JBL Bluetooth speaker appreciator, I’m glad the on-device controls have been kept simple.
There are no annoying touch-sensitive controls. Each is an actual clicky button, and only the “heart” is specific to the Wi-FI features. You can set a favourite playlist of piece of content to this “favourite” button, in order to get listening with a single button press.
The JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi does lack any way to connect analogue sources, though. Pop off the rubber-sealed connection flap on the back and you’ll only find a power connector and USB, which lets you charge other devices.
This is not a smart speaker either. There’s no microphone, ruling out talking to digital assistants or taking calls. I don’t think it’s a great loss in a speaker that should spend a good amount of time out of Wi-Fi range, despite the name.
It uses a 72Wh battery, similar capacity to a larger laptop. Used for the speaker alone, JBL says you can expect a charge to last up to 24 hours at moderate volume.
JBL says it takes up to six hours to charge, which seems an age to wait. A quick top-up isn’t the way here. However, according to my power meter it draws 25-27W, which is not bad for a wireless speaker.
- Deep bass floor
- High maximum volume
- Engaging sound with limited customisation
The JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi justifies its size with its speaker array. Much of the front is filled with speaker drivers. They include a 19cm long rectangular subwoofer, two 2.75-inch mid-range drivers and two 20mm tweeters that sit just in front of the mid drivers.
That doesn’t include the two big passive radiators, one at each end, that give the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi its characteristic conga drum-style shape. Compared to the Boombox 2, there’s an additional central woofer, which JBL makes space for using the concentric design of the other driver pairs.
The Boombox 3 Wi-Fi sound is effectively a scaled-up version of that achieved in the JBL Xtreme 3. And, for the most part, that’s very good news. This is a JBL Pro sound speaker. As in other JBL models, this leads to a more refined, grown-up and versatile sound signature than the outer appearance might initially suggest.
However, deep bass is still its key strength. There’s solid bass output right down to the 40Hz sub-bass range, just as JBL’s spec sheet promises. I tested it with a tone generator just to make sure there’s real deep bass going on here.
Bass isn’t everything, mind. There’s a good sense of airiness and separation in the upper registers, and while the bass is powerful, it doesn’t sit oppressively on the mids, making its way into places it shouldn’t be and clogging up the sound.
Maximum volume is fearsome, and apparently the speaker gains even more power when plugged in. There’s more than I’d ever need when it’s not. Like any good speaker should be, the JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is largely genre-agnostic because it has a solid sense of tonal balance. And when you play a podcast, it doesn’t sound as though presenters’ voices sit on a sagging inflatable pillow of bass. This is what you’d hear in an overly bassy speaker.
As in the JBL Xtreme 3, though, show me a hint of a higher-end approach and I end up wanting more. The default tuning of the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi does have some additional bass, for added plummy bounce, and the mids can sound a touch pushed back into the shadows.
The JBL app does offer EQ controls to let you fiddle with this, but they are fairly rudimentary and weak. You can tone down the Boombox 3’s bass to make it more polite company, but bass/mid/treble controls don’t let you go all that far in tweaking the “JBL Pro” tone.
I’d advise not putting to much weight of expectation on the speaker’s Dolby Atmos cred, displayed on JBL’s website, either. This is only available through TIDAL, so won’t factor in for many.
Still, this is a very satisfying listen for all sorts of content. But, as with any speaker of this style, you get a limited sense of stereo thanks to how close the drivers are together. Sure, it can fill rooms, no problem, but not in the same manner as a properly spaced stereo pair. I only bring this up because the JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is more likely to be used as folks’ main home speaker than previous models in the series, thanks to its Wi-Fi features and multi-room chops.
Should you buy it?
Can be used indoors and out: This is a powerful speaker that can be used both as a multi-room home unit and a party-ready speaker with enough punch and volume to be used outdoors.
No way to plug in analogue sources: This would not be the first option for a grown-up, minimalist living room, and you can’t plug in a cabled source like a record player as there’s no aux input with this generation.
The JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is an excellent wireless speaker that can be used both as your primary hi-fi, and an outdoor part speaker. It has the bass power the name and design seem to promise, without going too far and ruining what is a highly enjoyable sound character with some higher-end traits.
This is not the model I’d personally pick out of JBL’s line-up. I find it a bit too big and heavy for my kind of portable use. And it is not the kind of speaker I’d want to have rooted in my living room, largely because of how it looks.
However, we’re dealing in some of the most subjective areas of the review here. If your arms are a little stronger, your tastes less pedantic, you’re onto a winner here.
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Tested for more than a week
Tested with real world use
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It has IP67 water resistance.
No, a figure-of-8 lead plugs right into the back of the speaker.
There’s no aux input here, so all connections need to be wireless.