Cam Secore
Entrepreneur. Blogger. Fan of Steve Jobs & Elon Musk. My about page.
Updated 12/11/2017
 

JBL Charge 3 vs. UE Boom 2 vs. UE Megaboom vs. JBL Xtreme (2018)

best waterproof bluetooth speaker

There are several excellent waterproof speakers on the market.

But two brands stand out as fan favorites: JBL and Ultimate Ears.

I’ve had this post in the queue for a long time, but I was focusing on other products.

Then, during Amazon’s Cyber Monday Deals Week, most of the speakers I wanted to test were half off.

Merry Christmas to me!

Each brand sells at least four different waterproof Bluetooth speakers. I bought one mid-level and one high-end speaker from each brand.

I have three uses for waterproof speakers:

  1. While I’m in the hot tub, I like to jam, but my phone’s speakers aren’t loud enough to play over the jets. With the waterproof speakers, I can place it on the tub without fear of it falling in.
  2. I like to set these speakers next to the shower, and I don’t have to worry about steam ruining the speaker.
  3. I wanted to experiment with Echo Dot and a Bluetooth speaker (you can pair them with all four that I reviewed.)

Plus, it’s nice to have a portable speaker that has a long battery life. It’s not always convenient to be tied to a wall.

You can’t go wrong with any of the speakers from the JBL or UE collection. All four speakers that I looked at are better than 95% of waterproof speakers on the market. When I say I “hate” a feature, it doesn’t mean the speaker’s not good; it means it’s something I don’t like relative to the other models in this comparison.

Let’s look at the best waterproof Bluetooth speakers and compare JBL Charge 3 vs. UE Boom 2 vs. Megaboom vs. Xtreme.

For a summary, skip to the bottom where I outline which to go with based on your needs.

jbl charge 3 vs ue boom 2 #4

UE Boom 2 (Grade: C)

Love

  • Ultra portable.
  • Good sound for its size (omnidirectional).
  • Great durability & waterproofing.

Hate

  • Too expensive ($110) for value.
  • Only 15 hour battery.
  • No physical buttons.
jbl xtreme vs charge 3 #3

JBL Xtreme (Grade: C+)

Love

  • Works as a phone charger.
  • Brilliant sound if placed properly.

Hate

  • Not omnidirectional.
  • Bulky & almost five pounds.
  • Not fully waterproof.
  • Only 15 hour battery.
Best Value jbl xtreme vs ue megaboom #2

JBL Charge 3 (Grade: B+)

Love

  • Much louder than Boom 2.
  • Great price ($130).
  • Works as a phone charger.
  • 20 hour battery life.

Hate

  • Not as durable as UE.
  • Not omnidirectional.
Cam's Fave ue boom 2 vs megaboom #1

UE Megaboom (Grade: A)

Love

  • Great durability & waterproofing.
  • Well balanced & rich sound (omnidirectional).
  • Solid app.
  • 20 hour battery life.
  • Connect up to 150 other speakers.

Hate

  • No physical buttons.

#4 – (Grade: C)

UE Boom 2

Love

Design (B-):

  • There are no physical buttons. You use gestures for play and pause. It’s an unusual method, and you have to be holding the speaker for it to work.
  • It’s tiny, making it the most portable speaker I reviewed. It weighs about a pound and is seven inches tall. It fits in the pocket of my basketball shorts.
  • The design and color selection is better than JBL’s.
  • There are a tripod mount and hook option on the bottom.

Durability (A+):

  • UE speakers are more durable than JBL’s. Accidental drops won’t be an issue.
  • It’s entirely waterproof (up to a meter of water for 30 minutes).

Software (A):

  • The app is excellent. You can customize the bass, mids, and treble levels to your liking or you can pick one of the four presets.
  • There’s an option inside the app to set alarms.
  • You can pair up to 150 UE speakers together with the Party Up feature.
  • Block party lets you connect up to two source devices at the same time while eight different people can manage the music being played.
  • You can pair it with eight devices and have it paired to two simultaneously.
  • The firmware is frequently updated, and the speaker is improving. There were two updates during the two weeks I was testing.

Hate

Sound (C+):

  • It’s doesn’t get loud or have any bass, but it’s well balanced and fantastic for its size.
  • The speakers are omnidirectional, making them perfect for outdoor use or parties because everyone will be able to hear it.

Power (C+):

  • The battery lasts 15 hours. That’s alright, but not so great relative to the others.
  • The charging ports are on the bottom making it difficult to charge and listen simultaneously.
  • The battery level is displayed at the top of your phone.
  • The battery can be replaced by Logitech.

#3 – (Grade: C+)

JBL Xtreme

Love

Sound (B+):

  • It’s by far the loudest speaker and sounds fantastic even at max volume.
  • It’s bass heavy with its dual external passive radiators. People seem to love the extra bass from the user reviews that I read. It sounds great to me, but if you’re listening off to the side, the bass sounds way overdone and boomy. There’s no way to change the bass or other sound settings because the app is awful.
  • You have to be in front of the speaker to get quality sound. Ideally, the speaker should be against a wall. If you’re off to the side of the speaker, you’ll notice distortion. Listening outside isn’t ideal.

Power (B-):

  • JBL Xtreme works as a portable phone charger with its 10,000-mAh battery. You can even charge two phones at the same time because it has two USB ports.
  • You get 15 hours of playback.

Hate

Design (D+):

  • This thing is huge. It’s almost five pounds and a foot long. It’s not as portable as the others, and the size doesn’t seem practical for this type of speaker.
  • I don’t like the zipper where the ports are. It’s harder to open than Charge 3.
  • It only comes in plain black, blue and red.

Durability (D):

  • It’s not entirely waterproof, only splashproof. It’d be fine in the rain or if you spill something, but you can’t submerge it in the water.
  • It’s not as durable as UE’s speakers. That’s based on research rather than first-hand experience, but you can tell by looking at the side of the speaker where the bass radiators vibrate as music plays. It feels fragile.

Software (D+):

  • You can keep three devices connected simultaneously.
  • JBL’s app is useless. It doesn’t even show you the battery percentage. I don’t think an app is necessary, but why build one if it adds nothing?
  • You can group other Bluetooth JBL speakers without an app because of the dedicated group button. You hit the button on both devices, and they pair together. What’s the problem? The speakers sync almost instantly, but they cut out during play consistently, and no matter what I tried I couldn’t improve the listening experience.

#2 – (Grade: B+)

JBL Charge 3

Love

Sound (A):

  • The sound is outstanding for its size. It has a much better bass than UE Boom 2, and it’s significantly louder. The sound is closer to the Megaboom than Boom 2. Overall, it’s a perfect sounding speaker, but it doesn’t go as loud as the Megaboom or Xtreme.
  • You need to be in front of the speaker for optimal listening. Although it’ll be fine outdoors, it’s not ideal for outdoor use because it’s not omnidirectional.

Design (B-):

  • It looks solid and comes in six different colors.
  • It weighs three pounds and can be held in your hand.
  • The buttons can be hard to press and fee cheesy, but at least it has physical buttons.
  • The port cover is perfect. It stays latched (for waterproofing), but it’s easy to open.

Durability (B+):

  • Like UE’s lineup, it’s entirely waterproof (IPX7 rating). It can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.
  • While it’s waterproof, you have to let it air out if it gets wet because the water gets in between the radiators on the sides and makes the sound muffled.

Power (A+):

  • The battery is impressive for its size. You’ll get 20 hours of playback.
  • It works as a portable phone charger with its 6,000-mAh battery and USB port.

Hate

Software (D+):

  • I love that you can have up to three different phones connected at once without needing an app. I like having my iPhone and MacBook connected at the same time. That way I can switch the music source without going to the Bluetooth settings.
  • But the JBL app is worthless and doesn’t provide any value.
  • I couldn’t pair with other JBL speakers because it kept cutting in and out.

#1 – (Grade: A)

UE Megaboom

Love

Sound (A):

  • The speakers are omnidirectional and stand straight up. It sounds the same from every angle.
  • Sound quality is mostly subjective, based on personal preference, but I love the sound on Megaboom. While it’s not as loud as JBL Xtreme, it’s my favorite sound. There isn’t as much bass as JBL’s lineup, but it’s clearer, sharper and more balanced.

Durability (A+):

  • It’s exceptionally durable and shockproof. You can drop it a few times without worry.
  • It’s entirely waterproof (IPX7 rating). This means it can be submerged in a meter of water for 30 minutes.

Power (A-):

  • You get 20 hours of playback with the battery.
  • The battery can be replaced if you need a new one.

Software (A):

  • Inside the app, there’s an equalizer where you can toggle the bass, mids, and treble. There are four preset equalizer options too. I like the “voices” preset for podcasts.
  • You can connect up to 150 other UE speakers with “Party Up.” It’s not flawless due to Bluetooth limitations, but it stays paired and doesn’t cut out nearly as much as JBLs.
  • You can pair it with eight devices and have it paired to two simultaneously.
  • Block party lets you connect up to two source devices at the same time while eight different people can manage the music being played.
  • The firmware is frequently updated. You’ll see improvements as the time goes on, whereas JBL doesn’t update anything.
  • The battery percentage shows on the top of the phone, and it’ll sync and show up with your other batteries on iOS.
  • You can set alarms.

Hate

Design (C):

  • It has a pleasant minimalistic design with lots of cool color combinations. The power is on the top with a Bluetooth button and two huge volume buttons on the side, but that’s it for buttons.
  • It only weighs three pounds.
  • It has a hook and mounting hole on the bottom. (It looks and fits like the camera tripods.)
  • There is no play, skip, or volume button on the device. Instead, you use gestures to play and skip. For example, if you tap the top, the music pauses, or if you double tap, the music jumps. I hate that you have to hold the speaker in your hands and tilt it for the gestures to work. You can’t tap while it’s sitting on the table and it doesn’t work when I’m connected to my computer. But, some people are going to love the gestures.
  • The micro USB charging port and 3.5mm port are located on the bottom, making it hard to charge and listen at the same time. This shouldn’t bother you, and these are worthy sacrifices for everything else that you get.

waterproof speakers

Which one is for you?

JBL Xtreme is the loudest, bulkiest, heaviest, and most expensive. It sounds terrific when placed against a wall and you’re in front of it. It’d make for a great stationery home speaker, but these are supposed to be portable waterproof Bluetooth speakers.

Xtreme’s bulkiness doesn’t make sense. If I wanted something stationary, I’d go with a Sonos or Bose Hifi speaker because those sound better and don’t use Bluetooth.

UE Boom 2 was introduced at $200 and is now $110, but that’s still overpriced. I love its portability, but it’s not very loud, and not worth the price when compared to the others in this post.

If you don’t want to spend $200 on UE Megaboom, JBL Charge 3 is a great speaker and an excellent value for $130. Most people should go with JBL Charge 3.

However, UE Megaboom is my favorite speaker and the one that I’m keeping. It’s louder than JBL Charge 3 while it weighs the same and gets the same battery life. Also, it’s perfect for outdoor use and has a solid app with an equalizer.

 

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