The JBL (official website) Boombox is a monstrous portable speaker that not only makes noise but also remains quite clear when pumping sound. It’s heavy and not the easiest thing to carry, but it’s robust enough to handle any pool or tailgate party
Boombox’s influence on music is indisputable. These portable sound systems caused the emergence of subcultures (think breakdance and hip hop) in the ’80s and ’90s. Come to this day quickly, and JBL has moved past its passion for splash-resistant and portable Bluetooth audio with its bombastic Boombox.
After weeks of upcoming the sound of it, we were impressed with how loud it could come out and how clearly it played in doing so. And his flashy façade looks good and he gets a little beat up.
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While there are no extra features, such as a built-in voice assistant, and the relatively expensive £449 (£399, AU$549), JBL’s Boombox expertly blends the aesthetics of a past era with a sound quality that modern sound enthusiasts will enjoy.
Design Of JBL Boombox
Boombox follows JBL’s basic design principles in the use of fabrics and plastics to create a water-resistant speaker that looks like an extra-large version of everything the company has released. It’s a 11.6-pound heavy cylinder held by a solid handle, so we didn’t press it on our shoulders.
Weight makes sense when you consider the size of the unit itself. In height, width and depth, it measures 10 x 19.5 x 7.7, the opposite of shrinkage.
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The unit is surrounded by two passive radiators, which otherwise give a small visual ability in a monochromatic tone. The cylinder itself features a 20mm double tweeter, all powered by two 4-inch woofers placed symmetrically under the grid.
Simply put, there are a few buttons at the front: power, Bluetooth, up/down volume, and playback/pause. The last two depend on the controls of the mobile device, so there is no separate volume control when associated with the boombox. Since there are no runway jump buttons, we had to press twice on play/pause to advance a track. The Connect button is used to pair the stereo with other JBL speakers.
At the rear, it included a JBL, an industry adapter, a 3.5mm auxiliary input, two USB ports (to charge the phone’s batteries) and a micro USB port for firmware upgrades. Believe it or not, JBL does not include any audio cables compatible with these ports. No, of course, there is an adapter area, but that’s it.
There is a built-in microphone for voice calls and the body itself is of IPX7 quality, which means it stays in clear water for up to 30 minutes. Since you probably won’t, you can be sure that the rain or splashing of water by the pool won’t tame this thing.
The JBL Connect app for iOS and Android speeds up the setup, but there’s no need to run Boombox. You can use it to switch between indoor and outdoor modes (for which there is also a button on the speaker) or Feast and Stereo; this only applies if you have paired a boombox with other JBL speakers.
One problem we found was the lack of equalizer (EQ) or custom audio profiles to make them a bit personal – something we’d like to see at this price and something you can find on similarly priced speakers.
We mentioned the interior and exterior modes, and the only real difference between them is the extra bass it pumps out. Even without it, the Boombox is already noisy and bass lovers will literally feel the rhythm.
The beauty of it is the lack of distortion at higher volumes. By skewing the audio spectrum enough to get more bass from the Boombox, JBL judiciously balanced the midrange and treble for a global sound that was actually clearer than expected.
Sade’s Bullet Proof Soul is a bass ballad, but it vibrated every time we played it, filling the piece with both sensual rhythm and strange sax. We found a lot of success with various artists and have already felt that they resonate strongly at 60% of the volume. Beyond that, he shook anything near him.
For a speaker playing mono without physical stereo separation, the Boombox managed to sound like it almost did.
There were just enough to make the voices and instruments feel distinct. Attention, it is not an audiophile product and the overall accuracy is distorted by the heavy bass, but the sound scene was more than pleasant. Unlike other speakers that do too much at the expense of certain genres, this one felt quite agnostic to the music we played.
We even used it with a TV via the Aux-In connection and were pleasantly surprised. For action movies and video games with lots of shootings and explosions, the Boombox packs the punch of each scene.
JBL rated the Boombox at 24 hours of playback per load, and we found it to be pretty accurate at mid-way volume on a mix of Bluetooth or wired connections. The higher the volume, the less it lasted.
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There was just a thorny problem. Whenever the Boombox’s battery was low (we noticed it below 20%), a strange and faint buzzing sound was audible at all times. This quickly became boring, and we don’t know why it even existed in the first place. We assume that a firmware update could solve it, but for now, nothing has killed that buzz.
For a speaker at this price, a problem like this should never happen. Fortunately, this never happened when the battery level was higher, otherwise the Boombox would be unusable anywhere.
The Boombox is supposed to be a speaker around which people gather. It can entertain one, but it is best to use it when serenading several. And when it comes to losing more than $400 on a speaker like this, it’s best to do it for the right reasons.
We cannot recommend the Boombox as a speaker for the home. You can find a comparable sound in form factors that take up less space, but if your plan is to hit any patio, pool, beach or party on the tailgate that you can find, then this one should be in the running to play the tunes.