JBL Boombox Review: big speaker, big price, bigger sound

5 min read

For those unfamiliar with boomboxes, these were large portable stereos with a handle that often included cassette tape decks or CD players that ran on large C or D batteries. This is what we used to bring with us instead of a phone and Bluetooth speaker. They were large, they were heavy, and they were loud. The JBL Boombox is a throwback to the boomboxes of old by being large, heavy, and extremely loud.


The first thing you’ll notice about the JBL Boombox is the sheer size of it. This speaker is anything but compact or light, weighing in at nearly 12lbs. Despite its size, the cylindrical shape gives it a sleek modern look. The frame is mostly plastic including the handle on the top but the speaker portion is covered in fabric.

The handle feels good in the hand with some texture on the bottom side making it easier to grip. The sides incorporate the bass resonators that have become so common on JBL speakers, except these are much larger at 4 inches in diameter. I must admit that I love this design touch and watching them move to the music.

On the front (near the top) are the main controls for the speaker including the power button, Bluetooth pairing button, volume/playback controls, and a button for JBL’s Connect+ feature. Along the bottom is a battery meter in the form of five LED dots that light up when you use the buttons on the speaker.

The aux audio in, power port, micro USB port (for service), and two USB ports are hidden under a flap on the back side of the speaker. It is important that these ports are hidden under a flap because the JBL Boombox is IPX7 waterproof making it the perfect pool party or beach speaker for the summer.

There is a soft rubber base on the bottom providing a good solid foundation to keep the Boombox in place. This is especially important for a speaker with this amount of bass. The last thing you want is it vibrating off of a table.

Sound Quality

Back in the day, boomboxes were known for how loud they were and not really for their audio quality. Thankfully, JBL decided to bring you both with their Boombox. At the beginning at high volumes, there was quite a bit of distortion. After giving the speaker some time to burn in, the distortion cleared up at higher volumes and it sounded much better.

The bass is deep and full at the low end, making sure you can feel the vibrations as your music thumps along. The highs are clear and crisp but a little too strong for my liking. This ensures that you can hear the vocals over the bass and caused the vocals to carry further when outdoors. Overall it’s not a bad thing and it still uses the V-shaped sound signature I’m accustomed to with JBL speakers.

I had a chance to compare it to the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 1, a speaker that sells for three times as much as the JLB Boombox and was pleasantly surprised. The Boombox was able to get louder and offer a strikingly similar bass response while making a much smaller dent in your bank account. Most likely the Boombox sounds louder due to the emphasis they put on the high end, though. Regardless, I was impressed at how well the Boombox stood up to a speaker costing significantly more.

The JBL Boombox also has a button on the back to switch between indoor and outdoor modes. While testing this out I didn’t notice a big difference between the modes except the outdoor mode seemed to be louder and offer a bit more bass.

If that’s not enough sound for you, the JBL Connect+ feature allows you to connect up to 100 JBL speakers. I can’t imagine this not being loud enough for anyone, but adding more speakers adds a nice surround sound effect.

Battery Life

The battery life was fantastic on the JBL Boombox. It utilizes a 20,000mAh battery, rated for up to 24 hours. After using it for several weeks now I’ve not once had to charge it — this speaker just keeps going and going. Thanks to this, you won’t have any worries about keeping the party going all day and all night.

There are a couple more reasons why a long-lasting battery is essential on the Boombox. One would be the proprietary charger that is used as opposed to USB. This means that unless you drag around the included cable and power supply you won’t be able to charge it on the go. Another reason is the two USB ports on the back which can be used to charge up your phone or other USB devices.

Bluetooth Range

As with many Bluetooth devices I’ve tested, the JBL Boombox offers a solid connection within 30ft. When outdoors without any obstacles I was often able to get even further, and as long as you’re within Bluetooth range you’ll have no issues hearing this speaker.

Final Thoughts

There is no shortage of Bluetooth speakers. There are tiny ones, large ones, light up ones, cheap ones, expensive ones — the list goes on and on. JBL has found their own niche here with the Boombox because it offers you a large and remarkably loud speaker with a long-lasting battery.

It truly is a modern day boombox that won’t have you missing your old one that used to eat batteries and sounded nowhere near as good. JBL has made the ultimate party speaker that would be perfect for spring and summer as the weather warms up. Make no mistake though, at nearly $400 this speaker doesn’t come cheap, but it doesn’t skimp on sound or quality. Hit the links below if you’re interested in picking one up for some fun this summer. If, however, the JBL Boombox is a little too expensive or too large for you then check out their more compact and affordable JBL Flip 4.

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