JBL Boombox: Say Hello to the Star of Your Next Backyard Party

While at IFA, I had a chance to check out the JBL Boombox, their largest and most powerful portable speaker to date. Available in forest green or black, the Boombox offers a 20,000mAh battery, best in class sound, and up to 24 hours of battery life. Most importantly, it probably sounds better than most home stereo speakers.

No, really.

JBL Boombox: Say Hello to the Star of Your Next Backyard Party

You might recall that up to this point; my favorite portable speaker ever has been the also larger than normal Harman Kardon Go+Play — that’s the speaker that replaced the Zeppelin Wireless in my living room. Even though the Go+Play is technically portable, I’ve never really used it outdoors or taken it anywhere. It simply didn’t seem as rugged and sturdy; the JBL Boombox addresses this issue.

At $449, it’s a reasonable expectation that the JBL Boombox had better bring something amazing to the table, and I’m happy to say that the Boombox does not disappoint.

Let’s talk about what’s in the box; then we’ll jump into the review.

Inside the box, you’ll find the JBL Boombox, a power brick, a wall charger, important safety instructions, warranty information, and a quick start guide.

The Boombox is a beast; it weighs about 11 pounds, and it is approximately 19.5″ long by 10″ tall (including the built-in handle) by 7″ deep. As you can see, I received the black version, which will look good just about everywhere — indoors or out.

JBL Boombox: Say Hello to the Star of Your Next Backyard Party

The built-in handle makes it easy to grab the Boombox and go!

The JBL Boombox Features:

  • Wireless Bluetooth Streaming: Wirelessly connect up to two smartphones or tablets to the speaker and take turns playing impressive stereo sound.
  • High-capacity 20,000mAH rechargeable Battery: Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery supports up to 24 hours of playtime and charges devices via dual USB ports.
  • IPX7 Waterproof: Take Boombox to the beach or pool without worrying about rain, spills, or submersion in water.
  • JBL Connect+: Amplify your listening experience and rock the party by wirelessly connecting more than 100 JBL Connect+ enabled speakers.
  • Sound modes: Enjoy deeper bass and richer sound in indoor mode; switch to outdoor mode for expansive sound with strong bass and longer playtime.
  • Monstrous Sound and Bass: Incorporated with four active transducers and two JBL bass radiators, JBL Boombox delivers monstrous sound along with hard-hitting bass that listeners will not only hear but also see.
  • Available in Black and Forest Green.

On the top of the Boombox, there is a strip of six buttons: Bluetooth, volume down, power, the JBL Link button, volume up, call answer/play/pause. Yes, you can use this speaker as a speakerphone. You can also program the play button to work with Siri or Google Assistant if you’d like — you just have to download the JBL Connect app from the Google Play or Apple App Store and tell it what to do. You can also use that app to facilitate connecting multiple JBL speakers for an even bigger sound.

JBL Boombox: Say Hello to the Star of Your Next Backyard Party

On the lower back of the Boombox, you’ll find the toggle button for indoor or outdoor sound mode (two modes that optimize the music for the conditions in which you are listening). Next to that is a waterproof cover that hides …

JBL Boombox: Say Hello to the Star of Your Next Backyard Party

… an aux-in port for devices that don’t have Bluetooth, a USB-out charging port, a microUSB port (for firmware upgrades only), another USB-out charging port (that’s right, you can charge up to two devices at the same time from the Boombox’s 20K mAh battery), and the power port.

JBL Boombox: Say Hello to the Star of Your Next Backyard Party

The newest member of the JBL portable speaker family delivers a serious punch while setting a new benchmark in party sound via Bluetooth streaming. It’s also the biggest portable speaker available, weighing in at over 11 pounds (5.25 kg) and nearly 20 inches (50 cm) long. The speaker’s large frame is equipped with four active transducers and two bass radiators, providing powerful sound and bass in a substantial—but portable—package.

On the bottom, there is a big rubber ring around a metal mesh grille for stability when the Boombox is sitting. There are five LED battery indicator dots built into the front, so as the Boombox is charging, the LEDs will blink white and then gradually glow white as the battery fills.

JBL Boombox: Say Hello to the Star of Your Next Backyard Party

There are subwoofers on both sides of the Boombox.

So, we’ve established that the JBL Boombox is big, has a huge battery, is IPX7 Waterproof, and yet it’s still portable … but how does it sound?

In a word: Fantastic.

Do you want more words? Try: Deep; Powerful; Resonant; Excellent

One thing I love about Harman products is that even though each of their sub-brands (AKG, JBL, etc) might be tuned slightly differently, they almost always sound very good to me, and the JBL Boombox definitely checks that box.

The JBL Boombox’s bass is incredible, yet not overwhelming (unless you want it to be). The music I enjoy listening to sounds electrifying on the Boombox.

The beginning of Nothing But Thieves‘ “Broken Machine” pounds the entire room, yet the vocals are clear and the mids are never muddy. To use Nothing But Thieves as yet another example (because I am currently obsessed with them), their song “Particles” is worth noting because the Boombox allows Conor Mason’s voice to dip and soar without sounding lost in the cacophony of sounds the band is producing. My usual mid-range test song is Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch”, and the Boombox performs perfectly — Thom York’s voice is never drowned out or overpowered by the driving sounds of the orchestra — the song becomes a muddy mid-range mess with lesser speakers. Next up, Sir Sly‘s “Where I’m Going,” which crosses from a spare beginning to a full vocal and musical explosion without muddying Landon Jacob’s hypnotic voice. Booka Shade‘s “Babylon” sounds festive and clear enough (and it’s also loud enough) to get any party started, and BØRNSPast Lives” just keeps it going. MISSIO‘s “Everybody Gets High” pounds the outdoors, making an impromptu dance party on our back party an absolute possibility; follow it up with MGMT‘s “Little Dark Age” and marvel at how good it all sounds. I can’t wait to use the speaker for pool parties this summer because, as good as this speaker sounds, knowing that it is safe to take it literally anywhere makes the experience of using it even more enjoyable. Zero anxiety that anything will happen to the speaker.

If you want a speaker that is just as at home indoors as outdoors, one that can fill a large room or backyard with excellent sounding music, one that employs pounding, expansive bass without drowning out the vocals or muddying the midrange — the JBL Boombox is the speaker for you. This speaker is as amazing indoors as it is out — and that’s saying a lot.

The JBL Boombox retails for $449.95, and it is available directly from the manufacturer and from other retailers including Amazon [affiliate link].

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: 20,000mAh battery — lasts ~24 hours; Can charge up to two mobile devices while listening to music; Can program the Play button to summon Siri or Google Play; The Boombox produces full, expansive, and expansive sound; IPX7 Waterproof — you can use it without worrying about rain or an accidental dunking in the pool; Did I mention how good this speaker sounds?

What Needs Improvement: It’s expensive — but you get what you pay for

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct smaller.com; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.