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This wireless portable speaker delivers gloriously smooth sound without much distortion

If you need to fill a room, backyard, or garage with big, bold sound, the JBL Xtreme 4 brings the noise, and then some.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The JBL Xtreme 4 Bluetooth speaker.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The JBL Xtreme 4 Bluetooth speaker is available now for $379.
  • This football-sized speaker produces massive sound and really shines in the metal genre.
  • It's a bit pricey, and the app only offers 3 EQ settings (none of which are customizable).

Sometimes, you just need more power and volume than a typical Bluetooth speaker can provide. Say, for instance, you're working in your yard or throwing a party outdoors or in a large space. For those occasions, you want sound that's big enough to hold its own against a crowd of people, or to fill up your entire house.

Also: One of the loudest Bluetooth speakers I've tested is also the smallest

That's where the JBL Xtreme 4 comes into play. This football-sized Bluetooth speaker delivers a surprisingly big sound capable of being heard quite clearly indeed, even from a distance. In other words, this baby goes beyond Spinal Tap's 11.

Maybe even 13. But what kind of sound does the Xtreme 4 produce? Let's talk about that.

View at Amazon

JBL Xtreme 4 Bluetooth speaker tech specs

  • 2 ¾" JBL Bass Radiators
  • 2 ¾" tweeters
  • 2 x 30W RMS woofer + 2 x 20W RMS tweeter (AC power mode), 2 x 20W RMS woofer + 2 x 15W RMS tweeter (Battery mode)
  • Frequency response: 44 Hz - 20k Hz
  • Dimensions (inches): 11.69 x 5.87 x 5.55
  • Weight (lbs): 4.63
  • Max playing time from full charge: 24 hours
  • Charging time: 3.5 hours
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Camo
  • Price: $379 on Amazon 

Given the chonky size of this Bluetooth speaker, one of the first things I wanted to do was crank it up to see just how loud it could get. So after connecting it, I opened Spotify, launched my go-to song ("Analog Kid" by Rush), and tapped the volume button until it reached its limit. 

My office is about 20' by 20' with 15' ceilings. When the Xtreme 4 was at its loudest, it was uncomfortable; so much so, that I thought, "If it's too loud, you're too old." If you were to ask my wife, she'd happily tell you that I always (as Gene Simmons once sang) "love it loud." So, when I say a speaker can get uncomfortably loud, you can trust me.

Also: One of the most immersive speakers I've ever heard is not made by Sonos or JBL

To my surprise, even at ear-defying decibels, the sound was still pretty clean. No, this isn't a speaker that audiophiles will drool over, but it's certain to please anyone looking for more volume than necessary with that typical JBL sound. And even though the JBL Portable app only offers 3 different EQ settings (none of which are customizable), the sound is on par with most Bluetooth speakers I've tested. Here's the list of songs I tested (and my reactions to them):

  • "Analog Kid" by Rush: Plenty of punch at the bottom, mids that were slightly too pronounced, and highs that were present but not quite as sparkly as I prefer.
  • "Rule of Nines" by Spiritbox: This song really shined on the Xtreme 4, with the necessary power at the low end, a midrange that perfectly suits Courtney Laplante's gorgeous (and sometimes frightening) voice.
  • "The Long Road" by Eriks Esevnalds: A song that just stills my heart, it came off with just enough space between the voices to make them clear. It could get a bit distorted when the voices became too dissonant.
  • "Kingdom" by Devin Townsend Project: This is the song to be played at my funeral, and it came off with sufficient punch to keep up with the brutal rhythms of the guitar and drums. Devin's voice was as devilishly angelic as always.
  • "Lune: by Periphery: I loved how well the Xtreme 4 handled the mids on this tune, and the kick drum was more than enough to give me the feels.

ZDNET's buying advice

As I said, this isn't going to check all the boxes for true audiophiles, but for anyone that wants big sound without distortion, the JBL Xtreme 4 is a great option. It's also built to last, and includes a shoulder strap for easy carrying. With summer nearly here, if you're looking for a "party in a box," this Bluetooth speaker's got you covered. 

One final thing I'll say is that of all the genres I tested with the Xtreme 4, it handled metal best. So, if you're looking for a headbanger of a speaker, this is the one.

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