The Boombox used to be the iconic symbol for the music that came with you. It was the JBL Boombox that got people dancing in the street and serenading a barbecue or camping in every backyard or park. JBL is after that type of social outing with the JBL Boombox 2, a portable speaker whose primary mission is to get loud. And it gets loud – even more so than its predecessor, who says something, considering how bombastic the previous JBL Boombox was. This is our JBL Boombox 2 Review.
The similarities are several than the differences, and the price is still high. It’s a hefty price for an excellent one-dimensional product, but if you need a ready-made speaker for a family meeting and you don’t have to worry about Hi-Res Audio, then the JBL Boombox 2 has something on your mind.
JBL Boombox 2 Review: Design
This design of the Boombox 2 is almost a copy of the previous model. If we had put the two side by side, it would have been difficult to choose them, although JBL wisely changed a few accents to make them less identical. For example, the JBL logo now has an exclamation mark on one side, while the bottom of the handle has some extra color. These are undoubtedly subtle clues, especially when you consider that JBL sticks to both the black and the camo variant, leaving no room for other funky color options.
Boombox 2 is also almost the same in size and weight. It’s a bit heavier with 13 lbs. and a smith bigger with 10,1 x 19,5 x 7,9. The handle is made of the same sturdy material that holds the large cylindrical design together. The intestines inside are equally familiar. You get two passive radiators at the ends with double 20mm tweeters and two 4-inch subwoofers under the hood to pump out the sound. It doesn’t look like JBL has used any different components, except for the newer Bluetooth transmitter we’ll come to later.
The buttons are laid out in almost the same way, except for a few small shifts. JBL has moved the Bluetooth button to share with the power, while the PartyBoost button occupies the old spot. You also get play/pause and volume up/down buttons, with LED indicators on the bottom to indicate battery life. Double-clicking play/pause skips a track, however, for some reason, JBL didn’t map it to repeat a track with a triple press of the button after it failed with the previous Boombox.
The rear ports also keep the same layout. You get the power adapter, 3.5 mm Aux-In, a USB port to charge phones and other small gadgets, along with a micro-USB port for maintenance. Except for the power adapter, you don’t get any cables in the box.
JBL Boombox 2 Review: Features and Connectivity
Using a different Bluetooth transmitter means that JBL had to let go of the part of the original Boombox compatibility. That model had a button called Connect+ that was paired with other JBL speakers to play the same music at the same time – or in stereo as the left and right channels. It’s now gone, and so is any connection to the Connect+ app, placing Boombox 2 in a different ecosystem of connectivity.
If you had the JBL Boombox 2 while a friend had the original Boombox, you wouldn’t be able to connect them because PartyBoost uses separate protocols. While you can do the same type of speaker pairing as with Connect+, this speaker can only do it with those who also support PartyBoost.
JBL also eliminated the separate Indoor and Outdoor modes of the previous model. The company thinks the tuning and audio engineering makes it sound great in both environments, so there is no need to switch between the two modes. Unfortunately, there is no equalizer or any way of tweaking the audio output to adjust the sound of the speaker. What you hear is what you get.
And that leads to a strange omission. Although Boombox 2 is a Bluetooth speaker, it doesn’t support the two best codecs that use it: aptX and AAC. We can understand that most Bluetooth speakers don’t support both, yet charging north of $400 means it’s something that should probably be there. Indeed, this is hardly aimed at audiophiles, but a higher price point should come with extra functionality, mainly when it affects sound quality.
JBL Boombox 2 Review: Performance
JBL has retained its IPX7 certification, making the JBL Boombox 2 suitable for standing close to splashing water and rain. You can submerge it in clear water for up to 30 minutes, and it can even float, but it tilts forward, dampening the music in the water. Bluetooth also doesn’t serve well when submerged, so it’s best to keep the water on solid ground.
Did we mention that this thing is noisy? It’s a beast for its size, and we appreciated that it took off distortions when we turned up the volume. The bass is prominent here, no matter what you play, but we were impressed by how good it was on the background music when we played jazz at lower volumes late at night while sitting outside at night.
When we excelled, we tried out all kinds of different songs. Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue is a crowd-puller, but the head-banging guitar riffs came through nicely with the emphatic vocals. We felt a similar way when we blasted Killer Mike’s Don’t Die.
Like any speaker, the JBL Boombox 2 has its tilt point, and we noticed that the distortion started around 80-90%. However, keep in mind that it’s deafening at those volumes, so you’ll probably only have to go as high if you have a lot of people coming together over a larger area. The only thing is that we didn’t think this speaker sounded any different than its predecessor. We played music indoors and outdoors for weeks, and although it wasn’t with a large group because of COVID-related limitations, we recognized the familiarity throughout.
It makes sense because JBL didn’t do much re-engineering here. The soundstage is generally the same, and it does the job of filling more than one room. We also used it with tablets to view content on YouTube and other streaming apps. With little or no delay, making things out of sync, we started to appreciate how the sound could feel so much louder than the action on the screen we were looking at.
Battery life was almost always the same. JBL’s 24-hour battery life estimate is accurate, but only if you stick to the standard volume, however, even at 60%, we easily hit 20 hours. The buzzing sound we experienced with the previous Boombox when the battery was running low never appeared with this device, so it looks like JBL solved that problem.
Price and Availability
The JBL Boombox 2 was revealed at CES 2020 and was released in April. In terms of price, the Boombox 2 sells for $449.99 / £399.99 (approximately AU$650). That’s a lot more expensive than our favorite waterproof speaker, the UE Wonderboom 2, which only costs around $69.99 / £89.99 / AU$129, however, the Boombox 2 certainly has the Wonderboom beat in terms of maximum volume. If you want something in the middle, there’s the larger, more powerful UE Megaboom 3, which comes in at $200 / £170 / AU$300 and can be paired with other Ultimate Ears speakers.
JBL Boombox 2 Review: Conclusion
The Boombox 2 is just like the film sequel that repeats 90% of the plot and scenes of the original. That doesn’t make the speaker bad, but it does mean it’s better for newcomers to the Boombox, not for existing users. Just like the original, this is mostly a social speaker. Indoors it is fine, but it shines when playing music for a small audience outdoors. And for $450, its narrowed focus is a high price to make parties lively, but in the end, if you need plenty of audio at your next outdoor party or camping trip, this is the speaker to get.
JBL doesn't invent much anymore with this newer iteration of the Boombox but has managed to change the multi-speaker connectivity and keep the Boombox water-resistant. A loudspeaker like this is made for everything to do with being outdoors and is a perfect companion at outdoor parties.
- Loud, distortion-free sound
- IPX7 water-resistant
- 24-hour battery life
- Missing the best Bluetooth codecs