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Hands-on review: JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi
Tue, 28th Nov 2023

When JBL releases a new product, we can be confident that it ticks all the boxes required to make it a quality audio device. The new JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is no different – it's rugged, looks great, and, most importantly, performs excellently, offering rich sound with an envious amount of bass.

With the days growing longer and temperatures rising, now is perhaps the time when many New Zealanders are in the market for a new Bluetooth speaker oozing with features to make the most of gatherings over the summer months. 

While the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is rather heavy at 9.62kg, it boasts up to 24 hours of playtime on a full charge and has an IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating, meaning it's not just for keeping at home - you can take it with you on your summer adventures. 

First impressions and setup

Upon unboxing the JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi, the first thing you'll notice after the mammoth weight is the clever styling inherited from the previous Boombox models. The whole speaker is just under 50cm in length and is shaped almost like a small holdall, complete with a recycled fabric and plastic case and a metal handle across the top to make it easier to carry from place to place. A large tweeter sits on each end of the device – the only two visible speakers. Everything feels sturdy and built to last.

There are minimal buttons across the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi – flanking the power and Bluetooth buttons on the front of the device is a play/pause button (which can skip to the next track with a double-press), up/down volume buttons and JBL's 'Moment' button in the shape of a heart. 

In terms of inputs, there's a small rubber flap on the back, which houses only a power input and USB-A port. Unfortunately, there's no auxiliary input to fall back on – everything must be streamed via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. 

JBL makes it really easy to set up the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi via the downloadable JBL One app. This allows you to connect to the speaker, check battery life and customise your audio via the EQ. You can also set up a Moment, which is effectively a personalisation mode to allow you to create a preset for your favourite song/playlist, choose the volume it's played at, and whether or not you want to enable the Auto Off function once it's all done. Once set up, this can be enabled by a press of the Moment button.

Performance

The Boombox 3 Wi-Fi really does pack a punch, no matter which genre of music you choose to throw at it. High bass is certainly its party piece, but it's also versatile enough to handle lesser jobs like soft-spoken podcasts or audiobooks. We threw all sorts of music at the speaker, testing it in a range of different environments, from small to large living spaces to campsites and beaches. 

The sound is rich and clear thanks to the built-in subwoofer and two mid-range drivers hidden behind the speaker grille, and the aforementioned visible dual tweeters. If the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is plugged into a power source, the audio performance gets even better.

Rap and house music tracks sounded particularly good, although only a brave person would turn the speaker up to maximum volume. Depending on what type of music you're listening to, it's definitely worth heading into the JBL One app to play around with the bass, mid and treble to fine-tune your listening.

Connecting to the speaker via Wi-Fi is a great alternative to Bluetooth as it allows you to continue doing other tasks on your phone or tablet without having to worry about the audio cutting off due to you listening to something else on your device or making a phone call. Wi-Fi streaming also allows you to benefit from immersive 3D Dolby Atmos where available. Away from a Wi-Fi network, Bluetooth connectivity works just fine; however, several times, we had to reconnect the device by pressing the Bluetooth button.

Although many might question the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi's portability, it's undoubtedly built with that in mind. It's great to take with you on a weekend camping trip, not only for its durability and acoustic oomph but because it also doubles up as a handy power bank via the USB-A port. On top of this, there's a self-tuning feature which uses dual built-in microphones to analyse your surroundings and optimise the audio to ensure you've got the best sound experience possible. The battery life is also noteworthy. 

Sadly, there are no other microphones on the Boombox 3 Wi-Fi to allow you to make two-way phone calls or even communicate with Alexa or Siri. 

Verdict 

The JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi has the potential to amplify your summer with a huge array of features and outstanding performance. 

The speaker works best sat in your living area at home, although there are more than a handful of reasons to take it with you when you head to the park, beach, or campsite this summer – it's just not the type of portable speaker you can just throw in the bottom of your tote bag and forget about.

The lack of analogue inputs might put people off investing in the speaker, along with the NZD $695 price tag, but overall, the JBL Boombox 3 Wi-Fi is a terrific speaker with outstanding versatility.