JBL’s Boombox line is the second-largest in their repertoire of portable Bluetooth speakers, following the behemoth PartyBox models (see my PartyBox 110 vs 310 article).
They’re perfect for outdoor parties on account of their incredible loudness and durability.
In summary, the JBL Boombox 2 offers a slight edge in loudness and clarity over its predecessor, but only when plugged in and cranked up to louder volumes. This is thanks to the extra 20W output power the Boombox 2’s woofers provide. Another notable difference would be the updated Bluetooth in the newer model, which allows for improved range and better syncing in video playback.
Let's get to their nuts and bolts.
Let me tell you something right off the bat.
The sound quality performance you'll end up getting from a speaker will always depend on your room acoustics - particularly room dimensions and speaker positions.
The impact of the combination of these two is actually so strong that in most cases, it doesn't even make sense to utter a single word on sound quality without speaking of them.
This is also why it's not unusual to see completely different reviews of the same speaker.
In one case the speaker might be placed in a sweet spot inside the room and hence the user might be satisfied. In other cases the same speaker might be ill placed and hence user might even have returned it.
The point most people miss here is that it mostly isn't even about the engineering behind the speaker itself. It's about where you place the speaker inside which room.
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So, in order to solve this problem, I've partnered with an Acoustics and Audio Engineering PhD and created Soundton - a simple, 2D, browser accessible online speaker placement calculator.
With Soundton, now there's a way to figure the sound quality of most speakers before you buy them.
Read more about its working principles at soundton.com.
The end colormap provides you the locations with the best (green) and worst (red) acoustics.
ASAP Science also made a video on the loudest and quietest rooms in the world. A mind blowing example of the importance of acoustics (play time adjusted video below).
Other parameters such as the age/materials of the building, the furniture & carpets in place, etc can and will, of course, have an effect on room acoustics, too. But it's much less compared to other parameters mentioned above.
Also, while you're at it, blast my Hidden Electronic Gems list to test the speakers:
If you check out the spec sheet of the JBL Boombox on the manufacturer’s official website, you’ll find that it boasts two 4-inch woofers with a total output of 60W when plugged in and 40W when in battery mode.
As for the JBL Boombox 2, it also features two 4-inch woofers but with a bit of added oomph. In AC mode, you’ll get a cumulative output of 80W, and in battery mode, it’s lowered slightly to 60W.
Both models include two 20mm tweeters for better rendering high-frequency sounds and added sound imaging.
The woofer wattage dictates the overall loudness of the device and can also help audio sound clearer. Since both speakers have the same frequency response of 50 – 20,000 Hz, this means that the sound profiles are essentially the same.
With all that being said, the JBL Boombox 2 has a modest edge in overall sound performance.
Size And Weight
If you’re seeing the JBL Boombox and JBL Boombox 2 for the first time, it can be a little tough to tell them apart. Both speakers share a similar cylindrical shape with a large overarching handle and the trademark JBL logo in the middle. But if you take a close look at the specs, you’ll see that the JBL Boombox has dimensions of 458.5 x 254.5 x 195.5mm, whereas the JBL Boombox 2 sits at 484 x 201 x 256 mm.
This means that the newer model is a fair bit bigger than the original, albeit slightly shorter. It’s also noticeably heavier, as it weighs 13 lbs compared to the JBL Boombox’s 11.57 lbs. That’s a 1.43-pound difference.
How big and heavy a device can matter quite a bit as far as portable speakers are concerned, so if you prefer something a little smaller and lighter, then you may be better off sticking with the original.
One of the improvements the JBL Boombox 2 has over its older sibling is the improved Bluetooth technology. The original came with Bluetooth version 4.2, while its successor sports version 5.1. As a result, the newer model can stay connected to a device up to 50 feet away. The JBL Boombox, on the other hand, only has a range of up to approximately 33 feet.
Bluetooth 5.1 also provides better audio syncing when watching movies, which is exceedingly important if you plan on using your speaker to watch movies and TV shows.
Bluetooth aside, the older model actually features two USB ports that you can use to siphon a charge from the speaker battery. In comparison, the JBL Boombox 2 only has one.
Although it’s not a feature that’s used too often these days, it’s worth noting that the original JBL Boombox has a speakerphone built into it, while its successor does not. This isn’t of much consequence since most of the devices that connect to the speaker have their own speakerphone, but some users may be specifically looking for a portable speaker with a speakerphone feature.
As of writing, the JBL Boombox is priced at $399.99, while the JBL Boombox 2 costs $499.95.
At the end of the day, the JBL Boombox 2 is better than the base model, though not that much. You’ll get a bit more sound output and a more advanced Bluetooth connection, but in return, you’ll need to deal with a slightly bigger and heavier device.
As for value for money, it really isn’t worth upgrading to the JBL Boombox 2 if you already own the original. But if you’re a first-time investor in the JBL Boombox line and you can’t find the original on sale, then you’re better off picking up the JBL Boombox 2.