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Even though I expected more, for the last few months the JBL Xtreme 2 has been one of my favorite speakers period. Its not too big, it has a decent battery life, I can take it anywhere, and more importantly it sounds really good. And the Xtreme 2 has done a good job of out performing similar speakers that were released after it. But today we’re going to put the Xtreme 2 up against 2 more large portable speakers. Lets see if the Sony XB501G or Marshall Kilburn 2 can finally dethrone the JBL Xtreme 2.
All three of these speakers were released in the second half of 2018, and they all retail for $300. If you want to pick either of these speakers up ill have links in the description below… and if you use the links it really helps out the channel. I highly suggest you check them out cause Sony and JBL’s speakers routinely go on sale you you’ll might get lucky. And if you want to learn more about either of these speakers then please watch their full reviews.
Design wise, these speakers look very different from one another. The JBL Xtreme 2 is the smallest and lightest speaker here weighing in at 5.2 pounds. And Its the most rugged speaker here cause it has a fabric mesh body that does a very good job of standing up to bumps and scrapes, you just gotta be careful with those exposed radiators. The Kilburn 2 is also pretty rugged but honestly I would hate to damage that metal grill on the front or scuff up that tumbled leather looking body. But technically the Kilburn 2 is the most fragile speaker here cause its only rocking and IPX2 rating so I would keep this speaker away from water just to be safe. But in general, I’m a really big fan of the Kilburn 2’s classic design. And finally theres the Sony XB501G… this is the big boy of the group. It weighs in at almost 7 pounds and takes up the most table space. But unfortunately, due to its hard plastic body… its not very rugged cause it does tend to scratch very easily. And its important to keep that in mind cause all of these speakers are meant to be portable speakers that you take with you on the go cause they all have some sort of carrying handle. But JBL does win bonus points cause they were smart enough to build in a bottle opener on their carrying strap.
And now I just want to quickly address a few things about the Sony XB501G. This speaker has a built in light feature that you can control from Sony’s music center app. It looks descent and it does add an extra element when listening to music, but you do end up sacrificing some battery life. The G in Sony XB501G also stands for google assistant…
This feature works very well and it can do almost everything a normal Google Home can, except you cant make phone calls with it. But if you don’t want to you can just use the XB501G like a standard bluetooth speaker.
But now I want to focus on ports cause depending on your needs this can be a real deal breaker for you. The Sony XB501G has a dedicated charging port and a USB C port. But this USB C port can only be used to charge the speaker or charge your own devices. Its doesn’t support data transfer, so you can only play music off of the XB501G wirelessly. And unfortunately this speaker doesn’t have LDAC Support which is a huge departure from Sony’s other speakers. The Marshall Kilburn 2 does still have an audio jack but sadly theres not USB out port so you can charge your own devices. And finally theres the Xtreme 2, which I think has the best port set up here for a portable bluetooth speaker. It keeps the Audio jack if you really need it and it has a USB A Out port so you can charge your own devices.
But I think the Marshall Kilburn 2 has the best wireless connectivity set up here. Its rocking bluetooth 5.0, its has APTX Support, it can be connected to 2 devices at the same time and if you’re an iPhone its good for watching videos cause it has very little latency. The Xtreme 2 can also be connected to 2 devices at the same time. But then theres the Sony XB501G which can only be connected to one device at a time and it just not suitable for watching videos on your phone what so ever, theres a lot of latency.
And the Kilburn 2 also has the best real world battery life here. With the volume set to 80% and with the bass knob set to 5, which is the same amount of bass the Xtreme 2 has, this speaker is good for about 11 hours of playback time. Where as the Xtreme 2 is good for about 9 hours of play back time. And unfortunately, the XB501G has the worst real world battery life of about 6 hours. And thats cause the battery has a lot more work todo cause of the extra bass feature and the light feature. But if you use this speaker with those feature turned off you should be able to squeeze out more battery life out of this speaker.
And now let's talk about speaker set ups. The XB501G has a Single frontward firing Sub woofer and dual angled satellite speakers that do a very good job of covering a larger area out doors than most other speakers. The Marshall Kilburn 2 has a single Frontward firing Woofer and dual tweeters. But since there is a bass deflector that shoots out the back, this speaker does perform better when its up against a wall. And finally theres the JBL Xtreme 2. Even though its the smallest speaker here… its has the most hardware going for it. It has dual frontward firing transducers, dual tweeters, and dual passive radiators that shoot out the sides. Now we’re about to jump into a soundest, the Xtreme 2 is using the latest firmware update, the Sony XB501G is in extra bass mode and the Marshall Kilburn 2 is playing with its volume knob set to 10, bass set to 5, and treble set to 7.
Now, both the Sony XB501G and Marshall Kilburn 2 have the potential to have more bass than the JBL Xtreme 2 and have almost as much bass as the JBL Boombox. With the XB501G you can go into Sony’s Music Center app and adjust its EQ from there. And with the Kilburn 2 you can manually raise the Bass and treble with the knobs up top. But Bass isn’t everything. I cant help but notice the Xtreme 2 has the wider sound stage and better instrument separation. Where as with both the Kilburn 2 and XB501G, everything does sound a little close together compared to the Xtreme 2. So the Xtreme 2 does still have the better audio fidelity, and in general it has a decent amount of bass. But a very important detail I want to point out is that if you use the Xtreme 2 while its plugged into power, its going to get louder and sound fuller with more bass. Where as with both the Sony and Marshall Speakers… if you plug them into power they aren’t going to perform any differently. So yeah, if you want lots and lots of bass in a small package… go with the Sony or Marshall, or if you just want a good sounding speaker go with the Xtreme 2.
And over all, I still think the JBL Xtreme 2 is the best $300 speaker here… and heres why. Like I just said, the Xtreme 2 has the better audio fidelity here, and if you use it while its plugged in its going to get louder and have more bass. It also has a decent real world battery life thats going to have no problem lasting you a whole day of listening, and if youre at the beach or at the basketball court, you can use it to charge your phone if you’re running low on battery… something the kilburn 2 cant do. And the Xtreme 2 is also the better investment here cause if you plan on getting other smaller JBL speakers in the future you can pair them together with JBL Connect Plus. Where as the Kilburn 2 cant be paired up to any other speakers, and the XB501G can only play in sync with other smart speakers using chrome cast, and that only works if you have wifi. But the Marshall Kilburn 2 is still a very close second for me cause in some ways it's better than the Xtreme 2. Im a really big fan of its classic design, it has a lot of bass in a pretty small package, I really like its bluetooth performance, it has a longer lasting battery and it even has fast charging. The only thing I hate about it is that it doesn’t have multipurpose button to physically control your music. But I would only consider picking up the Marshall Kilburn 2 if don’t plan on picking up any other speakers in the future at all.