JBL vs Ultimate Ears (A Battle Of The Bluetooth Giants)

by

JBL and Ultimate Ears are two prominent Bluetooth speaker manufacturers who, over the years, have released several flagship speakers that have since become staples in the portable speaker market. With both brands well-established and with reputable products in their catalog, it can be challenging for casual consumers to know which company to support. In this article, we look at the strengths and weaknesses of both brands, as well as which of their speakers are worth investing your hard-earned money into.

Let’s start by discussing the differences between the brands, where they place their priorities, and the types of speakers they create. Then, we’ll compare the most popular models from both companies, seeing how competing models stack up against each other.

The Difference In Speaker Design Philosophy Between Ultimate Ears and JBL

JBL and Ultimate Ears compete in the same space, with some speaker models aligning as direct competitors. Yet, the two companies have very different focuses in how they design speakers and the features they focus on. 

In recent years JBL has been opting for a more balanced frequency response in many of its speakers. In contrast, UE tends to embrace its boomy sound, where they put more emphasis on a fun, bass-heavy sound. Additionally, Ultimate Ears has separated itself from other manufacturers in its successful approach to soundstage, using a 360-degree sound dispersion to create better audio, no matter which way the speaker is facing. JBL, on the other hand, has seen some speakers make strides while other models lag behind the modern market. A good example of this is the Flip 6, which falls behind the much older Flip 4 in many of its traits.

Comparing JBL & Ultimate Ears Speakers

Because so many differences exist between models, we’ll look at both JBL and Ultimate Ears’ competing models and compare their strengths and weaknesses to understand these differences better.

JBL Flip 6 vs Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

JBL Flip 6 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 3, Small Portable...
JBL Flip 6 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 3, Small Portable...
Price
$109.95
$68.99
Water Resistance
IP67
IP67
Output Power
30W
10W
Bluetooth Version
5.1
5.2
Battery Life
Up to 8 hours
Up to 15 hours
Charging Time
Just over 2 hours
Just over 2 hours
Frequency Response Range
63 Hz – 20 kHz
75 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
1.1 lbs
0.9 lbs
Dimensions
7.01 x 2.68 x 2.83"
4.65 x 4.53 x 4.65"
App Support
Yes
No
JBL Flip 6 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
JBL Flip 6 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
Price
$109.95
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
30W
Bluetooth Version
5.1
Battery Life
Up to 8 hours
Charging Time
Just over 2 hours
Frequency Response Range
63 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
1.1 lbs
Dimensions
7.01 x 2.68 x 2.83"
App Support
Yes
Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 3, Small Portable...
Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 3, Small Portable...
Price
$68.99
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
10W
Bluetooth Version
5.2
Battery Life
Up to 15 hours
Charging Time
Just over 2 hours
Frequency Response Range
75 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
0.9 lbs
Dimensions
4.65 x 4.53 x 4.65"
App Support
No

The Flip 6 and Wonderboom 3 are similar in size and weight, with both speakers being highly portable. They both have comprehensive water and dust resistance ratings, but the Wonderboom 3 has the benefit of impact resistance, too. They also have very similar physical controls, but the Flip 6 has mobile app support with a 3-band graphic EQ, while UE’s Wonderboom 3 doesn’t have a companion app.

Both speakers share a similar frequency response, but the Flip 6 has a slightly more emphasized bass, especially towards the low end. The Wonderboom’s 360-degree sound design creates a much better soundstage than the Flip 6 and has less compression at higher volume.

While both speakers have a similar charging time, the Wonderboom 3’s battery life is much better than the Flip 6. JBL advertises up to 12 hours of playtime on the Flip 6, but real-world tests fall short of these estimates.

JBL Charge 5 vs Ultimate Ears Boom 3

JBL Charge 5 Portable Wireless Bluetooth...
Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Portable Waterproof...
JBL Charge 5 Portable Wireless Bluetooth...
Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Portable Waterproof...
Price
$129.95
$110.72
Water Resistance
IP67
IP67
Output Power
40W
20W
Bluetooth Version
5.1
N/A
Battery Life
Up to 15 hours
Up to 14 hours
Charging Time
4 Hours
2.5 Hours
Frequency Response Range
20 Hz – 20 kHz
90Hz – 20kHz
Weight
2.1 lbs
1.8 lbs
Dimensions
8.7 x 3.8 x 3.7"
7.25 x 2.9 x 2.9"
App Support
Yes
Yes
JBL Charge 5 Portable Wireless Bluetooth...
JBL Charge 5 Portable Wireless Bluetooth...
Price
$129.95
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
40W
Bluetooth Version
5.1
Battery Life
Up to 15 hours
Charging Time
4 Hours
Frequency Response Range
20 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
2.1 lbs
Dimensions
8.7 x 3.8 x 3.7"
App Support
Yes
Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Portable Waterproof...
Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Portable Waterproof...
Price
$110.72
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
20W
Bluetooth Version
N/A
Battery Life
Up to 14 hours
Charging Time
2.5 Hours
Frequency Response Range
90Hz – 20kHz
Weight
1.8 lbs
Dimensions
7.25 x 2.9 x 2.9"
App Support
Yes

The Charge 5 and Boom 3 are somewhat similar, but the Charge 5 is larger and weighs 30% more than the Boom 3. Both speakers offer IP67 weather resistance, but the Boom 3 comes equipped with impact resistance, which the Charge 5 doesn’t. The Charge 5, on the other hand, has easier-to-use controls.

JBL’s Charge 5 has the advantage of a mostly balanced sound, and while the Boom 3 has a punchy bass, the Charge 5 has a similar sound but with some added depth to it. Additionally, the Boom 3 is not as bright as the Charge 5 and lacks some definition in the treble range.

The UE Boom 3 has a much better soundstage than the Charge 5; the Charge has a reasonably narrow dispersion, while the Boom 3 uses its 360-degree sound dispersion to make it sound good from any direction. JBL’s Charge 5 is marginally louder than the Boom 3, but the Boom 3’s better dynamic performance negates this small difference.

Both speakers have similar battery life, with around 14 hours of playtime. However, the Boom 3 charges much faster than the Charge. Only the Charge 5 offers additional output, including a USB-A output to charge your phone.

Both the Boom 3 and Charge 5 have low-latency Bluetooth performance, but the Boom 3 performs a bit better in this regard. However, the Charge 5 can support two source devices simultaneously, while the Boom 3 only supports single-device connection. Both speakers also have app support along with EQ capabilities.

JBL Xtreme 3 vs Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3

JBL Xtreme 3 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 Portable Wireless...
JBL Xtreme 3 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 Portable Wireless...
Price
$249.95
$161.99
Water Resistance
IP67
IP67
Output Power
100W
36W
Bluetooth Version
5.1
5.2
Battery Life
Up to 12 hours
Up to 18 hours
Charging Time
2 hours
2.5 Hours
Frequency Response Range
53.5 Hz - 20kHz
60 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
4.2 lbs
2.9 lbs
Dimensions
11.73 x 5.4 x 5.24"
3.5 x 3.5 x 8.86"
App Support
Yes
Yes
JBL Xtreme 3 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
JBL Xtreme 3 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker,...
Price
$249.95
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
100W
Bluetooth Version
5.1
Battery Life
Up to 12 hours
Charging Time
2 hours
Frequency Response Range
53.5 Hz - 20kHz
Weight
4.2 lbs
Dimensions
11.73 x 5.4 x 5.24"
App Support
Yes
Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 Portable Wireless...
Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 Portable Wireless...
Price
$161.99
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
36W
Bluetooth Version
5.2
Battery Life
Up to 18 hours
Charging Time
2.5 Hours
Frequency Response Range
60 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
2.9 lbs
Dimensions
3.5 x 3.5 x 8.86"
App Support
Yes

The JBL Xtreme 3 and Megaboom 3 are similar speakers in performance, though the Xtreme is much larger than the Megaboom and weighs more than twice as much. Like with most comparisons between modern JBL and Ultimate Ears speakers, the Megaboom 3 has a slight advantage in durability with its inclusion of an impact-resistant rating.

JBL again does a better job at creating easy-to-use, intuitive controls, and the Xtreme 3 does a better job than the Megaboom 3 at providing simple on-speaker controls. JBL’s Xtreme 3 has an aux input and USB-A output, while the Megaboom 3 lacks any additional inputs or outputs. For remote adjustments, both speakers have an app that allows you to perform EQ adjustments, with the Xtreme 3 providing a graphic EQ and the Megaboom 3 having both graphic and preset EQ control.

In terms of battery performance, both speakers do well. However, the Megaboom 3 provides around 50% more playtime than the Xtreme 3. The Xtreme 3 does marginally better in its charging speed, taking around 2 hours to fully charge, while the Megaboom 3 takes closer to 2.5 hours.

JBL Boombox 3 vs Ultimate Ears Hyperboom

JBL Boombox 3 Black Portable Bluetooth...
JBL Boombox 3 Black Portable Bluetooth...
Price
Price not available
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
160W
Bluetooth Version
5.3
Battery Life
Up to 30 hours
Charging Time
Just under 5 hours
Frequency Response Range
50 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
14.9 lbs
Dimensions
22.24 x 10.08 x 12.76"
App Support
Yes
JBL Boombox 3 Black Portable Bluetooth...
JBL Boombox 3 Black Portable Bluetooth...
Price
Price not available
Water Resistance
IP67
Output Power
160W
Bluetooth Version
5.3
Battery Life
Up to 30 hours
Charging Time
Just under 5 hours
Frequency Response Range
50 Hz – 20 kHz
Weight
14.9 lbs
Dimensions
22.24 x 10.08 x 12.76"
App Support
Yes

The Boombox 3 is one of JBL’s larger portable Bluetooth speakers and can be compared with the Hyperboom from Ultimate Ears. This represents the largest and loudest Bluetooth speaker that Ultimate Ears produces, but JBL has its PartyBox range, which surpasses the Boombox 3 in size, features, and power.

Each speaker has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, with the Hyperboom being better suited to indoor, with only an IPX4 rating. In contrast, the Boombox 3 is a versatile speaker that can be used outdoors and even around the pool; in fact – it can even float when tossed in water. Despite both speakers weighing 15 lbs, the Boombox 3 is slightly easier to carry with the sturdy built-in handle, while the Hyperboom relies on a material strap.

The Boombox 3 is easier to use with superior on-speaker controls. Both speakers include compression controls through their mobile apps. The Boombox 3 and Hyperboom both have an Aux input and USB-A output, but the Hyperboom has the added benefit of an optical port, which is particularly useful for home use.

JBL’s Boombox 3 touts some of the best sound we’ve heard from their portable speaker ranges, and its frequency response is particularly good with a mostly balanced sound, with a little elevated punch in the upper bass. The Hyperboom is not a particularly bassy speaker but has a little more depth to the bass than the Boombox 3. Both speakers have crisp, intelligible vocal frequencies that give the speaker a somewhat neutral yet refined sound. The Hyperboom can get noticeably louder than the Boombox 3, making it better suited for larger gatherings. Its impressive dynamics also ensure a retention of clarity at higher volume levels.

The Hyperboom can provide close to 25 hours of battery life off a single charge, which can be completed in under 3 hours. The Boombox 3 doesn’t fall far behind, and can keep the party going for up to 28 hours on a charge, though it takes almost twice as long as the Hyperboom to fully charge.

Conclusions

Neither JBL nor Ultimate Ears are objectively better than each other. Both companies create good quality speakers, albeit with a different focus. Ultimate Ears products consistently have better soundstage and, more often than not, hold the advantage on sound quality too. Still, JBL’s recent shift towards a more balanced sound appeals to many consumers.

Instead of pitting the two companies against each other in a standoff, compare the specifications and performances of each speaker and find the one that best represents what you need from a speaker.

The History of JBL and Ultimate Ears

To understand how a company operates, looking at its beginnings and how it’s established itself over the years can be helpful. Let us briefly examine how both JBL and Ultimate Ears got to their current point.

A Summary Of JBL’s Long History

JBL (originally short for James B. Lansing Sound) was established by James Bullough Lansing nearly 80 years ago in 1946 and began producing audio equipment for home, entertainment, and automotive purposes. Their first speaker to see large-scale success was the D101 in the late 1940s; this home speaker’s success laid the foundation for what was to become a booming era for JBL in the next decade, and in the 1950s, JBL released the Hartsfield, Paragon, and D130. Unfortunately, Lansing died by suicide before JBL’s global success.

JBL later became a subsidiary of Harman International in 1969, and Harman was then bought by Samsung Electronics in 2017. While some structural adjustments were made to the companies, Samsung has left Harman with control of the company. By the time Samsung acquired Harman, JBL had already been manufacturing Bluetooth speakers for five years and saw massive success with their initial Flip release in 2012.

Ultimate Ears – The New Kid On The Block

Compared to JBL’s long history, Ultimate Ears has a more recent introduction into the audio market. Founded by Jerry Harvey in 1995, Ultimate Ears began its journey as a manufacturer of in-ear monitors (hence the name). Thirteen years after its inception, UE was bought out by Logitech in 2008. This acquisition led to Ultimate Ears expanding its vision outside of in-ear monitors and towards what would become the booming industry of portable Bluetooth speakers.

Five years after the acquisition, UE went to market with its first portable Bluetooth speaker, the Ultimate Ears Boom. Riding on the success of the Boom series, UE began rolling out various other Bluetooth speaker designs, becoming a direct competitor to JBL.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!
Share:
Photo of author

Author: Bryn De Kocks

Bryn has worked in the field for several years, writing in-depth speaker reviews for various audio publications. His work has historically focused on headphones and Bluetooth speakers, while incorporating his understanding of the Bluetooth speaker market to help educate potential buyers.

See All His Posts

Leave a Comment