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Digital Subscriptions > Stuff > June 2019 > MAKE YOUR TUNES POP

MAKE YOUR TUNES POP

No one can deny that uncompressed music files and hi-res streaming are king when it comes to audio, but a huge chunk of today’s tracks are being mixed for low-res files and portable, diddy speakers. With that in mind, we enlisted a pro record producer to help us test the best of 2019’s Bluetooth noise-bringers to see which ones offer the purest poptastic performance…

MIKE DROP

To tune our ears we enlisted the help of Mike Kintish, accomplished songwriter, producer, composer and one half of pop duo The Yeah You’s. Mike has worked with the likes of Paloma Faith, Take That , James Arthur, Armin van Buuren and Rudimental. To test each speaker, he chose a playlist of pop, hip-hop and two songs he co-wrote: I Could Get Used to This by Becky Hills and DJ Weiss, and Why Her Not Me by Grace Carter.

JBL EXTREME 2

Price £234 / jbl.com

Stretching the definition of ‘portable’ to the absolute limit, the Xtreme 2 is roughly the size (and shape) of a rugby ball; but at 2.4kg you won’t want to be going up for it in a line-out. It does, however, come with a shoulder strap and two carabiner hooks so you can take it with you when you head for the park, pool or party. But please resist the temptation to play it on public transport, because this thing is loud and the battery lasts 15 hours.

It’s not a subtle design by any means (check the camo finish option) – but compared to many aimed at the upwardly mobile youth of today, it’s stylish and reassuringly well made. Our review sample was a deep petrol blue, but red, black and green are equally appealing.

At either end of the speaker you’ll find dual passive radiators – a signature design cue for JBL these days – delivering a powerful rumble, while two 20W drivers handle the mids and highs. The first thing we noticed was the stereo presentation, meaning even at low volume the speaker easily filled the room. The second thing was the satisfying crack of a kick drum as it firmly announced itself in the mix. “I’m surprised by how punchy the bass is,” said Mike. “It’s got a serious kick and handles volume really well.”

Listening to Grace Carter, Mike found the piano and vocals to be “really clear and lovely to listen to”; but when the string section came in, the performance felt “a little confused”. That’s not to say this speaker isn’t fun to listen to – far from it. The power is expertly controlled and the low bass and high frequencies are richer and more dynamic than from the UE Megaboom 3.

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