A portable Bluetooth speaker is a must-have device for the summer. It’s a perfect outdoor companion for days at the beach, nights out by a bonfire and picnics in the park.
Having said that, we also think a portable speaker is a great addition to any home for relaxing in the bath or working in the garden when your phone’s speakers just won’t cut it.
Most of us can’t afford a new speaker for each occasion, which means we need to look for one that’ll see us from the bath to the beach and everywhere in-between. That’s why we’ve put together this buying guide, which will help you find the right Bluetooth speaker for your needs (and your budget).
How to pick out the best Bluetooth speaker
There are so many new speakers on the market these days with great designs and the latest tech built-in that it can be tricky to figure out which one you need. Although it may seem like the choice is endless, there are plenty with unique selling points that’ll suit you.
First up, some speakers are built with ultimate durability in mind, others are weather and waterproof for camping and tunes by the pool; however, some aren’t fit for the outdoors and would look pretty inside your home instead.
If you’re having trouble figuring out which speaker might be best for you, start by picturing where you’re going to use it and find a speaker that matches that setting. That means if you’re a beach person, water and dust-proofing in your outdoor speaker are key.
Or, if you’re a party person, you might want the ability to connect two speakers together or a speaker with multi-point pairing that allows multiple devices to connect at a time. Battery life, sound quality, and design are paramount for all speakers, and we’ve done our best to take these in the utmost consideration when creating our list.
That said, here are 10 of our favorite portable wireless speakers right now, ranked by their price-to-performance ratio, that will surely work for you.
While we weren’t as impressed with the UE Boom 3 as we were with its predecessor, this is still the best Bluetooth speaker money can buy in 2019. This is a speaker that can get loud and not distort at higher volumes; be light enough to carry on a camping trip but remain durable enough to tumble in a bag unprotected.
It’s both water- and dust-proof, and now has a one-touch mix button that lets you pull up your favorite playlists without ever picking up your phone.
There are certainly more detailed speakers out there (see: Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin down below), but at a price that’s relatively affordable to all, the UE Boom 3 hits all the right notes for the third year in a row.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve is an excellent sound speaker for folks looking for true 360-degree sound. It’s great for sharing music during a party or for moving around the room without losing audio fidelity. However, the Bose SoundLink Mini II sounds slightly better and is slightly cheaper to boot.
On the debit side, it’s also not fully dust or waterproof so you’ll want to think twice before bringing the Revolve to the beach.
For half the price, the Wonderboom is a great speaker that is completely dust and waterproof and while it can’t match the audio fidelity or features of the Bose, it’s still great for on-the-go listening. If bass is your game, the JBL Charge 3 is an excellent fully waterproof speaker that sounds great, but is big and heavy along with it.
For the money, the JBL Charge 4 is a definite no-brainer. For just $150 (£160, AU$200), you get a speaker that lasts all day, sounds great, can put up with all kinds of abuse, and tops your phone up in a pinch. Yes, there are better sounding speakers but you’ll have to spend much more money.
While the JBL Charge 4 only offers minor updates to the previous generation, it remains an excellent value in wireless speakers – and is one of the best waterproof speakers around.
The new Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless is a beautiful piece of design. It’s a solid, reassuringly weighty wireless speaker delivering on all the B&W audio heritage which the British audio maestro has been building up throughout its lifetime: The sound is clear and natural, delivering room-filling audio with seriously punchy mid-range, and dynamic, controlled bass.
Its price might put a bit of a damper on your wallet, but if you have audiophile tastes that extend into the portable speaker space, the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless is the only speaker you should be considering.
Anker has a history of making excellent budget wireless speakers. While we weren’t entirely impressed with the Anker SoundCore 2’s sound, we couldn’t be too mad since the speaker was so affordable.
So what happens if you can stretch your budget? For around $20 more you get the Anker Soundcore Flare, an excellent waterproof Bluetooth speaker that can stand toe-to-toe with the competition.
The Soundcore Flare is an amazing value in the sub-$100 wireless speaker segment. Competitors like the UE Wonderboom (listed above) give the Flare a run for its money in terms of build quality but we give the Flare the slight edge with sound quality. We recommend the Flare for anyone looking for a wireless speaker that can do it all without breaking the bank.
The Bose SoundLink Mini II is relatively ancient, having been released in June 2015. However, writing off the SoundLink Mini II because of its age would be a mistake, as it remains one of the best sounding wireless speakers.
That said, it punches way above what its size would suggest, producing deep bass, sparkling highs and a lush midrange. While most wireless speakers sound OK, the Mini II proves that small speakers don’t need to compromise on sound, and other Bose conveniences like a charging pad.
The original UE Wonderboom has been at the top of our best waterproof speaker list since its debut and for good reason: it’s rugged, plays louder than its diminutive sound suggests, and could be paired to other UE Wonderboom speakers to amplify sound.
And although the UE Wonderboom 2 looks nearly identical to the original, Ultimate Ears packed in a slew of upgrades that make the Wonderboom 2 even better, like the increased battery life (up 30% compared to the original), better bass response, and the new Outdoor Boost feature that helps the speaker get even louder than before.
The UE Wonderboom 2 is a fantastic rugged and waterproof speaker you’ll actually want to take with. Its small size doesn’t mean small sound, however, as the speaker gets extremely loud and sounds great. While it can’t match the bass response of larger speakers like the UE Boom 3 or the Bose SoundLink Revolve, the improved bass adds warmth and intensity to music that the original was lacking.
All said, for $100 (£90 AU$129), the UE Wonderboom 2 is still one of the best waterproof speakers you can buy – and our recommended option for those looking to bring their speaker to the beach or pool.
The Tribit XSound Go shouldn’t sound this good for the price, but it does. The speaker impressed with balanced sound, is near distortion-free at high volumes, and lasts and incredible 20+ hours of playtime at medium volume. Plus, the speaker is IPX7 water and dust resistant so it’ll put up with a day at the beach or pool without a problem. While its design may be forgettable, you won’t care once you hear how good the XSound Go sounds.
In terms of competition, you’ll have to spend a lot more for better sound quality. The UE Wonderboom is an excellent outdoor speaker, but will cost twice the money and doesn’t last as long as the Tribit. However, the UE Wonderboom does offer 360-degree sound and multi-speaker pairing if that matters to you. The JBL Flip 4 is also a good alternative if you want more bass emphasis and 360-degree sound but, if you’re on a budget, you can’t beat the XSound Go.
The SRS-XB501G is a big speaker that offers a light show, tripod mount, big sound, and Google Assistant. This is a speaker that you can truly use on the go and in the home after a day of partying. On the go, the speaker is brilliant, playing loudly and for up to 16 hours. But at home, it’s dated design and average voice detection are compromises compared to dedicated home speakers.
Competitors like the LG PK7 sounds slightly better and has a light show that actually reacts to your music, however it doesn’t have the Google Assistant built in. If you’re looking for an actual portable speaker that you can fit in a bag that also supports Google Assistant, the JBL Link 20 is a good choice. Just don’t expect it to pump out as much bass or offer as wide of a soundstage.
To that end, the XB501G is a good all-around compromise that fills multiple purposes. It’s not the best wireless speaker, nor the best smart speaker, but it’s a solid entry in both categories and one of a select few to exist in both camps.
The newest speaker in the Denon Envaya line is one of the first speakers to absolutely blow us away in 2018. It offers powerful, room-filling sound that will sound great to most ears, plus comes with an IP67 rating, make it both dust and waterproof. It’s also built like a tank, making it one of the most durable speakers we’ve ever laid our hands on.
Despite a nearly flawless performance, the Envaya isn’t perfect: While sound quaity is full, powerful and rich, it doesn’t have the treble bite some like and the buttons located along the side can feel stiff and difficult to operate. These are ultimately minor complaints, however, and the Denon Envaya remains a great Bluetooth speaker – easily one of the best you can buy this year.