Best Bluetooth speakers: Five things to consider
Enjoy music anywhere you go with one of these portable Bluetooth speakers. (AB via Unsplash/)
BEST BLUETOOTH SPEAKER BATTERY LIFE: JBL Boombox
BEST WATERPROOF BLUETOOTH SPEAKER: Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker
BEST BLUETOOTH SPEAKER VOLUME CONTROL: Bose S1 Pro
BEST LIGHTWEIGHT BLUETOOTH SPEAKER: Ultimate Ears - WONDERBOOM 2
BEST BLUETOOTH SPEAKER FOR CONNECTION: Sonos Move
BEST BUDGET BLUETOOTH SPEAKER: JBL CLIP 3 - Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
A Bluetooth speaker is a great way to listen to the tunes you love anytime, anywhere, and without getting tangled up in an endless maze of cords. With exceptional audio quality, easy portability, and quick connectivity, the best Bluetooth speakers can elevate any activity. Get better sound during an impromptu movie screening, bust out the backing vocals during a campfire sing-along, and put on the proper playlist for a backyard cookout or trip to the beach. All you need is a Bluetooth compatible device like a cellphone, computer, or tablet and you’re in business.
However, not all Bluetooth speakers are created equal; you want to find something with a truly great sound and a sleek design that will also last. Below are some specific things to look for when searching for a new Bluetooth speaker as well as some of our favorite picks.
Things to consider when buying Bluetooth speakers
There are five things you should take into consideration when you’re looking for a new Bluetooth speaker. The best Bluetooth speakers are water-resistant, portable, and easy to connect or charge. You want to be able to easily take it just about anywhere. They should also be equipped with a long-lasting battery and adjustable volume that can deliver a booming sound no matter the event. With all that in mind, we have compiled a guide to help you better understand these features with the best Bluetooth speakers to match.
How much battery life do you need?
Long battery life is key to getting the most out of a Bluetooth speaker. There is nothing worse than turning on your speaker to listen to a podcast and see the “charge me” light flash. In our experience, the best Bluetooth speakers can last between 10 and 24 hours without needing to be plugged in. If you’re looking for something you can sit on a shelf in your living room and take with you for occasional day trips or park picnics you might not need the full 24 hours. If you’re hoping to take your new speaker with you on camping trips, overnight stays, or you’re looking to replace the old car stereo for a long road trip, then getting that full 24 hours of battery life could be really important.
Luckily, battery life isn’t necessarily related to size—you can find long-lasting rechargeable batteries in Bluetooth speakers both big and small. Plus, most of them will let you know well in advance when they are going to run out of juice, leaving you with ample time to make it to an outlet.
Best Bluetooth speaker battery life: JBL Boombox
Keep the music going, 24/7. (Amazon/)
The JBL Boombox has excellent sound quality and boasts 24 hours of battery life. The party quite literally never has to stop, in fact, you might have to keep up with the Boombox. It’s a great Bluetooth speaker to keep at home or take with you on the go. With a convenient handle, a waterproof rating, and the ability to dual charge other devices, this JBL speaker will keep you going when you want to entertain (or listen to back-to-back podcasts all day). The bass hits hard and the range is dynamic, so you won’t have to sacrifice anything for long-lasting tunes.
Do you need a waterproof Bluetooth speaker?
If you are hoping to hang your Bluetooth speaker up in the shower, want to lounge with it by the pool, or have a curious toddler running around, then you’ll want to make sure you get a speaker that is waterproof and very durable. You want something that can not only survive a few drops on the ground but withstand some pretty big splashes and spills.
If this sounds like you, look for a speaker that clearly guarantees its water and shock resistance, you should know if your speaker can handle a quick dip in the ocean or if it will start to crumble if exposed to a light drizzle. You can also check out the speaker’s IPX ratings. IP in this instance stands for “Ingress Protection,” which will determine just how water or dust proof a product really is. For example, if a speaker has a rating of IP43 the “4” indicates it can keep out dust and dirt greater than 2.5 millimeters and the “3” indicates it can withstand a strong spray of water for five minutes before damage occurs.
When starting your search, keep in mind that there are very few electronic products that are truly waterproof, though many are water-resistant.
Best waterproof Bluetooth speaker: Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker
Don’t be afraid to get it wet. (Amazon/)
Tribit’s XSound speaker is designed to withstand drops, dust, dips, and dents. The overall sound quality isn’t as crisp as Bose speaker, but won’t have to worry about damage during an outdoor trip or toddler encounter. It is waterproof in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes and has a Bluetooth range of up to 66 feet. The battery lasts up to 24 hours, so it’s perfect for various outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and cycling. It also comes with an attached strap, so you can take your music on the go.
How loud do you want to get?
While many Bluetooth speakers do suffer from some distortion or limited volume, there are a ton of options out there that can deliver great sound across the various frequencies your music covers, from big bass to high whistles.
There are some quick things you can look for if volume is a top priority. For our audiophiles and our party people, take into consideration that larger speakers can deliver a louder sound without sacrificing quality. Some smaller speakers may be able to reach higher decibels levels but at the cost of some lower frequencies. You might have to say goodbye to the aural ecstasy found in the heartbeat-like bass drum or lose the low rumble of your favorite beatmakers' best drones.
Look to see if the speaker’s description mentions the size of their subwoofer; the larger the subwoofer the better the sound of those low-frequency instruments. You can also check to see a speaker’s maximum decibel level, often notated as dB. The higher the dB, the louder the sound. Generally speaking, 105 dB is going to be the loudest you’ll want to go, especially if you are playing music indoors. If you venture outside, you can think about increasing the volume to 120dB if the speaker has the capability to do so—this is akin to concert-level volume. This will help cover large areas, but you don’t want to stand too close; keep in mind serious damage can occur if you listen to music at 85 dB for a prolonged period of time.
Best Bluetooth speaker volume control: Bose S1 Pro Portable Bluetooth Speaker System
Bigger speaker, better sound. (Amazon/)
If you want loud, the Bose S1 Pro will give you loud, without sacrificing quality. This Bluetooth speaker is pretty impressive. There is some extra math to be done when it comes to maximum decibel output because high-end speakers usually have a range of wattage support that affects the sound output, however, the S1 Pro typically peaks at around 109 decibels. It features a 3-channel mixer, with options for reverb and EQ and a dedicated channel for other music sources. The speaker can last up to 11 hours with a QuickCharge function in case you’re in a rush. Though it’s a little bigger than other models, this speaker is still quite portable. With unparalleled sound quality, it’s truly perfect for parties and private concerts.
How much should your speaker weigh?
Do you need something you can clip to a backpack and go? Do you have enough space in your bag for something a little bigger but you don’t want to add a ton of extra weight? Take time to consider where you will want to listen to your speaker’s most. Maybe it’s as you take a long bike ride or perhaps it’s just to listen to tunes in your backyard where the wifi connection is spotty.
It is pretty easy to find a Bluetooth speaker that weighs under a pound—the ones that weigh more were designed for more permanent placements with special attention paid to overall audio quality. Some of the smallest speakers on the marker weigh as little as 0.019 pounds. However, we recommend you start by looking for something just a little bit heavier. These speakers typically have better battery life and durability than some of their even smaller counterparts.
Best lightweight Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears - WONDERBOOM 2
Your favorite songs anytime, anywhere. (Amazon/)
The WONDERBOOM 2 from Ultimate Ears is an amazing option if you are looking for something that you can easily take with you on the go. It comes in five, fun two-tone colors with a flexible handle at the top that can easily be attached to a backpack, bike basket, or even a belt loop. It also weighs less than one pound, so you won’t be dragged down by your sound. The battery lasts a full 13 hours and produces amazing 360-degree sound coverage. With an IP67 rating, this speaker is waterproof, it even floats and Ultimate Ears suggests trying it out in the shower. It’s small but mighty, measuring just four inches tall but packs a punch when it comes to volume, reaching up to 87 dB (almost concert-level loud).
Perhaps the most valuable player when it comes to Bluetooth speakers is the ease with which you can connect to and subsequently charge the device. Over the years, Bluetooth technology has greatly improved. Right now, most speakers typically operate using either Bluetooth 4.2 or Bluetooth 5.0 also known as Bluetooth Low Energy. Now, typically when you hear the phrase “low energy” we think lazy, sluggish, or ineffective but this is certainly not the case when it comes to Bluetooth. 4.2 - 5.0 were developed to improve connectivity between small devices like cell phones and fitness trackers with increased options for data transmission and lower power usage which usually leads to improved battery life. Many Bluetooth connections will drop out at around the 100-foot mark. Take a look at the specs for the speakers you’re considering and double-check to make sure you are getting the kind of connectivity you want. Some speaker modes can even pair with other similar speakers to create a stereo image which lets you hear your music more clearly.
Additionally, you may want more than one option when it comes to connecting your music. Many Bluetooth speakers have the option to plug in an aux cord to directly connect a cellphone, computer, or who knows, maybe you still have an old iPod lying around that you’re not ready to let go of. An aux cord option can come in really handy if you are experiencing any interference with the Bluetooth function or if you have one main device you like to use when playing music. This direct connection can occasionally improve speed and audio quality.
Finally, you want to make sure that the speaker is easy to charge. Be sure to check out how long it takes for the battery to become full once it’s been depleted and make sure you are getting a cable that matches up with the length you need to get from the outlet to the desired resting place. All this stuff should be easy to spot in the product’s description.
Best Bluetooth speaker for connectivity: Sonos Move
You’ll always be able to stay connected. (Amazon/)
The Sonos Move has a ton of options when it comes to connectivity. Sonos typically operates over wifi, but the Move is also capable of connecting to devices via Bluetooth, making it truly portable. It can also connect to Apple Airplay and includes a built-in Alexa voice assistant that you can enable and disable as you like. It has up to 11 hours of battery life and a super sleek circular charging base. You can easily control all of the various services and settings like Sonos Radio, Alexa, Spotify, Apple Music, and more using the Sonos S2 singular app, making it easy to change things up at the drop of a hat.
Brands to know
There are a few top-of-the-line brands that immediately come to mind when we think about the best Bluetooth speakers, including Bose, Ultimate Ears, and Sonos. All three promise quality sound with great features that won’t disappoint. They have each been champions of audio lovers for years and make sure to consistently develop products using the latest technology to continuously elevate the listening experience.
Bose has been around since the mid-1960s with an unwavering dedication to delivering better sound using new and inventive technologies. Their products range from headphones to speakers and even audio sunglasses. Bose greatly values the science behind sound and works with a team of engineers and innovators to consistently improve their products. They want to help people enjoy what they love with a specific focus on customer service and overall experience.
Ultimate Ears was born from the back of a Van Halen tour bus in 1995 with a mission to create the best in-ear monitors the music world has ever seen. Now they have shifted their focus from musicians to listeners, creating a line of speakers that produce the music as your favorite artists intended.
Sonos is the newest company on this list, founded in 2002 with the goal of creating a wireless service for the home and they certainly have delivered. Having now partnered with Apple, Ikea, Spotify, Sirius XM, Sonos is leading the industry when it comes to smart speakers. You can now set up an entire system inside your home that can play your favorite music, utilize a voice assistant like Alexa, and quickly connect to your home theater, delivering great sound to match the great films and television you watch.
What You Get for Under $60
There are still a ton of great options for Bluetooth speakers under $60 but you may have to get even more specific when it comes to your priorities. It’s hard for more budget-friendly speakers to deliver excellence in each category, but many are extremely good at least two. For example, you may find one with a 24-hour battery and multiple connectivity options but you may lose some of the bass or you might find something that can get loud but ends up clipping as the volume increases. If you are bent on finding something with special features, it’s important to know that the most common thing to go is the actual quality of the audio. No need to despair though; many great brands like JBL, Soundcore, and Sony have created great sounding, more budget-friendly options for you to check out.
A truly great Bluetooth speaker is well within the realm of possibility if you take into consideration where you want to groove, how long you want to dance the night away without charging, how crisp and clear you need your audio to be, and when you’ll want to take it on the go. We recommend starting with our favorite speakers and best picks to begin building your new, portable sound system. Load up your favorite playlists, gather your friends, and get ready to rock out (wirelessly).