Bluetooth wireless speakers have become ubiquitous, indispensable gadgets. Everyone has one somewhere, and the cases of use vary from person to person. Maybe you use your speaker around the house or as a shower. Maybe you take it to the park or the beach. And then there are the people who take a portable speaker with pretty much everywhere they go – sharing their music from a bike or backpack with everyone nearby.
I know many people who have old Bluetooth speakers running and if the one you have still works for you, there is no immediate need to upgrade to anything newer. But it’s got Bluetooth speakers very well in recent years. Sound quality continues to improve, battery life extends to new records, and they are more robust and durable than ever before.
If you are looking for a new speaker, start by considering what size you want. For this guide, I mostly stick to portable Bluetooth speakers and rule out anything that is inconvenient to carry on the go. From there, you need to weigh other criteria like sound quality, ease of use, durability and bonus features like speakerphone functionality. Some speakers allow you to pair two of them in stereo, and several companies include “party mode” features that let you connect many speakers together. If you don’t mind any of it, you can get a small Bluetooth speaker for as little as $ 25. But all the choices here go a little further in terms of features and style.
Best Bluetooth speaker under $ 200
I do not know what kind of engineering magic goes into Bose’s Bluetooth speakers; I just know that back to the SoundLink Mini II, they simply sounded clearer and better – at least in my ears – than any competitors in the same size range. The $ 149 SoundLink Flex is Bose’s latest portable speaker, and it continues to do good for that reputation.
Despite having only a mono driver (which is not uncommon for Bluetooth speakers), the SoundLink Flex delivers expansive sound with a truly surprising amount of bass. And crucially, the low end is not muddy or boomy. Everything about this speaker is rich and clear. This is even more surprising when you consider that it only supports the baseline SBC Bluetooth codec instead of the AAC or the more advanced LDAC. And yet, this speaker sounds great.
You can expect about 12 hours of battery life, and like many other speakers in this guide, the SoundLink Flex is rated IP67 for dust and water resistance. Bose is very confident that it can withstand tumbling and swimming. Whether you lay the speaker flat or stand upright, Flex will automatically optimize the EQ for both directions. And it also works better than most as a speakerphone using built-in microphones. Not everything about SoundLink Flex is ideal: its buttons are not easy to use by feeling alone, and it’s strange that Bose chose to go with Bluetooth 4.2 instead of a newer version of the specs. But if these are my biggest complaints, it is fair to say that SoundLink Flex is a winner.
Best waterproof Bluetooth speaker
It’s honestly a bit mind-boggling that I’m still writing about the UE Boom 3 in 2022. This speaker was released in 2018, and Ultimate Ears has been on it ever since. Maybe it says something about how stagnant the Bluetooth speaker market has become, or maybe the UE just has not come up with something that outshines the $ 149.99 Boom 3 in a meaningful way. Or maybe it’s just a testament to how good a portable Boom 3 speaker is.
The company considers this the “perfect” bid for the cylindrical 360-degree speaker design, as it was groundbreaking with previous Booms. And with 15 hours of battery life, a fully waterproof exterior floating in swimming pools, and the giant, foolproof volume buttons, the UE Boom 3 still holds. Its eye-catching feature compared to older models is the Magic Button, which lets you quickly play a specific playlist at the touch of a button and hold the top button. But what has given the Boom 3 such endurance is its simplicity, robust construction and satisfying sound. Getting drivers to shoot in all directions provides an expansive soundscape, though the Boom 3 may lack the details and sharpness of some competitors. But as an all-rounder, there is a lot to like.
Best Bluetooth smart speaker
It is important to keep your expectations reasonable if you are considering buying the Sonos Roam. The company’s larger speakers often deliver sound performance that sounds larger and more spacious than you would expect, but that does not necessarily apply to the small Roam. Don’t get me wrong: While it’s not going to cover a room with music, it’s more than capable of emitting clear, dynamic sound if you’re sitting nearby or using it as a shower speaker.
The real selling point of Roam is its smart and close integration with Sonos’ home audio platform. When at home, Roam streams music over Wi-Fi, giving you better fidelity than Bluetooth. You can seamlessly pass playback from Roam to another Sonos speaker nearby at the touch of a button, and it’s a cheap way to add a turntable to your Sonos system – as long as your turntable supports Bluetooth. You can also easily group it with other Sonos speakers for playback in multiple rooms. To use Roam as a smart speaker, choose between Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for hands-free voice commands.
Sonos recently released a slightly cheaper Roam SL that omits the built-in microphones. But unless you’re steeped in having microphones in your gadgets, I would steer clear of Roam SL. It only saves you $ 20, but loses quite significant features like automatic Trueplay sound quality setting, the Sound Swap feature mentioned above and (of course) all voice interactions. For $ 99 or $ 129 I could definitely see it. But $ 159 is just too much to ask for Roam SL.
Bluetooth speaker with the best battery life
If you’re looking for something a little more powerful, the JBL’s Charge 5 is more powerful than the UE Boom in terms of both dimensions and sound reproduction. I’m not a fan of JBL putting a super big logo on its latest speakers; so much for subtlety. But if you do not mind the aesthetic decision, Charge 5 ticks many fields for functionality.
It is an endurance champion with up to 20 hours of continuous playback. Speaking of batteries, a unique trick that Charge 5 offers is its ability to recharge external devices: There is a USB-A port to charge your own phone or a friend’s while listening to tunes.
My biggest disappointment with the Charge 5 is its mono driver, which has to downmix stereo content. When dealing with portable mono speakers, there may be parts of a song or certain instruments that are not as prevalent as they are on stereo speakers. And since Charge 5 does not sound quite as pristine and detailed as Bose’s SoundLink Flex, it’s more noticeable here.
Best Bluetooth speaker for outdoor parties
Sony’s SRS-XB43 gives you powerful stereo sound with deep, resounding bass. In addition, you get a light show for the music. This speaker is more than capable of handling the soundtrack to an outdoor party – especially if you activate its extra bass mode.
It also has an auxiliary connector (a rarity among the choices here), so anyone can connect and play audio if you do not want to handle Bluetooth. But if you do, the XB43 also supports Sony’s LDAC codec, and like the JBL’s Charge 5, there’s a USB-A connector on the back to juice up your gadgets.
The headphone jack is a goner on most phones these days, and unfortunately the auxiliary input is also increasingly disappearing from many Bluetooth speakers. But this one gives you the best of everything. It weighs six and a half pounds, so it’s not a speaker you’ll randomly throw in your bag. But it is tailored for home use and for parties. And yes, you can download an app and take full control of the lights.
6. JBL clip 4
Best small Bluetooth speaker
Clip 4 from JBL is actually a bit bigger than I would have expected when I looked at marketing images. But the integrated carabiner makes it easy to attach to your bag, bike, and who knows what else. I was pleasantly surprised by the sound this compact speaker can produce.
The bass is a bit sunken, but the Clip 4 emits clear and crisp midrange and treble. Like our other choices, it is rated IP67 for dust and water resistance. Combined with its small size and 10-hour battery life, you look for a great speaker to take on hikes or other adventures.
Best great Bluetooth speaker
At 6.61 pounds, the Sonos Move is a hefty thing to lug around. Therefore, it is primarily intended to be moved around the house or out in the backyard. This is not what I would find convenient, but in return for lining up with a much larger speaker than Roam, you will be rewarded with a significant sound upgrade.
The Move is more than capable of filling a room with resonant sound, and like Roam, you can choose to use it as a regular Bluetooth speaker or play music over Wi-Fi with the Sonos app. With an IP56 dust and water resistance rating, the Move is designed to be weather resistant and it is able to withstand any shocks. You would hope for just as much considering the price of this speaker at $ 400. But when you add extras like hands-free voice control and automatic Trueplay, Move has a great bag of tricks that make it a unique choice if you’re looking for a bigger, louder speaker.