Using your smartphone or tablet’s built-in speakers should only ever be a last resort if you want to listen to your favorite music playlists. With many Bluetooth speakers out there, it’s the perfect time to invest in a great device for a superior listening experience. You don’t even have to worry about buying a bulky unit that’s tied into a power supply.
Plenty of portable Bluetooth speakers are high quality, while also offering the flexibility of a great battery life and added convenience. These are great for taking out with you while you’re hiking, or simply for when you’re traveling away for the weekend and you still want to listen to your tunes in the hotel room.
Our personal favorite is the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom, but there are other great options out there too, if you want to try something a little different. We’ve broken down the best of the bunch, so you’re sure to buy a great portable Bluetooth speaker.
Small yet mighty sums up the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom perfectly. Over the years, Ultimate Ears has gone from strength to strength when it comes to great portable Bluetooth speakers. The firm has outdone itself with the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom, pumping out far more bass than its predecessors, although not quite as much as its rivals. A pod-like device, the Wonderboom boasts truly 360-degree sound so it’s perfect for getting the most from your music. The mids and mid-basses sound consistently great, with highs sounding good until you hit high volumes.
Impressively, it’s also IPX7-rated, meaning you can submerge the speaker in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It floats too, so it’s perfect for pool parties. Its controls are sealed by rubberized membrane so it can stand up to most average abuse, even if you drop it. A short elastic loop is the best way to hold it, as well as clip it onto nearby surfaces.
There’s no speakerphone facility and charging is solely conducted via microUSB rather than USB-C, but those are small prices to pay for an otherwise exemplary unit. A battery life of about 10 hours rounds things off nicely.
The JBL Charge 3 is a heftier looking portable Bluetooth speaker than most, but it’s ideal if you want powerful bass, as well as ruggedness. JBL has always offered high quality speakers, and things are no different here. The JBL Charge 3 offers some of the most incredible bass that you can hear through a portable Bluetooth speaker — even more so if you place it on a flat surface, like a tabletop. High frequencies aren’t quite as crisp and clear, but for the majority of your listening needs the JBL Charge 3 sounds fantastic.
Elsewhere, it’s suitably comprehensive when it comes to features. Due to its extra heft, it has a battery life of about 20 hours, so the music will hardly ever stop. There’s full IPX7 rated waterproofing, and it’s possible to connect multiple JBL Connect speakers together. Dual external passive radiators show off the music literally, with you able to see them vibrate when the music is loud. As the name suggests, you can also charge your smartphone or other USB based device while you listen. And there’s a built-in mic for good measure.
The JBL Charge 3 is heavy and not quite as portable as others, so it won’t slip into a small bag of yours, but it’s a small price to pay for an impressive Bluetooth speaker.
The Bose SoundLink Micro might lack the stylish looks of some of its competitors, but it offers excellent sound quality for the price. It’s also bordering on indestructible, so it’s perfect for taking out and about with you. Pebble shaped, it gets right to the point with a top facing speaker and a micro USB charging port to the side, ensuring that tech novices will still know exactly how to use it.
It’s small too, so it’s far more travel friendly than its rivals, proving easy to toss into your bag. Scratch resistant rubber around its chassis means tossing it around truly is a safe choice to make. Plus, there’s the all important IPX7 certification. A strap enables you to easily clip it to yourself or your shower caddy or towel rack.
The only real downside is it doesn’t have full 360-degree sound, due to the placement of its speaker, and its battery life is a little stingy at 6 hours. This is understandable though, given its small size. Other than that, the sound quality is suitably high for the size, with impressively meaty bass sure to keep your ears happy.
As a bit of a party piece, the Anker Soundcore Flare is unrivaled, and available at an excellent price. A small cylindrical speaker that wouldn’t look out of place next to your PC monitor, it’s surprising what happens when you start it up. There’s an LED light show for catching one’s eye, while the sound quality is high enough to appeal to your ears.
It might not look like much but the Anker Soundcore Flare easily survives being thrown around, as well as coping with water, thanks to its IPX7 rating. There’s no loop or handle for gripping onto it while out and about, but it’s small enough to toss into your bag.
The light show may seem gimmicky but it ties in neatly with the music you play, pulsing enthusiastically or switching to a more soothing, breathing-style mode. The sound quality itself is well balanced, although highs can sound a little rough at times. A Bass Up feature button helps boost bass noticeably, however. Battery life depends on the light show with up to 12 hours promised, but 8 hours more likely. It’s compatible with Alexa too, reinforcing its position as a Swiss Army Knife of budget portable Bluetooth speakers.
A premium name in all audio visual areas, Bang and Olufsen has worked to create something a little different from the rest with its Beoplay P2. The Bluetooth speaker offers impressive performance in a small shell, and throws in some convenient gesture and voice controls for good measure.
The speaker looks far thinner than its rivals, but still provides high quality sound. The bass is powerful, if not quite as imposing as it sounds on larger devices, while the mids are well balanced and the lows are crisp. Some compensation may have been made for the size, but it’s hardly an issue here.
Much of the slimline design is thanks to the lack of controls. An on/off switch is located under the logo of the speaker but otherwise playback controls are dictated by gestures or your voice. It takes a brief amount of time to get used to, but it’s quickly very useful. For something a little different from the rest, the Bang and Olufsen Beoplay P2 stands out well.
The Creative Omni isn’t just about being a useful portable Bluetooth speaker. It also has WiFi-based multi-room functionality. That makes a useful all-rounder, even if it’s not quite as portable as some alternatives.
The speaker can be paired with another Omni to provide playback across the house, with its WiFi connection ensuring you can listen to the same song no matter where you are. Through the connected Sound Blaster InterConnect app, you can also configure each speaker to work as a dedicated left or right channel speaker, for improved sound quality.
That sound quality happens to be impressive too. With three drivers built into its shell, there’s strong bass, steady mids, and well tuned highs. It also works as a speakerphone, and it’s splash proof. It might be a little big for tossing in your bag, but as a multi-room speaker that can also be taken out, it’s worth checking out.
What to look for when buying a portable Bluetooth speaker?
Before purchasing a portable Bluetooth speaker, it’s worth thinking about why you want one. Are you going to be solely using it in your home? Then battery life isn’t a huge consideration. Alternatively, if you want to take it out hiking or to the beach, an extended battery life is a useful thing to prioritize.
Typically, smaller speakers are more portable but their sound quality isn’t quite as exceptional as a bigger device. Consider whether size or sound quality is most important to you.
Additional features like a speakerphone or voice controls are great, but will you actually use them? Are you more likely to grab your phone or tap a button instead? There’s no point in buying a speaker that offers features you’re never going to use. Sometimes, it’s better to save your money and focus on what you want the speaker to do for you.
If you’re not much of an audiophile, and just keen on stepping away from using your smartphone’s built-in speaker, don’t get too stressed over whether the bass is strong and the mids are crisp. Go with the form that suits you best, and you’ll be satisfied regardless.