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Best Bluetooth speakers
Finding an audiophile who doesn’t like Bluetooth headphones is easy — just ask our own Chris Thomas — but Bluetooth speakers are awesome: they let you take the party anywhere, and any of the best Bluetooth speakers can make your backyard barbecue an absolute hit. Whether you’re looking for something durable or something that will just sound great, you can’t go wrong with anything on this list.
Why is the JBL Charge 5 the best Bluetooth speaker?
Whether you host a pool party or go camping, the best all-around Bluetooth speaker you want by your side is the JBL Charge 5. This is a bulky Bluetooth speaker, but it’s still portable, so you can take it to a friend’s place or out on your next weekend trip.
Some of the best Charge 5 features can be found in other JBL products like the JBL Xtreme 2 and JBL Flip 5, but the Charge 5 falls perfectly in between these two units. You get some of that loud sound that the Xtreme 2 offers with comparable portability to the Flip 5. The Charge 5 makes all the right compromises, including battery life. You’ll get about 20 hours, and you can even use it to charge some of your other devices, thanks to a USB-A output (hence the name). As far as sound quality goes, the only area that isn’t great is the mids; these tend to take a backseat to the bass in small to medium-sized rooms.
The JBL Charge 4 has an IPX7 water-resistance rating and is, unfortunately, missing out on the dustproofing of the newer Charge 5. Its battery specs are identical, however, and its sound is very similar. Its Bluetooth 4.2 version is a little outdated, but it supports JBL Connect+, which means you can connect up to 100 compatible JBL speakers for playback.
Unlike the Charge 5, the Charge 4 retains a 3.5mm aux port for wired listening. If you want to save some cash and really want that aux port, we’d recommend going with the older Charge 4.
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The Sonos Move is great for both indoors and outdoors
While most Sonos speakers operate over Wi-Fi and are meant to be kept inside the home, the Sonos Move can operate over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and is powered by a rechargeable battery that lasts about 6 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge. This means you can take it on the go with you, but its large size and hefty weight make it a less-than-ideal travel partner. While its Bluetooth connection works well and gives you the option to stream over SBC or AAC, it won’t sound as good as Wi-Fi streaming. If you subscribe to Qobuz, you’ll enjoy 24-bit audio streaming on Sonos. The Sonos Move is compatible with lots of different music streaming services.
The Sonos Move isn’t just a speaker; it’s also got two smart assistants built right in—you can select between Alexa and Google Assistant. Its microphones do a great job at registering commands, and they can be shut off to ensure privacy. The Move has an IP56 rating and is also shock-resistant. Unfortunately, it does not feature an aux input, so no wired playback here. The sound quality of the Sonos Move is very good, and its frequency response has a slight emphasis on the bass notes, which can help with clarity if you’re listening to music outside. However, if you plan to blast the volume all the way, you might notice a bit of a reduction in quality.
The JBL Flip 6 is a small but mighty portable Bluetooth speaker
The JBL Flip 6 builds upon the signature Flip series design with its cylindrical shape and dual-passive bass radiators that cap off either end of it. The Flip 6 has a new IP67 rating, along with better battery life than the Flip 5. JBL didn’t reintegrate the headphone jack here, but you get Bluetooth 5.0 and Bluetooth multipoint instead.
Just as before, the JBL Flip 6 uses PartyBoost, which gives you the option to sync up to 100 compatible JBL speakers for extra-loud sound. You can also synchronize two JBL speakers for stereo output, but this requires the speakers to be of the same generation. You can’t use Flip 5 and Flip 6 for stereo sound. Even with this oddity, the Flip 6 stands as one of the best adventure speakers you can buy.
For the ultimate party speaker, get the UE HYPERBOOM
Ultimate Ears has been in the Bluetooth speaker market for years now, and the one thing its product line-up was missing was a giant speaker that could power your parties. That ends with the UE HYPERBOOM, which is the new giant speaker from the company. This speaker has an IPX4 splash-resistant build along with a battery life that should last you about 24 hours of constant playback.
There are also several unique features that make this perfect for parties: it has two Bluetooth inputs so a second person can connect to the speaker and line up the next track without disrupting the music coming from the first device. There’s also an optical input, so when you use this as a regular speaker, you can plug it into your TV for instantly better sound. While it won’t give you soundbar-level audio quality, it’s sure to be an upgrade for most people.
Because the HYPERBOOM requires a lot of power, it comes with a proprietary cable for constant power when you’re not taking it out for a day trip. The HYPERBOOM isn’t cheap, but if you’re after a loud speaker that sounds good and has some great features, this is the way to go.
Take calls with the durable Bose SoundLink Flex
The Bose SoundLink Flex is a great option for listeners who want a portable Bluetooth speaker with a microphone built-in. You also get an IP67 rating when you buy this speaker, meaning it’s dust and water-resistant. Like other Bose speakers, the SoundLink Flex supports multipoint connectivity and can connect to two devices simultaneously.
Battery life is quite good, and you can get 11 hours and 59 minutes of playtime before connecting it to the included USB-C cable. Bose features its PositionIQ technology, which helps the speaker detect its orientation and adjust the sound accordingly. While this helps keep audio output consistent, you’ll still notice a difference in sound quality when the speaker moves around (e.g., if it swings from a carabiner on your bag).
If you enjoy outdoor adventures or bike commuting, the SoundLink Flex is a fine option for you. Its sound quality is quite good for such a compact speaker, and the microphone is an increasingly rare feature for this type of portable speaker.
Is the JBL Clip 4 loud enough for daily use?
The JBL Clip 4 gets plenty loud for its size and has a 5W output, which is 1.7W greater than the Clip 3. Thanks to the integrated carabiner, this speaker is as portable as it gets, and many bike commuters use it while getting around town. You can hang it from just about anything, and it doubles as a great shower speaker or beach buddy, thanks to the IP67 rating.
With Bluetooth 5.1 and a 10-meter wireless range, the Clip 4 stays connected to an iPhone or Android phone without issue. It only supports the SBC Bluetooth codec and doesn’t have an aux input, which the older model does retain. Still, with its 10-hour battery life and USB-C charging, we love the Clip 4 as a portable solution for everyday use.
Is the Sonos Roam worth the money?
Listeners who want a portable, Wi-Fi-enabled Bluetooth speaker should really think about getting the Sonos Roam. This little IP67-certified speaker has a 10-hour battery life and a unique triangle design, kind of like a Toblerone chocolate bar.
Let’s be clear, while you can connect the Sonos Roam over Wi-Fi, it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection to work. If you want the best wireless audio quality, however, you’ll need to set it up over Wi-Fi for FLAC or WAV playback (to name a few audio files). Thanks to the integrated AirPlay 2 support, you can stream directly from an iPhone and even ask Siri to play Apple Music. It features Trueplay technology which adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s position.
What about large Bluetooth speakers?
Though a larger Bluetooth speaker might fit into the lives of a few of you out there, the times you’d want a large Bluetooth speaker are a bit more limited to when you don’t have to move it around all that much. In that case, some people decide that having a dedicated system at home might be the better investment now that soundbars and home receivers pretty much all support Bluetooth anyway. However, if you have a pool or fire pit or just don’t want the hassle of hooking up a dedicated system, larger Bluetooth speakers may be for you.
There are a number of options in this space from the more traditional manufacturers like JBL with its Partybox series, Sony with its XV series, and some from lesser-known outfits like Soundboks. These speakers naturally outperform their smaller, portable counterparts because they can produce much louder volumes across a wider area and work with any phone equipped with Bluetooth. However, their size also brings drawbacks. For instance, the batteries take a long time to charge, run out faster than you might expect, and playing music at higher volumes can annoy neighbors. Price, too, is often a bit high to cover the added cost of more powerful components. Because of this, most people will find portable speakers to be more budget-friendly.
The best Bluetooth speakers: Notable mentions
- Bose SoundLink Micro ($99 at Amazon): This is the perfect companion for bikers and picnic hosts; you can strap it onto your handlebars and or set it on the blanket and dig in. If you want a similar design with a louder output, consider the SoundLink Color II.
- Bose Portable Smart Speaker ($399 at Amazon): If you can’t decide between getting a portable Bluetooth speaker and a smart home speaker, another great option is the Bose Portable Smart Speaker. This omnidirectional speaker operates over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so you can use it at home or outside. The Portable Smart Speaker is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant but can only make calls with Alexa.
- Bose Home Speaker 500 ($379 at Amazon): This speaker may be expensive, but it’s designed well, and the Bose Music app helps a lot with getting the most out of the speaker and won’t let you down for day-to-day use and parties.
- Google Nest Audio ($99.99 at Best Buy): This Google Assistant smart speaker is designed with music listening in mind—featuring a 75mm woofer, 19mm tweeter, and adaptive EQ technology that provides great sound in a compact form factor.
- JBL Flip 5 ($89 at Amazon): If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker for less than $100, then the Flip series has always been a go-to. The JBL Flip 5 makes nominal but appreciated improvements upon the JBL Flip 4.
- JBL GO 3 ($39 at Amazon): This super-compact speaker is a steal. For something so small, it delivers powerful sound. It also has an IP67 rating and has a loop that you can use to hang it in the shower.
- LG XBOOM 360 (on the product’s website): This large Bluetooth speaker, while technically portable, will likely be relegated to your home. That said, it’s a great piece of entertainment with its lantern design and customizable colors. Oh, and it sounds good, too.
- Marshall Emberton ($119 at Amazon): This tiny Marshal speaker is perfectly fine, but it won’t knock your socks off. The biggest draw to the IPX7-rated Emberton speaker is its design and small form factor.
- Sonos One (Gen 2) ($219 at Amazon): With both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built-in, this smart speaker will satisfy most people’s preferences. It has app-adjustable sound, and you can also connect it to your home Sonos ecosystem for multiroom audio.
- UE BOOM 3 ($129 at Amazon): This omnidirectional speaker is shaped like a bottle and has an IP67 rating. The volume gets plenty loud, but if you need to boost it even more, you can connect up to 150 compatible speakers on the UE app.
- UE WONDERBOOM 2 (on the product’s website): The second-generation Wonderboom is one of our favorite speakers because of its waterproof build, small size, and ability to float. If you want to save a few bucks, the original WONDERBOOM works just as well.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We’re still ironing out our standardized speaker tests with the appropriate support equipment to update our testing and data collection. It will take a bit to get everything fleshed out, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
What you should know before you buy the best Bluetooth speaker for your needs
Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen, so here are a few things you should know before buying. What makes one speaker stand out from the next?
What is a Bluetooth codec?
Just like wireless headphones, Bluetooth speakers support specific Bluetooth codecs. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a codec determines how a file transmits from a source (phone) to a receiver (speaker). If you want a lag-free experience, make sure to invest in something that supports aptX or AAC if you’re an iOS user. Not only does this reduce latency, but it also allows for better streaming quality (at least if you use AAC with iOS).
Bluetooth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While we do like Bluetooth for its convenience, it’s not as good as wired when it comes to sound quality. We probably didn’t have to tell you that, but at least we can show you.
What is an IP rating?
Sometimes a product’s specifications will plainly read “sweat-resistant” or something similar. However, if you know you’re going to take your speaker on a boat or to the beach, you should invest in something with an official IP rating. IP ratings denote the dust and water resistance of a particular product. Oftentimes, a product will be rated something like IPX4, and the X is just a placeholder for what would be a dust-resistance rating. For a product to withstand full submersion, it must be at least IPX7 or higher.
How we choose the best Bluetooth speakers
There are thousands and thousands of Bluetooth speakers worldwide, and it’d be impossible for us to review them all, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to get our grubby hands on all of them. If a speaker made it onto this list, then you can be sure we have firsthand experience with them and, in many cases, put them through our entire review process.
Not only do we directly review and test as many audio products as we can, but we also take into account what others are saying about a given product. We want our readers to be happy with their purchases, so we had to narrow down what it means to be “the best Bluetooth speaker.” In this case, we need it to sound good, be relatively affordable, and be durable. If a speaker’s intended use is for camping or hiking, we ensure that it’s received an official IP rating. Generally, if Bluetooth speakers perform well, there’s no need to overspend for the sake of overspending.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Each writer is committed to streamlining the research process for our readers. At the end of the day, we realize that you can spend an exorbitant amount of money to get the absolute best product in any given category. Still, we respect that many consumers don’t fall into that category. Ultimately, we want you to love what you purchase, and none of us may benefit from steering you toward or away from a certain product.
Frequently asked questions about Bluetooth speakers
When evaluating the landscape of Bluetooth speakers, the JBL Charge 5 consistently stands out as a top contender. Ideal for diverse settings, from pool parties to camping trips, it strikes a harmonious balance between the robust sound of the JBL Xtreme 2 and the convenient portability of the JBL Flip 5. However, the “best” is subjective and largely depends on individual preferences and specific use cases.
In today’s audio landscape, Bluetooth speakers have certainly earned their place. Brands like JBL, Sonos, and Bose have refined their technology to offer sound quality that rivals many wired systems. While purists might still lean towards wired setups for absolute precision, modern Bluetooth speakers provide a sound experience that satisfies the vast majority of listeners.
To enable Bose SimpleSync, you need to download the Bose Music app (iOS/Android). You can then connect the Revolve+ II to your Bose home speakers and soundbars for multi-room audio.
The Bose Music app is different from the Bose Connect app (iOS/Android), which you need in order to connect other Bose SoundLink speakers together in Party Mode or Stereo Mode. The Bose Connect app also makes it easy to customize the voice prompts, set an auto-off timer, and more.
Outdoor speakers are perfect if you really want to deck out your backyard with the best-sounding audio possible, especially if you find yourself entertaining guests regularly. Keep in mind that they are quite expensive to purchase and may require a substantial amount of setup, running audio cables around your backyard, and whatnot. For a hassle-free, portable, and more cost-efficient solution, investing in a great Bluetooth speaker may be the way to go. At the end of the day, choosing the right speaker ultimately depends on your needs.
There are plenty of speakers that you can hang. For one, there’s the JBL Clip 3, which has a built-in carabiner that’s the closest thing I can think of to a hook. It’s also super affordable and one of the best values you’re going to find in the Bluetooth speaker market if you want something portable. Sticking with JBL, you can also go with the Flip 4 or the Flip 5. The Flip 4 has a built-in string, so you can hang it. The Flip 5, on the other hand, does not come with the string to hang it, but it does have the same attachment point, so you’ll just have to bring your own string (I recommend some paracord). There’s also the Bose SoundLink Micro speaker, which has a plastic clip along the back of it so you can clip it to things like thin poles or a backpack strap.
If none of those appeal to you, then you can also go with the UE Wonderboom 2, the House of Marley No Bounds XL, the Jam Hang Up, or even the Polk Audio Boom Swimmer Duo, all of which have some method of hanging them. Again, none of these is exactly a hook, so I apologize if that’s specifically what you were looking for, but as they all have some method of hanging, I hope this was helpful!
For house parties, we’d recommend going with the UE Hyperboom. It’s loud, sounds good, is IPX4 splashproof for…rain, and it also has two Bluetooth inputs. This means that while one person is playing music, a second person can pair to it in the background and queue up a song without interrupting what’s playing.
Sadly, this is a feature that is becoming slightly less common now that smartphones are abandoning the connector. Still, you can find out which Bluetooth speakers have the jack and which ones don’t by either looking at the product specifications page or by reading our reviews.
Tough one. Stuttering can mean a few things, from being too far away from your speaker, a bad radio, or even just having objects in between you and the speaker. Though it’s possible that you have a fixable problem, if it persists for a long time, you may want to try troubleshooting to see whether your speaker or phone is in a bad place for the speaker first before calling tech support.