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.
Editor’s note: this list of the best Bluetooth speakers was updated on September 3, 2021, to replace the JBL Charge 4 with the JBL Charge 5, and the Anker SoundCore Flare 2 with the Bose Portable Smart Speaker.
If you want the best, go with the JBL Charge 5
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.
JBL Charge 5Full Review
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.
What about the JBL Charge 4?
The JBL Charge 4 has an IPX7 water-resistance rating and is unfortunately missing out on the dust proofing of the newer Charge 4. Its battery specs are identical, however, and its sound signature is very similar. Its Bluetooth 4.2 firmware is a little outdated but it supports JBL Connect+, which means you can connect up to 100 compatible JBL speakers for playback.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.
What you should know
Pay attention to Bluetooth codecs
Just like wireless headphones, Bluetooth speakers support specific Bluetooth codecs. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a codec determines how a file is transmitted 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.
Pool party people should pay attention to IP ratings
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.
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 with lasts about 6 hours, 30 minutes on a single charge. This means it can be taken 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.
Sonos MoveFull Review
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 in 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.
Related: Bluetooth speaker tips and tricks
What are some alternatives?
If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker that won’t cost you more 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 Flip 5Full Review
JBL increased the size of the dynamic drivers inside the Flip 5 and added a USB-C charging port instead of the outdated microUSB port on the Flip 4. These improvements are great, but again slight. You get the same IPX7 rating as the Flip 4 and the same design, by and large.
Make sure you check compatibility between models if you want to connect several speakers.
One of the biggest differences between the JBL Flip 4 and Flip 5 is that the former uses JBL Connect+ technology, while the latter uses PartyBoost. This may seem like the same thing, but it means you can only connect the Flip 4 to other Connect+ JBL speakers; you’re also limited to PartyBoost-compatible speakers with the Flip 5.
However, a word of caution: the JBL Flip 5 does not support the multi-speaker linking standard of the older JBL speakers, and it only has one channel. We recommend sticking with the Flip 3 or Flip 4 instead—they get the job done and you’ll spend less money to get them.
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.
UE HYPERBOOMFull Review
There are also a number of 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 a 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.
For the most versatile option, check out the Bose Portable Smart Speaker
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 it can be used in the house or outside. Its IPX4 rating and 2 lb weight also make it suitable for the great outdoors.
Bose Portable Smart Speaker
The Portable Smart Speaker is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant but can only make calls with Alexa. If you have a house full of Bose smart speakers and soundbars, this speaker can be used in tandem with them for multiroom audio. The Bose Portable Smart Speaker’s is quite pricey, though, and if its $350 price tag is too rich for your blood, check out our list of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers under $50.
Best Bluetooth speakers: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Flare+: If you’re willing to fork up a little more cash, you get a more powerful speaker with significantly increased bass reproduction, compared to the Flare 2. Want something smaller? Go for the Anker Soundcore Flare Mini.
- Apple HomePod mini: For people heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, this tiny but mighty speaker packs impressive sound, Siri support, ultra-wideband technology, and reliable connection performance. For $99, making this speaker an arguably better value than the original HomePod.
- Bose SoundLink Micro: This is the perfect companion for bikers and picnic hosts; you can strap it onto your handlebars and go, or set it on the blanket and dig in. If you want a similar design with a louder output, consider the SoundLink Color II.
- Google Nest Audio: 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 Clip 4: This speaker is as portable as it gets, and JBL vastly improved the integrated carabiner, making it even sturdier than before. You can hang it from just about anything and it doubles as a great shower speaker or beach buddy thanks to the IP67 rating.
- JBL Flip 6: Set to release in December 2020, this speaker is likely to usurp the JBL Flip 5’s position on this list. The new speaker will have an IP67 build and use Bluetooth 5.1, so there are definite upgrades from the older model.
- JBL GO 3: At only $40 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 hang it in the shower with.
- Marshall Emberton: 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.
- Marshall Stanmore II: This speaker is designed just like a guitar amp and it has the great sound quality of one too. It supports the aptX codec and you can use either the controls on top of the speaker or the Marshall Bluetooth app to customize the sound signature. For hands-free voice access to your favorite assistant, pick up the Marshall Stanmore II Voice.
- Sonos Roam: This little IP67-certified speaker operates over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It’s super portable too and lasts roughly 10 hours on a single charge.
- UE BOOM 3: 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: The second-generation Wonderboom is one of our favorite speakers because its waterproof build, small size, and ability to float. If you want to save a few bucks, the original Wonderboom works just as well.
How we chose the best Bluetooth speakers
There are thousands and thousands of Bluetooth speakers in the world 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 and that means we had to narrow down what it means to be “the best Bluetooth speaker.” In this case, we needed it to sound good, be relatively affordable, and durable. If a speaker’s intended use is for camping or hiking, we made sure 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 of any given category, but 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.
At the end of the day, we work with audio products because we love them, and if you feel so compelled, we suggest you take a moment to read our ethics policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Outdoor speakers are perfect if you really want to deck out your backyard with the best-sounding audio possible, especially if you find your self 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.
I can't think of any with a hook in particular, but there are plenty of speakers that can be hung. 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 are 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.