Finding an audiophile who doesn’t like Bluetooth headphones is easy, just ask our own Chris Thomas, but Bluetooth speakers are awesome. The convenience of being able to take the party wherever you go is invaluable and any of the best Bluetooth speakers can make your backyard barbeque an absolute hit. Whether you’re looking for something tough and durable that you can beat up and throw around or something that will just sound great, you can’t go wrong with anything on this list.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on October 7, 2019, to include the UE Wonderboom 2 in the notable mentions section.
If you want the best, go with the JBL Charge 4
Whether you’re having a pool party or going camping, the best all-around speaker you want by your side is the JBL Charge 4. Initially, we had the JBL Charge 3 in this top spot, even after the newer model was released. The reason for this was because the upgrades between the Charge 3 and the newer Charge 4 are minimal, and the cost difference just wasn’t justifiable. That said, it’s now been a while since the release of the Charge 4 and its dropped in price to roughly the same as the older Charge 3. In that case, why spend the same money for an older product?
JBL Charge 4Full Review
Of course, some of the best features of the Charge 4 aren’t exclusive to it. Both the JBL Xtreme and JBL Flip 4 also share these features, but the Charge 4 hits the sweet spot. You get some of that large sound that the Xtreme offers with some of the portability of the Flip 4. It makes all the right compromises, including battery life. You’ll get about 20 hours as well as the option 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.
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—you’ll like them more, and spend less money to get them.
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 partiers 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 Marshall Stanmore has the best audio quality
Wireless speakers are great for portability, but if you really want to power a party you might need to plug the speaker into a wall outlet. This is the case with the Marshall Stanmore, which takes the crown for the best sounding speaker on this list. It’s large, so it’s very rarely going to leave the house. But if you’re looking to have a party or just want to fill your room with the sound of music, this is one of the best Bluetooth speakers out there. Partly because (and this might be cheating a bit) along with Bluetooth 4.2, you can connect to it via your WiFi network thanks to Spotify Connect, Chromecast built-in, and Apple AirPlay compatibility.
Marshall Stanmore Multi-roomFull Review
The speaker sticks to the tried-and-true, classic amp design Marshall is known for, complete with knobs up top to let you control basic EQ. There’s also a dedicated knob for seven easy presets, be it your favorite Spotify playlist, radio station, or podcast. What you’re sacrificing in terms of portability, you’re making up for when it comes to sound. And, man, this speaker sounds great. It places a slight emphasis on mids (which means vocals are a bit easier to hear), but you can always tweak the sound to your preference by using the knobs up top. If you decide to get more than one, you can also pair them up for multi-room audio; though, if you’re not using one of the WiFi options, you’ll just have to stick to Bluetooth.
Related: Best Google Assistant smart speakers
What are some alternatives?
Sony XB41Full Review
When we put the SRS-XB40 and the SRS-XB41 (two of Sony’s latest speakers) head-to-head, the older SRS-XB40 actually came out on top. But in the case of which one looks better, it’s a no-brainer. The SRS-XB41 wins by a long shot here.
Though it’s a little more expensive you get a few nice hardware upgrades, that might be worth the extra cash for some people. For one, the speaker comes wrapped in a nice fabric that makes it easy to hold, despite its large size. But it’s not just for looks. That fabric also gives the speaker its IP67 rating. This means that whether you want to take it to the beach or chill poolside, you won’t have to worry about sand or water damaging it. You can even submerge it in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. Though, we obviously wouldn’t recommend doing that.
Durability aside, the SRS-XB41 is one of the slicker Bluetooth speakers out there. It has LED lights around all the edges making it just as pretty to look at as it sounds. Because, yes, the XB41 sounds really good. It doesn’t have quite the same amount of clarity in the lower notes as the previous XB40 has, but it’s no slouch. If you want something that gets loud, can go with you anywhere, has crazy good battery life, and will turn heads, then this might be for you. Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it.
For another waterproof speaker, go with the UE Boom 3
Arguably the two best all-around waterproof speakers are the JBL Charge 4 (which is already on this list), and the UE Boom 3. The improvements are immediately noticeable when you compare it with the previous UE Boom 2, as it now has a completely new design that’s similar while simultaneously expanding its use cases. While the older UE Boom 2 was cylindrical, the new Boom 3 is now basically the same size and shape of your average water bottle. So whether you want to toss it in the cupholder of your car or beach chair, it’s now more portable than ever.
UE Boom 3Full Review
While the sound hasn’t improved much and still isn’t our favorite, the IP67 waterproof build, the ability to pair it with over 100 other UE speakers, and the fact that it floats just like the smaller UE Wonderboom pretty much checks all the boxes. It also has a 15-hour battery that isn’t amazing but will get you through an average day. Plus, there’s a separate dock you can get for wireless charging if you want, which is admittedly cool. If you spend a lot of your time outdoors and want a speaker that won’t die in the rain, this is worth checking out for adventurers in need of durable Bluetooth speakers.
If you don’t want to spend too much, check out the Anker Soundcore Flare
You shouldn’t be surprised that an Anker product made this list for the best bang for your buck. They have a history of making cheap products that sound good, but the Anker Soundcore Flare actually takes that legacy a step further. It still won’t break the bank, but now it looks more premium than previous models.
Anker Soundcore FlareFull Review
The company ditched the matte plastic design of previous models and instead went with a much more modern fabric-covered speaker. It’s still IPX7 waterproof so you won’t have to worry about damage from water, and you also get a colorful LED halo on the bottom that adds some nice ambient mood lighting. Battery life isn’t the greatest and sound quality is lackluster here, but for the price, it goes head to head with some of the best sub-$100 speakers on the market without a doubt.
- UE Wonderboom 2: The second0-generation Wonderboom is one of our favorite speakers because it’s waterproof build, small size, and the ability to float. If you want to save a few bucks, the original Wonderboom works just as well.
- Sony SRS-XB40: At $79 the XB40 is hard to pass on even if it isn’t the newest speaker. Though it’s not as pretty, it’s definitely a better value than the newer SRS-XB41 if you don’t need full waterproofing.
- Monster Solara: If you can overlook its unapologetic plastic build and large size, you’ll get a unique speaker that’s sure to be a head turner.
- V-Moda Remix: The Remix Bluetooth speaker from V-Moda is impressive for its size, comes with some pretty cool features like a built-in headphone amp, and sounds good. But it’s also pricey, which is the main reason it didn’t make our list.
- JBL Clip 3: The newest Clip 3 is one of the better deals in all of Bluetooth speakers, giving you a pint-sized durable speaker with a great battery life and the option to clip/hang it anywhere thanks to a built-in carabiner.
- JBL Link 300: If you want a smart speaker with integrated Google Assistant, the JBL Link 300 is a reasonably priced option.
- JBL Charge 3: While it’s missing the USB-C charging and is basically the same price as the newer Charge 4, the Charge 3 is still a solid option.
- Sony SRS-XB32: While it suffers from many of the same flaws as its older sibling on this list, the SRS-XB32 also excels in exactly the same ways. It’s a fun, tough little speaker perfect for the beach or backyard get-togethers.
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’ve had first-hand 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 should you trust us?
Working this site is each of our day jobs and we’re committed to streamlining the research and purchasing 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 X-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.
What’s more, we regularly update this lists and are receptive to comments, so if your favorite Bluetooth speaker didn’t make it, let us know and let us know why it’s your favorite. 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.
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