Recent advances in Bluetooth technology have made this wireless connection method draw significantly less power when used in conjunction with current-generation smartphones, tablets, and computers. When paired with devices like speakers, this allows for a wireless way to enjoy the best music that doesn’t tangle on-the-go tech users in a series of audio and power cables throughout the day. Useful at home, in the office, and even during the morning commute, Bluetooth speakers represent a significant advance in technology and a major value for consumers. On the other side, many options are available but, five-speaker options stand out as superior in terms of cost, features, and connectivity.
Even with the smart-speaker revolution underway, Bluetooth speakers still have a place near and dear to our hearts. It’s fun and easy to ask an Amazon Echo or Google Home to play your favorite track or tell you the weather, but smart speakers have a few crutches, first and foremost being stable Wi-Fi. They also often aren’t portable or waterproofed for the great outdoors. In (mostly) forgoing smarts, Bluetooth speakers are nearly always more versatile, more rugged, and more portable—and they’ll work with anybody’s smartphone.
They also sound as good or better than many of their smart-speaker equivalents. In the past few years, we’ve tested more than 50 different Bluetooth speakers and researched dozens more online, and we can happily say they are still some of the best small devices you can listen to. Here are our favorites right now. Be sure to check out all our buying guides, including the Best Soundbars, Best Wirefree Earbuds, and Best Smart Speakers.
You probably haven’t heard of Tribit, but its line of Bluetooth speakers sounds a lot better than they should for the price. StormBox is my favorite model. It has dual firing drivers and passive radiators in a 7-inch-long pill shape. No, it can’t fuel a trance dance party on its own, but its sound clarity is impressive, and it has a fun extra bass button that adds some surprising thump. That extra bass is a little muddy, but it’s still fun. With 20-ish hours of battery and an IPX7 waterproof rating (not dust-proof, but able to be submerged in water), it’s a great companion for some backyard tunes, a trip down the river, or a ton of other informal gatherings.
DemerBox DB2 Bluetooth Speaker
The DemerBox DB2 is a perfect companion to your boldest outdoor adventures, in large part because it serves two purposes: It’s a loud portable speaker with 40 hours of built-in battery life, and it’s also a crush-proof Pelican case. Load it up with any particularly fragile items and plug the bass port with an included rubber stopper, and you’ve got yourself an everything-proof box to keep your stuff safe.
Add to that the fact that the speaker sounds remarkably good, with two large drivers that pump out a lot of sounds, and this is a good speaker to take to the beach, campground, or mountain. We also like that they’re made in the US and fully serviceable by DemerBox, so the somewhat steep entry price is more justifiable long term. The biggest downside is charging. You do have to open the box to charge the speaker, so it’s not as protective or watertight during this time.
Klipsch KMC 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker System
For the full-featured sound that includes excellent high notes and plenty of basses, the Klipsch Music Center KMC 3 is a fantastic choice. The speaker system is a 2.1 setup, giving it full stereo sound with the advantage of a sizable subwoofer. At 5 inches wide, the subwoofer provides capable bass that will outshine any pair of earbuds and certainly any smartphone speaker. The rich sound of this speaker is available both at home and on the go, with an inherently portable design and compatibility with size “D” batteries.
In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, this speaker offers users the option of connecting virtually any music device via an integrated 3.5mm audio jack. This makes the speaker compatible even with older, “classic” iPods and similar devices that pre-date the current era of low-powered Bluetooth connectivity. An additional USB input can be used for both music playback or device charging, as long as the speaker is plugged into a wall outlet and not being operated on battery power alone.
TDK Life on Record A33 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker
For the perfect combination of durability and portability, consumers will enjoy the TDK Life on Record A33. The speaker was built specifically to withstand the forces of nature, making it a great choice for those who like to take their music with them outdoors without the added inconvenience of earbuds. In addition to the speaker’s weatherproof design, it comes with near-lossless audio quality and a plethora of connectivity options.
In addition to the speaker’s portable and lightweight design, TDK has designed a specific battery pack for use with this speaker that allows it to produce hours of high-quality audio even without plugging into a wall outlet. While a power cord is available, those using the speaker outdoors or on the go are certainly not restricted to corded use.
Jawbone BIG JAMBOX Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
Jawbone’s name is probably more closely associated with Bluetooth headsets than speaker sets, but that might change dramatically as more people get to know the BIG JAMBOX speaker series. Built on years of Bluetooth research, and expertise, the speaker system powers music with impressive sound and rich bass. Unlike every other speaker listed so far in this list, the Jawbone offering pairs its massive, bass-filled sound with a built-in microphone that makes the device a speakerphone godsend.
Whether at home or in the office, the BIG JAMBOX can be used just as frequently for conference calls and personal conversations as it can be for parties and other immersive experiences. In addition to its powerful sound, the speaker comes with one of the most stunning designs on the market. Its graphite color scheme makes use of a hex pattern best described as “retro.” The result is a speaker that looks just as cutting-edge as it sounds.
Porta Party Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
With 24 hours of battery life, a rugged design, and a huge yard-filling sound, the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom is the perfect speaker for a party. Intelligent algorithms use data from a built-in mic to analyze where you place the speaker, ensuring the best possible sound, much like the Sonos Move listed above. This is a better option than that if you have no interest in a future home network of speakers.
It doesn’t have lights or cupholders like some other party speakers, but this is far and away from the best-made large Bluetooth speaker we’ve tested. It’s been dropped from trucks, left out in the rain, and used at summer barbecues. It’s even got a big silicon strap built-in, as though inviting you to take it everywhere.
JBL Boombox 2 Bluetooth speaker
Think of JBL’s Boombox 2 as the modern equivalent of a 1980s boom box, complete with a handle and some intense bass. Break-dancers from the past would have killed for a speaker that was completely waterproof and had 24 hours of battery life. The Boombox can also connect to multiple smartphones at a time, so you don’t have to DJ by your lonesome, and it’s got an IPX7 rating for the rain. With a 20,000-mAh battery onboard, it can also charge your gadgets for a long time.
Denon Envaya (3 Sizes) Bluetooth speaker
Denon’s three Envaya speakers don’t look all that special—until you pair them. I can’t get enough of the largest model, the $200 8-inch DSB-250BT, and from what I’ve read, the other two models ($99 and $149) sound excellent for their size too. The Envaya’s volume doesn’t get extraordinarily loud, but it doesn’t distort. The audio clarity and range bring a playlist to life more than any bargain speaker I’ve heard, thanks to an onboard amplifier. Every model is IP67 waterproof, which can pair with another Envaya speaker and gets between 10 or 12 hours on a charge. The rubber edges have also withstood a couple of tumbles already. My only complaint is the lack of a play/pause button, though the mic and ability to take calls almost make up for it.
Handlebar ReadyTribit Storm box Micro Bluetooth speakers
The Tribit StormBox Micro has become one of our favorite tiny Bluetooth speakers for bike rides because it’s got a stretchy silicone strap that’s just taught enough so it will stick to bike handlebars or a backpack strap. You can even pair two together, if a friend has one as well, for fun socially distanced rides. It’s got a speck of IP67 dust and waterproof rating, which means you can ride in any weather, and eight hours of battery life makes it great on longer rides. Bose also makes a great speaker of a similar design called the SoundLink Micro, which was previously our top “bike-handlebar” pick. It sounds about the same but is twice as expensive as the Tribit.
The Google Whisperer JBL Link Portable Bluetooth speakers
We’ve been big fans of JBL’s portable smart Bluetooth Speaker for a couple of years now, starting with the Link 20 (8/10, WIRED Recommends), and now the newer Link Portable. It has great Google Assistant integration and 360-degree sound, and it comes with useful accessories like a charging cradle that it easily plops down on between trips outside. You’ll get eight hours of juice on a charge, and it’s even waterproof for up to a meter for 30 minutes. Talk about do-anything. Our only issue has been occasional Wi-Fi dropouts. The Wi-Fi range on this speaker is OK, but not quite as good as JBL’s previous effort. On the other hand, the charging cradle and USB-C charging are fantastic.
UE Wonder Boom 2 Bluetooth speakers
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom was a WIRED Gear of the Year award winner in 2017, and that’s because it was the best pool companion you can have. The new Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth Speaker is even better. The little 4-inch ball of joy now sports IP67 water and dust resistance. It gets 13 hours of battery (three more than before), has a 100-foot Bluetooth range, floats, and pumps out surprisingly potent audio while doing it. UE says it’s “drop-proof” up to 5 feet, but you can honestly play some light catch with it on the lawn and it won’t be any worse for wear. Just wash it off when you’re done. You can even pair two together for proper stereo sound.
Oontz Angle Bluetooth speakers
If you’re not trying to get audiophile-grade sound, throw your speaker straight into the pool, or tap into your savings account to bring your favorite tunes with you on the go, the Oontz Angle is a great choice. One of the most popular choices on Amazon, the Angle — now in its third generation — came to our attention when we were looking for a cheap speaker to take into the bathroom while showering. With a good bass response, a water-resistant design, and up to 14 hours of battery life, this cheap little speaker offers insane value at its low price.
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