For listening to music just about anywhere.
The benefit of having a nice Bluetooth speaker is that you may enjoy music wherever you go without compromising on quality. Still, not every Bluetooth speaker is made equal. Some are so delicate that it would be unsettling to really remove them from your home, which negates the whole point. Some have a limited battery life or a very difficult setup procedure, but they nonetheless sound fantastic—with clear voices and a powerful bass. In addition, there are many possibilities available to you at a range of pricing points, since the market is overflowing with diverse forms, dimensions, and noises.
I’ve been testing many brands of Bluetooth speakers for the last year, and I’ve been using them for about 10 years. Based on my testing and that of former Strategist writer Jordan Bowman, perusing our archives for suggestions, and hearing from other Strategist staff members regarding their preferred speakers, I’ve compiled the top choices for anyone who wants to rock out at home, travel with their music, or appreciate a more traditional device without sacrificing the newest features.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 $99
Strategists have always loved UE’s Wonderboom speakers, and the Wonderboom 3 is no exception. It’s easy to pair: Just hold down the pairing button, and it will instantly appear in the Bluetooth menu on your phone or tablet. It will reconnect as soon as it is switched on again. With a few button presses, you can quickly combine two Wonderbooms for a stereo experience.
Even at lesser levels, the Wonderboom has surprisingly superb sound quality for its size. I tried with Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter II and Lamb of God’s Sacrament to see how jumbled sounds can become at louder volumes, generally around 80 percent or higher. Additionally, vocalists may overpower instrumentals in genres like hip-hop or metal. Still, it’s not enough to take away from the Wonderboom’s amazing sound. Songs sound just as clear and vivid when played below that level as they do on other UE speakers, such the Boom.
In addition to being somewhat less portable due to its bigger size, the Wonderboom 3’s elastic loop is less useful for attaching it to objects than the JBL Clip 4’s metal clip. However, because of its larger size, the speaker also delivers crisper sound. The Wonderboom 3 is waterproof, much like the earlier models, so you can use it in the shower or even float it in the pool. When not in use, a plastic door covers the charging port to keep water out of the device and dirtying other components. Being carried on your next trip or just being transported from room to room, it can handle the rough and tumble.
Best (less-expensive) Bluetooth speaker
Tribit XSound Go $50
Tested by former Strategist writer Jordan Bowman, “the Tribit XSound can nearly compete with the JBL Clip 4 and the UE Wonderboom 2,” the previous iteration of our top overall selection, despite its low cost. He acknowledges that distortion could occur at greater levels, but you’ll save some money by making that compromise. The XSound Go has a plastic casing that looks like the rounded Beats Pill speaker from the past. It has straightforward buttons for turning on and off, playing and stopping music, and pairing with Bluetooth.
The XSound Go has a longer battery life than any other speaker we’ve tested, up to 24 hours, even if its sound quality isn’t as outstanding as that of the somewhat more expensive Wonderboom 3.
JBL Clip 4
Weight: 0.53 pounds | Dust and water resistance: IP67 | Battery life: 10 hours $80
While most of these Bluetooth speakers are portable, the Clip 4 weighs just more than half a pound, making it the lightest and smallest speaker we’ve tested. Its battery still lasts for up to 10 hours in spite of it. A little speaker like the Clip 4 has a sonic quality that is easy to overlook. True, it doesn’t sound exactly as nice as the Wonderboom 3, but it still performs the job well enough. Even with ambient outside noises like wind and waves, it sounded crisp and colorful throughout our tests. It can be fastened to almost anything thanks to its clip design; it clings to shower rods, bike baskets, and hiking packs equally effectively. Because of the rubber ribs on the back of the speaker, you may lay it flat on smooth surfaces without worrying about it slipping everywhere. This makes sense since the Clip 4 is prone to noticeable shaking when played at maximum volume. The speaker can tolerate a few bumps on a hard surface and is dustproof and waterproof.
Best Bluetooth speaker with manual controls
Marshall Emberton Portable Bluetooth Speaker 150$
Weight: 1.51 pounds | Dust and water resistance: IPX4 | Battery life: 20 hours
The 1.5-pound Emberton speaker features manual controls, much like the majority of Marshall products, but it also has a circular joystick control. To choose between songs, move it to the right or left, adjust the volume with a little push, or hold it down to turn the device on or off. Although this may not seem like a huge deal, the enjoyment that this method brings demonstrates that effective controls shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you like the vintage aesthetic of guitar amplifiers, the Emberton is sure to please. The speaker is encased in thick, protective silicone, has the form of a brick, and feels about as sturdy as one. Whether it’s punk music, reggae, or simply a podcast, it creates a rich, immersive sound. With a 20-hour battery life and a handy LED that shows the remaining power life, this speaker is excellent and will appeal to music enthusiasts who want a more vintage look.
Best Bluetooth speaker for sound quality
Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen Portable Bluetooth Speaker $279
As usual, Bang & Olufsen produces high-quality audio products, and the A1’s latest iteration is no exception. Similar to its predecessor, the most recent A1 model generates sound with clarity that is surprising for a speaker this compact. Vocals were audible even in tracks with strong bass on several albums. Bowman said, “The Beosound is perfectly tuned to maintain clarity without sacrificing loudness, making it both waterproof and dustproof.”
With its 18-hour battery life and compatibility for USB-C charging, the Beosound is an example of an updated cable arrangement (many, like the Wonderboom, still utilize micro-USB). Its sturdy metal shell and rubber base are primarily responsible for its slightly over one pound weight. If you like to carry your intelligence with you wherever you go, this speaker also supports Alexa. However, Bowman observes that during his testing, configuring the voice assistant was a little time-consuming.
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