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How to Pick the Right Bluetooth Speaker

Enjoy all your favorite music outdoors, no matter where you are.

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There are several attributes a portable Bluetooth speaker must have. First is size. Whether it’s being carried from room-to-room or in a daypack, nobody wants something cumbersome that’ll slow them down. Secondly, ruggedness. A fall off the kitchen counter or into a forest stream shouldn’t disarm it. Finally, and most importantly, is quality sound — it’s a speaker, after all. If it can’t set the mood in your home’s dining room — or when you’re around the campfire — why even bother? The portable speakers below check all three boxes. Plus, they’re significantly more affordable than like-minded speakers from UE, Bose and Beats.

Barricade Mini

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Your Everyday Carry. This is your on-the-go speaker. The Barricade Mini boasts six hours of battery life, is impact- and water-resistant (IPX5), and is compact enough for you to palm in one hand. It’s one of the most rugged and portable speakers you can buy in its price range, and pumps out more sound than you’d expect from a speaker of its size.

Key Specs
Speaker Driver: 1 x 5 Watts
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Frequency Response: 100Hz – 20kHz
Weight: approximately 272 grams
Bluetooth Version: 4.1

Buy Now: $40

Barricade

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Best for Day Hikes: Submerge this waterproof (IPX7) speaker in a meter of water for 30 minutes and it’ll keep on pumping. Not to worry, though — it’s buoyant, so unless it’s held under, it’ll float. The Barricade has more power and a longer battery life than its mini brethren. Additionally, it can change external devices (via a USB port) and connect to multiple other speakers (via an AUX cable).

Key Specs
Speaker Driver: 1 x 10 Watts
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Frequency Response: 80Hz – 20kHz
Weight: approx. 445 grams
Bluetooth Version: 4.1

Buy Now: $80

Barricade XL

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Crowd Pleaser: The XL is largest and loudest in Skullcandy’s Barricade line. Its 10-hour battery life, full-spectrum sound, IPX 7 waterproof rating and extreme ruggedness make it ideal for housewarming parties and campground festivities. It boasts extenal charging like its smaller sibling, the Barricade. As far as price, it’s nearly $30 less expensive than its non-waterproof competitors, like the Bose Soundlink Mini II and the JBL Pulse II.

Key Specs
Speaker Driver: 2 x 10 Watts
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Frequency Response: 50Hz – 20kHz
Weight: approx. 890 grams
Bluetooth Version: 4.1

Buy Now: $170

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