It's 2021 and portable Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen. They come in all different shapes and sizes, with different sound qualities and price points. But before actually buying a portable Bluetooth speaker, there are a lot of different factors that you should consider.
The Factors to Consider
You’ve probably heard of all the speaker manufacturers on this list, which is a good thing. You want to trust that the speaker is not only going to sound good but also last. Many portable speakers on this list work with other like-branded speakers; for instance, you can pair two Bose Soundlink speakers together or two of Kicker’s Bullfrog speakers together for more of a party (or multiroom) setup. So there is an advantage to sticking to one flavor if you have that usecase in mind.
Size and Shape
Generally, the bigger the speaker, the louder and better it is going to sound. You also want to consider the shape and design of the speaker. The two most popular shapes these days are 360-degree (cylindrical) or monodirectional speakers. The 360-degree speakers are generally better when placed in the middle of a room while monodirectional speakers are better for stereo audio.
All rugged speakers aren’t the same. And in order to know how water-resistant or drop-proof a speaker is, you really need to understand IP (Ingress Protection) ratings. The easy way to explain it is that the higher the IP rating of the speaker, the more water-resistant it is — an IP7-rated speaker is more durable than an IP4-rated speaker. You can check out how the IP ratings are explained, here.
Some of the newer portable speakers have wi-fi connectivity and support a voice assistant, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. This allows you to use a speaker similar to an Amazon Echo or Google Home, using voice commands to request songs, answer general queries and control smart home devices. However, you’ll only be able to access the voice assistant when connected to wi-fi or a mobile hotspot.
Bigger speakers tend to have larger and longer-lasting batteries. That said, it varies from speaker to speaker. If you know you’re going to listen to the speaker a lot and you’re also going to have to go days between charges, these are things you should consider before purchasing a portable speaker.
Most of today’s portable speakers need a micro-USB cable to charge. However, there are some speakers that require a USB-C or AC cable to charge. Knowing what kind of cable might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually really convenient to be able to use the same cables to charge a few of your devices, like wireless headphones, your smartphone and computer.
Ultimate Ears Boom 3
Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Released in 2018, the Boom 3 is the successor to UE’s Boom 2. It has a two-toned outer fabric and “Magic Button” on top of the speaker that’s used for play/pause and skipping tracks. The charging port has been moved from the bottom of the speaker on the Boom 2 to the side here, so you can charge and listen to each speaker simultaneously, fixing a small design flaw in the Boom 2. For deeper, richer bass and longer battery life, check out the bigger and slightly more expensive Megaboom 3. (Both the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 have the same 90dBA maximum sound level.)
Best Upgrade Pick
The Sonos Roam is the company's smallest and most rugged (IP67-rated) portable speaker, and it's the perfect option for anybody who has other Sonos speakers. It has both built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, similar to the Move, so you can integrate it into an existing Sonos home speaker system or take it outside and use it as a traditional Bluetooth speaker. It supports Google Assistant or Alexa when connected to Wi-Fi, so you can use it just like a Sonos One. And it features Automatic TruePlay so it'll sound good no matter where you're listening to it. It charges via USB-C or any Qi-wireless charging pad, too, which is pretty neat.
Anker Soundcore Flare Mini
The Soundcore Flare Mini is a little portable speaker that produces surprisingly good 360-degree sound. Throw in the fact that it costs less than $50, so you can’t really beat it. It’s extremely waterproof and has a dedicated button on the outside to boost its bass if you’re into that sort of thing. Additionally, through Anker’s Soundcore app, you can tweak the EQ settings and customize the LED lights that flash on the outside of the speaker.
Best Sounding Bluetooth Speaker
The Move is Sonos’s first portable Bluetooth speaker and the best-sounding portable speaker on this list. In addition to being drop-resistant and IP56-rated, it also has built-in Wi-Fi and can work almost exactly like a Sonos One. When connected to Wi-Fi, it can play in a Sonos multi-room system and respond to either Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands. Unlike every other Sonos speaker before it, the Move has automatic Trueplay, meaning it automatically optimizes its sound for the space that it’s in.
Bose Portable Home Speaker
Best Bose Bluetooth Speaker
Bose offers a variety of smart home speakers that work with Alexa and Google Assistant, like the Home Speaker 300 and Home Speaker 500, but they require constant power. Like its name indicates, the Portable Home Speaker is essentially a portable version of those speakers. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, meaning that you can streaming music away from Wi-Fi like any other portable speaker, or you can connect it to Wi-Fi and sync it with Bose other multi-room speakers. In this way, it’s Bose’s direct rival to the Sonos Move. It’s also the only Bose portable speaker that charges via USB-C.
Bose SoundLink Revolve and Revolve Plus
The Bose SoundLink Revolve and Revolve Plus are the company’s first 360-degree Bluetooth speakers. They’re loud and powerful, and they’re able to deliver accurate and spacious audio; each speaker is engineered with dual-opposing passive-radiators and an efficient transducer to eliminate distortion. They’re not the most rugged speakers on this list, but each still splash-resistant. And their simple design and easily-defined buttons make this traditional Bluetooth speaker very intuitive to use. It also has a built-in mic so you can answer calls without having to take out your phone. For anybody who loves the Bose sound and style, the SoundLink Revolve and Revolve Plus are a solid buy.
Anker Soundcore Motion+
The Motion+ might just be the best-sounding portable speaker at the $100 price point. It has four drivers, two high-frequency tweeters and two neodymium woofers, and a central passive radiator, and can play loud music with extra bass. It’s really rugged, with IPX7 water-resistance rating, so it’s no problem if it gets dropped out in the pool and left out in the rain. Since it’s one of Anker’s newer portable speakers, it also charges via USB-C.
Ultimate Ears Blast Megablast
The UE Megablast and UE Blast are the company’s first smart speakers and are equipped with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When connected to Wi-Fi, they support Alexa voice commands and essentially work exactly like an Amazon Echo. When not connected to Wi-Fi, they function as normal Bluetooth speakers. In early 2018, their downside was that they were too expensive and didn’t support Alexa voice commands with Spotify — both of the problems have now been rectified; UE has significantly dropped the price of each speaker and updated its software to support Spotify. As far as sound quality, they are similar to the company’s Megaboom 3 and Boom 3 speakers.
The SRS-XB23 is the smallest and most affordable portable Bluetooth speaker in Sony’s 2020 Extra Bass series. It lacks the lighting strobes that the company’s larger speakers, SRS-XB33 ($150) and SRS-XB43 ($250), have, which helps keep the price of the SRS-XB23 down. It has a new more cylindrical design and packs two new full-range drivers and a passive bass radiator, as well a strap so that you can hang it on a chair or tree. One of my favorite things about the SRS-XB23, however, is that it’s the first Extra Bass speaker to charge via USB-C.
Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
Released in 2020, the Hyperboom is Ultimate Ears’s biggest, loudest and “boomiest” portable speaker to date. It’s no small fry, either, weighing in at 13 pounds and reach up to roughly a grown person’s knees. It’s a 270-degree, not a true 360-degree speaker, meaning it’s best placed in the corner of a room rather than the center. It’s also Bluetooth-only speaker, (no Wi-Fi, like the Sonos Move and UE Megablast), so it can’t be used as a smart speaker. The Hyperboom is a speaker that’s designed for people looking for a versatile party speaker that can be carried around the house.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
The Wonderboom 2 is the smallest speaker that Ultimate sells. It’s a true 360-degree speaker with a durable IP67 design — and yes, it floats if you throw it in water. Compared to its predecessor, the original Wonderboom, the second-generation model gets louder and has a three-plus-hour battery life, but it can also stereo pair with another Wonderboom 2. There’s also an Outdoor Boost mode button on the bottom of the speaker, which essentially boosts the bass.
JBL Xtreme 2
JBL has made some of our favorite Bluetooth speakers for years and its Xtreme 2 speaker is probably the best sounding and most rugged of the bunch. It’s powerful and bass-heavy, yet still sounds accurate, comfortably handling mid- and high-range frequencies. Through its companion app, you can pair multiple JBL speakers together. It has a built-in mic to answer phone calls. And it’s waterproof.