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The Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers for Summer

Yep, summer is here. That means barbecues, sports, adventures and getting out in the sun. So bring your tunes with you, too.

portable bluetooth speakers
Courtesy

It's 2022 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 You Need to Consider

The Speaker Brand: 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 multi-room) setup. So there is an advantage to sticking to one flavor if you have that use case 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 mono-directional speakers. The 360-degree speakers are generally better when placed in the middle of a room while mono-directional speakers are better for stereo audio.

Ruggedness: 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.

Voice Assistance: 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.

Battery Life: 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.

Charge: 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.

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How We Tested
a sonos roam speaker on a table
Tucker Bowe

We've been writing about and reviewing audio products — including speakers, headphones, earbuds and other audio components that run the gamut from consumer to hi-fi — for near-on a decade. We also work with major brands and talk to experts within the audio industry. The below selections of portable Bluetooth speakers are a combination of products that we've had hands-on experience with as well as products that are made by brands trusted within the audio space.

Best All-Around Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Ultimate Ears Boom 3
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Now 13% off

  • Solid sound quality
  • Rugged design
  • Available in several different colors

  • Dated and UE is due for an update

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 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Sonos Roam
Courtesy

  • Extremely versatile
  • Supports Automatic TruePlay
  • Supports wireless charging
  • Available in multiple colors

  • Expensive
  • Doesn't get as loud as other portable speakers

The Sonos Roam is the company's small and 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.

As of May 2022, Sonos has released the Roam in multiple colors in addition to black or white.

Best Bluetooth Speaker Under $100
Sony SRS-XB23
Sony
Now 20% off

  • Very affordable
  • Rugged design
  • Impressive sound

  • No advanced features

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.

SoundLink Flex Bluetooth ​
Bose

  • Good sound
  • Rugged design
  • Plays well with other Bose speakers

  • No Wi-Fi support
  • Fairly expensive

Released in late 2021, the Bose Flex Bluetooth is the company's new affordable, rugged and ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker. It's really water-resistant and durable — IP67 rated — and it'll even float, in the event you drop it in the pool or tub. It lacks Wi-Fi connectivity, meaning there's no voice assistant, but you can sync it with other Bose speakers and soundbars that you have in your house (via a companion app) to give you the multi-room effect. It's available in three different colors: white (shown), black or teal.

Best Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Sony SRS-XB13
Courtesy
Now 20% off

  • Very affordable
  • Compact design
  • Extremely easy to use

  • No advanced features
  • Doesn't get as loud as other speakers

Released in 2021, the SRS-XB13 is the smallest portable Bluetooth speaker that Sony makes — it's about half the size of a soda can. It's the next-generation version of the SRS-XB12, which looked identical, but the SRS-XB13 now charges via USB-C and delivers true 360-degree sound. It has a lanyard so you can easily attach the speaker to a backpack or golf bag. And it comes in a number of different colors so you can buy one to match your style. (If you're looking for more room-filling sound, we recommend spending a little more on Sony's SRS-XB23, which you can pick up for less than $100.)

Sonos Roam SL
Sonos

  • Extremely versatile
  • Plays well with other Sonos speakers

  • Fairly expensive
  • No support for voice assistant
  • No Automatic Trueplay
  • Not available in same colors as the Roam

Released in March 2022, the Sonos Roam SL is a microphone-less version of the company's Roam portable speaker. The Roam SL is the same exact size and shape as the Roam and can connect to Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth. The absence of microphones has allowed Sonos to cut $20 off the price tag, however, it also comes at a different cost. Unliked the Roam, the Roam SL can not work as an Alexa or Google Assistant smart speaker. And it doesn't support Automatic Trueplay, which optimizes its sound for the space it's in. Unless you are on a really strict budget, it's probably worth spending the extra $20 on the Roam.

Best Sounding Bluetooth Speaker
Sonos Move
Sonos

  • One of the best sounding portable speakers
  • Extremely versatile
  • Works well with other Sonos speakers

  • Expensive
  • Not as portable as other speakers
  • Not as rugged as other portable speakers

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.

Loudest Bluetooth Speaker
Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
Ultimate Ears

  • One of the loudest portable Bluetooth speakers
  • Very easy to use

  • Quite large and heavy
  • No Wi-Fi support
  • Not as rugged as other portable speakers

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 reaching 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 a 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.

Bose Portable Home Speaker
Bose

  • Solid sound quality
  • Very versatile speaker
  • Works well with other Bose speakers

  • Very expensive
  • Not as portable as other portable speakers

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. As 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 stream 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 is Bose’s direct rival to the Sonos Move. It’s also the only Bose portable speaker that charges via USB-C.

Bose SoundLink Revolve II and Resolve Plus II
Bose

  • Solid sound quality
  • Rugged design

  • Bose makes newer portable speakers
  • Fairly expensive

The Bose SoundLink Revolve II and Revolve Plus II are 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 is 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 II and Revolve Plus II are a solid buy.

JBL Flip 5
JBL
Now 23% off

  • Solid sound quality
  • Rugged design
  • Easy to use

  • Dated speaker
  • Lacks advanced features of other speakers

Released in 2019, the JBL Flip 5 is an excellent and affordable portable Bluetooth speaker. It doesn't have too many premium features — it can be paired with other JBL speakers in a party mode — but that's not a problem for most people. It has a very rugged (IPX7) design, meaning you can dunk it in 3 meters of water and it'll survive (and thrive). The two big draws of the JBL Flip 5 are that it's available in a wide variety of colors and it's the first in the Flip series to charge via USB-C.

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
Ultimate Ears
Now 17% off

  • Extremely compact design
  • Rugged design
  • Works well with other UE speakers

  • Doesn't get as loud as other speakers

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
JBL

  • Solid sound quality
  • Rugged design

  • Dated design
  • Lacks advanced features of other portable speakers

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.

Anker Soundcore Flare Mini
Anker

  • Affordable
  • Rugged desgin
  • Customizable lights and EQ

  • Doesn't get as loud as other portable speakers

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.

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