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.
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.