The Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker – Looking for true portability without compromising sound quality? Here are our top picks for listening to music on the go
Over the past ten years, purchasing portable Bluetooth speakers has become essential for music listeners. Whether used while lounging in the park, hosting (socially remote) outdoor parties, or moving around the house in place of a multi-room speaker system, Bluetooth speakers have come a long way and are shedding their former reputation for low bass. , fully capable of smooth sound and audio pleasing sounds.
The Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Size: As always, shop for your needs. Larger speakers tend to be heavier and bulkier, with better sound quality and battery life, but smaller speakers can easily be thrown into a bag and taken out for a spin.
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Battery life: After size, this is the most important factor when considering which portable speaker to buy. A typical model has a battery life of about five to seven hours, but there are many with 20 hours or more — like a few on this list.
Voice Assistants: Alexa and Google Assistant are available on most brands of Bluetooth speakers, but Siri users will unfortunately have to use Apple’s HomePod range – or AirPlay.
Additional inputs and outputs: It’s true that many of us stream audio to a speaker via Bluetooth. But a little versatility never hurt anyone. So check for other inputs/outputs like RCA stereo and 2.5/3.5mm aux in.
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IP/IPX ratings (“IP” stands for Ingress Protection) indicate how well the device is protected against the penetration of water, dust, impact, and other particles. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the stronger the device. So how do you decipher the numbers?
The first digit of a device with the IP67 mark (“6”) refers to the degree of protection against solid foreign objects. This is measured on a scale of 0 to 6, where 6 means the device has a completely airtight housing with a vacuum seal.
The second number refers to protection against liquids and is measured on a scale of 0 to 9. Speakers with an IPX7 rating are now common – such devices can be submerged in water up to a meter deep.
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To transfer music information via Bluetooth, an audio codec is required. The function of a codec is to aid the fluidity of data transmission by packaging the most important digital information needed for playback through your receiver/speaker. In the audio world, that information is usually things like bitrate, bit depth, bitrate, and finally total file size. Common codecs you’ll find like SBC and aptX are lossy, meaning they strip out information that most consumers won’t see.
However, if you want high fidelity, there are now a growing number of codecs that can deliver high-resolution audio. AptX HD delivers 576 kbps, while Sony’s variable LDAC bitrate maxes out at 990 kbps. Although not technically lossless, these bit rates exceed CD quality. Depending on your needs and your Bluetooth source, you may be able to switch codecs, but you’ll need to check that your chosen speaker model supports it. Also, remember that if you go the high-definition route you’ll want to keep the source and speaker close together to ensure the highest signal strength.
JBL’s Flip 5 excels at two important factors: portability and sound quality. When fully charged, Flip 5 provides up to 12 hours of playtime and is light enough (0.54 kg) to easily carry in your bag until you need it. The Flip 5 is also waterproof (up to IPX7) so it’s a safe bet for the pool.
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Its internal driver adds significant bass punch to whatever you throw at it, but lets the textured midrange and bright highs share the soundstage. While other speakers boast improved features (and more EQ control), the Flip 5 is a solid, reliable portable music center that’s available in a wide range of colors.
If you can stretch your budget, the Sonos Move is worth the price. Consolidating Sonos’ smart home audio into a portable, outdoor-ready speaker, the Move is the ultimate Bluetooth and WiFi beast that intelligently recalibrates its impressive sound according to its surroundings. How it’s done is a bit of a mystery, but this magic trick is equally effective in filling a small room or entertaining a large garden party.
Of course, the Sonos Move is more than a speaker. You can easily activate the voice assistant of your choice via the always-listening microphone.
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But while it’s certainly mobile, it’s not exactly ideal for long trips due to its weight, size and short 11-hour battery life. Still, the IP56 rating and rugged housing make it weather and impact resistant, and you can park it by the pool without worrying about the odd rain or splash.
While its stylish pebbled design may raise some eyebrows, the Beosound A1’s outstanding sound will silence any naysayers. The Danish audio heavyweight somehow managed to cram 2×30 watts into a tiny 3.5-inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter, as well as an aptX Adaptive codec.
This sonic delivery makes it an ideal choice for indoor or outdoor listening, with deep bass well balanced by bright highs. The Beosound A1 is completely waterproof (IP67), which means it can be cleaned under the sink or submerged in up to one meter of water without damage. Interesting stuff.
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Roles: Good against vampires, better than placing your portable bluetooth speaker above the floor. Call it a quirk, but what makes the Diggit 55 stand out from the pack is a removable plastic peg that elevates the speaker to improve listening (and reduce clutter).
The Diggit 55’s design is a definite plus, with a classic wood-paneled aesthetic – so much so that we’re feeling more generous about some of its shortcomings, such as the lack of oomph in the lower registers. However, the clarity emitted by the 360º speaker as well as the dual EQ modes – for indoor or outdoor listening – are great at this price. The possibility of making a stereo pair with another Diggit is also an exciting prospect.
Most buyers of Bluetooth speakers are casual music listeners who don’t care about general sound quality – they’re likely to be more attracted to a product that can withstand all kinds of conditions. Ultimate Ears’ 360º Wonderboom 2 excels in this regard.
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It can handle dust, sand and water with ease (in fact, it can float freely around the pool boasting its IP67 rating), the Wonderboom 2 is a small but tough little speaker. Its large volume controls highlight the simplicity of pairing and playing.
Sound quality is not an afterthought, with its durability coupled with sound detail and clarity, perfect for an outdoor setting. Bass is perfectly serviceable, but those looking for an extra emotional punch will be better served by other models, although the Wonderboom’s outdoor boost function can boost total output to 87 dbC.
If your musical inclinations lean toward the rock end of the spectrum, Marshall’s Amberton could be the perfect partner. Resembling the brand’s iconic logo and a scaled-down version of a guitar amp head, the Emberton features “True Stereophonic” technology, which Marshall says delivers 360º balance and clarity.
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The Emberton is quite lightweight and is controlled via a simple multi-directional button on the top of the unit. Inside, it’s powered by dual 10-watt drivers that (unsurprisingly, given Marshall’s expertise) reproduce some excellent sound, quite balanced and with considerable low end.
Another plus is its 20-hours-plus of portable playtime and quick-charge functionality (three hours for a full charge; 20 minutes for a five-hour charge). When not broadcasting tones, it can create an elegant decorative touch if thoughtfully placed in the living room. Rock on.
Exuding the finesse of Scandinavian design, this Bluetooth beauty from the acclaimed Danish hi-fi brand is one of the most powerful portable speakers on the market.
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Catch’s metal, oval design accentuates the cheese grater-like speaker grill, which conceals three left and right drivers, an aluminum woofer, tweeter and passive bass diaphragm, delivering extremely rich sound.
With a 24-hour battery, multiple audio profiles, a 3.5mm input and a USB output for charging (it encourages you to install a Chromecast audio dongle if you’re so inclined), not to mention a useful leather strap, the Katch. Definitely top notch, but it’s going to be a bit much.
Durability is the key word for the SRS-XB33. While not the most visually appealing design compared to others on this list, the Sony device makes up for it by being virtually indestructible. Sony claims that the device is dustproof, shockproof and waterproof (even the corrosive effects of seawater won’t stop it).
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The sound of this robust little unit is driven by a non-circular diaphragm called the X-Balanced Speaker Unit. It looks a bit like Wall-E’s eyes, and the sound – boosted by the passive radiators on the side of the unit – is punchy and flawless for a ‘party speaker’.
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