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The ubiquitous wireless Bluetooth speakers have become indispensable gadgets. Everyone has one somewhere, and use cases vary from person to person. Maybe you use your speaker around the house or as a shower soundtrack. You might bring it to the park or the beach. Then there are those folks who take a portable speaker practically everywhere they go – sharing their music from a bike or backpack with anyone around.
What The Best Bluetooth Speaker
I know a lot of people with older Bluetooth speakers, and if the one you have is still working for you, there’s no immediate need to upgrade to something newer. But bluetooth headphones got it
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Good in recent years. Sound quality continues to improve, battery life extends to new recordings, and it’s more powerful and durable than ever.
If you’re shopping for a new speaker, start by thinking about the size you want. For this guide, I mostly stick with portable Bluetooth speakers and rule out anything impractical to take on the go. From there, you need to evaluate other criteria such as sound quality, ease of use, durability, and additional features like speaker functionality. Some speakers let you pair two of them in stereo mode, and many companies include “party mode” capabilities that let you connect multiple speakers. If you don’t really care about any of that, you can get a mini Bluetooth speaker for just $25. But all the options here go a little further in terms of features and style.
The SoundLink Flex from Bose is stronger and more durable than it looks. Photo by Chris Welch/The Verge
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I don’t know what kind of engineering magic goes into the Bose Bluetooth speakers; I just know that back in the SoundLink Mini II, they sounded sharper and
— to my ears, at least — than any competitor in the same size range. The SoundLink Flex at $149 is Bose’s newest portable speaker, and it still lives up to that reputation.
Despite having only a mono driver (which is unusual for Bluetooth speakers), the SoundLink Flex delivers expansive sound with a truly amazing amount of bass. Most importantly, this low is not muddy or explosive. Everything about this speaker is rich and clear. This is even more surprising when you consider that it only supports the basic SBC Bluetooth codec instead of the more advanced AAC or LDAC. However, this speaker sounds great.
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Bose’s newest Bluetooth speaker, the SoundLink Flex, delivers flawless, detailed sound quality with an impressive amount of bass for its size – all in a durable design you can take anywhere.
You can expect about 12 hours of battery life, and like many of the other speakers in this guide, the SoundLink Flex is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance. Bose is very confident in her ability to withstand the twists and turns and swim. Whether you lay the speaker flat or stand upright, Flex will automatically optimize the EQ for any orientation. It also performs better than most headphones with the built-in microphones. Not everything about the SoundLink Flex is perfect: its buttons aren’t handy if you’re feeling lonely, and it’s strange that Bose opted for Bluetooth 4.2 over a newer version of the spec. But if that’s my biggest grip, it’s fair to say the SoundLink Flex is the winner.
The UE Boom 3 remains a popular Bluetooth speaker several years after its release. Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
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Honestly, it’s a bit confusing that I’m still writing about UE Boom 3 in 2022. This speaker was released in 2018, and Ultimate Ears has continued to use it ever since. Maybe that says something about how stagnant the Bluetooth speaker market is, or maybe the UE hasn’t come out with anything that beats the $149.99 Boom 3 in any significant way. Or maybe it’s just a testament to how good the Boom 3 portable speaker is.
Few portable speakers are as popular as the Ultimate Ears Boom 3. With 360-degree sound, waterproof construction, and simple controls, it’s no wonder this Bluetooth speaker has stuck with it for so long.
The company believes this is the “perfect” interpretation of the 360-degree cylindrical speaker design it launched with previous Booms. And with up to 15 hours of battery life, a fully waterproof exterior that floats in pools, and large, secure volume buttons, the UE Boom 3 stays put. The standout feature over older models is the Magic Button, which allows you to quickly launch a specific playlist with a long press of the top button. But what gives Boom 3 this staying power is its simplicity, robust build, and satisfying sound. If drivers pull in all directions, it creates ample sound space, even if the Boom 3 lacks the detail and clarity some competitors have. But as a multi-level player, there is a lot to like.
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It is important that you keep your expectations reasonable if you decide to purchase a Sonos Roam. The company’s larger speakers often deliver audio performance that sounds bigger and more spacious than you’d expect, but that’s not necessarily true of the tiny Roam. Don’t get me wrong: While it won’t overwhelm a room with music, it can inject clear, dynamic sound if you’re sitting nearby or using it as a shower speaker.
Sonos Roam is a small and highly portable Bluetooth speaker that integrates with the company’s popular home audio system. It also supports hands-free voice commands with Alexa or Google Assistant.
Roam’s real selling points are its intelligence and tight integration with Sonos’ all-home audio platform. When you’re at home, Roam streams music over Wi-Fi, so you get better resolution than Bluetooth. You can seamlessly transfer playback from the Roam to another nearby Sonos speaker with the push of a button, and it’s an inexpensive way to add a turntable to your Sonos system—as long as the turntable supports Bluetooth. You can also easily group it with other Sonos speakers for multi-room playback. If you want to use Roam as a smart speaker, choose between Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant for hands-free voice commands.
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Sonos recently released a slightly cheaper Roam SL that omits the built-in microphones. But unless you’re vehemently against having microphones in your gear, I’d avoid the Roam SL. It only saves $20, but it misses out on some core features like Trueplay’s automatic audio quality adjustment, the aforementioned audio toggle feature, and (obviously) all audio interactions. For $99 or $129, I could totally see it. But $159 is too much to order a Roam SL.
If you’re looking for something more powerful, JBL’s Charge 5 is more powerful than the UE Boom in terms of size and sound reproduction. I’m not a fan of JBL putting a big logo on their latest speakers; Both are for accuracy. But if you don’t mind that aesthetic decision, the Charge 5 ticks a lot of boxes for functionality.
It’s the endurance champ for up to 20 hours of continuous operation. Speaking of batteries, one of the Charge 5’s unique tricks is its ability to recharge external devices: There’s a USB-A port to charge your phone or a friend while you listen to your tunes.
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The Charge 5 from JBL is a powerful Bluetooth speaker with a long battery life of up to 20 hours. It also allows you to charge your phone via the built-in USB-A port.
My main take with the Charge 5 is the mono driver, which has to mix stereo content. When dealing with portable monophonic speakers, there may be sections of a certain song or instrumentation that are not as prevalent as they are in stereo speakers. And since the Charge 5 doesn’t look as clean and detailed as Bose’s SoundLink Flex, it’s more straightforward here.
The Sony SRS-XB43 delivers powerful stereo sound with deep, resonant bass. Plus you have a light show that goes with the music. This speaker is capable of handling the soundtrack of an outdoor party – especially if you activate its extra bass mode.
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The Sony SRS-XB43 is an oversized Bluetooth speaker that’s perfect for parties indoors and out. Powerful stereo drivers sound great with plenty of bass and you’ll also get a customizable light show.
It also has an auxiliary jack (a rare option here), so anyone can plug and play audio if you don’t want to deal with Bluetooth. But if you do, the XB43 also supports Sony’s LDAC codec, and like JBL’s Charge 5, there’s a USB-A socket on the back to power your devices.
The headphone jack has disappeared from most phones these days, and unfortunately the auxiliary inputs are disappearing more and more than many Bluetooth speakers. But this gives you the best. It weighs six and a half pounds, so you won’t be a talker
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