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 with you 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 everyone around them.
I know a lot of people with old bluetooth speakers, and if the one you have is still working for you, there is no immediate need to upgrade to something newer. But bluetooth speakers have got very good in recent years. Sound quality continues to improve, battery life is hitting new highs, and it’s more powerful and durable than ever before.
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 the stereo of two of them together, and many companies include “party mode” capabilities that let you link multiple speakers together. If you don’t really care about any of that, you can get a mini bluetooth speaker For less than $25. But all the choices here go a little further in terms of features and style.
Best bluetooth headphone under $200
I don’t know what kind of engineering magic goes into Bose’s Bluetooth speakers; I just know that back to SoundLink Mini IIthey simply seemed clearer and better – to my ears, at least – than any competitors in the same size range. The SoundLink Flex at $149 is Bose’s newest portable speaker, and it continues to achieve this good reputation.
Despite having only a mono driver (which isn’t unusual for Bluetooth speakers), the SoundLink Flex delivers expansive sound with a truly amazing amount of bass. Most importantly, this bottom line is not muddy or buoyant. 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 headset sounds excellent.
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 its ability to withstand falls and swims. Whether you lay the speaker flat or stand upright, Flex automatically optimizes the EQ for any orientation. It also works better than most smartphones with the help of the built-in microphones. Not everything about the SoundLink Flex is perfect: its buttons aren’t user friendly by feeling lonely, and oddly enough, Bose chose to use Bluetooth 4.2 instead of a newer version of the spec. But if that’s my biggest grip, it’s fair to say the SoundLink Flex is a winner.
Best waterproof bluetooth headphones
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 been following 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 over the $149.99 Boom 3 in a meaningful way. Or maybe it’s just a testament to how good the Boom 3 portable speaker is.
The company considers this to be the “perfection” of the 360-degree cylindrical speaker design it created with previous Booms. And with up to 15 hours of battery life, a fully waterproof exterior that floats in pools, and guaranteed giant volume buttons, the UE Boom 3 stays put. The advantage over older models It’s the magic button, which allows you to quickly launch a specific playlist with a press and hold of the top button. But what gives Boom 3 this staying power is its simplicity, robust build, and satisfying sound. Having two fire drivers in all directions provides ample sound space, even if the Boom 3 lacks the detail and sharpness some competitors have. But as a multi-level player, there is a lot to like.
Best smart bluetooth speaker
It is important that you keep your expectations reasonable if you are looking to buy 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 flood a room with music, it’s capable of delivering clear, dynamic sound if you’re sitting nearby or using it as a shower speaker.
The real selling points of the Roam 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 easily switch off playback from the Roam to another nearby Sonos speaker with the push of a button, and it’s a cheap way to add a turntable to your Sonos system—as long as your 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.
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 stay away from the Roam SL. It only saves you $20 but misses out on rather big features like automatic Trueplay audio quality adjustment, the aforementioned audio switching 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.
Bluetooth headset with the best battery life
If you’re looking for something a little more powerful, JBL’s Charge 5 is more powerful than the UE Boom in terms of dimensions and sound reproduction. I’m not a fan of JBL who puts a super-sized logo on their latest speakers; So much for dexterity. But if you don’t mind that aesthetic decision, the Charge 5 ticks many boxes for functionality.
It’s a powerhouse champion with up to 20 hours of continuous operation. Speaking of batteries, the Charge 5’s unique trick is its ability to recharge external devices: There’s a USB-A port to top up your phone or a friend while listening to the tunes.
My main disappointment with the Charge 5 is its mono motor, which has to lower stereo content. When you’re dealing with portable monophonic speakers, there may be sections of a certain song or instrument that aren’t as prevalent as they are on stereo speakers. And since the Charge 5 doesn’t look quite as original and detailed as Bose’s SoundLink Flex, it’s more evident here.
Best bluetooth speaker for outdoor parties
The Sony SRS-XB43 delivers powerful stereo sound with deep bass. Plus, you get a light show that goes along with the music. This speaker is more than capable of handling an outdoor party soundtrack — especially if you enable its extra bass mode.
It also has an aux jack (a rarity of the choices 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 is becoming obsolete on most phones these days, and unfortunately the aux input is increasingly disappearing from many Bluetooth speakers. But this gives you the best of everything. It weighs six and a half pounds, so this isn’t a speaker you’d throw in your bag. But it is specifically designed for use around the home and for parties. And yes, you can download an app and take full control of the lights.
6. JBL Clip 4
Best mini bluetooth speaker
Clip 4 of JBL is actually a bit bigger than I expected when looking at the marketing photos. But an integrated carabiner makes it easy to attach to your bag and bike and who knows what else. I was pleasantly surprised at the sound this compact speaker can produce.
The bass is a bit off, but Clip 4 brings out crisp mids and trebles. Like our other picks, it’s IP67 rated for dust and water resistance. Along with its compact size and up to 10 hours of battery life, you’re looking for a great speaker to bring with you on your hiking trips or other adventures.
Best big bluetooth speaker
At 6.61 pounds, the Sonos Move is a massive thing to deal with. This is why they are primarily intended to be moved around the house or to the backyard. That’s not what I consider appropriate, but in exchange for using a much larger speaker from the Roam, you are rewarded with a significant sound upgrade.
The Move is more than capable of filling a room with resonant sound, and like the Roam, you can choose to use it like a regular Bluetooth speaker or play music over Wi-Fi with the Sonos app. With an IP56 dust and water resistance rating, the Move is designed to be weatherproof, capable of taking a few bumps. I was hoping you’d consider the $400 price tag for this speaker. But when you add in extras like hands-free volume controls and automatic Trueplay, the Move has a plethora of tricks that make it a unique choice if you’re looking for a bigger, louder speaker.
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