To determine the best-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker we performed our usual meta-analysis of every major review and consumer organization test in Europe and the United States, in various languages.
A handful of speakers were at the top of most commentators' lists. We discuss a few of them further down in this article, but overall we're confident that for most people the best option for great sound in a small, rugged package is the...
UE Boom 2
- Meta-Review of the UE Boom 2
- Buying Options
- Accessory for the UE Boom 2: Carrying Case
- Other Top Options
- The Best-Sounding Small Bluetooth Speaker (But it's More Expensive and Not Quite as Loud): Riva S
- Top-End Sound, Less Travel-Friendly: Bose Soundlink Mini II
- A Great-Sounding But Larger Bluetooth Speaker: Denon Envaya DSB200
- Best Choice For Ultra-Long Battery Life: Fugoo Style
- The Best-Sounding of the Smallest (Pocket-Sized) Bluetooth Speakers: Bose Soundlink Micro
- Budget Bluetooth Speakers
- Great Sound and Cheap, Not Rugged: Logitech x300
- A Great-Sounding Disk: The UE Roll 2
- A Decent Speaker that Can Survive Rough Handling: The UE Wonderboom
- A Quieter but Excellent-Sounding Cheaper Bluetooth Speaker: Bose Soundlink Color II
- Top Ultra-Cheap Option: The OontZ Curve
- Another Good Ultra-Cheap Option: The DKnight MagicBox II
- The Best Ultra-Cheap Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers: The BOOM Swimmer, Boom Swimmer Duo, and Boom Swimmer Junior
- The Absolute Cheapest Bluetooth Speaker Worth Buying: Dodocool
- Other Options (But Not Our Top Picks)
- Wrap-Up: And the Best Speaker for You Is...
Update History of This Article
Meta-Review of the UE Boom 2
The UE Boom 2 is, as the name suggests, the sequel tdoo its smash hit UE Boom (which is still sometimes available, but we don't recommend as it can cost nearly as much and is not as loud).
How the UE Boom 2 Sounds
The UE Boom 2's 1.75 inch drivers and 3-inch passive radiators punch out powerful sound and relatively deep bass with little risk of distortion. It's an impressive feat of engineering to get this much balanced, lovely sound out of a small package, and so it's not surprising that it is at or near the top of many best-of lists. That includes the panels of the world's independent consumer organizations (in particular the British and the French, though the Americans, who looked mainly at larger speakers, didn't like it as much). It's also the favorite or one of the favorites of many audio critics — putting all of this together, it was the small rugged speaker that was enjoyed the most by most professional critics.
The accolades: it's "surefooted" in the mids and trebles, and the bass is "well-timed", and strong but "not overpowering" and overall the "best I've heard from a speaker of this size". The sound gets described as "lush", "clean", "pure", and "detailed".
Loudness is a critical concern for this type of speaker — what's the point of making such a rugged waterproof speaker if you can't hear it when you're in the great outdoors? Here, the UE Boom 2 excels past its competition, particularly speakers of the same size. With a recent update, it can now put out around 90 decibels, though some critics feel that it now distorts somewhat at the highest volumes (above 85 decibels). In any case, it's loud, and the best portable speaker that can sound good at these levels.
Also crucial to our recommendation is the UE Boom 2's 360-degree output. No matter which side of the speaker you're on, it sounds the same, and getting this evenness must have been a tricky feat of engineering. The speaker is designed to be placed in the center of the action, and be equally enjoyable from any side.
The UE Boom 2's (Replacable) Battery
While this was not our top priority, it's nice to know that the UE Boom 2's battery life was excellent; it can last through several days of normal use (or one really extreme day-and-night beach party). UE claims a battery life of 15 hours, and in practice Which? found it to last for 19 hours when played at normal volume.
Also of note, and in contrast to most other portable bluetooth speakers, the Boom 2's battery is replaceable. This may seem a small consideration now, but all batteries eventually die (depending greatly on how they are used, and individual and random factors). UE Boom 2 offers to replace the battery for a fee (by calling support); we hope that competing services will also eventually appear to offer this service.
Ruggedness and Waterproof Certification of the UE Boom 2
The UE Boom 2 is IPX7 rated, meaning that it can be immersed under a meter of water for up to 30 minutes with no damage. This is a specific and meaningful claim (with legal implications) under the conditions of the International Electrotechnical Commission's standards.
UE's marketing for the speaker mainly touts it as a rugged beast that can take hits, mud, snow, etc. There's no specific certification for this, but to believe the Amazon user reviews, people have done a lot of amazingly dumb and violent things to this speaker and had it survive just fine.
The Downsides of the UE Boom 2
- There is always a trade-off between a speaker's size and its ability to deliver convincing bass and volume. While most reviewers felt that the UE Boom 2 offers the best overall sound-to-size tradeoff, the very similar UE Megaboom can be a better choice if you don't mind a bigger speaker. (And if you're looking for a bigger, better-sounding wireless home unit, the Sonos Play is the top choice.)
- On the other hand, to some critics ears the bass overtakes the midrange a bit a top volumes. One felt the UE Boom 2's dedicated app's equalizer is a "godsend" for taking down the bass a notch (this is probably not used much by most people, however, and is more of an extra than a necessity).
- While UE Boom 2 costs less than other speakers of a similar quality and size, there are also excellent and cheaper speaker options that we list below.
Other Features of the UE Boom 2
- The UE Boom 2 works as a speakerphone. Chances are you won't use this — there's already a speakerphone function on your smartphone — but if you want it, know that various reviewers found that it worked well for phone calls.
- The speaker has a D-hook, so with a carabiner it can be hung from a messenger bag, bicycle, shower hook, or off the edge of a picnic table.
- The UE Boom 2 charges via a standard (included) mini-USB cable, which means it can share the charger of most Android phones and many other devices, so it's easy to borrow a charger if you're out and about.
- The top hook unscrews to reveal a standard tripod mount, meaning that the speaker can be placed on a tripod in your yard, or — for attachment anywhere — be used with a flexible claw-grip portable tripod.
- Two UE Boom 2 speakers can be paired with the Android or iOS apps, and provide stereo sound or just double the volume in mono mode — which can be useful for filling a very large area outside. The smartphone app also has an equalizer, battery meter, and alarm.
- The volume buttons allow you to adjust the volume directly on the speaker (you can also of course just do this from whatever phone or tablet is providing the music).
- If you don't want to fiddle with your phone, you can pick up the speaker and tap its top to pause your music, and double-tap to skip a track. The speaker senses when it's been picked up and will only respond like this if you have grabbed it, so as to avoid responding to accidental bumps.
- The UE Boom 2 supports touch pairing via NFC, which can make initial pairing faster.
- The speaker works with any modern Bluetooth-enabled Android, Apple, or Windows smartphone, tablet or computer.
- A mini analog input allows you to connect older non-Bluetooth devices.
- Eight colors are available.
- You can control the unit by voice command, just as you would with an Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, or Google Home to ask the Boom 2 to play your favorite artist, for example. And the most recent update brings Amazon Alexa to the UE Boom 2; it already had Siri and Google Now integration. We think this is completely silly, as you already have one of these same voice assistants in your smartphone, which is just as easy to access.
- The UE Boom 2 measures 2.75 inches in diameter by 7.125 inches tall (6.7 x 18 cm) and weighs 1.2 pounds (.548 kg).
Note that we wouldn't recommend buying a used Boom 2 —or any other battery-containing electronic device — as there is no telling how much the battery has already been through at the time of purchase.
Accessory for the UE Boom 2: Carrying Case
The UE Boom 2 is durable, so this isn't strictly necessary. But if you know your speaker will be in for rough treatment, or if you want a case to keep it and its cable and charger organized on the road, the best option at this point is the Lightning Power UE Boom Case, which has a separate, attachable pouch for the cable and charger. If you don't mind a somewhat bulkier case, the Khanka EVA Hard Case is also well-rated by users. There are plenty of other options out there, but we recommend getting one that allows you to carry the cable and charger and avoiding those with lots of quality complaints from customers.
Other Top Options
The following speakers represent different tradeoffs in terms of price, size, ruggedness, and sound quality, and may be better for some.
The Best-Sounding Small Bluetooth Speaker (But it's More Expensive and Not Quite as Loud): Riva S
Demanding tech critics almost universally prefer — albeit not by much — the clean, even, authentic sound produced by the Riva S over the UE Boom 2 (and over any other competitor). However, it's more expensive, doesn't have the 360-degree delivery, and it doesn't go quite as loud as the UE Boom 2. The other downsides are that it is only IPX4 (i.e., water-resistant, can survive the odd splash) instead of waterproof, and not as rugged. We'd prefer to take the UE Boom 2 out into the real, messy outdoors, and not worry about dirt, water, and being able to hear over ambient noise. But if you're more of an inside listener and you don't mind spending an extra $50-100, the Riva S is the speaker for you.
The Riva S has a 13-hour battery life and you can charge your phone or tablet off of the Riva's battery — a feature that's rather likely to come in handy at some point. If you buy two of them, you can pair them together for stereo sound. It comes with a carrying case and international plugs, which is a classy touch.
The Riva S supports AptX; for those who have the technology on their devices, this supposedly provides "CD-quality" sound over a bluetooth connection, though it's doubtful that AptX actually makes a difference to most listeners.
The unit measures 7.5 x 2.6 x 2.5 inches and weighs 1.5 pounds.
Top-End Sound, Less Travel-Friendly: Bose Soundlink Mini II
The Bose Soundlink Mini II would be the perfect choice for the audiophile who wants a tiny Bluetooth speaker for purely inside use. While most picky listeners will want a much larger, beautiful-sounding wireless option for the home, like a Sonos — we feel compelled to recommend the very good Bose Soundlink Mini II regardless; this is a fantastic-sounding speaker that could easily go in a carry-on for inside use in hotel rooms, for example.
Its sounds just as great as its beloved predecessor (the Soundlink Mini, still sometimes cheaply available), according to a number of reviewers and consumer organizations; they call the Mini II the top option for "booming bass in as small a form factor as possible" and say instruments and vocals in the mid-range have "space to breathe" and impressive warmth. It can "competently handle the full spectrum of use."
You can't pair two of them together for stereo, unlike our main pick and the Riva S. The Bose Soundlink Mini II measures 7.1 x 2.3 x 2 inches. The major drawback is that it's a heavy little guy (1.5 pounds) and not as rugged as our main pick. Its battery life has been tested at 8-10 hours by reviewers.
A Great-Sounding But Larger Bluetooth Speaker: Denon Envaya DSB200
Some — but certainly not all — commentators feel that the Denon Envaya sounds better than our top pick. The Envaya was a top pick in the listening tests by the French consumer testing organization1In French, behind a paywall, just beating out the much-smaller UE Boom 2. In a nutshell, the Envaya is a bulkier and less rugged choice at the same price as the UE Boom 2, but with slightly better sound to some ears. It measures 10.1 x 1.9 x 5.5 inches (25.7 x 4.8 x 14.0 cm) and weighs 2.9 pounds (1.3 kg). It lacks a speakerphone function. It can charge a smartphone, but since it's not really designed for outside use and is less convenient to travel with, this seems to us to be of limited use. Its battery lasted for only seven hours in tests.
There are not a lot of other quality tech website reviews of this speaker, but those who have done careful testing have loved it, saying that it compares well with larger and more expensive home Bluetooth speaker options such as the Bose Soundlink III.
Best Choice For Ultra-Long Battery Life: Fugoo Style
The Fugoo Style boasts 40-hours of battery life for the truly disconnected nomad, and is cheaper than the UE Boom 2. If you really need your tunes for days straight in the wilderness, this might be your guy. Several reviewers quite like how it sounds, while another faults it for lack of bass and volume.
The Fugoo Style is dust- and waterproof, and even more rugged than the UE Boom 2. And then there is the "Fugoo Tough" version, which is designed to withstand snow, mud, shocks, and submersion under water. And the Fugoo Sport, which falls between the two in size and ruggedness. We would only recommend these speakers for those needing a very rugged speaker and extreme battery life, but if that's your case, check out our separate comparison of the Fugoo Tough, Sport, and Style. We also offer a more complete comparison of the Fugoo, UE, and Bose lines.
The Best-Sounding of the Smallest (Pocket-Sized) Bluetooth Speakers: Bose Soundlink Micro
Bose has introduced a clippable, pocketable marvel that still somehow manages to deliver the signature Bose evenness and clarity, and even enough loudness to fill a room or work for outdoor listening. The Bose Soundlink Micro measures just 3.87 inches square and is 1.37 inches thick; it weighs 0.64 pounds, making it one of the lightest speakers we've ever recommended. It's fully IPX7 waterproof and has a very durable rubberized chassis.
The first critics to evaluate it tend to agree that its clarity is great and there is even somewhat of a soundstage and some bass end; it's the best-sounding small speaker of its size. Battery life is only five hours, however, and at over $100 it's pricier than most tiny speakers. We discuss it more extensively in this comparison with the Color II.
Budget Bluetooth Speakers
You can spend less and still get great sound in a small, durable speaker. Below are some of the most consistently well-reviewed options in the budget category.
You may also want to consider our recommendations for previous versions of top bluetooth speakers, which generally cost half as much as the latest editions, but tend to have similar sound quality, if not always the latest features.
Great Sound and Cheap, Not Rugged: Logitech x300
If you want to drop less than $100 and don't need a long-lasting battery, ruggedness or waterproofing, the Logitech X300 is the best-sounding speaker you can buy.
Audiophile commentators across the board note that its four drivers deliver "immersive" and "powerful, room-filling sound" and that it doesn't distort at high volumes and delivers an even mix. They also felt that its design was a bit "reserved", "bulky", or "basic", but we think those superficial obsessions are a bit silly. This little speaker delivers great sound at a good price; slap some snazzy stickers on it if you must.
A more serious downside for some users may be that the battery lasts at most five hours, depending on volume. It measures 2.7 x 5.9 x 2.8 inches and weighs 12.5 ounces.
A Great-Sounding Disk: The UE Roll 2
This comes from the same designers as our top pick and shares a similar vision, if in a quite different form: the UE Roll 2. It is a 5.3-inch disk that is designed to be placed in the center of the action and also deliver 360-degree sound. It is IPX7 waterproof and comes with pool float, which we think is a bit silly, but sure, some people need their tunes to float with them out in the water.
The UE Roll 2 is cheaper than our main pick, and it's not as powerful, but it still delivers quite impressive loudness and bass. Reviewers have generally loved its sound; they say that "little details...sizzle", that it is "clear" and "natural", and that the low end is "solid".
It has an integrated bungee cable on the back that allows you to hang or attach the speaker anywhere. As with the other UE options, if you buy two you can set them up as completely wireless stereo speakers via dedicated iOS or Android apps. In various reviewers' tests, its battery life comes to 9 to 11.5 hours.
Reviewers noted little difference in sound quality between this speaker and the previous version, and the UK consumer organization actually preferred the original UE Roll to its successor. Given all this, you might see if you can snag the original UE Roll, which is often much cheaper on Amazon (click through to check current prices). The main improvements to the new version are a couple of hours of battery life and that it can kick out a few more decibels. For most listeners, the older version is just as great (or better) and therefore an excellent deal.
A Decent Speaker that Can Survive Rough Handling: The UE Wonderboom
The UE Wonderboom is similar in price and features to the UE Roll 2, but is built to deliver 360-degree sound and go just a bit louder. It's also dustproof, and according to reviewers' tests, it survives drops well. It's a bit shorter and squatter than the UE Boom 2.
Your can check our full summary of UE Wonderboom reviews, but the main takeaway is that this would be a great, cheap choice for camping. However, the UE Wonderboom is not all that much cheaper than the UE Boom 2, at least as of this writing, so most people will probably be happier just opting for the later.
A Quieter but Excellent-Sounding Cheaper Bluetooth Speaker: Bose Soundlink Color II
The Bose Soundlink Color II is the cheaper Bluetooth speaker to get if you want a decent soundstage and the smooth mids and trebles that the Bose universe tends to provide. It's not as loud, and doesn't kick out as much powerful bass as some of the other options, but the critics and consumer organizations report that holds it own and is excellent for filling a room with clean, detailed sound. We offer a full comparison of the Soundlink Color II with the other Bose speakers.
The Color II is directional, meaning that it sounds best when you're right in front of it, and it's spash-resistant (but not waterproof) and has a rubberized body so is expected to survive drops well.
It measures 2.2 x 5.0 x 5.2 inches and weighs 1.2 pounds.
Top Ultra-Cheap Option: The OontZ Curve
The Cambridge Sound
works Oontz Curve is generally the favorite of the few audio reviewers who deigned to try out under-$50 portable bluetooth speakers, saying for example that "the sound is amazingly full for such a small speaker" and "there was no audible distortion". It doesn't play as loud or deliver as much bass as larger and more expensive speakers, but it's the best option at this price range and relatively well-liked by its Amazon reviewers as well. It measures 2.6 inches tall and has a diameter of 2.9 inches; it weighs .56 pounds (.254 kg).
Another Good Ultra-Cheap Option: The DKnight MagicBox II
While most commentators preferred the Oontz Curve above, some really liked the DKnight MagicBox II, which is the top seller on Amazon as of this writing where it has tons of positive reviews. The battery can run it for up to 10 hours, and the new version has 10W drivers that provide acceptable, if unexceptional sound.
The Best Ultra-Cheap Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers: The BOOM Swimmer, Boom Swimmer Duo, and Boom Swimmer Junior
These speakers don't deliver the best sound quality according to reviewers, nor even the best audio for their price range. But if you want a very cheap speaker that sounds decent and is waterproof and can be strapped to anything, the Boom Swimmer is your guy. You can also remove the funky tail and use the suction cup to stick it to a wet wall or a glass window, which can help deliver more resonant bass. The battery life is excellent for the price range; eight hours at full volume, and up to 16 at half. The Duo model allows you to link two of them for stereo; the Boom Swimmer Junior is smaller but delivers nearly as much sound.
The Absolute Cheapest Bluetooth Speaker Worth Buying: Dodocool
This tiny little speaker is dirt cheap, easily fits in any pocket, and will sound better than your mobile phone. The Dodocool Bluetooth Speaker's connectivity is not great — the Bluetooth signal is prone to drop, especially if you're trying to listen while the speaker is charging (not recommended). And the Dodocool certainly didn't sound as good as the other, larger speakers we recommend. But it's loud enough to be heard in the shower and provides more clarity and oomph than a mobile phone's built-in speaker. Don't expect bass, of course.
Other Options (But Not Our Top Picks)
Generally Well-Liked: JBL Flip 4, JBL Charge 3, JBL Charge 2+, JBL Charge 2, JBL Pulse
All three of the main offerings from JBL got above-average ratings from various commentators, but the praise was not universal, and they did not beat the ratings given to our main picks above.
The JBL Pulse 2 has the same cylindrical shape as the UE Boom 2 and is bulkier and heavier (7.65 x 3.31 in. or 19.4 x 84.2 cm; 1.71 lb or .775 kg). Reviewers and consumer organizations generally like it in terms of sound, though not nearly as much as our main picks. Its main selling point is that it features an exterior of flashing, programmable LED lights, so you can not just DJ but also bring disco lighting anywhere you go, if that's your thing. Please, let that not be your thing.
. We think that the JBL Flip 4 doesn't measure up to the UE Boom 2, but it is a very good speaker. Critics across the board liked its crispness and convincing bass, but also complained that it distorts a bit at the highest volumes and over-emphasizes the treble. It's fully waterproof (IPX7) and has a 12-hour battery life, but at this price point, you're better off with the budget picks above.
We mainly dismissed the JBL Charge 3 because it is larger and much heavier than the UE Boom 2, and had mixed reviews for sound. Some critics think the Charge 3 sounds better, but most think it sounds worse — audiophiles complain that it is uneven and that it lacks clarity on the high end. Many even felt that it was a step down from its previous version, the JBL Charge 2+ (see next paragraph). They did appreciate the JBL Charge 3's thumping bass and that it goes a bit louder than the UE Boom 2. It has the ability to charge your phone from the speaker battery, which is a nice extra. And with a 20-hour battery life and an IPX7 fully waterproof rating, the JBL Charge 3 could be a good choice for those who want long, loud parties on the beach and don't mind the bigger size/weight.
If you're eyeing the Charge 3 but you're on a budget, you may want to click through to check the latest prices on the previous versions, the JBL Charge 2, and in particular the JBL Charge 2+, which some critics felt had better sound compared even than its successor Charge 3. It can charge your phone, and it is water resistant, but not waterproof.
Other Speakers that We Considered
The Amazon Tap is a silly gimmick; it's a bluetooth speaker that also serves as a "digital assistant". It doesn't do either all that well. Reviewers complain that the sound performance isn't as good as similarly priced bluetooth speakers, and we can't see any point to a digital assistant in the form of a speaker (rather than the Siri or Google Now functions in your smartphone or tablet). Also, the assistant feature ("Alexa") only works when you're within range of your wifi.
The AOSM Portable TWS Bluetooth Speaker is a very cheap way get a pair of portable Bluetooth speakers that can be connected simultaneously for true stereo. It also features eight-hour battery life, IPX5 waterproofing (don't dunk it, but it will survive splashes fine), and an included 3.5 mm aux in cable. Other reviewers haven't weighed in on this speaker so far, and the Amazon reviews get a low grade right now on Fakespot, but we've given it a listen. The highs are overemphasized and slightly shrill, and the lowest end is absent, but with two of them the stereo separation is really a joy, especially after we've been listening to so many small single-unit Bluetooth speakers, which is all that's usually available at this price range. Two AOSM speakers create a nice soundstage allowing you to enjoy stereo as it was intended and even pinpoint the instruments in space to some extent. If you want true portable stereo at the lowest price, and don't mind carrying two speakers, these are the ones to get. Pairing was easy once we followed the instructions to the letter.
The AYL Portable Mini Capsule Speaker System is not actually a bluetooth speaker, but connects via a mini cable. It's really small and really cheap, and considering that sounds decent according to some. If you have a modern smartphone or tablet, though, your sound may already be better directly from that.
The Bose Soundlink III is much larger, heavier, and more expensive than some of our other picks. Reviewers liked how it sounded quite a bit, but not any more so than the much cheaper Denon Envaya above.
The B&O Play, a.k.a. Bang & Olufson Beoplay A2 is an expensive audiophile brand's entry into the portable bluetooth speaker market; reviewers liked its sound OK, but also expressed quite a bit of disappointment in this famous brand's shortcomings with this entry. The upper bass end doesn't have much punch, there is a lack of warmth and clarity falls short depending on where you are positioned (it is nominally omnidirectional). Like our main pick at the top, it can be paired with another for stereo sound, but you'd be wasting a lot of money for not much effect.
The Bliiq Infinite X Portable Bluetooth Speaker could be OK for someone who appreciates a micro-SD card slot, but most will prefer to just play music from their phones or tablets. It has decent water-resistance (IPX4) but is not fully waterproof. We have yet to come into quality reviews of these speaker's sound, but there are a number of customer complaints at Amazon about its low volume. We'd recommend instead any of the budget options (above).
We recently completed a comparative meta-review of the differences between the Bose Soundlink Revolve and Bose Soundlink Revolve+. In our comparison with the UE Boom 2, we note that critics think the Revolves sounded warm and detailed in the mids and high end, but that the bass was more convincing on the UE Boom 2. There were also some complaints that they struggled more at high volumes. The Revolves are more expensive, at $199 for the Revolve and $299 for the Revolve+.
The Cambridge Audio Minx Go v2 delivers good sound, but was not as universally admired as our main picks.
The CRDC Life is very cheap compared to most of the speakers on this page; most of the reliable critics whom we follow have not reviewed it. We gave it a listen ourselves and found it OK for podcasts. It is mildly acceptable for music at low to mid volumes, with so-so clarity and an over-emphasis in the mid to highs — we heard a lot of the higher end of the vocals and felt that the lower-end instrumentation was buried. The CRDC Life can get more than loud enough to fill a room with sound, but distorts and sounds quite harsh at high volume. Operating the volume on the speaker is difficult; one must push down quite hard on the physical button and hold it down. There is a charge cable and mini audio cable for connecting without Bluetooth. The manufacturer claims a 10-hour battery life, IP66 waterproofing, and an 18-month warranty.
The Etekcity RoverBeats T3 has generally positive reviews both on Amazon and from audio critics, and as of this writing is five dollars cheaper than the Oontz Curve, with which it is very similar in size. The Oontz Curve edges it out by getting even better reviews — the best among speakers at the lowest price point — but otherwise the Etekcity RoverBeats T3 would be a fine choice.
The Jawbone Mini Jambox sounds great but doesn't play very loud.
The Jawbone Big Jambox is admired by some critics, but they generally prefer the main picks above.
The Monster Superstar's bass is quite limited.
As of this writing there are a couple of reviews out there of the Oontz Angle 3, but no serious comparisons to other speakers by anyone who is an expert in audio. This speaker is quite popular on Amazon, and most reviewers there seem to be enjoying their purchase as a functional and loud-enough option for "rocking out in the shower" or listening to audio books. We can't recommend this over the other cheap options (above) until we see more written about it or try it out ourselves, but it may be another good option at the lowest price point.
The Polk Audio BITR-A Boom Bit is one of the smallest Bluetooth speakers and is designed to be clipped to your shirt collar — it's more of a personal, open headphone alternative than something you would use to fill a room with sound, much less party outside. Reviewers say that it packs impressive punch and reasonable sound, but only for its size. One says it sounds like a transistor radio. Really this is mainly for runners and bikers who want an alternative to headphones, which can be dangerous in that they block out other noise.
The Samsung Level Box Mini has gotten a mix of customer reviews but most are positive, if undemanding in terms of audio expectations. Likewise for blogger reviews. The price has dropped some 70 percent on Amazon as of this writing, but we think our cheap options above are a surer bet.
The Skullcandy Barricade Bluetooth Speaker floats and is fully waterproof. Its few reviewers liked its even, faithful mix, but said that it distorted on the low end at high volumes. It also comes in Skullcandy Shrapnel Drop-Proof Barricade, Skullcandy Barricade Mini, and Skullcandy XL versions. If you're looking for a great sounding waterproof speaker at under a hundred bucks, the UE Roll 2 (above) is a safer bet.
The SOL Republic Deck was pretty well-liked by some reviewers, though they weren't in completely in love with it or anything. It is long and thin, and its price has dropped significantly, so it could now be considered a decent cheap option, but still not as good as our other cheap picks above.
The Sony SRS-X11 is a tiny cube that was the most well-liked extremely small speaker over at Which?, but other reviewers say that it is overpriced and that its sound is only decent. Most think that the Oontz Z Curve described above is better.
The Sony H.ear Go (SRSHG1) is a uniquely small (8.25 x 3.75 x 2.5 in.) solution offering Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth, thus supposedly enabling a higher fidelity connection for those listening to uncompressed audio files on the go. This doesn't actually apply to many people; you're likely using compressed files (MP3s or a streaming service) on your phone on the go anyway. Some reviewers really liked how it sounded and some didn't. Our top pick above is a surer bet for your aural enjoyment at this price range.
The Soundboks' claim to fame is that it's the loudest bluetooth speaker on the market. Reviewers say that this is true, but that the sound is terrible. It is also huge; if you want to annoy your neighbors there are cheaper and better ways to do so — like running an extension cord to a powered setup in your yard.
Several SoundBot Bluetooth speakers get decent if unexceptional ratings over at Amazon; we have not tried them out ourselves nor encountered serious reviews or testing of any of these at this point, however.
Speakers that We Considered Too Heavy/Bulky/Awkward to Be of Real Use
Some of these are great speakers, but we don't think it's worth considering a speaker whose weight or size is going to prevent you from wanting to throw it in a carry-on.
Bowers & Wilkens T7 — This sounds truly fabulous, but much heavier and more expensive than our main picks. This would be our top pick if you're looking for great sound and you don't mind lugging around something a bit bigger — but we think portability is paramount as this ensures that you will actually want to toss a speaker in your bag and get lots of use out of it.
IK Multimedia iLoud 40W — Reviewers liked how this one sounds.
Infinity One — Big, and delivers a poor sound mix
JBL XTreme — Generally well-liked by reviewers and durable
NYNE Multimedia Bass — This speaker has its fans, but all of the careful reviewers who listened to both this speaker and the Denon Envaya (above) preferred the later, and this is much heavier and bigger (13.5 x 6.2 x 7 inches; 6.65 pounds).
RIVA Turbo X — This is acclaimed by many critics for its great sound, but it's pricey and definitely too heavy for the road. Plus, some find that the Riva S (see above) actually sounds better.
These Portable Bluetooth Speakers Were Not Particularly Well-Liked by Critics
- Acoustic Solutions PHK-BRICK: This British speaker has gotten unenthusiastic reviews for its "congested", "thin", and "buzzing" sound. It is bigger and heavier than our main recommendations, but cheap. It does not seem to be available in the States at this time.
- Amazon Basics Ultra-Portable
- Anker MP141 (but it is very cheap, and has a 20-hour battery)
- Bayan Soundbook (actually pretty good, but too quiet)
- Beats Pill 2.0 (loud, but thin bass)
- Beats Pill XL (booming, weird bass)
- Creative Sound Blaster Roar
- Edifier MP260 Extreme Connect
- G-Project G-Boom
- Klipsch GiG
- Klipsch KMC 1
- Koss BTS1
- Samsung Level Box
- SHARKK Bluetooth 4.0 Boombox
- Skullcandy Air Raid: lacks bass
- Soen TRANSIT
- Soen TRANSIT XS
- Sony SRSX2 Ultra-Portable
- Sol Republic Punk
- Sony SRSX3 Portable: good, but poor performance at louder volumes
- Soundfreaq Pocket Kick 2
- Soundmatters foxL DASH7: but it's thin and light
- Soundmatters foxLV2 Platinum
- TDK Life on Record TREK Max A34
Wrap-Up: And the Best Speaker for You Is...
We think that most people will be the most pleased with the UE Boom 2 for its excellent bass, smooth 360-degree delivery, loudness, ruggedness, and small size. And if you're willing to carry two speakers, two UE Boom 2s provide a great, booming, take-it-anywhere stereo. (For less money, you could also do the same thing with two UE Roll 2s, and this would beat out a single UE Boom 2, as we pointed out to a commenter below.)
If you can drop an extra $100 for the very best sound, and don't need the ruggedness and waterproofing, go for a Riva S instead.
If you want the best speaker for about $50, grab a Logitech X300.
[ + ]