The 20 Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers

Each cycle of the calendar brings new offerings in the world of mobile audio. More bass, bigger ranges, and enhanced Bluetooth connectivity come fast and furious into the marketplace, meaning that even the most ardent audiophile has trouble keeping pace. In this sea of options, there’s a lot of unlistenable squawk boxes that can’t keep a beat, won’t work with certain devices, or lose vocals into muddy background music. With the small size of the drivers and the mistreatment that goes along with riding in bags or back seats, a good portable speaker is as rare as winning Powerball numbers. That’s why we’re swooping in.

We started out with the speakers that we knew could make quality audio in a vacuum, pumping out sick beats when they were given all the power and care they could possibly want. Then, we began the beatings. We wanted speakers that could perform in rain, would burn in while being taken on the road, and handled ride-alongs in the grit and dirt of off-roading sessions, all while slamming out the Black album with head-banging clarity. Once we cleaned off the blood and tossed out anything that didn’t keep our toe tapping, we had the 20 best portable bluetooth speakers.

Jabra Solemate

Jabra Solemate

Dimensions: 3.15 inches x 7.32 inches x 5.12 inches
Weight: 21.5 Oz
Playtime: 8 Hours

Kick It: The clunky street shoe design actually performs a pair of functions. The large tread on the bottom helps keep it in place while the loop gives you an integrated attachment for toting this around with your gear. Bluetooth connectivity is decent, though it doesn’t use aptX or any other enhancement feature, so the range is limited. To counteract that, there’s also a standard 3.5mm input on the side for getting your audio on the chain, so to speak. It also has a micro-USB which makes it a basic charging station for your standard devices, adding function to the funky form.

Purchase: $53+

TDK Life on Record A33

TDK Life on Record A33

Dimensions: 3.7 inches x 9.5 inches x 2 inches
Weight: 59.2 Oz
Playtime: 6 Hours

Black Box: Don’t let the sober exterior fool you. The A33 has high quality audio capabilities as well as exceptional weatherproofing where it counts. You aren’t going to be able to use a basic USB cable to recharge it, since it requires AC to get powered up. It also weighs a little more due to the robust construction that permits it to survive in the rain or shine while still putting out plenty of lows, mids, and highs, with limited distortion, even when you start cranking up your garden party. As to drivers, here’s the rundown: Dual 1.5-inch tweeters, a 2.5-inch subwoofer on front, and a pair of 3-inch passive radiators bringing up the rear.

Purchase: $56

Logitech X300

Logitech X300

Dimensions: 2.7 inches x 5.9 inches x 2.8 inches
Weight: 12.5 Oz
Playtime: 5 Hours

Mighty Mini: Smaller than most of the competition with a more uninspiring design, the X300 proves why Logitech is one of the biggest names in computer accessories. It won’t distort sound, even at max volume due to signal processing that prevents it from becoming overloaded. This is sometimes is noticeable, but it’s better than having Stevie Nicks or Dave Grohl suddenly become a choppy mess that’s painful to listen to. The X300 is light and simple, with the ability to capture good gaming audio for PC frag-fests and carry a tune indoors or out.

Purchase: $57

UE Roll 360

UE Roll 360

Dimensions: 1.6 inches x 5.3 inches x 5.3 inches
Weight: 12 Oz
Playtime: 9 Hours

Best Bang for Your Buck: The disc-shaped UFO body manages to brave new frontiers in the Bluetooth speaker world by creating more real estate for the internal drivers to use. Waterproof right out of the gate, the Roll also has its own bungee cords for carrying and floatie for bobbing along on the beautiful briny. Meant for background sounds or easy listening out on the trail, it produces quality audio that doesn’t distort when you push it, but also doesn’t give you big sound overall. Complex tracks will muddle it a little, but there’s honestly nothing better for personal listening on the move.

Purchase: $70

Philips ShoqBox SB7200

Philips ShoqBox SB7200

Dimensions: 7 inches x 2.8 inches x 2.7 inches
Weight: 32.8 Oz
Playtime: 8 Hours

Mixed Bag: The ShoqBox is an oddity. It’s easy to fall in love with the rubber and chrome body that can take punishment above and below sealevel and keep on ticking. It also makes much more noise than many of the tube speakers we’ve seen. This should make it a clear winner, but then Philips adds in their weird little iPad-esque function button that gets accidentally pressed until you want to cut the bloody thing out. If that weren’t enough, there’s also a “Smart Sensor” that is meant to allow you to control the Box with gestures. Nice, if it actually did it. About half the time it either gets the wrong command, or just flat ignores you, which will hurt your feelings.

Purchase: $74

Outdoor Technology Turtle Shell 2.0

Outdoor Technology Turtle Shell 2.0

Dimensions: 2.3 inches x 6.6 inches x 4 inches
Weight: 10.4 Oz
Playtime: 16 Hours

Ground Pounder: The first Turtle Shell was a revelation from a company who had almost no background in mobile audio. The 2.0 improves on the performance many times over, while also creating a better experience with simpler controls and better features. Resistant to water as well as shock and dust proof, you’ll find few speakers that can go as far or survive as much as the Turtle Shell. Though it has a larger footprint than most competitors, the one area is suffers is in heavy bass. If you prefer tracks that hit hard, this won’t satisfy and will cause some ugly distortion at higher volumes. Contrarily, higher audio in the mid and high ranges come out crisp, strong, and incredibly loud whether played inside or out.

Purchase: $79

JBL Flip 3

JBL Flip 3

Dimensions: 3.88 inches x 7.5 inches x 4.5 inches
Weight: 26.4 Oz
Playtime: 10 Hours

Finally Worth It: Each time a Flip has come out, there has been superior items on the market for lower prices. It seems like JBL finally got it right with the 3. Like Godfather 2 it’s the sequel that eclipses the original. Unlike it’s older siblings, this can handle high volumes and even manages to cope with complex cuts with a variety of instruments and vocals, so those into electronica should make a note. The addition of a useful speakerphone that can work when riding on your back or even at your hip (depending on conditions) give the 3 added function for taking calls without having to unfetter your phone. Splashproof and under a pound in weight, it’s a die-hard mobile maverick.

Purchase: $85+

Grace Digital Ecoxgear Ecoxbt

Grace Digital Ecoxgear Ecoxbt

Dimensions: 2.9 inches x 9 inches x 4 inches
Weight: 24 Oz
Playtime: 10 Hours

Power Player: Simplicity is what the Ecoxbt aims for in everything but the name. The body has handles on both sides for carting it wherever you go or hooking it onto bags, belts, or EDC packs. It’s water and weather proofed, and the internal drivers are built to be blunt instruments that focus on pushing a lot of sound out for better outdoor listening. If you’re looking for fine points, they won’t be found here, but for pure volume in a frame that’s ready to go poolside or endure a day at the beach, the Ecoxbt is your unpronounceable best friend.

Purchase: $92

BRAVEN BRV-Pro

BRAVEN BRV-Pro

Dimensions: 2.7 inches x 6.1 inches x 3.3 inches
Weight: 23.04 Oz
Playtime: 15 Hours

Accessorizer: A modest, waterproof speaker that’s a little past its prime, the BRV-Pro can still be a contender the the Bluetooth business because it so readily and easily attaches to other equipment, including a GoPro mount. It can be stuck to surfboards, thanks to zero-ingress waterproofing, or jack into your portable solar grid to get its power whenever the sun smiles upon you. The audio levels on this are less than mind-blowing, because it’s made to take a hit, not hit a note. The sound isn’t bad, it’s just inferior to comparably priced options that aren’t nearly as steady when it comes to adventure.

Purchase: $146

SCOSCHE boomBOTTLE+

SCOSCHE boomBOTTLE+

Dimensions: 9.6 inches x 4.8 inches x 4.5 inches
Weight: 43.2 Oz
Playtime: 11 Hours

Cycling Companion: The boomBOTTLE+ was made specifically to fit into the drink holster offered by most bicycle companies. The goal is to reduce the amount of weight a cyclist carries while also providing them with sound sans earbuds. Triple driver audio in a balanced body helps create a superior acoustic chamber that puts music into the air with greater concentration so it can travel further and sound better as it comes out. At both the higher and lower frequencies, you’ll lose a little clarity, which reduces the bumping bass or the banshee highs, but the rich, warm, comfortable mid-range still creates an affecting experience in a small, inexpensive package.

Purchase: $149+

UE Boom 2

UE Boom 2

Dimensions: 2.5 inches x 7 inches x 2.5 inches
Weight: 19.2 Oz
Playtime: 15 Hours

Undefeated: The IPX7 rating that comes standard with the Boom 2 means shocks, drops, dust, and even full immersion in water can’t kill it. Though it looks the same as the original Boom, a tighter fabric weave helps keep the world from sneaking in to do damage to the speaker and delicate components hidden underneath. As to sound, it brings even more bass than the first model, along with greater clarity. Though the name implies a heavy hit, the lower end is clean and doesn’t overpower the highs and mids, both of which sing with incredible clarity for a desktop speaker, much less a portable Bluetooth syncer.

Purchase: $150

JBL Pulse 2

JBL Pulse 2

Dimensions: 7.65 inches x 3.31 inches x 3.31 inches
Weight: 27.36 Oz
Playtime: 10 Hours

Pretty Boy: JBL does a yeoman’s job of adding a Pink Floyd-esque laser light show into the Pulse 2, but that certainly wasn’t what impressed us about it. Though not able to go under the sea, it can handle plenty of splashes from inclement weather or water fights during a pool party, as well as stand up to basic drops. Ounce for ounce the Pulse has one of the biggest and best sounds of any portable speaker you can find today, serving up crisp audio that doesn’t drop much at either end of the frequency spectrum. Simpler tracks sound great, but larger symphonic arrangements and complicated sound schemes confuse the Pulse 2 at times.

Purchase: $160

Jawbone Big Jambox

Jawbone Big Jambox

Dimensions: 3.6 inches x 10 inches x 3.1 inches
Weight: 43.2 Oz
Playtime: 15 Hours

Old Man Thumper: The Jambox has been keeping frat parties spilling out onto the lawn for nearly half a decade now, which proves just how magically delicious the design was when it began. The performance hasn’t degraded with time, and while it won’t give you the same acuity as the Bose right below, it does give out more bass and a more rounded pump for better 360-degree noise pollution. Where it does seem capable of doing more is with the speakerphone, which has good projection and can catch words that would be missed by similar big blocks of bump.

Purchase: $163+

Bose SoundLink Mini II

Bose SoundLink Mini II

Dimensions: 2 inches x 7.1 inches x 2.3 inches
Weight: 24 Oz
Playtime: 10 Hours

Improved Perfection: We couldn’t find too much to complain about with the first iteration of the Mini, but Bose did and that’s why they went back to the drawing board. They added about 3 hours worth of battery power and included a speakerphone for easier communication through your smart devices. Built to look more like a traditional speaker, it also has a more traditional sound stage, which is to say it can fill a room when positioned properly, but isn’t going to sound great if you slip behind it. The natural sound is ideal for smaller spaces, as is the body which can’t stand up to much weather or wear-and-tear.

Purchase: $199

Beats By Dr. Dre Beats Pill+

Beats By Dr. Dre Beats Pill+

Dimensions: 12.4 inches x 22 inches x 8.2 inches
Weight: 20.8 Oz
Playtime: 12 Hours

Fixed Up: The original Pill was a difficult hunk of hardware to swallow, and even worse to listen to, but the Pill+ proves that Beats can do it right, sometimes. It does suffer from some of the same issues as it’s progenitor, such as becoming overwhelmed by numerous instruments playing at the same time, but it doesn’t distort as easily and simple tracks sound great at high volumes with plenty of bass and treble where needed. The sound quality is only slightly less than the Bose Mini II, but the Pill+ can be paired with a second Pill for better stereo quality, a feature noticeably absent from Bose’s offering.

Purchase: $200

FUGOO Sport XL

FUGOO Sport XL

Dimensions: 4.7 inches x 12 inches x 4.2 inches
Weight: 66 Oz
Playtime: 35 Hours

Go Time: Depending on your needs, any of the XL line will give you exceptional audio, but for those on the go, we found the sport had the best balance of ruggedness, reliability, and acoustic distinctiveness. Field tests – along with the IP67 rating – proved that this can handle full submersion in 3 feet of water while still letting The Boss tell us about Jersey life. Thought it looks cute and compact enough for a hot yoga class, behind the grill is a quadruple set of tweeters and a pair of mid/sub drivers. For adding a little more oomph to the lower line, 2 passive radiators and a 97 db. sound pressure level give out full-bodied audio immersion that astounds.

Purchase: $250

Libratone Zipp

Libratone Zipp

Dimensions: 4.8 inches x 10.3 inches x 4.8 inches
Weight: 52.8
Playtime: 10 Hours

Impressive Import: Crafted by a wee Danish startup, the original Zipp (now called the Classic Zipp) was a work of art and one of the very first WiFi speakers to hit the market. The new Zipp is similar, but brings more high-end components thanks to the company being bought by a Hong Kong conglomerate. Able to stream using AirPlay as well as your wireless connection or the on-board Bluetooth, it has superb connectivity at any standard range. The speaker itself pushes 100-watts of pure power, and if that isn’t enough for you, the SoundSpace Link system allows you to synchronize up to 6 of these for a multi-room chorus.

Purchase: $296

Marshall Kilburn

Marshall Kilburn

Dimensions: 5.5 inches x 9.5 inches x 5.5 inches
Weight: 105.6
Playtime: 20 Hours

Fan Favorite: No serious audiophile is going to be able to make peace with any Bluetooth speaker, since the technology doesn’t yet allow for true high-definition, but the Kilburn is as close as you’re going to come. The boxy look conjures up classic speaker boxes the likes of which roadies have been lugging since the invention of electric guitars. This old-school style is to help bring the look and the sound of those speakers to anyone’s home. The Kilburn strives for 10’s across the board, and it pushes close, even when playing songs that are riddled with nuance. Clean separation between vocals and background add to the experience, and the long-distance Bluetooth connectivity can go almost as far as the sound.

Purchase: $299

BeoPlay A2

BeoPlay A2

Dimensions: 5.6 inches x 10.1 inches x 1.8 inches
Weight: 38.80 Oz
Playtime: 24 Hours

Flat Rate: B&O Play, a segment of Bang & Olufsen, has done something we never thought we would see from the high-end audio giant: Made a portable Bluetooth speaker. As always, Bang and the bunch have brought their incomparable quality control to bear and the A2 is a screaming addition to any speaker library. Designed in answer to the Big Jambox from Jawbone, the A2 uses aptX, a new Bluetooth standard that offers CD-quality sound, which is more than the compressed Bluetooth signal has been able to handle previously. It does deliver amazingly clear sound that isn’t affected by lying flat or being propped up, but there’s no waterproofing or durability to be had; so portability is limited to climate-controlled atmospheres.

Purchase: $399

BeoPlay Beolit 15

BeoPlay Beolit 15

Dimensions: 7.5 inches x 9.06 inches x 5.4 inches
Weight: 96 Oz
Playtime: 24 Hours

Big Brother: Fans of the A2 listed above who are seeking more Bluetooth playing power and don’t mind lugging around a much bigger box should consider the Beolit 15. It uses the same high-fidelity sound structure as the A2, but in a picnic-basket package that permits the 240 watts of power to push the 5.5-inch full-range driver to hit every note available in the Bluetooth spectrum. Backed by a pair of 4-inch bass radiators and 1.5-inch tweeters, it’s surround sound in an aluminum box. Truth be told, the intuitive controls and smart portability options – such as a cubby for stashing the power cable – caught us as much as the True360 sound. It’s brains, beauty, and power to go.

Purchase: $599

Check out last year’s picks on the next page.

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