Let’s face it: The speakers on your phone suck. Sure, everything is relative and they’re amazing compared to what, say, a 2005 flip-phone sounded like. But do we really want to justify our tech based on a time when people published think-pieces on how texting was the new hotness? No, we do not. So while we can admit you can hear musical cues right out of your pocket, if you want to feel the actual emotional resonance that makes the music special, the speakers on even the best smartphone—or best tablet or even best laptop—ultimately suck. But the best portable Bluetooth speakers do not suck, so we’re ready to help you select the best portable Bluetooth speaker for any situation.
- For hitting the trail(s): Tribit StormBox Micro
- For a long weekend off the grid: JBL Charge 5
- For poolside podcasts: UE Wonderboom 2
- For staying connected to more than the music: Sonos Roam
- For high-end low-end: UE Hyperboom
- For control freqs: Marshall Kilburn II
- For some budget-friendly bump: Soundcore 3 by Anker
Things to consider when searching for the best portable Bluetooth speaker
Choosing the best Bluetooth speaker for you can be a bit of a challenge; with all the options out there, it’s easy to spend hours scrolling. So, whether you want to blast a soundtrack for motivation or relaxation, we want to help jumpstart your journey. Before diving headfirst into the ever-expanding speaker market, consider size, durability, connectivity, battery life, volume, and cost. A truly great portable Bluetooth speaker will be able to fit your lifestyle and budget without sacrificing audio quality.
How much weight do you want to carry around?
While most wireless speakers are designed to be used on the go, that doesn’t mean they’re all ultraportable. There are many shapes, sizes, and weight options to choose from, so take some time to consider where and when you’ll want to jam out the most. If you’re merely traveling to the backyard or nearby park to listen, you can probably stand to stuff a larger speaker in a bag, or sling it over your shoulder. The same goes for road trips, car-camping, or beach visits. You can get great sound, long-lasting batteries, and thumping bass from a speaker that starts at roughly the same size and weight as a water bottle.
However, if you need something to help you push through that last mile on a bike path or hiking trail, you’ll want a smaller speaker that can easily attach to handlebars or a backpack. Luckily, several portable speakers weigh under 1 pound, the lightest of which comes in at 0.019 pounds.
You don’t need to settle for boxy sound when you crave aural ecstasy
One common criticism of portable Bluetooth speakers is a lack of low-end support and distortion at high volumes. While it’s true that portable systems can have trouble with handling subbass and high-decibel demands, there are a few models out there that are a cut above the rest.
If you’re after a party-pleasing sound, the bigger the speaker, the better. Larger units are generally more equipped to maintain consistent audio even as you turn the volume up, plus they have more room for well-designed subwoofers. A speaker with more woofers, as well as “bass radiators,” will do a much better job navigating the bump in the sonic roads. As for volume, check out the speaker’s specs and look for a maximum decibel level, notated as dB. If you are primarily playing music inside, 100 dB is the loudest you’ll want to go, and we’d be surprised if you even enjoyed listening at this level (it’s akin to a jet plane flying directly overhead). On the other hand, if you’re hosting an outdoor party with many people in attendance, you could think about increasing the volume to 115 dB, which is concert-level; music at this volume will cover a large area but you wouldn’t want anyone standing too close. Generally speaking, we are satisfied with Bluetooth speakers that maintain good sound quality at 85 dB for larger gatherings.
Do you always forget your USB cables?
Few things are more annoying than getting to your destination, cueing up your favorite playlist, only to see the dreaded low-battery LED flash demandingly. Luckily, the best portable Bluetooth speakers have long-lasting batteries. Speakers that boast batteries that can last between 10 and 20 hours are now more the norm than the exception. If you are going on a remote trip where charging isn’t an option and music is a necessity (I mean, when isn’t it), extended battery life is more important. We’re happy to report that these long-lasting batteries don’t mean large, bulky speakers—you can find reliable units at just about any size.
Safely take your Bluetooth speaker to the beach
We have all been subjected to the terror that takes over when you accidentally spill your drink on a device, sending you scurrying for a bowl of rice and praying to the tech gods that your electronics survive. Luckily you can avoid all that fear and even embrace a little liquid with a waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker. These durable units are particularly great for beach vacations, pool parties, or karaoke in the shower. To make sure your speaker can withstand a little splash, look for an IPX rating in its specs.
IP stands for “Ingress Protection,” which tells you just how fortified an electronic device is against dirt, dust, and water. The first digit describes particle protection, the second liquid. For example, if a speaker has a rating of IP57, the “5” indicates it can keep out most dust and dirt particles, especially those over 1 millimeter in size, but it might be susceptible to large quantities of dust if exposed at one time. The “7” means you can submerge the device in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes before any damage occurs. If you see a rating that looks like IPX7, the “X” means no data is available for that substance. The higher the number, the more protected your speakers will be from whatever it indicates (dust or water), so you can listen to your preferred podcasts in the tub or bring your favorite sea shanties aboard a boat without worry.
Connectivity options will keep you tuned in at all times
Alongside portability, we crave easy connectivity when it comes to our portable Bluetooth speakers. You want to be able to quickly link your device without fretting over interference if you happen to walk a few feet away. Reliable portable speakers are equipped with Bluetooth versions from 4.2 to 5.0, designed to bolster consistent connection between smartphones and computers with fitness trackers, headphones, speakers, and more—relying on efficient power usage and data transmission options for improved battery life and fewer streaming glitches. When selecting a speaker, make sure to pick a model that is Bluetooth compatible with your music-streaming device. From there, you can think about additional connectivity features that would complete your ideal listening experience. Do you need a speaker that can stay connected to your phone from over 75 feet away? Do you want to be able to pair with another speaker for stereo sound? Are you looking to connect two devices at once so you can easily hand over DJ responsibilities?
You might also want to consider a speaker that has additional options for creating a connection. Some of us still have a few old-school devices that need an analog aux cord, which some speakers can support though this feature is starting to fade with the release of newer models. Others might want to pair their portable speakers with a home system, whether for high-fidelity audio or voice-activated commands. If this sounds like you, consider a model that is also equipped with WiFi connectivity.
How much do you want to spend on a Bluetooth speakers?
Portable Bluetooth speakers run the gamut when it comes to price. Some of the high-end models top out at close to $300-$450, though there are plenty of great picks out there in the more reasonable $100-$200 range. You can even find quality speakers for closer to $50. As you start to go down in price, you might miss out on a few features like extra battery life, clear audio at high volumes, or truly booming bass. However, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly speaker, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice too much to find something that satisfies your needs. Just pay attention to all the information you can find about a particular model, including user reviews and product descriptions.
The best portable Bluetooth speakers
From extreme durability to supreme connectivity, we’ve got you covered when it comes to the best portable Bluetooth speakers. Whether you’re always on the go or simply need something to take to the front porch, these speakers will deliver quality sound without any cables or wires weighing you down.
Best portable Bluetooth speaker for hitting the trail(s): Tribit StormBox Micro
Tiny But Mighty
Strap on your gear, then your speaker for on-the-go listening. TriBit
The StormBox Micro from Tribit is a super-compact portable Bluetooth speaker that is easily strap-mounted to your backpack, handlebars, and more. At only 3.87 inches by 3.87 inches by 1.4 inches, and just over 1 pound, its small size doesn’t get in the way of solid sound that packs a punch. A TI amplifier and Xbass DSP technology help the 9W speaker to recreate those heart-pumping low-end frequencies, and it can even be paired with another Micro for stereo sound anytime, anywhere. With an IP67 rating, you won’t need to worry about dust or water damage, and eight hours of playtime will keep you in business during an out-and-back. And just in case you’re more than a bike frame’s distance from the Micro (or need more juice for another quick adventure), it uses Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to your device with a range of up to 100 feet and charges with an included USB-C cable.
Best portable speaker for a long weekend off the grid: JBL Charge 5
Compact Size, Big Battery
Keep the music turned up even when you can’t plug in. JBL
The JBL Charge 5 is the latest and greatest iteration of a mid-sized Bluetooth speaker from JBL, known for its impressive party speakers. It offers 20 hours of battery life at a reasonably compact size. This burrito-shaped JBL speaker weighs just over 2 pounds and measures 8.7 inches by 3.67 inches, which is small enough to stuff in a backpack. It delivers a rich, uncompromising mix with surprisingly impactful bass lines and clear vocals. Available in six colors, the Charge 5 has an IP67 rating, which means you don’t have to worry about sand or spillage ruining your weekend away. PartyBoost mode allows you to pair with another (compatible) JBL speaker to support stereo sound (or up to 100 speakers in mono), and the built-in Powerbank will let you keep your phone charged, so you never need to stop the music. If you don’t need the extra battery life of the JBL Charge 5 and wouldn’t mind spending a little less, check out the JBL Flip 5, which has many of the same features we love in JBL portable Bluetooth speakers in a more compact, beer can-sized frame.
Best portable Bluetooth speaker for poolside podcasts: UE Wonderboom 2
A waterproof, floating speaker that’s perfect for a trip to the beach or a soak in the hot tub. UE
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is an option you can easily take with you—into the woods or the waves. It comes in five fun two-tone colors with a flexible handle at the top that can easily be attached to a backpack, belt loop, bike basket, or boat. It weighs less than 1 pound and measures just 4-inches tall, so you won’t be slowed down by bulk. The battery lasts a full 13 hours and produces 360-degree sound coverage that can reach up to 87 dBs, pretty impressive for a speaker this size. With an IP67 rating, the UE Wonderboom 2 is waterproof and dust resistant. It also floats, which is one of our favorite features—you won’t need to get out of the water just to skip a track or pause the music when your portable Bluetooth speaker is bobbing alongside you.
Best for staying connected to more than the music: Sonos Roam
A WiFi connection, voice control, and more offers the ultimate, multiroom listening experience. Sonos
The Sonos Roam lets you enjoy music at home or on the go. You can easily connect via Bluetooth anywhere outdoors or use your home WiFi network to sync with additional Sonos system or listen to music, check the weather, and send messages via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri (it’s even compatible with Apple AirPlay 2, so you can have a more robust connection if you have an iPhone). Once paired, this Ultimate Ears speaker will automatically connect to your phone and WiFi when it’s in range, which means you won’t need to pause your playlist when you get home. It can last for 10 hours on a single charge, which you can replenish wirelessly by dropping it down on any Qi charger. The Roam also has an IP67 rating so you can take it just about anywhere; it changes audio directionality based on vertical versus horizontal placement; and Trueplay tuning means it automatically adapts its EQ whether you’re in the back room, backyard, or the backwoods.
For high-end low-end: UE Hyperboom
Get the Crowd Going
A powerful low-end, adaptive equalizer, and concert-level sound make this speaker perfect for your next party UE
On the opposite end of the spectrum from our previous picks, the Hyperboom from Ultimate Ears does the most when it comes to portable speakers meant for big events. While it may not be the smallest model out there, measuring 7.5 inches by 14.3 inches and weighing 13 pounds, it delivers booming bass and crisp playback at high volumes. It comes with multiple connectivity options, including two Bluetooth channels, each with a 150-foot range, one aux port, and one optical input. A full battery can last up to 24 hours, and you can easily switch between four different devices at one time, which means you can say goodbye to that awkward moment when the music stops as you switch to your friend’s party playlist. The adaptive EQ has a built-in microphone that picks up when the Hyperboom is being moved and adjusts the sound to whatever space it’s occupying. The Hyperboom does indeed bring the hype and the boom. But if less is still more, and our Wonderboom 2 pick is just too small, UE makes a range of recommendable portable Bluetooth speakers. (And if you really want to push the sound pressure, consider the JBL PartyBox 1000, which is “portable” in the same way a large rolling suitcase is.)
For control freqs: Marshall Kilburn II
Stereo, With a Twist
Multidirectional sound and onboard EQ knobs make this speaker a classic for those who want a little more control. Marshall
A retro-chic look with an impressive sound, this Marshall speaker from one of the premier brands in rock ‘n roll amplification boasts 20 hours of playtime with a quick-charge option, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX (which delivers higher fidelity with compatible devices), a 30-foot connectivity range, and, best of all, adjustable analog EQ so you can customize your sound. The Kilburn II performs well across all frequencies with a range of 52 to 20,000 Hz, delivering 36 articulate watts in a classically styled, roadworthy 6.5-pound cabinet (complete with strap). Plus a multi-host feature lets you connect two devices at once so you can take turns soloing. While it’s made for fiery licks, the Kilburn II isn’t built to withstand the elements, however. And if the Kilburn II is a little bit outside of your price range or space constraints, check out the Marshall Emberton, a smaller, actually waterproof speaker that forgoes the onboard adjustable settings but delivers a naturally balanced sound with just enough bite for only $150.
Best portable Bluetooth speaker on a budget: Anker Soundcore 3
Great Features for Less
This 16W, low-cost speaker packs many of the features found in more expensive models. Soundcore
The Anker Soundcore 3 comes at a friendly $50 price without sacrificing sound quality. Play up to 480 songs (roughly 24 hours) on one charge supported by dual passive radiators, BassUp technology, and dual drivers with 100-percent titanium diaphragms—delivering extended highs and distortion-free lows, in stereo, no less. Choose from four preset EQ modes and link to other Bluetooth 5.0 Soundcore speakers, using the Soundcore app, for an elevated experience. And, with IPX7 protection, your investment, while not substantial, will survive if you get caught in the rain, etc.
Best portable Bluetooth speaker FAQ:
What is the loudest portable Bluetooth speaker?
The loudest portable Bluetooth speaker currently available is the SOUNDBOKS 3, which can reach up to 126 decibels. However, it does weigh 34 pounds, so one could call its portability into question. At $999, this speaker is designed to provide literal concert-quality sound for various venues.
What is the best inexpensive Bluetooth speaker?
The best inexpensive portable Bluetooth speaker is relatively subjective, given each individual’s priorities. Still, we stand by the Tribit StormBox Micro, Soundcore 3 by Anker, and UE Wonderboom 2 as three of the best Bluetooth speakers under $100; for more budget-friendly models, take a look at a JBL speaker like the palm-sized JBL Go 3.
How many watts is a good speaker?
While there isn’t a set amount of wattage that determines a good speaker, you can use this measurement to help assess volume output. Wattage typically determines how loud a speaker can get, but not the quality of the sound. Larger speakers with higher wattage can typically generate more volume, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be free of distortion. For more information regarding your speaker’s sound quality, investigate its frequency range and sound pressure levels, notated as SPL.
The final word on finding the best portable Bluetooth speaker
While there may not be one portable Bluetooth speaker to rule them all, there are several excellent options out there, so long as you know where your priorities lie. The key to finding the best Bluetooth speaker is location, location, location—consider where you want to listen to music the most. That answer will lead you to many quick decisions regarding size, battery, connectivity, and durability needs. Once you know where you want to go, you’ll be able to identify the perfect wireless speakers to soundtrack your favorite activities.>