Best Bluetooth Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar’s round-up of the Bluetooth speakers you can buy in 2018.
There are two extremes in the audio world. At the high end are costly hi-fi setups made up of almost a half-dozen different devices. They can sound incredible, but are equally good at costing an arm and a leg and taking up a dedicated equipment rack.
At the other end of the spectrum sit Bluetooth speakers. Yes you’ll have to keep these battery-powered devices charged, and their reliance on Bluetooth rather than good old-fashioned cables means that the sound fidelity is never going to be as good, but they’re much cheaper and a lot more convenient.
Whether you’re looking for a speaker to bring with you on your next adventure, a portable powerhouse to bring with you to the beach or a rocking wireless speaker for your next house party, there’s definitely a Bluetooth speaker out there for you.
Need some suggestions? Here’s our list of our top picks for the best Bluetooth speakers around. Some are rugged. Some are stylish. Some are weatherproof and some aren’t fit for the outdoors – read through and take your pick.
How to pick out the best Bluetooth speaker
One of the biggest questions we get asked when talking to folks about Bluetooth speakers is: How do I pick out the best one?
Regardless of what features you want from your speaker, its imperative that it has a decent battery life and good level of sound quality. There’s no point in having a device packed full of features if its battery dies quickly and it sounds rubbish. All of our picks fulfil these two requirements, so when you’re picking from this list you can afford to focus more on features.
On the features side, common requests include water-resistance (and water-proof speakers), voice calling and device charging – a feature that allows you to plug your phone or tablet into the speaker to siphon off a bit of juice when it’s running a bit low. Some of the best speakers (like the UE Boom 2) now include all three!
Another good way to narrow down your search is to select a speaker based on the activity you’re going to do with it. A great travel speaker might not have the exact same attributes as the best home listening speaker, for example.
That being said, we’ve tried to highlight some of the most common use cases below and have selected a speaker that fits perfectly with that scenario.
The best Bluetooth speakers of 2018:
1. UE Boom 2
The best Bluetooth speaker
Weight: 1.2 pounds | Battery life: 15 hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | Frequency response: 90Hz-20kHz | Drivers: Two 1.75″ drivers and two 1.75″ x 3″ passive radiators | NFC: Yes | Aux-in: Yes USB charging: Yes
This sequel to the UE Boom nails everything a Bluetooth speaker should be. It’s loud, yet detailed. Portable, but still incredibly durable. Plus, even better, the addition of waterproofing turns what used to be the best Bluetooth speaker around for most occasions into the best one for every occasion.
If you’re deep in the search for your next –, or first – Bluetooth speaker, you can stop looking now. (But if you’re looking for a little more power, the Megaboom – also from UE – is a great choice, too.)
Read the full review: UE Boom 2
2. JBL Charge 3
A great speaker that also charges your phone
Weight: 1.76 pounds | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | Frequency response: 65Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: Two 1.7″ drivers and two passive radiators | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: 3.0 | Aux-in: Yes | USB charging: Yes
As a package, the JBL Charge 3 offers a compelling set of features and excellent sound quality to boot. It punches well above its weight, playing loudly and distortion-free.
The Charge line of speakers have been on our shortlist of recommendations for a long time thanks to the way they combine great sound quality with the ability to charge your devices over USB.
The latest iteration maintains JBL’s dominance in the portable Bluetooth speaker market.
Read the full review: JBL Charge 3
3. Bose SoundLink Mini II
The best mid-range speaker
Weight: 1.5 pounds | Dimensions: 2 x 7.1 x 2.3 inches (H x W x D) | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Wireless range: 30 ft (10 m) | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: N/A | Aux-in: Yes | USB charging: No
The Bose SoundLink Mini II is relatively ancient, having been released in June 2015. However, writing off the SoundLink Mini II because of its age would be a mistake, as it remains one of the best sounding wireless speakers.
That said, it punches way above what its size would suggest, producing deep bass, sparkling highs and a lush midrange. While most wireless speakers sound OK, the Mini II proves that small speakers don’t need to compromise on sound, and other Bose conveniences like a charging pad.
Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Mini II
4. UE Wonderboom
The best outdoor speaker
Weight: 425g | Dimensions: 102 x 93.5mm (H x D) | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Wireless range: 100 ft (33 m) | Frequency response: 80 Hz – 20 kHz | Drivers: two 40 mm active drivers and two 46.1mm x 65.2mm passive radiators | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: N/A | Aux-in: No | USB charging: No
When someone asks us for a recommendation for a waterproof speaker, the UE Roll 2 was always on the top of our list. We loved the Roll 2’s unique form factor, 50-foot wireless range and, obviously, it sounded good, too. Where it was lacking was in the bass department. Logitech, UE’s parent company, has fixed the Roll 2’s lack of bass by creating the appropriately named UE Wonderboom.
In our eyes, the UE Wonderboom bests the Roll 2 in just about every way –except for the Roll 2’s handy bungee cord. Still, ignoring that, if you’re looking for one of the best waterproof Bluetooth speakers on the market today, it’s hard to do better than the UE Wonderboom. Plus, it comes in some interesting colors, including Avocado and…you guessed it, Unicorn.
Read the full review: UE Wonderboom
5. Creative Muvo 2C
A tiny budget speaker that packs a big punch
Weight: 0.35 pounds | Battery life: 6 hours | Wireless range: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: 1 x full-range | NFC: No | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: 4.2 | Weatherproofing: Yes-IP66 | Charges devices over USB: No
The Creative Muvo 2C is a speaker than punches well above its weight in terms of its sound quality. This tiny Bluetooth speaker is one of the smallest we’ve seen to pack its own bass radiator, which results in much better dynamic range than many other speakers at this price point. Plus, it’s also feature rich in terms of its inputs, allowing you to play music either over Bluetooth, a 3.5mm jack, USB or even insert a microSD card to play MP3 files directly.
Of course, that being said, if you spend more you’ll get a more refined sound, better bass still, and a longer battery life. But if you’re looking for a budget speaker than the Muvo 2C is hard to beat at this price.
Read the full review: Creative Muvo 2C
6. Bang and Olufsen Beoplay P2
The best lightweight Bluetooth speaker
Weight: 275 g (9.7 oz) | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Wireless range: N/A | Frequency response: 68 Hz – 21.000Hz | Drivers: 2 x 15W class D for woofer and tweeter (2 x 50W peak power) | NFC: No | Aux-in: No | USB charging: No
BO created a hit with the Beoplay P2. It’s a well-designed speaker that’s extremely easy to use, has a well-built companion app, and it sounds great. On top of that, the speaker is ultra-portable without compromising on much bass content. Sure, you could get something a little bigger (and stereo) for the same price, but at this size the sound quality justifies the price. The smart gestures are a nice touch too, although we wouldn’t buy the device solely for that reason.
Read the full review: BO Beoplay P2
7. Marshall Kilburn
The best big Bluetooth speaker
Weight: 3kg | Battery life: Up to 20 hours | Wireless range: N/A | Frequency response: 62 – 20,000Hz | Drivers: two 3/4-inch dome tweeters, one 4-inch woofer | NFC: No | Aux-in: Yes | USB charging: Yes
The Marshall Kilburn might not appear to be the best choice in Bluetooth speakers. It’s large, heavy, doesn’t have USB charging and isn’t waterproof – plus, AED 1,299 is a lot to pay for a Bluetooth speaker.
But none of this matters because the Kilburn sounds so darn good.
Over a month’s time, we fell in love with the Kilburn’s design, feel and pristine sound quality. There’s no other portable Bluetooth speaker on the market quite like it. It’s a head turner and conversation piece. It’s a piece of audio art that you’ll be proud to show off to your friends during a party.
Read the full review: Marshall Kilburn
8. Bose SoundLink Color II
The most durable Bluetooth speaker
Weight: 1.2 pounds | Dimensions: 5.25 x 5 x 2.25 inches (H x W x D) | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 30 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | NFC: No | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: N/A | Weatherproofing: Yes | Charges devices over USB: No
It seems just about every speaker company has a wireless speaker that can take the abuse of being outdoors and Bose, a company most well-known for its brand of excellent noise-canceling headphones, is no different. If you’re looking for something from Bose to take with you on your next hike, the AED 549 SoundLink Color II is the company’s only splash-proof speaker that can stand up to the elements with an IPX4 rating.
Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Color II
9. JBL Flip 4
Best travel-friendly Bluetooth speaker
Weight: 515g | Battery life: Up to 12 hours | Wireless range: 40 feet | Frequency response: 70Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: 2 x 40mm | NFC: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: 4.2 | Weatherproofing: Yes | Charges devices over USB: No
Bringing bluntness over refinement, the JBL Flip 4 is a good Bluetooth speaker for the rugged outdoorsman in your friend circle. It’s rough, tough design makes it perfect as a portable speaker to accompany all aspects of your life while its sound is solid without worrying your home audio system.
It’s all weather friendly design is a win, but a lack of definition and distinction in the mid-range ultimately means its sound quality is not quite up to scratch when compared with some, more high-end portable speakers.
Read the full review: JBL Flip 4
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