The latest Bluetooth speakers offer excellent sound and are still the easiest way to listen to your favourite tunes without the need for cumbersome wires. We’ve picked out 10 of the best speakers on the market and highlighted a few pointers on what features to look out for when making a purchase.
The first question to ask yourself when choosing a Bluetooth speaker is how portable you need it to be. Some speakers are basically just replacements for a hifi, providing top-quality audio without the hassle, while others are small enough to fit in a pocket, with plenty of options in between. The smaller and lighter, the less accomplished the audio, but the more places you can take it.
Those seeking a truly portable speaker should look out for whether a speaker will survive being dropped on the floor or left out in the rain. Plenty of speakers are now ruggedised and fully waterproof.
Then there’s any extra features to consider. Many Bluetooth speakers are still just that: a speaker, a Bluetooth connection and a power source – mains or battery. However, others include wifi audio streaming that lets you do other things on your phone while music continues playing on the speaker. Some portable models also let you charge your other USB devices from them, while others include microphones so that you can take calls through the speaker.
Several portable speakers also offer either a choice of mono audio – so-called 360-degree audio – or more conventional stereo listening. Mono and 360-degree speakers are great for just filling a space with music, while stereo is better for close-up listening, where you want to maintain the stereo image, such as when watching films on a laptop, for example.
We tested each speaker for ease of use, features, design, build quality and sound quality in a variety of situations, including quiet bedroom listening, louder living rooms, kitchen listening and outdoors. We also tested the portability and ruggedness of the portable models.
The JBL Charge 4 is so named because it can charge your other USB devices. While this isn’t a unique feature, it’s certainly not something that all other models have. With its 7,500mAh battery, it can run for 20 hours on its own or charge a typical modern phone a couple of times. This is also a fully waterproof speaker and has built-in microphones so you can use it to take calls (it sounds great). It also offers proper stereo sound, so it’s ideal as an audio upgrade for use with a laptop. It’s this versatility that makes it our pick for the best overall Bluetooth speaker.
Bang & Olufsen is renowned for its high-end audio and video gear and the Beolit 17 is just what you’d expect of a Bluetooth speaker from the company. It’s a larger unit, measuring 230 x 189 x 135mm and weighing 2.6kg, but what it lacks in portability it makes up for in every other category. Its build quality is superb, with an aluminium grill and real leather carry handle. It also sounds fantastic, thanks to a hefty 5.5in bass driver, two 4in passive bass radiators and three 1.5in tweeters, for a total of 240W of audio power. Despite this hefty audio setup, it’ll still last 24 hours on battery.
The Minirig 2 is a fantastic portable Bluetooth speaker. With its one large 3-inch speaker it produces astonishingly powerful and rich audio despite measuring just 102 x 102 x 73mm and weighing just under 500g. It may only be mono but it outclasses the sound quality and volume of many far larger units. Its aluminium case is also stylish and incredibly tough, and once in the supplied padded case it’ll survive just about anything, though it’s not waterproof. The British-made Minirig 2 also lasts up to an astonishing 80 hours on one charge (50 hours typical).
The Revolve+ is an elegant, powerful and easy to use Bluetooth speaker that sounds fantastic. With its aluminium exterior, funky little fabric handle and simple aesthetic, it looks great. Its powerful, omnidirectional sound is also crystal clear and you get in-built microphones for speakerphone functionality. With 16 hours of battery life, it’ll easily last a couple of BBQs and its IPX4 splashproofing capability ensures it’ll survive the odd rain shower too.Tags: audio, latest gadgets, speakers