Bluetooth tech is a godsend. We can up and haul our favorite playlist wherever we want, be it the gym, the off-road track, or just milling about the home.
And thankfully speaker systems haven’t been left in the ever-evolving Bluetooth dust. Now the latest generations of Bluetooth speakers are just as mobile as we are. And the performance isn’t limited necessarily to price. As the tech advances so do the product’s accessibility to the public.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a food chain of relevant Bluetooth speakers to sort through. And that’s where we come in. We’ve managed to fish through the overwhelming crush of Bluetooth speakers and separate the alphas from the betas. There are some critical, determining factors that you should keep in mind before you whip off to the electronics store to purchase that new Bluetooth speaker. A lot of it comes down simply to specs, price and mobility.
Put on your Sleuth hat and ask yourself some serious questions about what you want out of a Bluetooth speaker. Performance should be first and foremost on your list of questions. Nothing demoralizes a consumer more than being duped by a nice slick presentation that is all bark and no bite. If the speaker doesn’t live up to the hype you’ll be feeling it in the wallet afterward.
So ask yourself how strong of a performer the speaker is. What is the frequency range on the speaker? Does it have a compelling range of sound, burrowing down into the lows and equally scaling up to reach those highs? Or does it sound like AM radio has made a comeback in a big way with no dynamic sound or performance to speak of? Does the speaker have a poor performance when it runs on battery power? How long does it last without recharging?
Then consider the speaker’s mobility. Nothing cramps style more than a pair of speakers that could pass for amplifiers at that huge Megadeth amphitheater show. Sure they’re big. But you can forget to transport them from place to place. So taking size into consideration, what do you intend the speakers for? Do you plan to bring them with you to the beach for an outdoor barbecue? Or will they be stationary in the home?
Editor Pick: Loudest Bluetooth Speakers 2018
WE all want speakers that go boom, plumbing down to the deepest depths while putting our subwoofers to the test. We also want speakers that boost each cello and each violin as if we are sitting front row at the orchestra. But it’s ultimately all for naught if a Bluetooth
Then there is always the subject of your budget. Some people will say money is no object when it comes to finding the absolute best product on the market. But now that price isn’t necessarily an indicator of stellar design with the current wave of Bluetooth speakers, there are some criteria to take into account when looking at prices. How far will your buck go in finding the pick of the litter? A speaker that possesses the best design, best performance, great mobility, functionality and durability for its price may cost less than a speaker that is inconsistent across the board with these qualities.
Now that we’ve gotten those criteria out of the way, we can lump our Bluetooth speakers into two categories: truly portable speakers and the stationary speakers you ultimately intend for the home or office.
Best Bluetooth Speakers
Something to consider with your choice of stationary indoor Bluetooth speakers is whether or not you want to pair the speaker with another to add a stereo sound. Some speakers allow multiple pairings so that you can even achieve a surround sound effect. If looking for a solid product to add ambiance to your home entertainment system, look no further than the list we’ve mined from the constellation of stationary indoor Bluetooth speakers orbiting out there in the consumer electronics milky way.
1. MARSHALL STANMORE
Marshall has opened up its brand to a more mainstream audience with its take on wireless speakers. Until that time it was more specifically known amongst music aficionados as the go-to brand for amps and musical instrument gear. Fast forward to today and Marshall wants to fill your home with the same wall of sound it’s gifted musicians over the years. The Stanmore retains the same guitar amp look that Marshall has cultivated through time. But that’s the only similarity between the Stanmore and Marshall’s vast lookbook of guitar amps.
This baby has a respectable threshold for creating near CD quality sound. While Bluetooth streams a lower audio quality sound, the Marshall Stanmore comes equipped with the AptX codec which makes up for that difference. It uses the 4.0 version of Bluetooth and is compatible with iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Windows and integrated speaker systems.
And for the sound, it has a nice frequency range of 45Hz to 22kHz (30 Hz lower than the average wireless speaker). So while you won’t be causing an earthquake with subs you will still get some nice bass and highs during your listening session. And best of all it packs a punch when it comes to volume. It falls under the $400 price bracket.
As for the brass tacks, this one channel wireless speaker has two tweeters and one woofer. It clocks in at 13.5 x 7.3 x 7 inches.
2. BOSE SOUNDLINK III
Bose has created a winner of a wireless speaker in the Soundlink III. With 14 hours of battery life generated from its rechargeable lithium-ion battery, you’ll be sure to listen to music uninterrupted. Its Bluetooth reaches up to 30 feet. And it uses RCA 3.5mm inputs and a mini USB. All of these things will certainly come in handy if you want to stack the speaker with another or several others in order to create a full surround sound experience.
The Soundlink is a smaller speaker than the Stanmore, clocking in at 2 inches in width and depth and weighing no more than 3 pounds. But it makes up for size with big sound. It, like the Marshall Stanmore, boasts an AptX codec to help round out that dynamic sound you are looking for. And just like the Marshall Stanmore the Soundlink is compatible with iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Windows operating systems.
But here’s an interesting addition that the Marshall doesn’t possess, speakerphone. Should you pair your speakers with your smartphone, feel free to accept those incoming calls and route them through your Soundlink. Some downers though about the Soundlink are no EQ app to adjust and tweak the sound, the limited Bluetooth distance, and Bose does not publish its frequency response for the speaker. We’re assuming somewhere in the 80Hz to 20kHz range. Not all A’s across the board but for a speaker that you can place in the home and only at a price of $269, it performs handily.
3. FLUANCE Fi50
Here is a genuine contender for a reasonable indoor Bluetooth speaker. The Fluance Fi50 packs powerful sound, boasting a 5-inch woofer with a tweeter dead smack in its center. The Canadian speaker has a built-in 40-watt amplifier as well.
Here’s the thing about all that sound. While it kicks out a hefty bit of volume, you won’t be able to readily transport it from place to place without plugging it into a wall socket. There is no rechargeable unit with this one.
But if you’re willing to overlook that, it has some other stellar qualities worth taking on board. You have an adjustable LED display, ready to be dimmed or brightened to your needs. You also have a USB input that will allow you to charge other devices like your smartphone or tablet.
The Fluance streams via the Bluetooth 2.1 version. But it does offer AptX to help boost that streaming capability. Overall it is a solid speaker with a dynamic sound. And at only $200 it is a nice investment for the home or office.
4. CAMBRIDGE AUDIO YOYO M
The Cambridge Audio Yoyo M is a refined specimen of a bluetooth speaker. The brand cultivates a genuinely unique design aesthetic in the rendering of this moderately sized 6.6-pound speaker. Instead of opting for the typical source material like plastic, Cambridge goes the route of British wool.
These speakers are optimized for a stereo configuration in your home or office. With a Bluetooth range of 30 feet sound fills ample space. Imagine even stacking these babies to generate a nice full surround sound. A full 24 hours of battery power will keep the speakers pumping out a respectable frequency range on a full charge. While like the other speakers on this list you won’t be blasting out tremendous subs, you will have a clear sound. They retail for $375.
5. CREATIVE SOUND BLASTER ROAR 2
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2 is a lightweight speaker, weighing in at 3.6 pounds and not taking up more space than a normal forearm. The speaker resembles a little black case, something in which you might stow away your jewels or secrets. Instead, it’s a powerful speaker that goes hard in the paint.
What separates the Sound Blaster from the others on this list? The Roar 2 has an overdrive function to take the sound to the next level of dynamic performance. That becomes especially attractive as a feature given the speaker’s 40-foot Bluetooth range. You’ll be filling your home with all your favorite sounds with this one.
It is NFC enabled and has a USB port. Should you decide to stack this for a full on surround sound or stereo sound experience you can avail yourself of the AUX inputs. Battery life for that power is a sparse 8 hours, however. It’s a discreet looking speaker with an extroverted sense of bravado. It retails for $164.
6. NAIM MU-SO
The Naim Mu-So falls on the higher end of the price spectrum. But if you are looking for a premium indoor Bluetooth speaker, this is the one. It features Bluetooth AptX, two USB optical inputs, 1 woofer, 1 midrange, and 1 tweeter. The results are a robust range, dynamic performance, and crisp pure sound. This is a muscular speaker.
The cons against such a fabulous speaker are few. The sound loses some of its pristine detail as you pump up the volume into the louder registers. And when so many less expensive indoor Bluetooth speakers currently saturate the market with somewhat comparable performance, is such a purchase justified? At this price, you are venturing into a genuine Hi-Fi territory. The Mu-So retails for $1100.
The landscape of portable Bluetooth speakers is much more densely populated. We find a constellation of speakers equipped to do more than just stream your favorite tunes. And separating the fluff from the muscle is sometimes a gargantuan task for consumers. Here a generation of speakers plunge into the surf with you and resist all manner of weather challenges. A few of the top performers fall below…
7. FUGOO STYLE
The Fugoo Style is a durable dynamic all-weather speaker that weighs in at 11.6 ounces and measures 5.3 x 1.6 inches. Talk about a compact gem of a Bluetooth speaker! This is one of the most affordable and equally strong performing speakers out there this season.
Where do you take this speaker? Anywhere you want. It’s waterproof and boasts 40 hours of strong battery life. So if you’re wandering aimlessly nearly 2 days nonstop in the wilderness or floating in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, never fret. You still have music to while your hours away. And top it all off with voice controlled functionality via Siri or Google Now. It retails for $140.
8. UE ROLL 2
The UE Roll 2 is your swim coach. Take this orb like speaker into the pool with you, never missing a beat from your favorite playlist. Its frequency range is decent, scaling admirably through the midrange sounds with ease.
It’s got a few cons weighing against it: no voice commands, only 9 hours of battery life, and no in speaker controls. Certainly, these might seem damning. But if you are taking this into the pool or into the surf, chances are you aren’t so concerned. And for only $100, those elements can be quickly overlooked.
9. BRAVEN XXL
The Braven XXL is a hefty yet luggable (pun fully intended) Bluetooth speaker. Here’s a heavyweight in the line of portable Bluetooth speaker weight classes. Weighing in at a chunky 18 pounds and measuring 20.25 x 9.5 x 8.25 inches, the Braven recalls the days of massive boom boxes and tailgate parties.
Where do you schlep this one? Probably to those BBQ picnics, tailgates and outdoor extravaganzas that require killer bass, dynamic frequency range, and full-bodied sounds that have legs. This is definitively that speaker.
But while it is water resistant, it is not the sporty sort of speaker put forward by JBL or Naim. It retails for $250.
10. JBL CLIP 2
And speaking of JBL, the JBL Clip 2 clips the competition (another bad pun, folks) with its light and remarkably portable design. This waterproof speaker is only 6.5 ounces, 5.5 x 3.7 x 1.7 inches and has 8 hours of battery life. From a distance, it looks like a miniature kettle bell one finds in a Crossfit gym, with its orb shape and handle.
But in fact, it’s one of the most affordable speakers on the market at only $60. Not remarkable on sound and no app to speak of. However, it’s a very forgiving purchase to your wallet. Need an upgrade in the same family of speakers, try the JBL Xtreme on for size.