10 best Bluetooth speakers
Get great audio, plus portability and added extras
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.
JBL Charge 4: £159.99, jbl.co.uk
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 Beolit 17: £349, Peter Tyson
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.
Minirig 2: £124.94, Minirigs
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).
Bose SoundLink Revolve+: £279.95, Bose
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.
UE Wonderboom: £59.99, John Lewis & Partners
Measuring just 94 x 94 x 100mm and weighing 430g, the UE Wonderboom is a tiny but tough speaker that’s ideal for life on the road, or next to the pool. It’s IPX7 waterproof rated, which means it can survive in up to a metre of water for half an hour, and its rugged exterior will shrug off knocks too. It even comes with a built-in fabric loop to attach it to the outside of a bag. Sound quality and volume is decent as well – plenty for some poolside fun – while 10 hours of battery life means you should be able to get a day or two’s use between charges. A modest £60 asking price seals the deal.
Zeppelin Wireless: £499, Bowers & Wilkins
The B&W Zeppelin was one of the most popular iPod docks of its day and a truly outstanding design. That same design has now been repurposed into a more modern speaker that supports the latest Bluetooth and wifi audio standards, including Spotify and AirPlay. This is a large, hifi-replacement speaker, with a huge, room-filling sound, thanks to its large 6in subwoofer, two 2.5in mid-range drivers and two 1in tweeters. It’s not just power you get plenty of here, but precision too. If you’re after a true hifi replacement, this is it.
UE Boom 3: £129.99, Argos
If you’re looking for a tough but powerful portable speaker, the UE Boom 3 is a great choice. Measuring 73 x 73 x 184mm and weighing 608g, it’s just about small and light enough to take anywhere and is built to last. It’s fully waterproof and has a tough exterior that’s designed to withstand being dropped plenty of times. It also sounds great. Its two 2in drivers and two 4in passive radiators produce a 360-degree spatial sound that’s got plenty of power and detail. A battery life of 15 hours isn’t amazing, but should see you through a few days use before a recharge is required.
Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2: £329.99, Ruark Audio
The Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 offers something a little different. Instead of a standalone speaker, they come as a pair and can be used either as a general Bluetooth speaker system or for upgrading your PC or TV audio. The beautifully-designed cabinets are available in either a walnut wood veneer or glossy light grey and both look and feel superb. You can also connect digital and analogue sound sources as well as Bluetooth devices. As you’d expect from such sizeable units, they deliver a rich and powerful sound that’s packed full of detail. If you’re after an easy all-in-one home audio upgrade, they’re a great choice.
Ikea Eneby: £45, Ikea
Ikea is far from the first name to spring to mind when it comes to audio products, but its ENEBY speakers are a surprisingly competent entry. Available in small (£45) or large (£80) versions, the large version is designed to fit perfectly into Ikea’s KALLAX shelving units, or both can be used standalone. The small version also has an optional battery pack (£15). Both versions look great and are really easy to use. They also sound far better than you might expect for their bargain basement price. Not one for backpackers, but a decent option for the Ikea completionist.
Tivoli Andiamo: £189, Peter Tyson
The Tivoli Andiamo is all about getting the ultimate in build and sound quality into as small a speaker as possible. Measuring just 135 x 135 x 55mm, it’s a tiny hockey puck of a thing, but still fits into a single large 2.5in driver and a 3in passive radiator to create an astonishingly powerful and detailed sound. The design is also lovely: all aluminium on the outside and with a real leather strap wrapped round it, it’s every bit the designer item. A battery life of 20 hours is decent too.
The Minirig 2’s astonishing battery life, small-size and fantastic sound quality makes it one of our favourite portable Bluetooth speakers, while for at-home listening the beautiful design and powerful, detailed sound of the B&O Play Beolit 17 makes it a fantastic choice. However, it’s the waterproofing, great sound quality and overall versatility of the JBL Charge 4 that makes it our Bluetooth speaker of choice.
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