Whether for music, movies, or gaming, audio quality is key. Built-in speakers are notoriously lackluster, especially in phones, tablets, and laptops. The solution: use an external speaker. And for lush audio without wires, opt for a Bluetooth speaker.
Because Bluetooth speakers offer wireless features, they’re more convenient than plugging in a 3.5mm cable, especially with headphone jacks becoming less prominent. Plus, portable Bluetooth speakers allow you to carry your device around the house.
The Best Portable Speakers in 2018
When you’re searching for the best portable Bluetooth speakers, options range from tiny, inexpensive devices to massive, jaw-dropping pricey models. Which device is best depends on your needs and budget.
For instance, outdoor enthusiasts might prefer rugged wireless speakers while audiophiles will crave premium sound. Just like finding the right Bluetooth headset, there’s a lot to consider when picking out a Bluetooth speaker.
The Best Portable Speaker on a Budget
OontZ Angle 3 Ultra
The OontZ Angle 3 Ultra from Cambridge Soundworks remains one of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers. It’s surprisingly loud for the size and features 14 watts for rich audio. With a 100-foot range, you don’t have to worry about losing a connection. There’s a 3.5mm jack for a wired connection, plus on-device controls and IPX6 water resistance. Unfortunately, it isn’t completely waterproof, though.
This device benefits from improved sound quality over the Angle 3 and Angle 3 Plus. You’ll get about 20 hours of use from one charge. Generally, sound quality is solid with deep bass and punchy mids. There’s some distortion at higher volumes, but for a speaker this size that’s expected.
Overall, the OontZ Angle 3 is easily the best portable Bluetooth speaker for the price.
The Best Smallest Bluetooth Speaker
JBL Clip 3
While the JBL Clip 3 might not technically clock in as the smallest Bluetooth speaker available, it balances size and performance. For comparison, I snagged an uber cheap keychain-sized Bluetooth speaker, and while it works, it’s barely louder than the built-in speakers on my phone and tablet. The ultra-compact JBL Clip features an onboard carabiner, hence the clip from its name.
Delivering 10 hours of battery life, complete IPX7 waterproofing, and an audio profile far larger than its size, the JBL Clip 3 is the best truly portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy. This updated version is slightly heavier than its predecessors Clip and Clip 2, although sound quality is remarkably improved.
You may also consider the UE Wonderboom which features a prominent loophole but no carabiner. The Wonderboom is a bit larger than the JBL Clip, but is still light and easy to carry.
The Best Affordable Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Anker Soundcore Flare
Tech company Anker dabbles in several areas, and its Soundcore Flare speaker provides good audio at a reasonable price. Punchy mids, lush lows, and clean highs coupled with waterproofing and LED lighting make the Soundcore Flare a top-notch Bluetooth speaker. With adjustable bass, it’s a well-specced device.
While EQ modes do exist here, differences aren’t really apparent. However, with a rich audio profile, IPX7 waterproofing, and a 3.5mm aux input, the Anker Soundcore offers arguably the best overall value of any portable Bluetooth speaker.
The Best Overall Portable Bluetooth Speaker
UE Boom 3
Ultimate Ears, or UE, is a renowned name in the audio community. The UE Boom 3 comes in a recognizable cylindrical form factor. Because of its feature set combined with phenomenal audio, the UE Boom rapidly rose to prominence and its third-generation model only improves further.
Its fabric provides delightful durability, and there’s full waterproofing. The jumbo volume controls remain, plus a so-called Magic Button for control of music playback and linking to playlists from Deezer and Apple Music.
Since it floats, can link with multiple speakers, and allows for bass and treble adjustments, the UE Boom 3 is an incredible speaker. For an even more powerful option, check out the larger Megaboom. Or if you need Wi-Fi connectivity, try the UE Blast and Megablast which feature Alexa onboard.
Unfortunately, the UE Boom 3 isn’t cheap, although it definitely delivers. If you’re willing to pay a slight premium, it’s evident in the specs and sound quality.
The Best Small Bluetooth Speaker for Big Sound
Bose SoundLink Revolve
There’s a reason audiophiles flock to Bose for everything from noise-canceling headphones to speakers: quality. The Bose SoundLink Revolve is the quintessential portable speaker with its condensed size, integrated microphone, 360-degree omnidirectional sound, and distortion-free bass. Not only is the SoundLink Revolve exquisite to the ears, it’s shock and water-resistant.
The slightly larger SoundLink Revolve Plus does provide louder sound, though you’ll easily fill even a moderate to large room. Using the Bose Connect app, you can pair speakers and use two at once, even selecting different speakers as left and right channels.
The Best Portable Speaker That Goes to 11
While Bose, JBL, and UE tend to dominate the Bluetooth speaker space, Sony makes some of the best portable Bluetooth speakers. Its hulking GTKXB90 boasts three tweeters, two subwoofers, Bluetooth and NFC, plus a 16-hour battery life. You can daisy-chain speakers for a wireless party.
Unfortunately, at 13.2 x 26.4 x 13.2 inches and 30 pounds, the GTK-XB90 is a behemoth. Sure, there’s a battery, but this calls into question the definition of portable. You can tote it around, though you may prefer a less bulky and cheaper option. The Sony GTK-XB90 is thus a monolithic speaker with a price to match.
For similarly full-sized sound, try the JBL Boombox.
The Best Bluetooth Speaker for Audiophiles
Not only is the Marshall Kilburn an excellent-sounding portable speaker, it’s possibly the best-looking device as well. With retro looks, loud audio, deep window-quaking bass, and controllable treble plus bass, the Marshall Kilburn is an awesome choice for audiophiles.
With an amp aesthetic, the Marshall Kilburn is as pretty to the eyes as it is to your ears. However, as portability goes it’s a bit cumbersome. While the Kilburn is no Sony GTK-XB90, it’s considerably heavier than the average cylindrical portable Bluetooth speaker. Additionally, you won’t find a built-in mic or playback controls, which should come standard on any premium Bluetooth speaker.
But retro sentiments and a gorgeous audio profile make the Marshall Kilburn a solid bet.
The Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers for All Uses
Ultimately, what Bluetooth speaker you prefer depends on several factors. From entry-level contenders to rugged speakers and high-end portable speakers, there’s an option for everyone.
Largely, consider your requirements. If you value a rugged, go-anywhere speaker for hiking and outdoor use, snag a speaker that’s water-resistant or waterproof. For audiophile quality, check out premium speakers from trusted brands. Names like Bose, JBL, UE, and Sony tend to provide top audio quality.
However, inexpensive offerings from brands such as Cambridge Soundworks provide alternatives to pricey portable Bluetooth speakers. For private listening, check out the best wireless earbuds you can buy!