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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Best Bluetooth Speaker 2023

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The days of needing a giant boombox loaded with D batteries are over. Nowadays, there's no shortage of powerful, portable speakers to crank out your favorite tunes. Best of all, these Bluetooth speakers let you avoid any wires, so you don't have to worry about them getting tangled up as you transport them.

Some of the best Bluetooth speakers are big, thumping speakers that can give you an excellent dynamic range and plenty of some. Some of them are more aimed at portability, giving you a convenient way to bring a bit of extra audio power with you wherever you go. Some strike a balance, fitting a big battery and sizable speakers into a form factor that's ready to pack away in a modest bag.

We've scouted out a wide variety of excellent Bluetooth speakers to fit any use case. Whether you need a single speaker to get you through your bicycle commute or want a set of speakers that can link together to surround you with sound, we've got some great options for you.

TL;DR – These are the Best Bluetooth Speakers:

1. Ultimate Ears Boom 3

Best Bluetooth Speaker

Ultimate Ears Boom 3Ultimate Ears Boom 3 A compact, great sounding 360° speaker with large volume buttons, multiple color options, and IP67 water resistance.

There are a lot of different speakers on this list, but if you’re just looking for a moderately priced, portable speaker that sounds great, let us save you the trouble: grab the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 for $150. When compared with similar speakers in its size and price range, I found the Boom 3 had some of the best sound in a convenient 360° form factor. It’s not too tiny, not too huge, not too cheap, not too pricey…and this thing jams.

On top of that, it has large volume buttons for easy control, comes in four colors (black, blue, red, and purple), and IP67 water resistance, so you can bring it to the pool. You can even pair it wirelessly with another Boom 3 for stereo sound, or up to 150 Boom and Megaboom speakers for full-on party mode.

2. Tribit StormBox Micro 2

Best Budget Bluetooth Speaker

Tribit StormBox Micro 2Tribit StormBox Micro 2 Hitting up to 90dB and lasting up to 12 hours, you’ll enjoy powerful, dynamic audio, though there’s some distortion at high volumes on this tiny, affordable speaker.

If you want an affordable little speaker that packs a punch, check out the Tribit StormBox Micro 2. This compact speaker musters a loud 90dB and cranks out the tunes for up to 12 hours. As expected, given its size, you’ll hear some distortion at high volumes, but overall you’ll enjoy some powerful, dynamic audio from a speaker that manages to stay just a touch over half a pound.

Tribit doesn't skimp out on thoughtful considerations, so the StormBox Micro 2 is more than just a speaker, as it has a microphone for answering calls and a battery bank toting a USB-C connection to top off your phone. You’ll also find its support of Bluetooth 5.3 provides a strong and reliable connection to your devices within a 120-foot range. And given the speaker’s portable design, it's built tough and ready to handle the elements with an IP67 rating, making it a handy companion for hiking, biking, or camping.

3. Anker Soundcore 3

Best Ultra Cheap Bluetooth Speaker

Anker Soundcore 3Anker Soundcore 3 This cheap Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound while still offering an IPX7 rating, 24-hour battery life, and balanced stereo sound.

Affordable Bluetooth speakers are all over the internet these days, but few can compete with the Anker Soundcore 3. For around $50, you can listen to your favorite songs from its dual titanium drivers and enjoy the surprisingly powerful stereo sound with good balance. It’s even possible to customize your listening experience using the Soundcore app, as it includes four EQ presets and other tuning capabilities to make the sound perfect for you and your space. Just be prepared for a bit of distortion as you go up in volume. If that’s an issue, you’ll probably have to up the budget.

What really makes the Anker Soundcore 3 shine is its portability. This speaker weighs under a pound and is compact enough to toss into your bag, though the removable strap makes it easy to tote around on its own. A little rain or splashes at the pool will do nothing to stop the music, as this device has an IPX7 rating. And a 24-hour battery life means you can take it on weekend trips without worrying about charging it.

4. Amazon Echo Studio

Best Bluetooth Speaker with Alexa

Amazon Echo StudioAmazon Echo Studio A smart home hub is built-in for voice control using Alexa, while five speakers and Dolby Atmos support ensure dynamic, rich sound.

Bluetooth speakers are quite a leap forward from the boomboxes of yore, but you know what’s even more futuristic? Being able to control your music with nothing but your voice. Enter the Amazon Echo Studio. This hi-fidelity speaker comes loaded with all the smarts when connected to Wi-Fi. It’s ready to not only play music but answer questions, turn on lights and adjust the thermostat just by simply asking Alexa through the speaker. With its built-in smart home hub, you can control any Zigbee compatible devices just by using your voice.

We know that most smart home hubs, like the Echo Dot, lack the audio chops needed to enjoy your music, but with the Echo Studio, you’re in for a sonic treat. The five speakers inside the device ensure your entire room is immersed in audio, offering up a dynamic, rich sound. There is even support for Dolby Atmos to provide further depth and clarity. And one unique feature this Bluetooth speaker offers is automatic room detection, which adjusts the sound to whatever space you put it in. So, if you’re looking for Alexa-enabled audio bliss, the Echo Studio is what you’ll want to grab.

5. Google Nest Audio

Best Bluetooth Speaker with Google Assistant

Google Nest AudioGoogle Nest Audio Google’s smart assistant is baked into this crisp-and-clear-sounding speaker, letting you play music, ask questions, and even use it as a smart home hub.

If you’re looking to pack a smart assistant into a compact speaker with some audio prowess, look no further than Google’s Nest Audio. You kill two birds with one stone thanks to this speaker that totes Google’s smart assistant, so you can “Hey Google” just about anything. It’ll play your favorite music, respond to messages, adjust the heat and tell you the weather, all the while you never need to lift a finger. Connect it to Wi-Fi and Nest compatible devices, and you’ve got a perfect smart home hub.

Once you’ve got the Nest Audio up and running, get ready for a much improved audio experience from the sonically challenged smart home hubs of yesteryear. You’ll enjoy superb crisp and clear sound, though the bass may be lacking a bit due to the device's smaller size. It even links up to other Nest speakers, so you can have your favorite song playing throughout your home. Plus, the Nest Audio comes in at an affordable price point, so you can easily add this speaker to your Google ecosystem.

6. Sonos Roam

Best Bluetooth Speaker for AirPlay 2

Sonos RoamSonos Roam Bluetooth, along with WiFi, allows for AirPlay 2 support, plus an IP67 rating and 10-hour battery that supports Qi wireless charging, makes this option ultra-portable.

Sonos makes astounding speakers for your home, and it's got you covered when you're on the go as well. The Sonos Roam is a premium Bluetooth speaker that'll let you crank the tunes wherever you go. This Bluetooth speaker is ready for all your adventurous day trips with a 10-hour battery life that'll keep the music pumping and with serious protection against water and dust that has earned it an IP67 rating.

The Sonos Roam can go beyond Bluetooth, though, as it'll also support a Wi-Fi connection if you're at home. That way, you can manage your tunes using AirPlay 2. You can keep it plugged in at home to always be ready for the next adventure, or even toss it on a Qi wireless charger for extra convenience. A mic button on the top will also let you manage your smart home gadgets, as it can call up Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. And, if you want to double up, a pair of the Sonos Roam speakers can run in stereo.

7. Sony SRS-XV900

Best Karaoke Speaker

Sony SRS-XV900Sony SRS-XV900 A karaoke-ready Bluetooth speaker with multiple inputs for a microphone and an instrument that delivers powerful, distortion-free audio for up to 25 hours on one charge.

To bring the party wherever you go and then spice it up with a dash of karaoke, you’ll want the Sony SRS-XV900. This rig is karaoke-ready thanks to its inclusion of a microphone input for singing along to your favorite tunes, and a second input lets the speaker act as an amp to play guitar along with songs. It even has lighting that can sync up with your music, and if you’ve got an extra large party, you can use Sony’s Party Connect to synchronize audio and lighting on up to 100 compatible devices.

The Sony SRS-XV900 is beastly, so it has a built-in handle and wheels to move the heavy and bulky Bluetooth speaker from party to party. You’re in for powerful, distortion-free audio thanks to its six tweeters around the front, sides, and rear, along with some dedicated stereo drivers and subwoofer to deliver clarity, dynamic vocals, and booming bass. This speaker even rocks a 25-hour battery life, so you can go completely wireless if you connect your devices using Bluetooth 5.2—Sony even added support for AAC and LDAC codecs to enjoy higher-fidelity audio.

8. Bose SoundLink Flex

Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker

Bose SoundLink FlexBose SoundLink Flex This compact speaker comes with a carabiner, strap, 12-hour battery life, and IP67 rating, plus it floats, making it ideal for use outdoors.

If you’re out in the wild on adventures but still want to crank your tunes, giving a soundtrack to your life, the Bose SoundLink Flex is for you. This compact Bluetooth speaker is ready for your wandering. It’ll only add 1.3 pounds to everything you’re taking with you, whether that’s a picnic for the park, beach gear, or all your kit for some mountain hiking. The SoundLink Flex can run for up to 12 hours for extended jam sessions, and its IP67-rated protection will keep water out — not to mention it floats.

The Bose SoundLink Flex even has its own strap and carabiner, letting you hook it onto your gear or hook it up somewhere everyone can hear. Whether you set it down, stand it vertically, or hang it up, the SoundLink Flex will register its position and adjust its sound for the best audio. You can also pair multiple SoundLink Flex units and Bose Bluetooth speakers together in Party Mode for even more sound.

9. JBL Go 3

Best Super Portable Bluetooth Speaker

JBL Go 3JBL Go 3 Weighing less than half a pound with a tiny form factor to toss in a bag, this option also has a strap and IP67 rating for portability, though there’s only a 5-hour battery life.

While some of these Bluetooth speakers could just about replace the speakers in your home, portability tends to be another major aspect of this type of gear. So, for something especially portable, the JBL Go 3 shines. This Bluetooth speaker is made compact, so you can easily slip it into a bag or purse and take it with you wherever you go. At under half a pound, it won't be weighing you down too much.

The JBL Go 3 has a convenient loop you can use to attach it to your bag. It features an IP67 rating for protection against water and dust, so you can take it out on a hike and not worry about the conditions getting too wild for it. Just bear in mind, the compact size only leaves room for a modest battery, so if you think you'll want to listen for more than five hours at a time, you may want one of the slightly larger options on this list.

10. Marshall Kilburn II

Coolest Looking Bluetooth Speaker

Marshall Kilburn IIMarshall Kilburn II Rocking the look of a vintage Marshall guitar amp, this speaker keeps it modern with Bluetooth connectivity and a 20-hour battery life.

While most of the speakers on this list look decently stylish, none are quite as cool as the $299 Marshall Kilburn II, which is designed to look like a vintage Marshall guitar amp—including gold metal accents and that famous script logo on the grill. It also sports individual treble and bass knobs along with a coiled 3.5mm audio cable reminiscent of a guitar cable. Sadly, though, the knobs don't go to 11.

The Kilburn II is technically portable, but not throw-in-your bag portable. That said, if you don’t need any level of portability, the larger, battery-free Marshall Stanmore II is a similar-looking speaker designed for the home, and with the improved sound to go with it.

What to look for in a Bluetooth Speaker

The market is absolutely flooded with Bluetooth speakers, so it can feel overwhelming when you go to buy one. But ultimately, there are only a few things you need to think about when you shop.

Sound Quality: If you’re using the speaker to listen to music, then you’ll want to make sure that it sounds good. Generally, bigger speakers will sound better, but you’ll also want to audition a few speakers yourself to make sure the sound isn’t too shrill or the bass isn’t too muddy or boomy. Most Bluetooth speakers aren’t going to match the quality of, say, a real pair of bookshelves, but that’s okay since they’re also about portability and convenience. Speaking of which…

Bluetooth Codecs: Bluetooth isn't all created equal. The codecs Bluetooth devices support can set the great apart from the basic. Support for a high-end codec can let your Bluetooth speaker and phone send more audio data, giving you improved sound. Almost any speaker you come across from the cheapest to the most expensive will support a Bluetooth codec called SBC. That's your baseline for audio quality.

If you want improved audio when connecting from an iPhone, look for support for the AAC codec. Android smartphones can support a range of codecs. Many Qualcomm-powered Android phones will support the aptX or aptX HD codecs for improved audio, while aptX LL offers low-latency ideal for pairing with video.

Another high-end codec is LDAC, but that one is more rare to come across. In order to benefit from these codecs, you'll need to ensure both the speaker you're connecting to and the device you're connecting from support the same codec.

Form Factor and Portability: If you’re buying a Bluetooth speaker to take with you to the beach (or on a hike, or to the pool, or a party), you’ll want something small enough to toss in your backpack—though the smaller you go, the more you tend to sacrifice volume and sound quality. If you’re just looking to play music at home, you can go with something bigger and bulkier, powered from the wall instead of batteries. (Though if you’re just playing music at home, Sonos and AirPlay tend to be better protocols than Bluetooth—they have longer range and better fidelity.)

Battery Life: If you are going for a portable speaker, make sure it’ll actually last long enough to make it through your beach party. Manufacturers usually advertise battery life on their website and Amazon page, but don’t just take their word for it—check the reviews to see if it’s actually as long-lasting as they claim before you shell out your cash.

Water Resistance: This seems worth calling out on its own, since it’s a very common feature among Bluetooth speakers. If you plan on taking the speaker anywhere near water, I generally recommend buying something that’s at least IPX5, though IPX7 and IPX8 are better bets.

Many of these speakers even advertise their ability to float in the pool, though I would exercise some caution: no device is truly waterproof, and that IPX7 water resistance won’t necessarily last forever, since chemicals like chlorine can break down the seals over time, and the manufacturer may or may not cover water damage (despite their advertising it as “waterproof”)

Apps and Extra Features: Some Bluetooth speakers are simple: what you see on the speaker is what you get. Others, however, may have companion apps with extra features, like flashing LED lights, customizable equalizers to adjust the sound, timers that automatically turn your music off, or the ability to pair multiple speakers from the same brand together.

Note that some speakers will go into “stereo” mode when paired together, using one as the right channel and one as the left channel, while others will merely play mono sound out of both speakers—so check the fine print before you buy.

Bluetooth Speakers FAQ

Which brand makes the best Bluetooth speakers?

This question is not so simple to answer and truly depends on what you’re looking for in a speaker. Are you after affordability, portability, sound quality, extra features, and so on?

When it comes to affordability, brands like JBL, Tribit, and Anker Soundcore offer some great-sounding options for a more budget-friendly price. Many of their cheaper speakers also often come in smaller sizes with some type of protection against water and dust, making them ideal for travel and outdoor use. JBL is especially great at creating ruggedized options that can handle a good deal of wear and tear. However, you’ll typically find distortion at higher volumes, a lack of support for high res Bluetooth codecs, and limited to no surround sound technology.

If you’re willing to spend more premium brands like Bose, Sonos, and Sony amp up the sound quality and extra features. You’ll usually enjoy additional audio technology, including surround sound, support for high res codecs, and room detection—which adjusts the audio based on your space. For a multi-room, indoor, and outdoor setup, Sonos does reign supreme, making it simple to link multiple Bluetooth speakers using Wi-Fi for whole home audio.

Amazon and Google are also making strides in the speaker game, but their options are limited and catered to their smart home functionality. Luckily, the audio performance on their speakers, especially the Amazon Echo Studio, has significantly improved, so you’ll still enjoy listening to your favorite albums on them.

Our top pick is from a lesser-known brand, Ultimate Ears. This company does a great job balancing price and performance while creating colorful, unique designs that cater to both portability and sound.

Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech nerd who has been building PCs for 10 years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn't get grease on his mechanical keyboard.

Danielle Abraham is a freelance writer and unpaid music historian.

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