A great portable Bluetooth speaker is an essential part of any audio arsenal. Whether you’re heading to the beach, barbecuing in the backyard, or blasting your favorite tunes in the shower, your gadget list simply isn’t complete without one (or two, or three). The good news is, that it’s easy to get an awesome portable speaker at a great price these days, complete with a durable, water-resistant design and tons of convenient features.
After a combined decade of portable speaker testing, we’re confident the Sonos Roam
(available at Amazon)
has everything you could need. It offers great sound, a compact, stylish design, and innovative options like Wi-Fi connectivity, smart features, and Sonos’ famed multi-room audio. If that doesn’t suit you (or it’s too pricey), there are plenty of other great choices on our list that have been thoroughly vetted for your portable listening pleasure.
Other Top Portable Bluetooth Speakers We Tested
How We Test Portable Bluetooth Speakers
About The Testers
Ryan Waniata, Reviewed’s former Tech Managing Editor, has been a tech writer and editor since 2013, reviewing TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more. As a former audio engineer, he has a particular passion for sound in all forms and formats. From high-end studio gear and Dolby Atmos home theater systems to cheap headphones and clip-on portable speakers, he loves evaluating audio gear and finding the very best for the money.
Lee Neikirk, Reviewed’s former Home Theater editor, also contributed to this list. Lee has a deep background reviewing audio and visual products and, before that, he earned a degree in music performance, so it’s safe to say that audio quality and presentation are huge passions for him.
While portable Bluetooth speakers are mostly for fun—jamming out on the beach or keeping step to the rhythm on a hike or camping trip—we take testing them very seriously. Every product on the list is tested for dust and water resistance, battery life, general durability, sound quality, and other top features such as a mobile app.
We use each speaker with a range of source devices—Android and Apple smartphones, laptops, and so on—and have no qualms about throwing them in the pool or hot tub to see how they survive. We listen to a wide variety of musical genres from sources like Spotify and Apple Music, and test Wi-Fi and smart home functionality where applicable. Most importantly, we use the speakers in a range of environments, from backyards to hotel rooms to campsites, as well as in our own homes.
The best speakers are determined by our carefully cultivated, weighted rating system that takes things like cost, portability, features, durability, and various aspects of sound quality into account. Our ultimate goal is to find the best Bluetooth speakers across a wide variety of use cases and price points.
What To Consider Before Buying a Portable Bluetooth Speaker
We count a portable Bluetooth speaker as any speaker that you can connect to wirelessly over Bluetooth connection, has a battery for powering on away from outlets, and is small/light enough to be carried with you or stowed in a bag.
While this can include a very wide range of speaker types and price points, generally portable Bluetooth speakers fall between $30 and $200 in price and include a suite of key features like Bluetooth connectivity (duh), onboard volume adjustment, and often an accompanying app.
Features like water resistance, a rugged exterior, LED indicators, and bass boosting vary depending on the model—those kinds of things are usually what you’re paying more for. However, these days you’ll find speakers at almost every price point will be equipped to survive a dunk in the pool.
How Loud Are Portable Bluetooth Speakers?
Another key thing to understand about portable Bluetooth speakers is that they’re more of a replacement for your smartphone than for traditional home theater speakers or soundbars.
Although you can get really big, boombox-style portable speakers that might be able to blow the roof off a house party, most of the speakers we tested aren’t amazingly loud. They’re loud enough to provide music for a small gathering or, at best, a decent-sized backyard get-together, but if you’re in the raucous throes of a party, most of these will be drowned out.
Where this starts to matter more is when you’re using one of these speakers in an on-the-go situation. Because of the relatively low power of most of the products here, using them outside on a windy beach or hanging from your handlebars as you pedal through the woods may not always yield crystal clear audio. But you’ll know music is playing, and for some of our top choices, you’ll get powerful enough sound to fully enjoy it in virtually any environment.
As for audio quality, one reason these models don’t get mega loud is that if they did, it would introduce distortion. Instead, engineers have capped the relative output to maintain clarity, which is a smart move both for your listening enjoyment and for the life of the soldered wires inside. That said, in recent years compression techniques and advanced hardware engineering have pushed small speakers to great heights when it comes to power and clarity, even at top volume.
What About Dust & Water Resistance?
Most portable Bluetooth speakers these days are splash and/or water-resistant on top of being extra-rugged or capped with rubber components to help protect them from falls.
Anything with an IPX7 or above can be safely booted into the pool when a song is playing without incident, and most new speakers you get these days will have this rating. Dropping to IPX6 means it’s not technically dunkable, but should survive rain, jet streams, and other elements.
While the second number indicates water resistance, the first is for dust resistance. You’ll generally find that a rating of 5 or higher is all you’ll need to protect the speaker from ingress. If you take your speaker to the beach on the regular, you may want to opt for a 6 rating (e.g. IP67). For more information you can check this guide to IP ratings.