Bluetooth speakers can feel quite specific depending on your requirements. These multipurpose gadgets occupy a space between your home audio system and your pocket phone (
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Bluetooth speakers can feel quite specific depending on your requirements. These multipurpose gadgets occupy a space between your home audio system and your pocket phone (which likely has decent built-in speakers all on its own). Instead of requiring a complex, expensive speaker system, Bluetooth speakers offer a small, unobtrusive way to increase the volume and richness of the music you want to listen to.
The Bluetooth speaker market has expanded significantly in recent years, providing options like waterproof, adventure-safe gadgets that you can take to the beach or simple smart speakers that look great on your bookshelf. This roundup includes a few choices from each of those categories.
Bose dominates the premium audio market, especially with customers who want great sound without having to think too much about it. To be fair, Bose doesn't offer minute detail or mind-blowing audiophile quality. The Home Speaker 500 does offer a contemporary smart speaker experience that looks and sounds about on par.
The Home Speaker 500 takes up less than a square foot of space and is available in either sleek black or upscale white. It will look equally at home in your office as it will on your kitchen counter. Although not quite as seamless as the more recent Bluetooth 5.0, the connection is made using Bluetooth 4.2, which is perfectly adequate.
The device's touch controls are simple to use and even include six preset buttons for playing back previous tracks. The speaker has built-in voice assistants that you can use to control it, and if you want to further customise your experience, you can also use the Bose app.
JBL is a strong audio brand, particularly in the portable Bluetooth speaker market. In many ways, the JBL Charge 4 is the brand's flagship portable speaker. This is because it has many of the same features as the Flip line, but it also functions as a power bank, allowing you to charge your phone (hence the name "Charge"). When fully charged, the 7500mAh battery provides approximately 20 hours of playback, though it's important to note that this figure will likely decrease if you charge your phone frequently or play music loudly.
The sound quality is also quite good, especially considering the size. It is approximately 8.5 inches long.
On either end of the cylindrical speaker, JBL has installed its "passive bass radiators," which are essentially just two rubberized subwoofer ports that actually move and pulse in time with your music. The speakers from JBL are always loud, and this one is no exception. JBL completes the package with IPX7 water resistance (ideal for beach days) and a whopping 10 colour options, including outlandish options like neon mint green and mustard yellow.
The Beoplay A1 portable speaker from Bang & Olufsen aims to take the luxury audio brand's namesake design language and shrink it down to a portable size. To be fair, while the speaker fits nicely into a backpack—roughly it's the size of a standard household smoke detector and is nearly 2 inches thick—it does feel fairly bulky. However, the speaker's high-quality materials and brushed finish (B&O calls it "pearl-blasted aluminium"), combined with a leather-like strap, make it feel premium. The device is even dust and water resistant, according to IP67 standards.
The sound quality is plenty full, with two 30W Class D speakers and a frequency response spanning 55 to 22,000Hz, and while it isn't the loudest, the 360-directional playback makes the speaker feel fuller than it is. Bluetooth 5.1, 18 hours of battery life, and voice assistant functionality are all included.
Anker has created a fantastic device. This tiny rectangular powerhouse, available in black, blue, or red, delivers a surprisingly powerful 12W of volume. Bluetooth 5 connectivity and a rugged, long-lasting design back it up. With an IPX7 rating, that design is also fairly resistant to moisture, making it ideal for outdoor use. While the rubberized outer shell is great for durability, pressing the controls is a little awkward.
The 24-hour battery life is perhaps the most impressive feature here, easily outperforming most other speakers in the class. Furthermore, because the price is roughly half of what you'd pay for mid-tier speakers, and even less when compared to premium brands.
JBL's Clip series combines functionality, portability, and decently powerful sound to create an intriguing Bluetooth speaker offering. While the enclosure is small, the majority of the build is taken up by a fairly large speaker driver, which means the playback has plenty of bass and power. JBL also manages to cram a 1000mAh battery into the device, giving it a playback time of about 10 hours on a single charge. If you're listening to music loudly, your mileage may vary, but that's to be expected. In either case, the battery life is adequate but not exceptional.
The design is perhaps the most intriguing aspect, with around ten different colours to choose from and a unique carabiner-style clip. This feature enables you to attach the speaker to a backpack or keychain, making it ideal for on-the-go listening. The IPX7 water resistance ensures that the speaker will withstand the elements. The device is a little too bulky for truly portable use, and the sound could be louder with a more ported design, but overall, this is a solid offering for the price.
When you think of portable Bluetooth speakers, you're probably thinking of the JBL Flip line. For a variety of reasons, the Flip 5 is one of our favourite entries in the space. To begin with, the 20W of power and relatively large 44mm main driver indicate that this thing can pump out some seriously full audio. It becomes evident that it is a powerful playback device when combined with JBL's renowned pulsing bass ports on either end of the cylinder. Despite having a 4,800mAh battery, the battery life is only about 12 hours, which is definitely less than we had hoped for.
Then there's the matter of build quality. It isn't the most portable speaker available, weighing well over a pound, but that weight is due to its rugged construction. Because of the hyper-durable, rubberized bumpers on either side, this speaker can withstand reasonable drops and being bounced around in a backpack. The speaker grill is made of a hard shell covered in a breathable mesh.
Simply put, the JBL Pulse 3 is one of the most distinctive-looking Bluetooth speaker options on the market. This is due to the fact that it is more than a Bluetooth speaker. The design's foundation includes multi-directional firing speakers with plenty of power, though they aren't as large as the drivers found in JBL's Flip and Charge lines. The pulsing bass ports at the cylinder's end provide plenty of low-end support. The IPX7 water resistance puts it on par with the rest of JBL's portable speaker line, and JBL Connect+ compatibility allows you to pair it with other speakers in the line.
When you use the lighting features, the battery life suffers, but with 12 hours of playback, it could be worse. The speaker is massive, and its weight and awkward shape make it difficult to call it "portable," but it is a visually and sonically impressive device.
8. Final Decision
The most important question to ask when selecting your ideal Bluetooth speaker is whether you want something truly portable or one that fits into your home more seamlessly. That's why we gave the Bose Home Speaker 500 the top spot. In terms of smart Bluetooth speakers, it's difficult to beat its rich sound quality and seamless integration into your home music listening experience.
The JBL Charge 4 is our runner-up because it provides the best functionality for portability with its rich, loud sound quality, outstanding water resistance, and even the ability to charge another device while in motion. In short, which of these speakers you choose is entirely dependent on where you intend to use it.
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