In the past 4 years we've tested more than 40 of the best bluetooth speakers. In this 2020 update we consider the 21 most compelling models currently on the market. To test these speakers we listened to each side-by-side for more than a hundred hours, travelled with them, took them to the beach, brought them to campfires, and pushed their batteries to the limit. We also consulted with a professional audio engineer to ensure our sound quality tests were up to snuff. The resulting top picks from all of this testing cover the entire range of portable speakers, from larger models that place an emphasis on sound quality, to small, waterproof devices that can take a beating, and everything in between.
The Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers of 2020
Best Overall Bluetooth Speaker
Bose SoundLink Revolve
For those that demand great sound quality no matter the situation, Bose's flagship portable speakers are the clear choice. Both the Soundlink Revolve and its big sibling, the Revolve+, produce exceptionally deep bass and impressive clarity, creating a rich overall sound that you'll likely be surprised is coming from a battery powered speaker. That sound is backed up with IPX4 certified waterproofing, meaning both speakers can shake off rain or poolside splashes, and batteries that provide multiple afternoons worth of music listening. The only difference between these models is that the Revolve+ adds a bit of size and weight in return for a louder maximum volume and a bit more battery life.
The only strikes against these speakers are their price and weight. Listing for significantly more than most other models, these speakers certainly aren't cheap. At 24 ounces the Revolve is certainly noticeable when you put it in a backpack, and the 34 ounce Revolve+ can be a bit cumbersome when lugging it to the beach. These downsides feel well worth the great sound quality that they bring, however. We would recommend the Revolve to anyone looking for a portable, high-end listening experience, and the Revolve+ to anyone that wants a speaker with enough volume to power a pool party or barbeque.Read review: Bose Soundlink Revolve
Read review: Bose Soundlink Revolve+
Best Bang for Your Buck
Bose SoundLink Color II
If you want high-end sound without a multi-hundred dollar price tag, the sporty looking Bose Soundlink Color II may be the perfect compromise. This speaker loses a bit of the bass power of the Revolve models, but retains most of the clarity, creating a soundscape that feels quite refined and that flatter most types of music. The IPX4 water resistant rating means you can tote it along with you even if storm clouds are threatening. At 19.8 ounces it certainly doesn't 'disappear' into a bag, but it also doesn't feel too cumbersome to lug around. And it does all this for a somewhat more reasonable price.
Aside from a slight reduction in sound quality when compared to more expensive models, we have very little to complain about when it comes to the Soundlink Color. We did notice that fuzz and lint tended to stick to the rubber coating, but thanks to the water-resistant rating we felt comfortable giving it a quick rinse to wash that off, so this is far from a dealbreaker. Overall the Soundlink Color strikes a great balance between sound quality, portability, and price.
Read review: Bose SoundLink Color II
Best Buy on a Shoestring Budget
Tribit XSound Go
Sometimes you just want an inexpensive, totally waterproof speaker that you can take out on the lake without worry. If you find yourself in this situation, we think the Tribit XSound Go is your best bet. Sporting fully submersible IPX7 waterproofing, a price tag that won't induce tears if it happens to fall off the boat, and a weight of less than a pound, this speaker is the perfect companion for rough and tumble watersports.
Like all small and relatively inexpensive speakers, the XSound Go does cut come corners when it comes to sound quality. Bass power is a bit lacking, and the overall sound can come through as a bit thin and tinny, especially when the volume is maxed out. But, if you just want a speaker that can belt out a decent tune, that can withstand a dunking, and that doesn't cost much, the XSound Go checks all of those boxes with aplomb.
Read review: Tribit XSound Go
Best for Travel
Bose SoundLink Micro
For situations where size and weight are at a premium, it's hard to beat the Bose SoundLink Micro. Tipping the scales at well under a pound and sporting a profile so slim you might be able to fit it in your pocket, this speaker almost disappears when you toss it into a bag. It also pumps out impressive sound that completely belies its small size, with fairly thumpy bass and solid clarity that never gives way to the tinniness present in most other small speakers.
Really the only complaint we have about this speaker is its relatively short battery life. It lasted just 5 hours in our testing, making it a poor choice for extended camping trips or the like. However, if you're going on a vacation where you'll regularly be able to find an outlet, this speaker will take up virtually no space in your carry-on and will definitely make your hotel room sound better.
Read review: Bose SoundLink Micro
A Worthy, Waterproof, Bose Alternative
JBL Flip 5
If you're looking at one of the Bose models we lauded above thinking, "This would be perfect if it were just waterproof," the JBL Flip 5 is likely your best alternative. While it is a clear step down in sound quality when compared to the Bose models, it still sounds quite good, is a similar size, produces a lot of volume, and, most importantly, is completely IPX7 waterproof. Plus, it costs a bit less than the competing offerings from Bose. While we haven't yet found the perfect option for true audiophiles that need a speaker capable of surviving a surprise boat capsizing, the Flip 5 is currently one of the best options on the market.
Read review: JBL Flip 5
Great for the Home and Backyard Parties
Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4
While the 4.5 pound, basketball-sized Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 isn't particularly portable, it does fill quite a useful niche. The large size lets it retain good sound quality even when cranked to full volume, making it great for a big backyard barbeque or pool party (something most of the smaller speakers just don't have enough juice to handle). It's also quite easy to carry the Onyx around the house, making it a very cheap alternative to investing in a multi-room, multi-speaker home music system.
Aside from its lack of portability, the only real knock against the Onyx is the fact that the Bose Soundlink Revolve+ fills the same niche with a bit more aplomb. The Bose both sounds a little better and is actually slightly louder than the Onyx, despite being about half the size. However, the Bose generally sells for double what the Onyx goes for.
Read review: Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4
Why You Should Trust Us
To ensure that we used the best sound quality testing procedure possible we consulted with sound recordist Palmer Taylor. Palmer has recorded audio for such high-profile clients as National Geographic, ESPN, and Google. His specialty lies in location audio, but he has completed a number of music recording and composition projects as well. Both lifelong musicians, authors Steven Tata and Max Mutter have been testing consumer audio products for more than 4 years. Having now used well over 100 of the most highly regarded home and personal audio gadgets on the market, the duo has a strong finger on the pulse of what makes a speaker great.
As we do for all of our audio products, we spent weeks listening to each one of our Bluetooth speakers, side-by-side, shifting between widely varying genres of music and podcasts. After carefully assessing each speaker's relative clarity, bass quality, and overall fullness, we then put them through a battery torture test, blaring a playlist on a loop with the volume cranked up to 75% until they finally gave out. With that out of the way, we then took all of our speakers on vacations, on bike rides to the beach, and to backyard barbeques to assess how well they worked out in the wild. In the end, we completed over 200 hours of testing, and found the best portable speaker for almost any situation.
Related: How We Tested Bluetooth Speakers
Analysis and Test Results
The ideal Bluetooth speaker is one that can blast your music loud and proud, is portable enough that you don't mind toting it around, won't break when stuffed in a backpack or dropped on the ground, and has a battery that can power you through a long night of music fueled frivolity, should the mood strike.
Our overall scores are based on the results of 11 different real-world tests, which we divided into 4 testing metrics. All of our testing metrics were designed around these ideal attributes and meticulously evaluated the sound quality, volume, portability, and battery life of each model, all in a side-by-side manner.
Related: Buying Advice for Bluetooth Speakers
Bluetooth speakers vary somewhat widely in price, and their overall value largely depends upon what you're looking for. For instance, if you place a premium on sound quality, we think the Bose Soundlink Revolve is well worth its high price tag. If you just want something cheap and portable, the Sony XB10 is a steal. If Cheap and waterproof most suits your needs, the Tribit XSound Go is a great choice. Finally, if you want something that is a reasonable balance between price, sound quality, durability, and portability, we think the Bose Soundlink Color II hits that sweet spot.
While no portable Bluetooth speaker is going to be able to match the quality of a home speaker system, it needs to at least represent a big step up from the built-in speakers on your smartphone to be of any real use. To assess sound quality we had a percussionist who is all about that bass and a guitarist that knows the intricacies of treble listen to each speaker play the same songs one after another. After listening to everything from the deep resonance of the Interstellar soundtrack to the high, staccato picking of classical guitar, we scored each speaker on bass, treble, clarity, and dynamic range.
Both the Bose SoundLink Revolve and the Soundlink Revole+ shared the top step of the podium in our sound quality testing, earning a perfect score of 10 out of 10. In our testing these speakers produced booming bass and were the only models that could hit high notes without even a trace of clipping. They also had impressive clarity and were able to clearly define each note within even fast saxophone trills. A close runner-up was the Bose SoundLink Mini II. It also produced exceptional sound with no clipping. However, its bass wasn't quite as powerful as the Revolve models, which gave its sound a bit less depth and well-roundedness.
Another close runner-up was the Beats Pill+. It matched the Bose Soundlink Mini II with incredible clarity, but it fell just a bit short in terms of bass and treble. The bass still felt good and thumpy but lacked a little body when compared to the Bose, and the treble did show some slight signs of clipping when playing the highest notes.
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4, the Bose SoundLink Color II, the Sony SRS-XB32, and the Beats Pill+ all picked up an 8 out of 10 in this metric. These models are just a small step down in treble quality and clarity from the top performers, with some more complex melodies sounding just slightly less crisp. The Onyx Studio 4 had the deepest bass of any model we tested, but staccato notes weren't as sharp as they were relative to the top scorers. The SoundLink Color's bass was less muddled, but not quite as deep. The bass of the Beats Pill+ still felt good and thumpy, but lacked a little body when compared to the Bose, and the treble did show some slight signs of clipping when playing the highest notes. The Sony SRS-XB32 offers a well-balanced sound across the board, but doesn't have any particular strong suit that allows it to flatter any specific genera of music.
Radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMF) has been in the news as of late. While exposure to significant sources of EMFs, like living directly under high voltage power lines for an extended period of time, has been proven to pose health risks, research into the effects of the much lower intensity fields emitted by personal electronics are less than conclusive. Even if you'd like to employ the precautionary principle and avoid as much EMF as possible, we don't think you need to worry about Bluetooth speakers. According to our measurements, unless you keep the speaker within 6 inches of your head (in which case you should probably be shopping for a pair of headphones instead) these devices won't expose you to any more than the general background level of EMF.
A whole slew of models earned the score of 7 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. While most have slightly different attributes, we would call this score good enough. By that we mean they don't sound tinny or underpowered--the biggest risks of using a portable speaker--but they don't offer a particularly premium experience either. For the majority of people that don't want to spend extra to get just a bit more clarity or bass power out of their portable listening experience, but don't want to make too many sacrifices either, this is likely the perfect level of sound quality.
First off in this group are the UE Boom 2 and the UE Boom 3. We found both iterations of this speaker to sound very similar, with surprising clarity given the price range, but maybe just a slight lack of bass power when compared to similar models.
Also earning a 7 out of 10, the impressively small Bose SoundLink Micro pumps out surprisingly loud bass. However, its small stature pulls a bit of the bite out of the higher registers.
Another pair of siblings, both the JBL Flip 4 and the newer Flip 5 also fell into this group. Both trend towards a bass-heavy profile, though the Flip 5 does have a bit more clarity, resulting in a slightly better overall sound.
Rounding out the 7 out of 10 group, the JBL Charge 4 offers great clarity in the higher registers, but its low end can sometimes get a bit muddled. Still, it provides a good overall listening experience that mostly belies its portable pedigree.
Two impressively portable models earned the correspondingly impressive score of 6 out of 10 in the sound quality metric. The UE Wonderboom is a clear step down in sound quality from many of the larger models, but is still impressively full and has decent bass given its stature. The Sony XB10 offers some of the best bass we've heard from a smaller speaker, but its high end tends to sound a bit tinny.
Leading off the bottom tier of our sound quality score sheet is the JBL Charge 3, which earned a score of 5 out of 10. In their marketing, JBL calls this speaker the "bass radiator" and it clearly prioritizes bass over all else. The bass does sound great, but largely to the detriment of overall clarity, with the overarching sound having a muddled quality. Dynamic range also feels a bit depressed, with some accents and ghost notes not producing their desired effect. However, if you just want something that can throw down a powerful, artificial triplet backbeat the Charge 3 is a good choice.
With a score of 4 out of 10, the Tribit XSound Go certainly isn't the most melodious model we tested. The bass is quite weak and the clarity is mediocre, creating an overall sound that we would consider acceptable, but not good. Still, it is a vast improvement in listening to music via the built-in speakers on your phone.
At the bottom of our sound quality score sheet were the Anker SoundCore 2 and Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Angle, which scored 3 out of 10. All of these models produced fairly weak bass and relatively poor clarity. The Anker SoundCore 2 had a bit less clipping and a bit more dynamic range than the Oontz, but still lagged behind the rest of the field in both of those metrics. All of these speakers still represent a significant upgrade in volume and a decent upgrade in quality when compared to a smartphone's built-in speakers, and are decent budget options.
If a Bluetooth speaker is small and light enough to shove in your bag you're more likely to have it with you when your entourage demands some sweet beats. Our portability testing was based on three simple questions; is it heavy, do I have to worry about it getting wet, and can I easily throw it in a backpack? the first two questions were easy to answer with a scale, checking which models have waterproof ratings, and taking those models for a swim just to verify. To assess packability our testers took the speakers everywhere, stuffing them into backpacks, tote bags, and carry-on luggage, to see how easily they fit in with the essentials we were carrying around anyway.
When it comes to portability, it's hard to beat the Bose SoundLink Micro. It is completely IPX7 waterproof, meaning it can survive a complete dunking to a depth of a meter for up to 30 minutes. It also weighs just 10.2 ounces and is so slim it can almost fit into a front pocket.
The Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Angle was a close runner-up, earning a score of 9 in this metric. It is the lightest model we tested at 9.4 ounces. Even though it is quite tiny, its triangular shape just doesn't slip into a pack as easily as some other models do. It also has an IPX5 rating, meaning it can withstand being hit by even pressurized streams of water, which is useful if you tend to get into super soaker fights. Both of these top scoring models are light enough that they may find their way into your pack for extended hikes or even backpacking trips, assuming you're not too much of a minimalist. The Sony XB10 also earned a score of 9 in this metric. Its tiny size and light weight of only 8.8 ounces make it disappear in a backpack, but it is only water resistant rather than fully waterproof.
The UE Wonderboom and both the Boom 2 and the Boom 3 earned 8 out of 10 when our portability testing was said an done. The Wonerboom is slightly more portable than the other two, weighing in at 15 ounces and boasting IPX7 waterproofness. The short and stout shape also tends to disappear inside of a backpack. The Boom models are considerably taller, but the cylindrical shape still keeps them fairly low-profile when it comes to packing. They are also a bit heavier at 22 ounces. The Boom does up the rating to IP67, meaning it is both waterproof and dustproof.
The Tribit XSound Go also scored 8 out of 10 in this metric. it tips the scales at just 13.4 ounces and is rated as IPX7 waterproof. It also has rounded edges, making it a bit easier to shove into an overstuffed bag.
A slew of different models earned the score of 7 out of 10 in our portability testing. For the most part these models were waterproof (or at least water resistant), and weigh more than 1 pound but less than 2 pounds. One such model is the UE Boom 2, which weighs in at 19.5 ounces and is completely IPX7 rated waterproof. The cylindrical shape also makes it fairly easy to stuff into a bag.
The Bose SoundLink Color II also weighs 19.5 ounces, putting it in the not too heavy but certainly not light category. The IPX4 water resistant rating lets it repel most of the wetness associated with a day at the beach or on the lake, though it won't survive complete submersion. The rubber coating resists scratches and dings, and the flat shape is relatively packable.
The Editors' Choice winning Bose SoundLink Revolve is actually nearly as portable as its rubber-coated sibling. At 24 ounces it is a bit heavier but still doesn't feel too hefty when carried in a backpack. It is also IPX4 water resistant, and the brushed metal exterior and cylindrical shape generally let it slide into overstuffed bags with ease.
At just 13 ounces you barely notice you're carrying the Anker SoundCore 2, and its IPX4 water resistance lets you take it out even when the clouds are threatening. However, it lost some points in our book because of the sharp edges, which make it a bit untenable when trying to shove it into an overstuffed bag.
The Sony SRS-XB21 is impressively both dust and waterproof with its IP67 rating. It also won't weigh you down too much at 19 ounces. This makes it a bit more portable than its sibling, the Sony XB20, which is 21 ounces and only IPX5 water resistant.
Rounding out the above average models in this metric, both the JBL Flip 4 and Flip 5 are 19 ounces and IPX7 waterproof. Both models would have scored higher in this metric if it weren't for the sharp edges on the top and bottom of the speakers, which we found to snag on things whenever we tried to shove it into a bag. The newer Flip 5 is also just a tad larger, but not so much as to be noticeable when shoving it into a bag.
Most of the rest of the models we tested were hampered in this metric due to a lack of any sort of water-resistant rating, which inevitably made us a bit more reluctant to take them outside under anything other than bluebird skies. The most portable of these hydrophobic models was the Anker SoundCore 2, which earned a score of 6 out of 10. The Soundcore 2's rubberized exterior also lends more confidence that it can sustain minor drops and scratches.
The Bose Soundlink Revolve+ sports IPX4 water resistance, making it generally safe as a poolside companion. However, it certainly prioritizes volume over portability, as its 2 pound 2 ounce frame makes it quite loud, but not particularly packable.
The Bose SoundLink Mini and the Beats Pill+ both scored a 5 out of 10 in this metric, mostly due to their weight. Our scale put them at 24 and 27 ounces, respectively. They both also have hard metal exteriors, not exactly the material you'd expect to easily absorb shocks and scratches. Both models also have sleek profiles that can slide into a stuffed backpack, but the rounded edges of the Pill+ are a bit more adept at this. These speakers are heavy enough that you'll definitely notice them in your bag, and most people will want a rubber sleeve or carrying case to protect them while traveling.
The JBL Charge 3 and the newer JBL Charge 4 are both outliers in that they are IPX7 waterproof, but are so large that they only scored 5 out of 10 in our portability testing. The Charge 3 is 28 ounces, and the Charge 4 is an even heftier 32 ounces. Both are too heavy to reasonably be carried long distances, but the waterproofing means both can handle campsite where beverage spilling may be common.
The Sony SRS-XB32 also tips the scales at a robust 32 ounces. Even IP67 dust and waterproof ratings couldn't save it from a mediocre score in our portability testing, as it earned a 5 out of 10.
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4, which earned a low score of 2 out of 10 in this metric, is portable only by the most technical definition of the word. At a full 72 ounces (that's 4.5 pounds) it is as heavy as a large laptop. Its 11-inch flying saucer shape also won't fit easily into any backpack or bag. This puppy might make it out into the backyard for a barbecue, or possibly on a car camping trip, but that's about it.
Producing enough sound for a couple of people lounging on the beach and creating enough sound for a barbecue with 20+ people are very different tasks, and some speakers just won't be able to cut it in the latter situation. We evaluated volume objectively with a sound meter. However, we found that most of the speakers were able to produce similar maximum decibel levels, but some sounded incredibly shrill at high volumes while others were able to retain their musicality. So we ended up rating them subjectively by listening to each speaker in different sized spaces to see which could fill a room with dulcet tones, and which just filled it with cringe-inducing dissonance.
The Bose Soundlink Revolve+ has the most punch of any of the models we tested, earning a perfect 10 out of 10 in our volume testing. This speaker can really blow your hair back. It had no problem filling our testing apartment with sound, and could likely service a large backyard barbeque without having to max out the volume.
Somewhat unsurprisingly the three largest speakers we tested, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4, theJBL Charge 3, and the newer JBL Charge 4 were towards the top of the volume leaderboard, all earning a score of 9 out of 10. These models kept the music sound good even when cranked up high, and could fill even large, open houses with good sound. The Onyx Studio 4 has better sound quality and, if anything, was just a tad louder than the Charge models, so it would be our top choice for playing music at a noisy backyard barbecue. Just remember that it is the least portable speaker of the bunch.
Just slightly quieter but still loud enough to score 9 out 10 was the Sony XB20 and its sibling, the Sony SRS-XB32. Both these models have enough oomph to power a part in a large apartment but lack a bit of the over-the-top sound of the higher scoring models. The larger Sony SRS-XB32 is also noticeably louder than the smaller XB20, but not by enough of a margin to earn it a higher score.
For those looking for a smaller, more portable option that can still produce considerable volume there are a few options. The JBL Flip 4, the Flip 5, and the UE Boom 3 all earned 8 out of 10 in this metric while being much smaller than most of the higher scoring models. These speakers easily produce enough volume to keep a group of people in an apartment dancing, but might be just a bit quiet for a larger backyard party.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve and the Bose SoundLink Color II performed similarly, also scoring an 8. They have enough juice to power a small party and more than enough for a group of friends hanging out on the beach. The UE Wonderboom produced a similar volume, also scoring an 8 out of 10. The Sony SRS-XB21 was a surprise performer in this metric, earning an 8 out of 10 despite costing less than most of the competition. This is probably one of the best ways to get a loud speaker on the cheap.
A few different models earned a 7 out of 10 in our volume metric. The Sony XB10, the Bose SoundLink Mini II, and the Beats Pill+ were all able to fill our large testing apartment with sound. However, fill that apartment with a lot of bodies and the sound gets a bit dimmer, still noticeable for sure, but not quite loud.
The Bose SoundLink Micro, one of the smallest speakers in our testing, earned a 6 out of 10 for its volume capabilities. It's incredibly loud given its size, but isn't going to fill much more than a large hotel room with loud music.
When you get to the less expensive end of the portable speaker spectrum, you end up with models that aim only to be better and louder than your phone's built-in speakers, and not much more. We tested a number of models that fall into this category, including the Tribit XSound Go, the Anker SoundCore 2, and the Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Angle 3. All of these devices are loud enough for a small group of friends listening to music on the beach, but struggle if the volume demands reach much beyond that.
Nothing can kill the mood of a gathering more than the music cutting out prematurely, so you'll want to make sure your speaker has enough juice to power you through. To test battery life we set each speaker to the same level of sound output, which worked out to about 75% volume for most models, and made them all play the same loop of music over and over until they died. We'd tell you which songs we played but at this point we've heard them so much we can't even stand to utter their names…
Anker is probably most recognized for its portable battery packs, so it makes sense that the SoundCore 2 would win our battery life test. It lasted an almost ridiculous 42 hours on a single charge in our test. It got to the point that we thought maybe there was some sort of magical perpetual-motion machine inside.
The Anker set an almost unattainable bar, as the closest competitor in our tests was the JBL Charge 4. It well outlasted its specified battery life, pumping out music for a full 34.5 hours before it died. Its sibling, the JBL Charge 3, posted a similar performance, singing for 30 hours before giving way to entropy.
Another model that bested its specified runtime by a wide margin, the JBL Flip 5 played on for 27 hours on a single charge in our testing.
The UE Boom 3 and the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ lasted a full day in our test, both tapping out at the 24-hour mark.
Dropping back down into the teens, the UE Wonderboom posted an impressive 19.5-hour battery life. The inexpensive Tribit XSound Go was just behind the Wonderboom, lasting 18.5 hours before finally giving in to exhaustion.
The inexpensive Cambridge Soundworks Oontz Angle 3 put up an impressive 15.5 hours of playback in our test. The JBL Flip 4's battery lagged just behind, dying after 15 hours. The melodious Bose SoundLink Color II posted an impressive 13-hour battery life. Rounding out the double-digits in our test was the UE Boom 2 and the Sony XB20, both of which lasted 12 hours.
The Sony SRS-XB21 was the first speaker that truly disappointed in our battery life test. With a functional life of 6 hours, this "party speaker" certainly can't keep you dancing till the wee hours of the morn.
The Bose Soundlink Micro's battery was only able to pump out music for 4.5 hours in our test, making it the worst overall performer. While we can't blame such a small speaker for having so short of a battery life, such a limited playtime in such a portable device feels a bit disappointing.
Bluetooth speakers are wonderful little devices that let you and your friends enjoy music almost anywhere you go. They are also incredibly diverse, with thousands of different models flooding the market. We hope our research and test results have helped you narrow the field to the few, or the one, speaker that will best satisfy your portable music needs.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata