The Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers of 2018
Looking to enjoy your music while on the go? We bought 16 of the best Bluetooth speakers on the market, then ran them through a gauntlet of side-by-side tests to find the best one for every application. Bluetooth speakers vary wildly in size, design, and price, making it difficult to decide which is best for your intended use. We used our speakers on beaches and docks, in living rooms and hotel rooms, and took them traveling and on bike rides, all to find the pros and cons of each model. Whether you put a premium on sound quality, want something waterproof and rugged, or are just looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy some casual listening at the beach, our top picks have you covered.
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Test Results and Ratings
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$24.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Lightweight, portable, can be inexpensive when on sale|
|Cons||Poor sound quality, massively overpriced if not on sale|
|Ratings by Category||Oontz Angle 3|
|Sound Quality - 40%||
|Portability - 25%||
|Volume - 20%||
|Battery Life - 15%||
|Specs||Oontz Angle 3|
|Dimensions (in x in x in)||5.25" x 2.75" x 2.75"|
|Inputs||3.5 mm auxiliary input, Micro-USB port|
|Reported Weight||9 oz|
Expand to show full specification table | Hide details
Analysis and Award Winners
Updated February 2018
This month Harman Kardon released the new Onyx Studio 4, a replacement for the previous iteration of that model. We found the Studio 4 to have a significantly longer battery life than its predecessor (10.5 vs 4.5 hours), but otherwise it is nearly identical. We still feel that this speaker is a great option for using around the house, but it's a bit too large to take further afield.
Best Overall Bluetooth Speaker
Bose SoundLink Revolve
If you want to take top notch sound with you wherever you go, the Bose SoundLink Revolve is probably the only portable speaker you should consider. In our testing the Revolve's sound quality was a clear cut above the rest of the field, producing an incredibly crisp and full bodied sound that belied its small stature and portable nature. It backs that up with IPX4 water resistance, so you don't have to worry about the speaker mixing with the wet beach towels in your bag. Sure it's somewhat on the heavy side at 1.5 pounds, but that extra weight feels well worth it once you hear this minstrel belt out your favorite tune. If you want a portable speaker that can almost make you feel like you're listening to your home stereo while you're at the beach, this is the model for you.
Excellent sound quality
Great battery life
Read review: Bose SoundLink Revolve
Don't care about water resistance?
Though the SoudLink Revolve is better overall, the old Bose SoundLink Mini II still sounds great. Becuase it's no longer Bose's top model it can be found on sale at many retailers. If you're ok with sacrificing water resistance, those sales can provide some great deals.
Best Bang for Your Buck
Bose SoundLink Color II
Providing a nice balance of performance and price, the Bose SoundLink Color II stretches your dollars farther than any other speaker we've tested. It is able to nearly match the sound quality of its top scoring sibling, yet costs $70 less. It is also fairly light at 19.8 ounces, and its splashproof and rubberized body can stand up to freak rainstorms and being shoved into a crowded backpack. To top it off it can belt out tunes for 13 hours on a single charge, which is plenty for a long day at the beach or lake. If you want to get the most for your dollar, the Bose SoundLink Color II is the perfect choice.
Great sound quality
Good battery life
Rubber coating sometimes hangs onto dust
Read review: Bose SoundLink Color II
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
For those seeking an inexpensive way to listen to music on the go, the Sony XB10 is the perfect choice, The "XB" in its name stand for extra bass, and it's an accurate moniker. This little speaker can produce a level of thumping bass that is completely disproportionate to its size. This gives it a much fuller sound than most small speakers, making it a great travel companion. Plus, it is water resistant and lists for only $50. You'd be hard pressed to find better sound at such a low price.
Great bass given its size
can sound a bit thin
Read review: Sony XB10
Top Pick for Portability
UE Roll 2
If you want a speaker that can accompany you on any adventure, the UE Roll 2 is your best bet. Its slim profile and mere 11.2 ounce weight let it almost disappear in your carry-on or backpack. It is IPX7 waterproof, meaning it can survive complete submersion, so you don't have to worry about bringing it on your next canoe trip. The 14 hours battery life also gives you lots of listening time, even when far from an outlet. The Roll 2 backs up all this portability with surprisingly good sound for a speaker of this size. Sure the bass isn't the strongest and it can sound a bit tinny when you crank the volume up, but that's a small price to pay if you want something rugged and lightweight.
Good sound quality
Lightweight and portable
Bass is slightly weak
Can sound tinny, especially at high volumes
Read review: UE Roll 2
Great for the Home and Backyard Parties
Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 blurs the line between a portable speaker and a home speaker. It boasts a 10.5 hour battery life, which is pretty good, but at 4.5 pounds you're probably not going to toss it in your backpack for a walk down to the beach. On the flip side that large size allows it to retain great sound quality, even at relatively high volumes, making it the perfect companion for a backyard barbeque. It also offers a much less expensive alternative to the multi-speaker, multi-room sound systems that are becoming more and more popular. Instead of buying a speaker for every room in your home, why not get one speaker that you can easily move from room to room?
Great sound quality
Very large and heavy
Read review: Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4
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.
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 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.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve was the winner of our sound quality testing, earning a perfect score of 10 out of 10. This speaker is the classic small dog with a big bark. In our testing it produced booming bass and was the only model that could hit high notes without even a trace of clipping. It also had impressive clarity and was 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, which gave its sound a bit less depth and well-roundedness.
A 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.
A small audio sampling from all of our speakers. Music courtesy of www.bensound.com
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4, the Bose SoundLink Color II 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 UE Boom 2, the Amazon Tap, and the Bose SoundLink Micro all earned a 7 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. The Boom 2 and the Tap sounded so similar to one another in our testing that we became suspicious that Amazon is outsourcing some of its audio component manufacturing to UE. Both of these models sound quite good and clear, but the bass is noticeably lacking, they don't sound hollow and empty like speakers with absolutely no bass, but we were left wishing for a bit more low-end. The SoundLink Micro has slightly better bass than the other two models, but lacks some of their clarity.
The JBL Flip 4 and the Sony XB20 both also earned a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. These models tend towards the bassy end of the spectrum, both producing deep, powerful backbeats. They both also flaunt their bass power, the covers on each end of the Flip 4 visibly vibrate when the bass drops and the XB20 has lights that flash along with the backbeat. They both also have fairly clear treble, creating a well balanced sound.
The UE Roll 2, the UE Wonderboom, and the Sony XB10 all scored a 6 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. Given its small size and lightweight the Roll 2's sopund quality is impressive, yet clearly has some drawbacks. The clarity is decent, but just on the borderline of sounding muddled. The bass lacks a good amount of depth, which was the biggest strike against the Roll 2's sound quality, and high notes often sounded a bit static-y at higher volumes. In the grand scheme of things, however, we believe the Roll 2's audio shortcomings are more than made up for by its portability for those that want a take-it-anywhere kind of speaker. the Wonderboom sounds incredibly similar to the Roll 2 but is less portable, so we think you're much better off getting the Roll 2. The Sony XB10 provide the most powerful bass of any of the truly small spekaers we tested, but its treble can sound a bit thin.
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.
At the bottom of our sound quality score sheet were the Anker SoundCores and Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Angle, which scored 3 and 2 out of 10, respectively. All of these models produced fairly weak bass and relatively poor clarity. The Anker SoundCore and 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.
The UE Roll 2 and the Bose SoundLink Micro were far and away our favorite models to carry around, both earning a perfect 10 out of 10 in our portability testing. The Roll 2 tipped our scale at just 11.2 ounces, making it the third lightest speaker we tested. Its small size and fairly flat disc shape also makes the Roll 2 eminently packable, somehow disappearing in fully stuffed suitcases and backpacks. The attached bungee cord allows for easy hanging, mounting, and strapping, so even if your bag is completely full you can easily strap the Roll 2 to the outside. It is also one of only four models we tested with an IPX7 rating, meaning it can be fully submerged in three feet of water. We dunked the Roll 2 repeatedly in our testing to verify this capability. After a dunking, the Roll 2 would make T Swift sound like she was gargling water, but we just shook it off, and the speaker was fine.
The Bose SoundLink Micro is slightly lighter than the Roll 2 at 10.2 ounces, and is just a shade smaller. It also has a built-in strap, but Bose opted for rubber over the simple bungee cord on the Roll 2. This feels a little less durably and usable, but it still gives you some options for lashing the speaker to a backpack strap.
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 the Roll does. 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 backapack, but it is only water resistant rather than fully waterproof.
The UE Wonderboom was the only model that earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric. It weighs only 15 ounces, and the short, stout cylindrical shape is fairly easy to stuff into a pack. IT also boasts complete IPX7 waterproofness. It is essentially a slightly less portable version of the Roll 2. but unfortunately it does not sound any better.
Six different models earned a score of 7 out of 10 in our portability testing. The Boom 2 and the SoundLink Color II are relatively heavy, both clocking in at about 19.5 ounces. However, the cylindrical shape of the Boom and the fairly flat, rectangular shape of the SoundLink Color make them easily packable. These models also benefitted from their water resistant ratings. The Boom can survive full submersion (IPX7 rating) and the SoundLink Color can survive significant splashes (IPX4 rating). The SoundLink Revolve is quite heavy at 24 ounces, but it's IPX4 water resistant rating and packable, cylindrical shape earned it a decent score. The Anker SoundCore 2 is very light and 13 ounces and provide IPX5 water resistance, though its sharp corned makeit a little hreder to get into a fully stuffed pack than the cylindrical models.
Also earning a 7 out of 10 were the JBL Flip 4 and the Sony XB20. Both of these models have an oblong shape that slides into stuffed bags fairly easily. The Flip 4 is slightly lighter (19 ounces vs. 21) and IPX& waterproof whereas the XB20 is IPX5 water resistance, but these differences weren't big enough to warrant two different scores. That being said, if you want good bass in something that is really rugged, we'd recommend the Flip 4 over the XB20.
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 are the Anker SoundCore and the Amazon Tap, both of which earned a score df 6 out of 10. The SoundCore is significantly lighter than the Tap: 12.8 vs. 16.6 ounces. The Soundcore's rubberized exterior also lends more confidence that it can sustain minor drops and scratches. The Tap's mostly soft exterior feels quite fragile in comparison. However, the sleek, cylindrical shape of the Tap more easily slid into our backpacks that the boxy, sharp edges of the SoundCore. Plus, the available Tap Sling can make it feel much more rugged.
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 was an outlier in that it has an IPX7 rating and can survive full submersion in water, yet only scored a 5 out of 10 in our portability testing. This was due to its size and weight. At 28 ounces it's one of the heaviest models we tested, and its 8.4" by 3.5" cylindric body is large enough to be obnoxious in a backpack.
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4, which earned the 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 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.
Somewhat unsurprisingly the two largest speakers we tested, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 and the JBL Charge 3, were at the top of the volume leaderboard, both 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 3, so it would be our choice 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. This model was plenty loud enough to cut through the noise of a crowded apartment party, but couldn't match the pure power of the Onyx Studio 4 for a large outdoor gathering.
Despite its relatively tiny stature the UE Boom 2 lived up to its name and did well in our volume testing, picking up a score of 8 out of 10. It was easily able to fill an apartment with crisp sounding music, even when that apartment was filled with a bunch of people bouncing around to said music. 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.
A triad of models, including the Sony XB10, the Bose SoundLink Mini II, and the Beats Pill+, scored 7 out of 10 in this metric. They are plenty loud to fill an apartment with great sounding audio, even if that is also filled with a group of people talking loudly. If that loud talking turned into a raucous dance party, however, these speakers may struggle a bit to play over the din.
The UE Roll 2, the Amazon Tap, and the Bose SoundLink Micro scored 6 out of 10 in our volume testing. These models still have some oomph to them but completely filling an apartment with sound would be a bit of a stretch, a large hotel or bedroom would be more in their wheelhouse. The Tap can get a good bit louder than the Roll, but its sound quality degrades to a noticeable but not terrible degree at higher volumes. The Roll's design excels at close listening situations, like strapping it to a backpack or bike handlebars, and is plenty loud enough for those instances.
At the bottom of our volume testing scoresheet were the Anker Soundcore 2, the Anker SoundCore and the Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Angle 3. All of these models still provide a solid bump up in volume when compared to smartphone built-in speakers but functionally are a good bit quieter than the other speakers we tested (you can crank the volume up really high, but you'll mostly hear static when you do). They're great for a couple of friends listening to some relaxing music while sitting on the porch, but they'd struggle to fill an apartment with sound and have trouble cutting through ambient noise.
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 really wrecked the curve in our battery life testing. The SoundCore 2 and the original SoundCore lasted an astonishing 42 and 41 hours, respectively. This was close to double the battery life claimed by the manufacturer. Honestly, we were tempted to bust these speakers open and see if there was a little gnome running on a hamster wheel inside. This performance earned them a perfect score of 10 out of 10, and sort of precluded any other speaker from actually impressing us in this test.
The first but distant runner-up in our battery life testing was the JBL Charge 3. It lasted what should have been an impressive 30 hours, if we hadn't already been blown away by the SoundCore. This admirable performance earned the Charge 3 a score of 9 out of 10. Coming in a distant 3rd were the UE Wonderboom, which lasted 19.5 hours and scored an 7 out of 10. The Bose SoundLink Revolve and the Bose SoundLink Mini II, which lasted 18 hours and 17 hours, respectively, also scored 7.
The Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Angle 3, the JBL Flip 4, the UE Roll 2, and the Sony XB10 earned scores of 6 out of 10 in our battery life test. The Oontz was a slightly better performer, keeping the music going for 15.5 hours. The Flip 4 was just behind at 15 hours, and the Roll stayed alive for 14 hours. The Sony XB10 lasted 13.5 hours, a bit short of its claimed 16 hour battery life. Scoring a 5 out of 10, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 lasted 10.5 hours in our battery life testing. Seeing as this spekaer's battery is more meant to facilitate moving it around the house than anything else, this felt like more than enough juice for how it is likely to be used.
Three different models earned a score of 5 out of 10 in this test. The Bose SoundLink Color II lasted a respectable 13 hours. The Beats Pill+ also survived for 13 hours in our test. The UE Boom 2 and the Sony XB20 were slightly behind these models, both lasting 12 hours. This was slightly disappointing, as the Boom 2 was the only model that lagged significantly behind its manufacturer's claimed battery life (15 hours). The Amazon tap earned a score of 4 out of 10 and lasted 8.5 hours in our testing.
At the bottom of our results sheet was the Bose SoundLink Micro. It lasted a surprisingly brief 5 hours in our testing. For such a rugged and durable speaker that seems to be designed for adventuring, this short battery life felt pretty limiting.
A Note on Ease of Use
For most products we include an ease of use metric, and we planned to do so for Bluetooth speakers. However, in our testing we found almost no differences between models in terms of ease of use. When we had any Bluetooth connectivity problems they seemed to be based on the phone we were trying to pair rather than the speaker, every single speaker was able to maintain a connection when we moved the paired device 40 feet away, and all of their interfaces are almost identical. Therefore we ultimately removed our ease of use metric. Some models do have microphones that allow them to become speaker phones or even use Siri (we've noted these models in the specs table). But these extra features were of a similar quality across all of the models that have them and, based on our own experiences and a careful analysis of online user reviews, aren't used enough to deserve a bump in our scoring.
Aesthetically, Bluetooth speakers are probably some of the most diverse tech products around, coming in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. Despite this clear diversity it can be incredibly difficult to differentiate these products in terms of their actual, real world performance. We hop that our testing result have helped you cut through the confusion and find the perfect speaker for your needs.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.
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