As mobile devices get lighter and thinner, there is a slight downside: less space in which to jam a speaker. Smartphones never had particularly great (or even good) audio quality, and though we’ve seen a few standouts here and there, they aren’t getting any better. Luckily, Bluetooth audio devices have never been better.
There are a lot of good speakers out there, as well as a lot of speakers that are, well, not so good. Making a purchase isn’t always easy, especially since you can’t rely on objective information like benchmarks as much as you can with phones, for example. Fear not, however, as we’ve teamed up with our sister site, Sound Guys to give you a primer on some of the best Bluetooth speakers currently available.
Bose SoundLink 3
It may seem like an obvious choice, but given the amount of speakers that we’ve seen that almost beat it but didn’t quite pull it off, the Bose SoundLink 3 needed to be present here. While it doesn’t offer the bells and whistles that many of its competitors do, the SoundLink 3 seems to adhere to the philosophy of “do one thing well” — when it comes to sheer volume and sound quality, this one is tough to beat.
While lack of bass is a common complaint when looking at Bluetooth speakers, that isn’t the case here. This isn’t going to blow a full hi-fi system or car stereo out of the water, but given the size, the depth and presence of the bass is impressive. If you’re looking for a speaker to fill the room at a party, this is going to be your best bet. For all the details, check out the review over at Sound Guys.
The only downside here is the price. At $299.95, the SoundLink 3 is far from the most expensive speaker on the market, but it is more than some people are willing to spend.
Not only is the Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20 cheaper than the Bose SoundLink 3, but it is absolutely packed with features. Sure, it plays music over Bluetooth, but it also has a built-in microSD card slot that allows it to function as a standalone music player, a 6000 mAh battery that can charge your mobile devices, and a voice recorder function. It even works as a siren. At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if it also worked as a flashlight.
In fact, the only major fault of the Sound Blaster Roar is that it might do too much. Despite the hefty battery, it only supports 8 hours of playback time, and the speaker itself is fairly heavy. The latter may not be a minus, especially if you’re using this speaker at home, but it does make it less portable. Still, we’ve never seen a speaker that boasts this many features, and it sounds good to boot. It’s even got an internal EQ that can be adjusted by plugging it into a computer.
With that feature set, you might expect the price to be insane, but you can actually find the Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20 going for $149 online. Head over to Sound Guys for the full review.
I reviewed the Fugoo Style for Sound Guys earlier this year, and while I was testing it, more than once I found myself asking “why doesn’t everybody do this?” It’s little and it’s incredibly tough, but it doesn’t sound like it’s either of those things. And yes, that’s a compliment.
The Fugoo uses an interesting concept: it has a “core” speaker that is then adorned by one of three different “jackets.” While I looked at the Style model, it’s also available in a Sport model, and the Tough model, which as the name implies, is even tougher than the Sport and Style models – so much so that it is described by the company as “virtually indestructable.” That said, even the Style model is waterproof up to 3 feet for 30 minutes in addition to being snow and sand proof.
That alone would be impressive, but this little speaker also boasts 40 hours of battery life as 50% loudness. Even at full power, it’s capable of over 15 hours of play time. Considering that many speakers struggle to get even half that, it’s quite the accomplishment.
The Fugoo Style and Sport models both sell for $199, and the Tough model sells for $229. For more details, see the Sound Guys review.
When the JBL Flip was released, it was a near-instant hit from a company that, while they had a long history with audio, wasn’t exactly known for their wireless products. The Flip quickly became the standard by which other sub-$100 speakers were measured. Sure, the battery life wasn’t great, but the other features made up for it.
The JBL Flip 2 took everything great about the original Flip and made it better, while also improving on the faults of the original. For a speaker that you can literally fit in your pocket (as long as you’re not wearing skinny jeans) the sound is very impressive. While the cylindrical shape has become more common than it once was, the JBL Flip 2 is still fairly eye-catching, and though it isn’t as loud as our first pick, it still gets loud enough without distortion to keep a party going.
While the battery life is still the weakest aspect of the speaker, at 6 hours, it’s long enough that you shouldn’t find yourself running out of juice very often. For all the details, see the review on Sound Guys.
At $99, the Flip 2 is significantly cheaper than the SoundLink 3, but it’s not the cheapest item on our list.
As I said in my review of the Anker MP141, while Anker is a fairly recognizable brand name, the company has its hands in so many areas that you might not know them for the audio products. While plenty of companies with no history in audio make budget Bluetooth speakers these days, it’s uncommon that they make them as good as this one.
Looking at the MP141 for the first time, even though I had heard good things about it, I was fairly certain that there was no way anything good-sounding was going to come out of it. I was wrong. It may not stand toe to toe with the SoundLink 3 or even the JBL Flip 2 when it comes to sound quality, given the tiny size and low price, it would be a crime not to mention the Anker MP141 here.
While the heavy-duty look and small size might not be for everyone, the price certainly is, and the 20 hour battery life is another plus. Still not sure? Take a look at the Sound Guys review of the MP141.
While this list doesn’t run the entire gamut from $20 – $500+, you should be able to find something that suits both your needs and your budget. Of course, the best way to find the right speaker for you is to listen to a few and pick your favorite, but that’s often impossible. Need more information or just can’t pick? There are a ton of reviews of other speakers over at Sound Guys.
What are your picks for the best Bluetooth speakers on the market?