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The best Bluetooth speaker for 2024: 15 portable options for every price range

The Best Bluetooth Speaker For 2024 15 Portable Options For Every Price Range

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Choosing the best portable Bluetooth speaker can be a daunting task with the amount of options available today. Whether you’re gearing up for a camping trip, a beach outing, or a backyard barbecue, finding the right speaker that delivers on sound quality, durability, and portability is crucial. We’ve tested dozens of Bluetooth speakers across various price points to help you navigate this crowded market. While many of them sound impressive, comparing them head-to-head allowed us to identify the features that make certain models stand out.

If you’re looking primarily for a speaker that works with a voice assistant like Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, check out our top picks for the best smart speakers. However, for those seeking a versatile portable Bluetooth speaker, we’ve put together a selection of top performers that cater to a wide range of use cases and preferences. Whether you’re after powerful bass, long battery life or rugged design, our recommendations will help you find the best match for your needs.

IP ratings (Ingress Protection) are the alphanumeric indicators you often see in a product’s spec sheet that define water and dust resistance. It’s usually a combo of two numbers with the first indicating solid object ingress and the second being water. The former goes from 0 (no protection) to 6 (dustproof). The water-resistance rating goes from 0 (no protection) to 9 (protected against immersion and high pressure jets). When an X is used instead of a number, that means the product wasn’t tested for resistance. If it’s waterproof, it may have some innate resistance to solids, but there’s no guarantee.

IP67 is a common rating these days indicating highly resistant and potentially rugged speakers suitable for outdoor adventures. These are safe for quick dunks in the pool or tub and should be more than OK in the rain or in the shower. They’re also good options for the beach, playground and other rough environs.

Additionally, speakers with ports and a high rating will often include a tight-fitting cover over the charging or auxiliary ports. If you plan on using the ports, that may limit the product’s rated ability to fend off the elements.

When looking for the best portable Bluetooth speaker, consider the IP rating and also how you plan to use your Bluetooth speaker when making your decision. It may be worth splurging on a better sounding model with a lower IP rating if you’ll mostly be using it indoors, for instance.

The focus of this guide is on the best. portable Bluetooth speakers, and while “portable” can be a relative term, these devices are generally for people who are likely to find themselves far from a power outlet. These days, around 12 hours of runtime seems to be the baseline but obviously, the more battery life you can get out of a speaker, the better.

That said, be careful when looking at battery specs, as they frequently list a maximum runtime (“up to” x amount of hours). This usually means they tested at a low to mid volume. If you like your tunes loud, it can often end up cutting the expected usage time in half or more. Luckily, some manufacturers also list the expected hours of battery life when used at full volume and that transparency is appreciated. Bear in mind, however, that not all of the best portable Bluetooth speakers use the same charging port. Some support USB-C charging while others use micro-USB.

Additionally, if your Bluetooth speaker also happens to have WiFi connectivity, they’re usually designed for always-on functionality. Unlike normal Bluetooth speakers that go to sleep after a short period without use, these will usually stay awake (to listen for your commands) and slowly run down the battery. If you’re out and about, you’ll want to remember to turn these speakers off manually when not in use to maximize battery life.

Bluetooth range is tricky business. Some companies list their product’s longest possible range, usually outdoors and in an unobstructed line-of-sight test environment. Other companies stick with a 30-foot range on the spec sheet and leave it at that, even though they may be running Bluetooth 4.x or 5.x. That’s likely underselling the speaker’s potential, but unpredictable environments can affect range and there’s little point in promising the moon only to get complaints.

I’ve seen signal drop issues when crouching down, with my phone in the front pocket of my jeans, and barely 30 feet away from a speaker inside my apartment. I ran into this issue across several devices regardless of their listed Bluetooth connectivity range.

If you’re hosting a patio party and duck inside, it’s wise to keep any wireless Bluetooth speakers relatively close by just in case. It’s hard to gauge what aspects of any environment may interfere with a Bluetooth signal. In general, take range specs around 100 feet or more as a perfect-world scenario.

This is a minor mention for those out there who use a speaker for their computer output, or as a mini soundbar solution for setups like a monitor and streaming box. It’s annoying to find that your speaker’s latency isn’t low enough to avoid lip sync issues. Luckily, it seems that most speakers these days don’t often have these problems. Only a handful of the few dozen speakers I tried had persistent, noticeable lip-sync issues. Aside from occasional blips, all of our picks worked well in this regard.

If you plan to frequently use a speaker for video playback, look for devices with the most recent Bluetooth versions (4.x or 5.x) and lower latency codecs like aptX. Also make sure the speaker is close to the source device as distance can be a factor. To avoid the issue altogether, though, consider getting one with a wired auxiliary input.

While there’s a lot to like about the Sonos Roam, there are plenty of other Bluetooth speakers with more features and better battery life. In our review, we gave the Roam a score of 87, praising it for its good sound quality, durable waterproof design and ability to work well within an existing Sonos speaker ecosystem. But the price is just fine at $180, and we found Bluetooth speakers that offer more at lower price points. Plus, the Roam taps out at 10 hours of battery life, and all of our top picks can run for longer than that on a single charge.

The Monoprice Soundstage3 offers relatively big sound at a midrange $250 price, with a variety of inputs rarely found on a portable Bluetooth speaker. The boxy, minimalist design is no nonsense, even if it’s more of a less-rugged, bookshelf-styled homebody. While the speaker puts out crisp highs alongside booming lows, we found the bass can overpower the rest of the output, so it’s not for everyone. And after using the speaker for many months, we also found the low-slung, poorly labeled button panel along the top can be a bit annoying to use. If you want a speaker for road trips, favor mids and highs, and plan on using physical buttons for volume control and input selections, there are better options out there.

Fans of JBL’s bluetooth speaker sound profile who want to crank up the volume, but also want a rugged and portable option, may enjoy the JBL Boombox 3. It’s a decent grab-and-go speaker with a very loud output, although it’s not as good as some of the loud-speaker styled options for long-throw sound and big outdoor areas. However, the price for this speaker line remains prohibitively expensive compared to other options with big sound that cover a bit more ground. If the JBL brand is your thing and you like the rugged, portable form factor, we recommend looking for discounts, or shopping around and exploring the available options including the (less portable) JBL PartyBox series.

Soundcore speakers have generally been good and often reasonably priced. The Motion X500 loosely falls into that category. It has a tall, metallic lunchbox vibe with a fixed handle and pumps out a respectable 40 watts of crisp, clear sound for its size. It can get pretty loud and serves up a good dose of bass, although its primarily a front-facing speaker.

There’s LDAC hi-res audio support for Android users, but the main selling point on this is spatial audio. This is done through an EQ change and the activation of a small, up-firing driver. There’s a slight benefit from this if you’re up close and directly in front of it, but it’s not a total game changer for your listening experience. The original pre-order price of $130 made it a decent option in terms of bang for your buck. But it went up to $170 at launch, making it less appealing even if it’s still a good middle-of-the-road option if you want small-ish, clear and loud. If you can find one on sale for the lower price, it’s definitely worth considering. There’s also the larger and louder X600 ($200) if the overall concept is working for you.

Bluetooth technology lets devices connect and exchange data over short distances using ultra high frequency (UHF) radio waves. It’s the frequency range that’s carved out for industrial, scientific and medical purposes, called the 2.4GHz ISM spectrum band. This range is available worldwide, making it easy for companies to use with devices for global markets.

Bluetooth speakers include this tech, which lets them communicate with source devices like smartphones, tablets or computers in order to exchange data. The two devices pair by sharing a unique code and will work within the proscribed range for the device and Bluetooth version. 

Ever since Bluetooth 4.0 was released over a decade ago, new iterations usually improve on range, use less power and offer expanded connectivity with features like multipoint (allowing more than one device to be connected at the same time, for instance).

If you want to play music while you’re out-and-about on something other than headphones, a portable Bluetooth speaker is probably what you want. There’s a broad range of devices for all types of circumstances. Many adventurous people will want a relatively lightweight portable that’s rugged enough to handle the elements while also packing enough charge to play for hours on end. Others may simply need a speaker they can move around the house or use in the backyard. In this case, you can choose larger less rugged models that may offer better sound. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-portable-bluetooth-speakers-133004551.html?src=rss
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