If you're still putting your phone in a cup to amplify it during parties and get-togethers, we've got some bad news: you're behind the times. No matter how fancy and high-end your phone is, it just isn't big enough to have good speakers. And it shouldn't be: if your phone was big enough to have good speakers, it would probably look like this.
While soundbars are a great option for gatherings, they're not very portable, meaning if you want to bring play music or podcasts ay the beach or out in the backyard, you need a portable Bluetooth speaker. If you want the best, check out the JBL Flip 5(available at Amazon for $99.99). However, if that one doesn't quite suit you, we've got a whole list of great picks, each with its own specialty.
As per usual, JBL’s “Flip” line of Bluetooth speakers continues to be an awesome choice for most folks. The newest addition—the Flip 5—brings all the same great features as its forebears: solid, room-filling sound; IPX7 water-resistance (meaning it should survive a quick dunk in the pool without incident); long battery life; and a massive range of color options, from "sand" to "squad."
One of the biggest upgrades for the Flip 5 includes the convenience of USB-C charging (the previous Flip 4 uses micro-USB), but it also adds a newer Bluetooth standard (4.2), improved battery (12 hours per charge), bigger speaker drivers, and comes equipped with a sleep timer.
The additions mean the Flip 5 is a bit larger and heavier than the Flip 4, but fear not: it’s still capped with reinforced rubber and wrapped in JBL’s handsome, rounded speaker grills, meaning it’s fairly robust and it also sounds better than ever. Just don’t drop it on your beach-going toesies.
The Flip 5 isn’t the biggest, loudest speaker on our list, nor is it the most affordable. It is, however, an A-plus all-rounder, checking off all the right boxes for a portable, all-terrain Bluetooth speaker.
The latest iteration in Anker's SoundCore portable speaker line, the SoundCore 2 is basic, straightforward, and useful. It features a sturdy rectangular design with big, easy-to-push buttons and a very tightly sealed set of inputs for USB charging and a 3.5 input.
The first thing I noticed about the SoundCore 2 was its sound quality. For being small, portable, and fairly lightweight, it has less tinniness in the treble than a lot of portable Bluetooth speakers and more bass presence, too. Between the low price point and the wide array of colors, it's a very clear value pick as far as portable speakers go. It doesn't get super loud, but it pumps out as much sound as most people need, and all without a touch of audible distortion.
Last but definitely not least, the Anker SoundCore 2 is, of course, rated IPX7 water-resistant, meaning it's been tested for 30 minutes in one meter of water. In other words, like JBL's Flip 5, it's very splashproof and should also be good for a quick dunk without being rendered useless.
Howdy, I'm Lee Neikirk, Home Theater Editor for Reviewed and casual video/audiophile. I've been elbows-deep in professional reviews of video and audio products for the last 7 years, but before that, I was earning a degree in music performance, so it's safe to say that audio quality and presentation are passions of mine. At home, I utilize guitar amplifiers, studio monitors for music mastering, and a sound "plate" for my TV. But nothing is more delightful than a compact, rugged, or waterproof speaker that can fill space with music; it's like magic!
Testing for these portable Bluetooth speakers was a fairly simple process. I took a big box of them home and over a few weeks, sampled and used them in different locations in my home. I didn't do any objective testing for audio quality, but I did listen to them closely, comparing them to a range of other speaker sources, as well as headphones.
But perhaps just as important (if not more important) than checking out each speaker's audio quality was simply using it like the average person would: connecting over Bluetooth, setting it up on a desk or table, and listening to music. I'd crank the speakers up to max to check for distortion or buzzing, and cycle through each speaker's various functions.
Sometimes speakers sounded great at every volume, connected immediately, had responsive buttons and stylized Bluetooth feedback, and so on. Sometimes they presented a chintzy or questionable experience. The final ranking represents a rough approximation of those traits alongside the cost/value of the speaker. As time has gone on, our staff has also tested new speakers using the same process, ranked them, and added them to the list.
What You Should Know About Portable Bluetooth Speakers
Technically, a portable Bluetooth speaker is any speaker that you can connect to wirelessly over Bluetooth connection, has a battery for powering on away from outlets, and is small/light enough to be carried with you or stowed in a bag.
While this can include a very wide range of speaker types and price points, generally portable Bluetooth speakers fall between $30 and $200 in price and include a suite of key features like Bluetooth connectivity (duh), volume adjustment, 3.5mm aux input, and micro USB charging.
Features like splash resistance or waterproofing, a rugged exterior, LED indicators, and bass boosting vary depending on the model—those kinds of things are usually what you’re paying more for. But you can always safely assume any portable Bluetooth speaker you buy will be wireless and work with whatever type of phone you have.
How Loud Are Bluetooth Speakers?
Another key thing to understand about portable Bluetooth speakers is that they’re more of a replacement for your smartphone than for traditional home theater speakers or even soundbars.
Although you can get really big, boombox style portable speakers that might be able to blow the roof off a house party, most of the speakers we tested aren’t amazingly loud. They’re loud enough to provide music for a small gathering or a modest backyard get together, but if you’re in the raucous throes of a party, most of these will be drowned out.
Where this starts to matter more is when you’re using one of these speakers in an on-the-go situation. Because of the relatively low power of most of the speakers here, using them outside on a windy beach or hanging from your handlebars as you pedal through the woods may not always yield crystal clear audio. But you’ll know music is playing, and that’s probably as good as you’re going to get without using headphones.
As for audio quality, one reason these speakers don’t get mega loud is that if they did, it would introduce distortion. Instead, engineers have capped the relative output to maintain clarity, which is a smart move both for your listening enjoyment and for the life of the soldered wires inside.
What about water resistance?
Many portable Bluetooth speakers are splash and/or water-resistant on top of being extra-rugged or capped with rubber components to help protect them from falls.
But it can be a little hard to know if it’s safe to “accidentally” boot your little speaker into the pool when a song you hate comes on, so check this guide to the ranking system if you’re really curious.
Other Portable Bluetooth Speakers We Tested
JBL Boombox 2
If you want the biggest, loudest, most party-rocking Bluetooth speaker you can buy, JBL’s Boombox 2 wrote the book on “in your face.” In all seriousness, as with many JBL speakers the Boombox 2 is immaculately designed—rounded, robust, and heavy—and it has the audio presence to match its hefty size. While most of the speakers on this list are around the size of a soda can, the JBL Boombox 2 is a… well, you see, it’s a boombox. A dyed-in-the-wool, walk-down-the-street-with-it-on-your-shoulder boombox.
There are a lot of places where a smaller, more traditional Bluetooth speaker might serve you better. I used the Boombox 2 for several weeks while waiting on other Bluetooth speakers to arrive for evaluation. As it serenaded us in our kitchen every day, I probably never set the volume to more than 50% of its maximum. This Bluetooth speaker is very, very loud—that said, it also sounds really good, featuring more than ample bass presence and good clarity across the frequency spectrum. It sounds good, and it fills even the most cavernous rooms, easily heard over party conversation, surging ocean waves, or the buzz of nearby power tools.
It’s also rugged, waterproof, and designed with covered ports, meaning you can tote it just about anywhere (within reason). And with JBL’s “PartyBoost” feature, you can even add in additional JBL speakers (though why you’d need to, I’m not sure).
So why isn’t this the #1 Bluetooth speaker? Simply put, it’s just too much for most people, even if it’s too much of a good thing. It’s (relatively) huge, heavy, expensive, and will offer diminishing returns for casual, everyday situations. However, if you’ve got the funds and want a Bluetooth speaker that can be nuanced enough for a low-key night in and loud enough that they’ll hear it on Mars, this is the one to get.
It’d be almost tongue-in-cheek to say that famed guitar amp aficionado Marshall “knows how to make a speaker,” but that’s also what the company is counting on with its lineup of portable Bluetooth speakers.
The Marshall Stockwell II, which not only bears the classic “Marshall” logo right on its front grill, it’s designed to look like a little guitar amp. The three physical knobs on top for “volume,” “bass,” and “treble” are heavily reminiscent of amplifier knobs (though, unfortunately, they don’t go to 11). The carrying strap leans into this bit of camp, too: it’s a short, faux-leather band that connects to either side of the amp—er, Bluetooth speaker—by way of classic guitar strap hooks, resplendent in gold finish.
If all this musical paraphernalia is your bag, you’re going to love this thing. If not, you’ll still be glad to know that the amp-esque design details aren’t at all superficial. The Stockwell II is one of the sturdiest-feeling Bluetooth speakers I’ve ever handled: the front and back feature metal-lined speaker grills, while the rounded, rectangular body is made of the same super-durable material you’ll find on many guitar amps.
And while most people will probably just find an EQ/volume setting they like and never touch the knobs again, you’ll be glad to know they actually work, adding or removing bass/treble/volume to or from music splendidly. How many Bluetooth speakers have you used that had tangible EQ controls? I’ve used about 40 and this is the first one I’ve seen with an effective on-board/physical EQ. It’s an awesome addition, especially if you’re finicky about how your music sounds.
These souped-up design details and hyper-durable build, plus that Marshall branding, mean the Stockwell II doesn’t come cheap. However, it’s an option that’s head-and-shoulders above much of the competition in terms of unique design and customization, and it sounds great, too. Guess we are gonna play Stonehenge tomorrow.
This big, beautiful speaker from Marshall doesn't come cheap, but if you'll settle for nothing else than a robust, meticulously crafted indoor speaker that looks remarkably like a Marshall practice amp, this is a great option.
Inside its beautiful exterior (which is available in Black, White, or Brown, by the way), the Acton II delivers three class-D speakers—that's a nerdy way of saying it provides awfully big sound. While I was initially chagrined by the sheer size of the footprint this thing leaves on a surface (it's portable, but still considerably hefty and bulky compared to the sleeker options out there), I was able to forgive it when I heard the rich sound quality. In a word, this speaker sounds lovely.
Like some other Marshall Bluetooth speakers, the Acton II utilizes "analog" control knobs for volume, bass, and treble, giving you a super easy, visually intuitive way to adjust the basic EQ of the music that's playing, which has to be one of Marshall's best speaker features on a whole. It's rare to find adjustable EQ on a Bluetooth speaker, and this one is definitely aiming to satisfy music enthusiasts and musicians in that regard.
While it's easy enough to connect to using a standard Bluetooth 5.0 codec, it's worth noting that the Acton II really does just barely satisfy definitions of "portable." It doesn't have a handle, and weighs almost seven pounds, things to keep in mind if you're looking for a speaker to tote along on the road. However, if you want something that lives indoors, delivers big, bold sound, and does it all while wrapped in the iconic trappings of a Marshall amp, you should check out the Acton II.
This handsome portable speaker from Bose delivers an altogether different shape, experience, and general level of quality than a lot of the Bluetooth speakers on our list. At its now fairly discounted street price, it's an excellent value, hands down.
Because of its tall, conical shape and heftier size, the Revolve is able to disperse a lot of sound throughout the room but has enough weight to deliver robust sound (including great bass/midrange sound) without introducing distortion or impeding its portability. It's obviously not nearly as loud as a standard bookshelf speaker, but for what it is, the Revolve produces very crisp, pleasing audio. It's also got a microphone for voice prompts, which is admittedly a very niche feature, but certainly a welcome one.
The Revolve is expensive, but it's priced fairly for what you get. You're paying a little more for the vaunted Bose label, but getting a portable Bluetooth speaker that sounds this good is definitely worth the price for the audiophile crowd.
The predecessor to our current Best Overall, the JBL Flip 4 is still available, and it still sounds awesome, is waterproof (IPX7), and boasts beefier battery life than a lot of smaller options. Basically, it's still a great choice if you wanna save a little money versus buying the Flip 5.
From the knock-resistant, hard-plastic chassis to the cleanly spaced volume, play, and Bluetooth buttons, the Flip 4 stands out from the collective a bit in terms of pure polish and quality. It's not the loudest speaker on the list but it provides a good balance of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies. It's lighter than smaller speakers, which definitely adds to its overall portability, and is available in a wide range of colors like blue, red, teal, and even camo (yikes).
If you need waterproofing, outdoorsy sturdiness, good volume, and the ability to connect more than one Bluetooth source at a time, the Flip 4 is one of the best around. It also delivers more impressive, rumbling bass than the majority of speakers on this list, which is one of the hardest attributes to find in the category. No matter how you plan to use it—indoor, outdoor, dry, wet, stationary, or in motion—the Flip 4 delivers the goods.
If you're looking to secure a fancier-than-average portable Bluetooth speaker, the Bose SoundLink Micro delivers, but you're going to pay for it. My first thought when I encountered this popular little portable speaker was, "Why is it so expensive? Is it worth it, or is it just because it's Bose?"
Well, yes and no. The SoundLink Micro checks off a lot of the right boxes: it's made of durable but touchable materials and features notably elegant design details. In fact, while most portable Bluetooth speakers of this size are made of cheap, hard plastic, the SoundLink Micro feels nicer in my hands than, frankly, most things I've ever held. It's surprisingly soft—in fact, I asked my co-worker to hold it, and we agreed it was straight up cuddly. Granted, the silicone finish is what helps the Micro to be waterproof, but it certainly doubles as a silky smooth exterior.
Of course, its svelte design isn't the only reason to pay more for the Micro. In classic Bose fashion, the sound is more or less impeccable. However, it's worth noting that the Micro also costs twice as much as something like the Anker Soundcore 2, while delivering a similar aural presence. It's a little nicer, and it definitely sounds better, but we're not convinced that in this particular product category, most folks are going to want to pay twice as much for such a subtle improvement in overall quality.
If money is no object, though, this is one of the nicest portable Bluetooth speakers around.
The Flare+ lives up to its namesake. This tall, conical speaker is one of the only ones I've seen to feature flashing, music-synced LED lights. It's one of the larger speakers that I tested and features a handsome, deep gray coloration and speaker grill, intuitive controls, and some neat features.
First off, the Flare+ sounds really good. It's one of the bigger speakers we tested, and its 360-degree speaker design and sheer height/size give it a leg up over the smaller, more compact speakers I tested. It's easy to control, and if you don't like the light show you can shut it off. Personally, I'm on the fence about it. During use, I found the light synced up kind of weirdly to the music I was playing and didn't have the satisfying, full glow of the LEDs as they appear on the box. But perhaps that's what I get for listening to late '80s Phil Collins.
Maybe the best thing about the Flare+ is that, like many of our favorites on this list, it's IPX7 water-resistant, which I definitely wouldn't expect if someone just handed it to me on the street. That means not only is it a big, colorful option for your pool party but if the dog accidentally knocks it into the water, it should survive the plunge. Overall, it's a most robust choice, with plenty of flair to go along with it.
JBL's "Clip" line of portable Bluetooth speakers have been kicking around for years, and while they definitely break the mold where most Bluetooth speakers are concerned, they've got staying power for a reason. The tiny Clip 3 is so-named because it features a small partial carabiner clip for it to hang on various things—belt loops, bike handles, shower rods, and so on. Other key features include 10 hours of battery life per charge and IPX7 water resistance.
For being a tiny speaker, the Clip 3 has pretty big sound. Even without clipping it on anything, it fills space and plays back cleanly without distortion. That said, the maximum volume isn't much, so if you're going for sheer volume, the Clip may not be a good choice.
For the price, however, the Clip 3 is great. At max volume, I even heard a few vocal lines I hadn't heard in one of my favorite songs before. It's also available in a wide variety of colors, which is just downright fun. If you need a handy little speaker for the shower that actually sounds decent, the Clip 3 is the way to go.
The UE Roll 2 is an ultra-portable, water-resistant speaker offering, you guessed it, an IPX7 rating for shortlived dunkability. This makes it a great choice if you want to blast some tunes at the pool or on the beach without worrying about water damage. We nabbed the "volcano" version, but it's available in a wide range of colors.
After a bit of fidgeting, getting Spotify playing on the UE Roll 2 was easy. There's a power button on the back of the device that puts it into Bluetooth mode as soon as it's on. The cross pattern on the front of the speaker has two pressable areas that make volume adjustment simple and accessible. The device also announces its "on" and "paired" status with audio feedback tones, which is nice.
Where sound quality is concerned, the Roll rocks pretty solidly. I noticed decent bass presence, but a little excess treble, where things like snare hits were notably higher in the mix than they were on my headphones. There's some risk of losing out on mid-range audibility here, but overall the audio quality is decent for the price.
The reason the Roll 2 ranks lower than others on the list is the fact that it's a bit pricey for the sound you get and, frankly, the vast majority of speakers we test these days boast similar water resistance. That said, it's still a solid choice, and it's as easy to take along as it is to use.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.