The Best Bluetooth Speaker
Quality sound, anywhere.
If you’re looking to buy a Bluetooth speaker, you’ve probably noticed that your options are nearly limitless and the decision can be difficult. With plenty of audio engineering and production experience, I know what sounds good, but I had to determine what really mattered. After a month of reading reviews, researching online, interviewing both professionals and consumers, surveying the masses, and studying Bluetooth speaker use cases, I narrowed down the most important features that consumers consider when buying a Bluetooth speaker.
We all have our own preferences when it comes to sound and the most important features in a Bluetooth speaker. Based on price, sound, battery life, portability, durability, and design, I concluded that the best all-around Bluetooth speaker is the Logitech UE Boom.
Some people have more specific needs and preferences when it comes to Bluetooth speakers. If you are one of these people, you might prioritize certain features differently, and the UE Boom may not be the best pick for you. Don’t worry; I kept that in mind. As you keep reading, you’ll find picks up your alley as well.
The 5 overall best Bluetooth speakers
How we chose the best Bluetooth speaker
My journey through the world of Bluetooth speakers began with 20-plus hours of online research, including poring through tech publications and hundreds of customer reviews. I also have eleven years of audio engineering and producing experience with involvement in hundreds of studio recordings. On top of all that, I had my wife give her opinions, as she has a BA in Audio Engineering and many years of experience critically listening to sound as well.
Based on this research, I came up with the five most important things people are concerned with when deciding to buy a Bluetooth speaker. These five dealbreakers are: sound, battery life, portability, durability, and design of the product. Each of these features is clearly very important, but to find out which was the most valuable to consumers I created a survey. I asked participants to rank what was most important to least important when deciding to buy a Bluetooth speaker.
With over 100 responses, the results are as follows:
With these factors in mind, I picked apart the pros and cons of some of the best Bluetooth speakers on the market. Ten days and 25 Bluetooth speakers later, I had my top five contenders. I spent countless hours listening to more than a dozen genres of music on the top five selected speakers. I listened for the creamy tones in bossa nova, for clear instrumental separation in classical, that important punchy bass kick in synth-pop, rap and R&B; the list goes on. At this point, I haven’t heard one speaker accomplish everything, but the Logitech UE Boom was the most impressive all around.
Other Bluetooth speakers to consider
Perhaps your needs are more specific, whether you’re on a budget or want a speaker that’s light enough to tote around. Take a look at these top picks if you’re looking for a specific type of Bluetooth speaker.
Best Bluetooth speaker under $100
Whether you’re on a tight budget or simply don’t want to pay more than $100 dollars for a Bluetooth speaker, take a look at the JBL Flip 2. . Improved sound from the original JBL Flip, a speakerphone feature, new NFC tap-to-pair technology, and the option to use it vertically make the JBL Flip 2 an obvious pick in the sub-$100 category. The JBL Flip 2 goes for about $80, depending on the retailer.
Best Bluetooth speaker for battery life and durability
Hands down, the Bluetooth speaker with the longest battery life is the Fugoo. It offers up to 40 hours of battery life, nearly twice the battery life of other leading Bluetooth speakers in this category. Given how long its battery lasts, you might even forget that the Fugoo needs to be plugged in to charge. Plus, this speaker’s durability destroys the competition. Read more about this later in the article.
Best Bluetooth speaker for portability
If you’re looking for a cheap, decent-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker, then the JBL Clip is the way to go. Its lightweight design and clip attachment allow you to take it just about anywhere. It even has a microphone and call feature. The speaker comes in five different colors and goes for $30.99.
Best Bluetooth speaker with a fun look
Want a speaker that adds some fun to your party? Light up the room while jamming out to your favorite tunes with the JBL Pulse. It sports LED lights that put on a display like no other Bluetooth speaker on the market. The Pulse even has an app to control the light display to your liking. The sound is good, but the battery life will only last a few hours if you have the LED lights on and the speaker at a loud level. You can grab one for $124.99.
Best Bluetooth speaker for musicians
The IK Multimedia iLoud is a smart choice for a musician. Not only does it sound great as a music player, but it also has an input jack for your instrument. For instance, you can plug in your guitar while it is synced to your iOS device, and you can use effects from your iPad or iPhone through the speaker as well. So instead of dragging around a giant pedal board and an amp that weighs 30 pounds, you can simply carry this 40 watt, lightweight (less than two-pound) speaker that does it all.
A full review of the best Bluetooth speaker
As soon as I turned on the Logitech UE Boom, the sound quality blew me away. The speaker has an amazing ability to add warmth to the sound without a sacrificed mid range. Even mp3s, which have lower quality sound due to their small file size, sound good on the Boom — I thought they sounded almost as good as higher-quality .wav files. It’s one of the best devices I’ve heard that gets anywhere close to accomplishing such a task. David Carnoy from CNET gives a great sneak peek at what’s inside the Boom. The UE Boom has an omnidirectional design that allows for a 360-degree audio experience that only a few other Bluetooth speakers offer. Whether you put this thing up against the wall or in the center of the party, the sound is consistently good.
To test the UE Boom’s range, I took it outside and left my phone in the house too see how far the speaker could go before cutting out. I was extremely pleased to discover that the connectivity surpassed the advertised 50 feet. The sound stayed strong until somewhere around 60 feet, even with a wall between the connected devices. I also tried using the UE Boom on the ground to see how it fared on a grassy surface. With the other four speakers I tested, both sound quality and loudness were extremely reduced in comparison to the UE Boom. This is due to the UE Boom’s vertical design, which frees the sound to travel over any surface it rests on. If you give this speaker the space, it really opens up.
You can enjoy the 360-degree sound for a long time, too. Starting on a full charge, the UE Boom lived up to to the advertised 15 hours. As with any other Bluetooth speaker, you can expect the battery life to go down a bit quicker if you’re listening to it at its loudest level. Overall, I was pleased with its battery life, as it outlasted many of its competitors.
Since the UE Boom lasts a while on a charge, you can take it with you for long periods of time without having to plug in to an outlet. And don’t worry about it taking up too much room or weighing you down, because it weighs a only a bit more than a pound and its just seven inches tall and two inches wide. I carried the speaker around with me all day and I was never once bothered by its presence. This compact cylinder design makes for an ideal traveling speaker. It even has a metal clip for attachments.
When I carried the UE Boom around all day and threw it around a bit, it held up well and never broke the Bluetooth connection. It does, however, scuff up easily. The soft, rubbery plastic that feels so nice to the touch and looks so good to the eye isn’t very durable. Also, this isn’t a speaker that you can take swimming. It can get a bit wet as it is water resistant, but baptizing this speaker wouldn’t be a good idea. Damaging the outside of the product does nothing to the most important components in this Bluetooth speaker, but too much abuse will leave it looking a bit worn and battered. To avoid signs of wear and tear, you can use the pod-like protective case that comes with the UE Boom. It is fairly bulky, but depending on where you’re taking the speaker, it might be worth it.
Apart from the case, the only other things that come with the UE Boom are the USB cord and the wall jack, both of which match the sleek and modern design of the device itself. You’ll use the USB cord to charge the device via the wall jack and to update the device via your computer.
After charging up the UE Boom for the the first time, you’ll want to make sure it’s updated with the latest features. You do this by simply connecting the provided USB cable to your computer and following the on-screen instructions. This setup and update is a user-friendly process; and it only took me about five minutes.
Once you have the updated features (which come standard on the newest UE Boom and MegaBoom), the UE Boom becomes even better. It has the ability to sync up with another UE Boom while giving you the option to have a true stereo sound. You then have the ability to pan left and right and set a custom equalization. All of this can be done via the UE Boom app. Once the UE Boom memorizes your phone or device, it can actually be turned on with the app. That’s right, you don’t even have to get up to pair it!
With a combined 20-plus years of producing and sound engineering experience, my wife and I both love these unique features, but we see a couple of flaws as well. Although the equalization is fun, it is not the most accurate way of equalizing sound. For instance, when you turn up the bass frequencies, it seems to be really turning down everything else as opposed to actually boosting the selected frequency. Perhaps it’s a safety feature to protect the speakers and to keep them in the parameters of what they are capable of. Regardless, the standard sound setting is wonderful.
The runners up for best Bluetooth speaker
JBL has a long history of producing great-sounding speakers, including several wonderful Bluetooth models. The JBL Charge 2 is the best one yet For such a small speaker (it’s similar in size and weight to the UE Boom), it has extremely accurate sound, and the clarity of the mix is impressive. It also gets very loud without distorting or sacrificing sound quality. Unlike the other runners up, it has a speakerphone option that cancels voice echo, allowing for a clean-sounding conversation. It lasts about 12 hours at a medium volume level and might be the best bang for your buck when considering how impressive it sounds. The Charge 2 can be purchased for $109.25.
The only reason this speaker came in second to the UE Boom is because it lacks the omnidirectional ability. As with some of the other speakers in the top five, you need to be in directly front of the speaker for it to sound good. If you are off to the side or behind it, the sound becomes much different, similar to what happens to most speakers if you stand behind them instead of standing in the front. Another potential drawback: The Charge 2 is not the most durable speaker. You should stay away from water and avoid dropping it.
Aside from sound, the Fugoo dominated in all the categories that I determined as most important when deciding to buy a Bluetooth speaker. The sound is good, but it was the least impressive of the top five speakers. The speakers started distorting at its loudest level. Still, the Fugoo earns its spot among the top five Bluetooth speakers thanks to its remarkable ability to stay charged for 40 hours, and because its durability and portability is unmatched.
The Fugoo comes in three designs, which consist of jackets that fit over the actual speaker. There is a style jacket, sport jacket and tough jacket. Each option is waterproof, dustproof and shockproof, but the tough jacket makes it very hard to break. The tough jacket will set you back a few more dollars but surpassess any other Bluetooth speaker in durability.
After you have chosen which jacket you want, you have the option to buy attachments. You can buy the attachments separately, or together in the Fugoo Mount Pack for another $60. The mount pack allows you to take this speaker almost anywhere you can think of: surfboard, bike, backpack, four-wheeler, etc. Fugoo took portability to another level. Nobody else on the market offers these options. The Fugoo has a starting price of $199.
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar is similar to a sniper rifle; if you know where you want the sound, this speaker will sound incredible when aimed in that direction. If you aim the front of the speaker anywhere else, it either sounds too bass-y with no mids and treble, or vice versa, depending on how you place it.
Of all the top speakers selected, the CSBR has the most added features. For instance, you can connect two of the CSBRs together (via audio cable) to get a true stereo sound. It’s a cool feature, but the UE Boom outshines it, since it can go stereo without a cable and is controlled through an app. The CSBR also has a MicroSD card that can fit up to 32GB of music, a USB jack to charge your phone, a “ROAR” button that acts like a glorified volume button that boosts sound, a built-in microphone that can be used to record or used as a speakerphone for phone calls, and an alarm button that can be pressed if you are ever in distress. Some of these added features can be useful depending on how important they are to the consumer, but most of these features are why it makes the CSBR a great desk buddy that feels most comfortable with it’s desktop family and friends.
Compared to the competitors, the CBSR battery life isn’t the best. It will last about eight hours at at medium volume,. It’s small enough to take anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you should take it anywhere. The CSBR looks like a fancy external hard-drive that belongs next to your computer — It’s designed to look good indoors, and as a result it’s not very durable. Any liquids that find their way into the CSBR will likely damage the speaker. If you travel with this speaker, consider buying a soft case to protect it. The CBSR can be purchased around $149.
Bose’s small speakers have a great reputation for their impressive ability to fill large spaces. This holds true for the Bose SoundLink Mini. For its size, it can get very loud. That said, I wasn’t very impressed with the overall sound quality. This speaker has a muddy sound that disguises all mid frequencies. Much of the muddiness comes from the overpowering bass. If you are only considering the bass sound, this might be a good choice for you.
The speaker has a sexy, modern design that will look great in nearly every home. Unsurprisingly, that means it’s not very rugged — I wouldn’t take it to the beach or anywhere else outdoors. Bose does offer a $25 soft cover that may help protect it from small drops. The battery life lasts around 7 hours at a medium volume.
Overall, this speaker is another great option, but offers the least for your money. The Bose SoundLink Mini can be purchased for $179.
Choosing the right type of Bluetooth speaker for you
So now that you know more about what to look for its time to make a decision! This quick guide is designed to help the decision process move along quickly without regretting your final choice.
- Establish a price range: Find how much you are willing to spend and stay within that budget.
- Plans for use: Figure out how you are most likely going to use the Bluetooth speaker and in which situations will it be used most.
- Important qualities: Decide what qualities are most important to you based on how you plan to use the speaker.
- Do the research: Find as many of your most important qualities in a specific Bluetooth speaker that is in your price range.
- Buy it: Make the purchase and have fun!
What makes a good Bluetooth speaker?
- A decent price: All of the top five bluetooth speakers mentioned in this review do don't go over $199. Many of the Bluetooth speakers above this price range are no more impressive than the UE Boom and the Charge 2. The ones that are, are simply way overpriced.
- Sound: The best advice I can give here without getting too technical and using big audio words, is that you want a Bluetooth speaker that sounds best for the music you listen to. Figure out the sound qualities you like most when listening to music and make an informed decision based on that.
Great speakers should make you unaware of their presence; the sound should be good enough to make you feel like its coming at you live.
- Battery Life: Having a long battery life is a great quality to look for because it goes hand-in-hand with the idea of having Bluetooth speaker. If you are wanting everything to be wireless, then you need longevity in your battery. The longer the battery life, the less you have to worry about connecting it to something. The less you worry about that, the more portable it becomes.
- Portability: The small size, light weight, durability and battery life all play an important role in contributing whether a Bluetooth speaker is portable or not. In the case of Bluetooth speakers, you should look for one that is two pounds or less, you can fit in your hand or carry in a bag, the battery will last six or more hours, and it won't break easily.
- Durability: Depending on how rough you are with your toys, durability can be a very important factor to you. If you are a person who often drops your phone, durability should be very important to you. Decent sounding Bluetooth speakers are not cheap. Having the option to drop your speaker on the cement or in water without it getting damaged is always a plus.
- How it looks: Some people may be more concerned with the look of their Bluetooth speaker than others, but if your speaker can look good too, then wonderful! Whether you are looking for fun colorful options or if you are looking for something that compliments your home decor, the options are out there.
- Connectivity distance: I can't tell you how important the connectivity distance was for me. It is really convenient to place your speaker anywhere in your house and have it work no matter where you are with your phone or mobile device. Some Bluetooth speakers have a very short connectivity distance. There is nothing more frustrating than having your song or vibe destroyed just by walking to far. Any connectivity distance under twenty feet can get annoying fast.
We are extremely fortunate to live in a time when listening to our favorite tunes has never been easier and more portable. To many of us, music is an extension of ourselves, and luckily we no longer have to leave that part of us at home. The ability to carry around extremely small, amazing-sounding, wireless speakers is a wonderful thing. They keep getting smaller and sounding better.
A Bluetooth speaker should be affordable, have a good sound, have a long battery life, be able to slip into your backpack, be fairly durable and it wouldn’t hurt if it looked cool too. If you have decided to buy a Bluetooth speaker, the Logitech UE Boom is one you should most definitely consider.
Are you itching to ask some questions about Bluetooth speakers? Is there a Bluetooth speaker you really like that wasn’t mentioned? Please feel free to ask any questions or leave comments below. I would love to hear from you and get some conversations going!
Our favorite bluetooth speaker reviews from around the web
CNET – Some of the best reviews in the tech world can be found here. There are two great articles on Bluetooth speakers: “Bluetooth speakers under $200″ and “Best Bluetooth speakers under $100. Each review has a good amount of depth on each speaker mentioned.
Engadget – This is where you go to find up-to-date info on the newest Bluetooths on the market.