The Best Bluetooth Speaker
How We Found the Best Bluetooth Speakers
2 Experts Interviewed
10 Speakers Tested
2 Top Picks
The Best Bluetooth Speakers
A good Bluetooth speaker lets you take your music on the go, but the best allow for easy carrying and are durable enough to handle the trip. To find our top picks, we consulted audio experts, looked across audiophile sites and consumer reviews, and then we tested 10 highly regarded speakers for portability, Bluetooth range, durability, and sound.
How We Chose the Best Bluetooth Speakers
We consulted Dan Wiggins, an acoustics and audio expert, who told us that “when you’re talking about Bluetooth speakers there really isn’t such a thing as high-fidelity; that’s a limitation of Bluetooth.” In other words, Bluetooth speakers aren’t designed to reproduce perfect audio.
That being said, the best Bluetooth speakers should still sound good. We combed through audiophile reviews on sites like What Hi-Fi? and CNET, as well as consumer reviews on Amazon, in order to find Bluetooth speakers that were widely celebrated for their audio quality. In the end, we came away with 10 candidates:
Wiggins told us “if you’re looking for something to use around home, go bigger because to create large powerful bass, and a great sound experience it will take size and volume. On the other hand, deemphasize sound quality just a bit if you want a portable speaker to drop in your backpack or suitcase.”
We looked at various lifestyle choices and needs. A large speaker will be difficult to move around but will also be louder. This means they’re better suited for use at home or situations where you needed your speaker to cover more ground — think listening at a bonfire versus around a campfire. However, if you’re always on the go, the portability of a smaller speaker is ideal. We divided speakers into three size categories:
- Fugoo Style XL
- Braven BRV-X
- Libratone Zipp
- B&O Beoplay A1
- Bose Soundlink Revolve
- Jbl Flip 4
- UE Roll 2
- VAVA Voom 20
- JBL Clip 2
- Creative MUVO 2c
Large speakers will naturally be harder to carry around than smaller ones, so we didn’t spend much time comparing portability across size categories. Instead, we focused on identifying the most portable speaker within each size group. In addition to size and features, we also considered weight.
The Beoplay A1 was only slightly larger than the UE Roll 2, for example, but it had considerably more heft — enough that we noticed picking it up, versus the comparatively weightless Roll 2. Particularly bulky or heavy speakers, like the Libratone Zipp, scored low for portability.
Wiggins told us that “most [Bluetooth speakers] don’t play very deep in frequency response. They’re mid-range [devices] that may disappoint bass lovers.” In other words, Bluetooth speakers will have difficulty producing the deep bass you can get with wired speakers, but when it comes to vocals and lead instruments, they’ll sound great.
We took the advice of our experts and listened to speakers for bass and overall volume: A deeper bass and louder volume will be able to fill a room and provide a better listening experience. We listened to each speaker multiple times to get a good sense for how each speaker sounded.
We looked for speakers that would be able to withstand common accidents such as a spilled drink or falling from a table. We gave preference to speakers with high IPX ratings — a certification published by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) that marks a product’s water and dust resistance.
For example, the Fugoo Style XL had an impressive IP67 certification, which meant it could handle exposure to harmful dust and immersion in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Put simply, you won’t have to worry about any accidents while listening poolside. Competitors like the Bose Soundlink Revolve only had IPX4 certification for handling spills but not immersion.
The 2 Best Bluetooth Speakers
Why we chose it
The UE Roll 2 is one of the most portable speakers we tested. It has a flat Skittle-shape design that took up less space in our backpacks than more common cylinder or bar-shaped speakers such as the Bose Soundlink Revolve or VAVA Voom 20. The bungee strap also allowed us to strap the speaker tightly to bikes and backpacks for great audio quality on the go. On top of that, the UE Roll 2 is incredibly light and comes in at less than a pound — noticeably lighter than the similar Beoplay A1.
With an IPX7 rating, the UE Roll2 can survive being immersed in water for up to 30 minutes — good news if you’re taking it out to the beach or going on a boat ride and want to listen to some tunes. The speaker can even withstand being buried in mud.
We were surprised by the sound quality from such a small speaker. Vocals and lead instruments came through crisp and clear. The speaker handled the powerful vocals of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” without any distortion or fuzz.
Audio sites like The Sound Guys confirmed our experience, reporting a strong mid-range with detailed vocals and a smooth treble range without harsh cymbals. What Hi-Fi? echoed the Sound Guys and reported clear guitar strings from the Guns N’ Roses as well as nuanced vocals with Fiona Apple. Both sites did report a little trouble with the bass, but that’s expected with Bluetooth speakers.
Block Party mode
The stand-out feature is the block party mode that allows 3 people to connect to the same UE speaker and share music. By using an app, you and up to two of your friends can play music through the UE Roll 2. In addition, whoever is playing DJ will be able to bounce between everyone’s playlists even if you’re using different music services such as Spotify or Apple Music.
Points to consider
The speaker doesn’t offer a button for skipping or playing previous tracks, so you’ll need to keep paired devices like your phone handy to do so. Competitors like the Bose Soundlink Revolve have controls for skipping songs, and when we returned to the UE Roll 2 we missed the ability.
Why we chose it
The main strength of the Fugoo Style XL is its volume. Music from the speaker was able to fill a rooftop patio with ease, and our tester reported that even medium volume was more than enough for an office conference room. All of our large speakers like the Libratone Zipp were able to produce higher volumes than smaller options like our other top pick the UE Roll 2. But compared to the Fugoo, the Libratone couldn’t compete.
The Fugoo is IP67 certified, which means it can handle exposure to dust and be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. Unlike our other top pick, the Fugoo Style XL also floats — the UE Roll 2 relies on a proprietary floatie that isn’t practical outside of a pool and costs $20 to replace if lost or damaged. The Fugoo also had a removable jacket where you could replace it with a durable Sport jacket or a nigh-indestructible Tough jacket. Competitors like the Libratone Zipp also had removable jackets, but these were merely cosmetic.
Points to consider
The large size and hefty weight of three pounds makes it more difficult to carry. In addition, it doesn’t come with any handles or straps like the UE Roll 2. If you want to add a handle or shoulder strap, it will cost you an extra $8 on top of the already steep $170 price. That being said, the Fugoo wasn’t as bulky as the Libratone Zipp, and it sounded better than the similar-sized Braven BRV-X.
Added support for things like Google Assistant and Siri sounded nice on paper, but did not pan out well when we tested them ourselves. We tried to use the phone call feature, but our volunteer on the other line told us, “I can barely hear you,” and eventually asked us to just talk on the phone
How to Find the Right Bluetooth Speaker for You
Look at your lifestyle
If you’re someone who likes to take your music on the go, you’d be better served purchasing a Bluetooth speaker with portability in mind such as the UE Roll 2. However, the UE might not be sufficient if you’re trying to liven up an outdoor gathering. That’s where the Fugoo Style XL would be a better fit.
Be wary of battery life claims
Our experts warned us that manufacturers will make misleading claims about their speakers in order to make them look more impressive. For example, the great sounding B&O A1 advertises “up to 24 hours of battery life,” but we learned that it actually only lasts for about 5 hours at 50% volume and as little as 3 hours on max volume.
No matter which speaker you choose, Wiggins advises using weight to debunk battery claims. He told us “if a speaker advertises 24 hour playback but feels too small or light in the hands, there’s not enough battery in there.”
Don’t rely on one Bluetooth speaker for stereo sound
Don’t expect stereo-quality sound from a single Bluetooth speaker. According to Wiggins, you’ll want two speakers placed separately from each other to pick up on stereo sound, “otherwise your ears will pick up a single sound source.”
If you do pair two speakers, our experts advised spacing them about the same distance from each other as you’ll be to your speakers. So if you’re six feet away from your speakers, you’ll want to space them six feet apart. In the case of our top picks, you could pair two UE Roll 2s in order to create stereo sound. However, the Fugoo Style XL doesn’t pair with another Fugoo. That being said, a single Fugoo is loud enough to fill a large room without needing help from another speaker.
Bluetooth Speakers FAQ
How do Bluetooth speakers work?
Instead of through wires, audio is sent across a Bluetooth connection as compressed data. But different devices handling of data compression is varied and often the reason why some speakers offer better sound quality than others.
Which Bluetooth speakers have the longest battery life?
Going based on advertised battery life can be tricky because many manufacturers who use the terms advertise “idealized cases.” Wiggins explained that some speakers “will last up to 24 hours, but only if you turn it on and play no music.” However, our top picks fared better than the other speakers we tested. The UE Roll 2 actually exceeds its advertised battery life at 50% volume with 10 hours of playback, while the Fugoo Style XL clocks in with a nearly absurd 27 hours at 50% volume. Max volume will decrease these numbers, but we don’t recommend setting them that high in the first place.
Should I get an omnidirectional Bluetooth speaker?
Unlike a standard speaker, which will focus the sound based on the direction it’s facing, an omnidirectional speaker radiates the sound outward (like a ripple on a pond). Based on your lifestyle and living situation you should only get an omnidirectional speaker if you’re able to place it somewhere open — perhaps, a coffee table in the center of your living room.
Wiggins told us “omnidirectional sound does cause problems when you place them near walls.” He explained “you’ll get some reflection when you place it near walls, which can make sound quality worse; directional will be better for pushing sound where you are at.” Coincidentally, the UE Roll 2 had this capability when you laid it flat, but you also have the option to hang by the bungee strap to focus the sound in a particular direction.