TL;DR – These are the Best Bluetooth Speakers:
1. Ultimate Ears Boom 3
Best Bluetooth Speaker
There are a lot of different speakers on this list, but if you’re just looking for a moderately priced, portable speaker that sounds great, let us save you the trouble: grab the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 for $120. When compared with similar speakers in its size and price range, I found the Boom 3 had some of the best sound in a convenient 360° form factor. It’s not too tiny, not too huge, not too cheap, not too pricey…and this thing jams.
On top of that, it has large volume buttons for easy control, comes in four colors (black, blue, red, and purple), and IP67 water resistance, so you can bring it to the pool. You can even pair it wirelessly with another Boom 3 for stereo sound, or up to 150 Boom and Megaboom speakers for full-on party mode. Grab the standalone speaker for $120 or pick up the Boom 3 bundled with a charging dock for $160, if you want to avoid the hassle of plugging in a cable when you come home.
2. Tribit 360° Sound Speaker
Best Budget Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re looking to stay under $100 (but don’t feel the need to go super cheap), the Tribit 360° Sound Speaker is a great alternative to the Boom 3. Formerly known as the Tribit X-Boom, the 360° Sound’s design is pretty clearly inspired by Ultimate Ears’ Boom line, right down to the big volume buttons and IPX7 water resistance. For $70, it looks and sounds great.
You don’t get some of the software extras you get by stepping up to the Boom 3, like the ability to pair it with other speakers of the same type, a customizable equalizer, and remote power. But many people won’t miss these features, and the extra money saved is a worthy tradeoff.
3. Oontz Angle 3
Best Ultra Cheap Bluetooth Speaker
Okay, so you aren’t growing a money tree in your backyard. I get it. If you want something in the ultra-budget range, the Oontz Angle 3 provides great sound (at a surprisingly loud volume) for only $25. And it’s small enough that you can easily toss it in your bag and bring it anywhere.
It isn’t the only speaker in its price range—heck, Oontz even sells a water-resistant Angle for $30 and an “Ultra” version for $40. Additionally, competitors like the Tribit XSound Go and Anker Soundcore 2 are also great budget speakers. But the Oontz Angle 3 is the cheapest speaker I’d recommend buying, and when money is tight, those extra dollars matter.
4. Ultimate Ears Blast
Best Bluetooth Speaker with Alexa
Bluetooth speakers are quite a leap forward from the boomboxes of yore, but you know what’s even more futuristic? Being able to control your music with nothing but your voice. While the Amazon Echo can act as a Bluetooth speaker, it requires wall power, so you can’t easily bring it around town with you. Thankfully, Ultimate Ears made the $90 Blast as an alternative (RIP Amazon Tap).
The Blast has a similar design to the Boom 3, with the same cylindrical shape, big volume buttons, and water resistance. But instead of futzing with your phone, you can just shout “Alexa” and have Amazon’s voice assistant do your bidding for you—as long as you have a Wi-Fi network or hotspot nearby. It doesn’t sound quite as good as the Boom 3, so you’re trading a bit of quality for convenience—though you can step up to the $150 Megablast if you want better Alexa-controlled sound.
5. JBL Link 10
Best Bluetooth Speaker with Google Assistant
Alexa isn’t the only voice assistant on the block, and if you prefer Google’s offering, JBL has you covered with the Link 10. For $150, you get a water-resistant cylinder that can connect to nearby Wi-Fi networks for “Hey Google” goodness, whether you’re controlling music or asking it questions about life, the universe, and everything.
If you want something a bit bigger with improved sound (not to mention battery life), JBL also offers the Link 20 for $200. That’s getting into “indoor whole-house audio” speaker territory, but if you want something big and banging with voice control built-in, it’ll do the trick.
6. JBL Charge 4
Best Bluetooth Speaker with a Built-in Charging Bank
There comes a downside to blasting music all day over Bluetooth—it can seriously drain your phone’s battery. That’s why JBL made the $150 Charge 4, a Bluetooth speaker that can also power your phone through its built-in USB ports. It’s water-resistant, comes in 11 colors, and can last a good long while thanks to its 7800mAh battery—even if some of that goes to your phone.
Not only that, but in my experience, this is one of JBL’s best-sounding speakers, so you get great audio quality along with that charging convenience. It’s pretty large, so I wouldn’t exactly call it “backpack portable,” but you could easily fit it in your beer cooler for a day trip to the beach.
7. Sony SRS-XB41
Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker
Most of the speakers on this list can get surprisingly loud, but if you need something with even more oomph—especially in the low end—Sony, as usual, brings the bass with its XB line of products. The SRS-XB41 isn’t what I would call portable, but it’s great for a backyard barbecue. This $150 speaker will fill the area with sound without breaking a sweat (or distorting at high levels).
It’s on the bassier side of things, though you can adjust the treble, midrange, and bass through Sony’s Music Center app on your phone. Plus, it’s got lots of fun RGB LEDs that dance along with the music, though you can turn those off too if you aren’t a fan.
8. JBL Clip 3
Best Super Portable Bluetooth Speaker
While most of the speakers on this list can go with you, thanks to their built-in rechargeable batteries, they aren’t exactly svelte. The JBL Clip 3, on the other hand, is small enough to carry on a hike through the woods, sounds pretty decent, and costs only $60.
Most convenient is the clip for which it’s named: an attached carabiner that allows the Clip to hook onto your laptop backpack (or a necklace if you want to rock the Flava Flav look). It even has IPX7 water resistance, so like its larger brethren, you can bring it to the pool and annoy everyone around you.
9. Marshall Kilburn II
Coolest Looking Bluetooth Speaker
While most of the speakers on this list look decently stylish, none are quite as cool as the $200 Marshall Kilburn II, which is designed to look like a vintage Marshall guitar amp—including gold metal accents and that famous script logo on the grill. It also sports individual treble and bass knobs along with a coiled 3.5mm audio cable reminiscent of a guitar cable. Sadly, though, the knobs don’t go to 11.
The Kilburn II is technically portable, but not throw-in-your bag portable. That said, if you don’t need any level of portability, the larger, battery-free Marshall Stanmore II is a similar-looking speaker designed for the home, and with the improved sound to go with it. Or, if you prefer a slightly less guitar amp-y look, I’m partial to Klipsch’s The One, too.
What to look for in a Bluetooth Speaker
The market is absolutely flooded with Bluetooth speakers, so it can feel overwhelming when you go to buy one. But ultimately, there are only a few things you need to think about when you shop.
Sound Quality: If you’re using the speaker to listen to music, then you’ll want to make sure that it sounds good. Generally, bigger speakers will sound better, but you’ll also want to audition a few speakers yourself to make sure the sound isn’t too shrill or the bass isn’t too muddy or boomy. Most Bluetooth speakers aren’t going to match the quality of, say, a real pair of bookshelves, but that’s okay since they’re also about portability and convenience. Speaking of which…
Form Factor and Portability: If you’re buying a Bluetooth speaker to take with you to the beach (or on a hike, or to the pool, or a party), you’ll want something small enough to toss in your backpack—though the smaller you go, the more you tend to sacrifice volume and sound quality. If you’re just looking to play music at home, you can go with something bigger and bulkier, powered from the wall instead of batteries. (Though if you’re just playing music at home, Sonos and AirPlay tend to be better protocols than Bluetooth—they have longer range and better fidelity.)
Battery Life: If you are going for a portable speaker, make sure it’ll actually last long enough to make it through your beach party. Manufacturers usually advertise battery life on their website and Amazon page, but don’t just take their word for it—check the reviews to see if it’s actually as long-lasting as they claim before you shell out your cash.
Water Resistance: This seems worth calling out on its own, since it’s a very common feature among Bluetooth speakers. If you plan on taking the speaker anywhere near water, I generally recommend buying something that’s at least IPX5, though IPX7 and IPX8 are better bets.
Many of these speakers even advertise their ability to float in the pool, though I would exercise some caution: no device is truly waterproof, and that IPX7 water resistance won’t necessarily last forever, since chemicals like chlorine can break down the seals over time, and the manufacturer may or may not cover water damage (despite their advertising it as “waterproof”)
Apps and Extra Features: Some Bluetooth speakers are simple: what you see on the speaker is what you get. Others, however, may have companion apps with extra features, like flashing LED lights, customizable equalizers to adjust the sound, timers that automatically turn your music off, or the ability to pair multiple speakers from the same brand together.
Note that some speakers will go into “stereo” mode when paired together, using one as the right channel and one as the left channel, while others will merely play mono sound out of both speakers—so check the fine print before you buy.
Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech nerd who has been building PCs for 10 years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn’t get grease on his mechanical keyboard.