This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.
If you are looking for the best all-around value in a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker today, the best one to buy is the UE Megaboom. While there are lots of less expensive models, most that truly approach the Megaboom's performance cost about the same, and none that we've seen can offer its mix of sound quality, features and ruggedness. We came to this conclusion after narrowing down 50-some Bluetooth speakers to 13 water-resistant finalists and testing each of them with the Wirecutter AV team and a deep swimming pool. The $300 Megaboom is pricey, but if you have other budgetary or functional needs, we have a few other picks as well.
Who should buy a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker?
Water-resistant Bluetooth speakers are intended for outdoor or indoor use. This might seem like a feature everybody would want, but it can come with a price: Most water-resistant Bluetooth speakers don't sound as good as the best conventional portable Bluetooth speakers, which we tested in our Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker guide.
In general, portable Bluetooth speakers are a great buy for people who own smartphones and tablets, so you can play music from them. The rechargeable battery built into the speakers lets you take them anywhere, and water resistance expands your options even further, especially in the summer months or on vacation near beaches and pools.
What features do you need?
Most people just want a Bluetooth speaker that sounds pretty good, is reasonably portable and is water-resistant. We determine ideal water resistance, we drew the line in selecting speakers with an ingress protection (IP) code rating of 4, which means they can survive a splash or a rainstorm, but we also considered speakers up to a TK rating of 7, allowing them to be fully submerged in 1 meter of water. There are also some additional features available on certain models that will appeal to some buyers: First is speakerphone function, which will let you take calls from a smartphone connected through Bluetooth. Second is pairing, which lets you link two of the same model speaker wirelessly for stereo sound or monophonic sound in two different rooms. For portable use, battery life is a major consideration.
How we tested
For this guide, we took a look at reviews of these speakers at leading electronics websites such as CNET and Digital Trends to narrow down a list of contenders. Additionally, we surveyed Wirecutter readers to learn what features and price points were important to them. We narrowed down our list of models to 50, and from there, we evaluated them and narrowed the finalists down to 13 models for our tests.
We tested the speakers in two rounds. First, we set up six larger models on a table across the pool from our seating area. This allowed us to hear which ones had the sonic muscle to cover a large area with sound. In the second round, we set up seven smaller models on a table about 8 feet from our seating area; with these models, all you can reasonably expect is that they'll produce enough sound for a couple of people sitting on chaise lounges, or around a park bench or beach towel. The panelists were Wirecutter A/V editor Geoff Morrison and Wirecutter headphone editor Lauren Dragan. After their blind tests, we discussed which models delivered the best blend of performance and features for the price.
To test water resistance, we: poured water on the models we tested; tossed the floatable models in Geoff Morrison's pool; and dunked all of the ones rated as submersible fully under the water for several minutes to make sure they kept playing.
The UE Megaboom sounds really good, plays loudly, and has long battery life. At $300, the Megaboom is pricey, but it delivers a lot for your money.
The rugged design is IPX7-rated, which means it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. It's about the size of a 22-ounce beer bottle, so it fits pretty easily in a suitcase or beach bag. There's a speakerphone function, and UE claims a 100-foot range for the Bluetooth connection. Its app lets you pair two Megabooms for stereo sound or sound in two adjacent rooms. It has a big, clear, full, loud sound, (but t full blast it can distort voices a little). The battery is rated for 20 hours of playback time, though in our tests it lasted up to 30 hours.
Our top pick in this guide (the UE Megaboom) is a larger version of the UE Boom, which was our previous favorite. The resemblance between the two is more than cosmetic, because they also share a similar sound: the UE Boom is fuller, clearer and more robust than most Bluetooth speakers can muster. The Boom doesn't play as loud as the Megaboom, though, and it's not as waterproof. It will survive a splash, but not a full dunk in water. But if the Megaboom is sold out or you want something more affordable and/or more portable, the Boom (which was selling for $180 on Amazon when we wrote this) is a great choice.
A great budget pick
If $300—or even $180—is way too much for you to spend on a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker, we recommend the Divoom Voombox Ongo. It offers less battery life than our main pick: it's estimated battery life is 8 hours, though in our tests it got 12.5 hours at full volume (playing Steely Dan's "Aja" on repeat). Although it makes music sound natural, it has no bass to speak of, and it's nowhere as loud as our main pick. But it retails around $60, which makes it a great deal. The Ongo has a speakerphone function and an IPX4 water-resistance rating, meaning it'll survive some splashes and a rainstorm, but not being fully submerged. The overall combination of sound, portability, and price make it an incredibly great buy.
Wrapping it up
If you're looking for powerful sound, combined with features and water-resistance, we think the UE Megaboom is the speaker to get. If you would like to learn more about our testing process and other speaker finalists we tested, please visit the full version of this guide.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to TheWirecutter.com.