A group of portable Bluetooth speakers in front of a shelf full of books and stuff.
Jon Turi / Engadget

The best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy

It's an overcrowded space, but there are good options in each price range.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about today’s Bluetooth speakers, it’s that for general consumers, the options are pretty good. However, that doesn't make the process of sifting through the dozens of choices any easier. So I set out to test out some of the most popular models in different price ranges. Most of the speakers I tried sounded good on first listen; it was only through side-by-side comparisons that I began to suss out the nuances. Just reading the spec sheets only goes so far. As such, we’re focusing a bit more on audio quality and dynamic range, while also taking into consideration other factors like utility and price. Ultimately, there isn't one best Bluetooth speaker out there, but we've found plenty of good options that will fit a range of use cases and price points.

What to consider

Weather-proofing

IP ratings (Ingress Protection) are the alphanumeric indicators you often see in a product’s spec sheet that define the tested resistance of a product to both solid objects (dirt, dust, fingers?) and water. It’s usually a combo of two numbers with the first indicating solid object ingress and the second being water. The former goes from 0 (no protection) to 6 (dust tight). Water protection goes from 0 (no protection) to 9 (protected against immersion and high pressure jets). When an X is used instead of a number, that means the product wasn’t tested for resistance. If it’s waterproof, it may have some innate resistance to solids, but there’s no guarantee.

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IP67 is a common rating these days indicating highly resistant and potentially rugged speakers. These are safe for quick dunks in the pool or tub and should be more than OK in the rain or in the shower. They’re also good options for the beach, playground and other rough environs.

Additionally, speakers with ports and a high rating will often include a tight-fitting cover over the charging or auxiliary ports. If you plan on using the ports, that may limit the product's rated ability to fend off the elements.

Consider the IP rating and also how you plan to use your Bluetooth speaker when making your decision. It may be worth splurging on a better sounding model with a lower IP rating if you’ll mostly be using it indoors, for instance.

Battery life

The focus of this guide is on portable Bluetooth speakers, and while “portable” can be a relative term, these devices are generally for people who are likely to find themselves far from a power outlet. These days, around 12 hours of runtime seems to be the baseline but obviously, the more battery life you can get out of a speaker, the better.

That said, be careful when looking at battery specs, as they frequently list a maximum runtime (“up to” x amount of hours). This usually means they tested at a low to mid volume. If you like your tunes loud, it can often end up cutting the expected usage time in half or more. Luckily, some manufacturers also list the expected battery life when used at full volume and that transparency is appreciated.

Additionally, if your Bluetooth speaker also happens to have WiFi connectivity, they're usually designed for always-on functionality. Unlike normal Bluetooth speakers that go to sleep after a short period without use, these will usually stay awake (to listen for your commands) and slowly run down the battery. If you're out and about, you'll want to remember to turn these speakers off manually when not in use to maximize battery life.

Range

Bluetooth range is tricky business. Some companies list their product’s longest possible range, usually outdoors and in an unobstructed line-of-sight test environment. Other companies stick with a 30-foot range on the spec sheet and leave it at that, even though they may be running Bluetooth 4.x or 5.x. That’s likely underselling the speaker's potential, but unpredictable environments can affect range and there’s little point in promising the moon only to get complaints.

I’ve seen signal drop issues when crouching down, with my phone in the front pocket of my jeans, and barely 30 feet away from a speaker inside my apartment. I ran into this issue across several devices regardless of their listed range.

If you’re hosting a patio party and duck inside, it’s wise to have the source device remain close by just in case. It’s hard to gauge what aspects of any environment may interfere with a Bluetooth signal. In general, take range specs around 100 feet or more as a perfect-world scenario.

Latency

This is a minor mention for those out there who use a speaker for their computer output, or as a mini soundbar solution for setups like a monitor and streaming box. It’s annoying to find that your speaker’s latency isn’t low enough to avoid lip sync issues. Luckily, it seems that most speakers these days don’t often have these problems. Only a handful of the few dozen speakers I tried had persistent, noticeable lip-sync issues. Aside from occasional blips, all of our picks worked well in this regard.

If you plan to frequently use a speaker for video playback, look for devices with the most recent Bluetooth versions (4.x or 5.x) and lower latency codecs like aptX. Also make sure the speaker is close to the source device as distance can be a factor. To avoid the issue altogether, though, consider getting one with a wired auxiliary input.

Price: $50 to $200

Tribit StormBox Micro 2 ($60)

The Tribit Micro 2 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.3
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: 70Hz - 20kHz
App: No

If you’re just looking for an ultra-portable speaker that can kick out some decent volume, the Tribit StormBox Micro 2 fits the bill. The audio quality here is fine; it doesn’t stand out in terms of fidelity, but the volume you get from this affordable little speaker is what makes it a good choice. If you’re bopping about outdoors on your bike or chilling in the park, it’s usually more about portability and volume anyway. The rubbery rear strap works well on relatively thin things like belts, backpacks and bike handlebars.

While it’s small and affordable, the speaker doubles as a USB-C powerbank to charge your devices in a pinch and you can wirelessly connect two of them for party mode or stereo sound. It also supports voice assistants for both iOS and Android users.

Buy StormBox Micro 2 at Tribit - $60

UE Wonderboom 2 ($100)

The UE Wonderboom photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: N/A
Battery life: Up to 13 hours
Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: 75Hz - 20kHz
App: No

The UE Wonderboom 2 is a tiny yet powerful portable, delivering the biggest sound in its size range that we tested. This cute, barrel-shaped speaker has a nubby little strap that probably needs a carabiner to help attach it to most things. And with an IP67 rating on top of the company’s 5-foot drop test durability, it can go with you almost anywhere and survive to tell the tale.

The audio quality, meanwhile, is punchy and bright enough for what you’d expect at this scale and price range. Although there’s no app support or connectivity with the rest of the UE speaker lineup, you can easily pair it with a second Wonderboom for stereo sound. There’s also an outdoor mode button on the bottom that boosts the mid and high range to help the audio carry over a greater distance.

Buy Wonderboom 2 at Amazon - $100

Soundcore Motion+ ($107)

The Soundcore Motion+ photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Rating: IPX7
Aux inputs: 3.5mm
Frequency range: 50Hz - 40kHz
App: Yes

This nondescript wedge of a speaker could easily slip under your radar, but it’s worth a listen. It has a bright and bassy output, which is helped along by Qualcomm aptX support for hi-res audio. This device has a solid, slightly heavy build with a metal front speaker grille, a soft-touch rubberized exterior (that loves your greasy fingerprints) and IPX7 water resistance. While it’s not the lightest or most portable, the sound is respectable, especially for the price. Plus the app offers EQ customization, so you can fine tune to your liking.

There’s also a 3.5mm aux input for wired connections. That’s fortuitous, as we found that this speaker works well as a mini soundbar alternative and the wired input offers a foolproof connection.

Buy Soundcore Motion+ at Amazon - $107

Soundcore Trance Go ($120)

The Soundcore Trance Go photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery life: Up to 24 hours
Rating: IPX7
Aux inputs: 3.5mm
Frequency range: 55Hz - 20kHz
App: Yes

If you have a large indoor space, backyard or similar and want something with powerful long-throw sound in an affordable package, the Soundcore Trance Go may surprise you. This barebones speaker is bigger than most others in this price range and would weigh down a backpack a bit at about six pounds, but offers a carry strap, up to 24 hours runtime, a port for charging your devices and an aux input.

If you’re close by, you’ll hear the thump of its low-end and some decent highs. It's generally tuned for covering big spaces, though, and its sound won't work for every situation. This performs like a mini loudspeaker, putting out up to around 98dB, albeit with a slightly thinner sound that won’t overpower the environment. You can also use Soundcore’s app to apply EQ presets or customize as you see fit. If you have two of these, they can pair for stereo sound, or connect 100 or more Trance Go speakers via the app’s PartyCast feature.

Buy Soundcore Trance Go at Amazon - $120

JBL Flip 6 ($130)

The JBL Flip 6 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.1
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: 63Hz - 20kHz
App: Yes

JBL’s Flip 6 deserves high marks for overall sound quality, durability and volume considering its size. As with most JBL speakers, it has a good dynamic range from solid lows to crisp highs with volume tipped towards higher registers. The cylindrical shape works well on its side or even standing on its end to save desk space. It has a capable carrying (or hanging) strap and raised buttons you can discern in the dark.

The JBL Portable app gives you a 3-band EQ to customize the sound profile if desired and if you have two Flip 6 speakers, you can run them in stereo mode. If you happen to have a mix-and-match assortment of different PartyBoost-enabled JBL speakers, you connect them all for a bigger sound.

Buy JBL Flip 6 at Amazon - $130

Bose SoundLink Flex ($149)

The Bose Soundlink Flex photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 4.2
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: N/A
App: Yes

While the $99 SoundLink Micro is half the size, we found that it's definitely worth the extra $50 if you trade up to the Bose SoundLink Flex. While it’s still not a room filler, the speaker offers some bright, dynamic finesse to your tunes, along with a significant amount of bass for its size. It’s similar to the scale of a small clutch bag, with a very small strap for carabiner-type hanging. Much of the exterior is sheathed in soft-touch silicone, except for the powder-coated steel speaker grilles. Like others in this range, the speaker is IP67 rated so it can handle the elements and sound good doing it.

Setup and connecting to the speaker should be done from within the aptly named Bose Connect app. You can also turn off voice prompts (which can become annoying) and pair with similar speakers for either party mode or stereo.

Note: Some users running Android 12 may encounter connectivity issues with the Bose Connect app. The company is working to resolve the problem.

Buy Bose SoundLink Flex at Amazon - $149

JBL Charge 5 ($180)

The JBL Charge 5 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.1
Battery life: Up to 20 hours
Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: 60Hz - 20kHz
App: Yes

If you’re willing to spend a little more for bigger sound, longer battery life and a USB-C port to charge your devices, the JBL Charge 5 is a great upgrade over the Flip 6. It has the same bright output and capable low end, but in a slightly larger package. If you’re looking for a smallish portable, but something capable enough to entertain a few guests, this works.

Buy JBL Charge 5 at Amazon - $180

Price: $200 to $450

Bose Portable Smart ($399)

The Bose Portable Smart Home and Bose Revolve+ II photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.
Bose Revolve+ II (left) and Bose Portable Smart (right)

Bluetooth: 4.2
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Rating: IPX4
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: Undisclosed
App: Yes

We did test a couple smart home speakers, including the Bose Portable Smart and I decided to compare it with its closest Bluetooth equivalent: the Revolve+ II. While that’s best suited for portability, has a loud bright sound that will carry outdoors and long battery life, its low end is a little less pronounced than its smart companion. If you’re willing to spend more and appreciate bass, the Bose Portable Smart speaker is a big improvement. It has a well-rounded low end and a bright dynamic sound with plenty of nuance that makes for a great listening experience.

This 360-degree portable comes as a combo WiFi/Bluetooth speaker primarily geared toward smart home use with the occasional outing. It’s rated IPX4, so not the most weatherproof, but good for casual outdoor listening. The battery is rated for up to 12 hours, but since this is an always-on smart device, you’ll need to be more attentive at keeping it topped up. There’s a charging dock accessory for use around the house, but as an away-from-home portable, you should power it down when not in use.

Smart features: WiFi, voice and app control, support for Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Chromecast (built-in), Apple AirPlay 2 and SimpleSync connectivity with Bose Bluetooth speakers.

Note: Some users running Android 12 may encounter connectivity issues with the Bose Connect app. The company is working to resolve the problem.

Buy Bose Portable Smart at Amazon - $399

JBL Xtreme 3 ($380)

The JBL Xtreme 3 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.1
Battery life: Up to 15 hours
Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: 3.5mm
Frequency range: 53.5Hz - 20kHz
App: Yes

If you’ve enjoyed any of the smaller JBL speakers out there and are willing to spend a bit more, the Xtreme 3 is a good all-around choice. It’s big enough to warrant a shoulder strap, but still only about the size of a football. There’s a pleasant dynamic sound here with hefty lows and a lively high end that seems slightly better balanced at this size than the smaller options from JBL in this range.

This is easily a favorite if you want something under $400 with a little more gusto than your average portable, but still being IP67 weatherproof. It has enough output to breathe life into a small soiree or backyard hang, although while it’s quite loud, it’s best when it’s close by or indoors where the bass can resonate to its fullest.

Buy JBL Xtreme 3 at Amazon - $380

Sony SRS-XP700 ($498)

The Sony XP700 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery life: Up to 20 hours
Rating: IPX4
Aux inputs: 3.5mm, USB thumb drive listening, Guitar, Mic
Frequency range: N/A
App: Yes

Sony’s big SRS-XP700 Bluetooth speaker is a good option for fans of loud, thumping beats. The unit has the look of a futuristic stereo speaker at 2.25 feet tall and about 37 pounds, with pleasing lighting effects on the inside of both top and bottom grab bars. You’ll also find USB charging ports and LDAC support, while the app offers customization including light controls.

The XP700 remains portable enough for many people to shuffle around locally without too much effort and its IPX4 rating means it can handle spills and splashes. The exterior is hard plastic with some rubberized feet, but it’s not the type of speaker you want to treat carelessly. It’s mostly a homebody that can fire up parties in lofts, garages, basements or backyards. You can also wirelessly pair two for a more powerful experience.

While the sound is big and bassy, it comes up short on handling the lowest registers well. Also, the high end isn’t as pronounced as it could be, so it may not be for everyone. It’s more of a loudspeaker style, so it's better in bigger rooms and shines at louder volumes.

Buy Sony SRS-XP700 at Amazon - $498

UE Hyperboom ($450)

The UE Hyperboom photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery life: Up to 24 hours
Rating: IPX4
Aux inputs: 3.5mm, Optical
Frequency range: 45Hz - 20kHz
App: Yes

The UE Hyperboom is an all-arounder with good looks, portability, plenty of connectivity options and a loud and punchy (albeit compressed) output. The technical fabric exterior (which now includes a white option) lets it live among your furniture without screaming “party box,” while the optical input offers a possible TV speaker alternative. The large capacitive buttons on top let anyone adjust the volume, pause or play the music and select from two concurrent Bluetooth connections or a hardwired input (3.5mm or optical). On the edge with the silicone carrying handle there are the wired ports, plus one for charging USB devices and another for power. Battery life is rated for up to 24 hours and the Hyperboom is good at holding a charge on standby.

This capable and loud (roughly 100dB) speaker will please most people as long as the party is of primary concern over fidelity. The ability to remotely power your device on or off using the UE app is also a welcome feature. Plus you can easily expand the sound to other Boom speakers (except Wonderboom) using the PartyUp feature. The IPX4 rating means a few spilled drinks won’t hassle it, but it’s not the best choice for all-weather adventures.

Buy UE Hyperboom at Amazon - $450

Marshall Tufton ($450)

The Marshall Tufton photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery life: Up to 20 hours
Rating: IPX2
Aux inputs: 3.5mm
Frequency range: 40Hz - 20kHz
App: No

If you didn’t know about Marshall’s history in amplifiers and rock music, the design should clue you in. The Tufton is the largest portable Bluetooth speaker from the company, looking much like an amp itself (as do most of them). It has physical knobs at the top and a carry strap to help move it about. While it may appear as rugged as concert gear, it’s less impervious to the elements as some with just an IPX2 rating, so it’s protected from light splashes from above.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the brand, the rich and distinctly thumping output may make you one. We felt pulled into the sound while listening to the Tufton, a bit more than most other speakers we tested at this scale. It’s dynamic, warm and, dare we say, analog in its audio presence. It’s also multi-directional with a supplemental driver on the back along with a bass port.

There’s no app to adjust the EQ, just the physical controls including a Bluetooth connect button, a power/volume knob and two for bass and treble. Once powered on, you can use the volume knob to set a max headroom and adjust volume on the fly from your source. The bass and treble knobs help you choose the tone of your adventure, from a purely flat soundscape to an enhanced one. We just wish you could see the dial indicators in the dark. Other features include aptX support and quick-charge capabilities that provide four hours of listening time in just 20 minutes, plus great standby battery life.

Buy Marshall Tufton at Amazon - $450

Price: $450 and higher

JBL Boombox 2 ($500)

The JBL Boombox 2 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.1
Battery life: Up to 24 hours
Rating: IPX7
Aux inputs: 3.5mm
Frequency range: 50Hz - 20kHz
App: Yes

If you’re keen to up your speaker game without – at least visibly – crossing over into loudspeaker territory, the JBL Boombox 2 is more than up to the task. This 160-watt big brother to the Xtreme 3 provides that familiar JBL sound design but in an even louder profile. The output has bright and dynamic highs and floor shaking sub-bass that may benefit more from an indoor environment (with surfaces to bounce off) to really shine. This is a dance party tool for your basement rumpus room, garage hangout or poolside craziness.

The integrated handle, IPX7 waterproofing and 13-pound weight offer a convenient grab-and-go speaker for most occasions when you want the music to be the star of the show (or at least not disappear into the background). With a battery that boasts up to 24 hours runtime, you can expect to party at full volume for several hours, at least.

One thing to keep in mind is that the newer JBL Boombox 3 is slated to arrive this summer 2022. If you’re interested in the Boombox, I’d keep an eye out for sales on the current version unless you want to wait for the newest release, which promises full IP67 weather-proofing, Bluetooth 5.3 and a slight uptick in all aspects of the sound.

Buy JBL Boombox 2 at Amazon - $500

Soundboks Gen 3 ($999)

The Soundboks Gen 3 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.

Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery life: Up to 40 hours
Rating: IP65
Aux inputs: 3.5mm (in/out), 2x ¼-inch mic/instrument
Frequency range: 40Hz - 20kHz
App: Yes

The Soundboks 3 is a top performer if you’re looking for a portable, yet more professional Bluetooth option for big sound and big spaces, although it comes at a price. This unpretentious black rectangle packs in two 10-inch woofers and one 10-inch tweeter powered by three 72W RMS amps for massive sound and chunky bass. While big, this 34-pound loudspeaker is fairly easy to lug around. It has large steel handles on either side right next to a large bass port that runs through the whole unit. It’s a reinforced poplar cabinet with a steel speaker grille, aluminum framing and silicone ball corners for durability. The IP65 rating also marks it as a resilient device in most environments.

The sound and connectivity make a big statement here, adding value for your money. Output levels are rated at 96 to 104dB, with dynamic mids and highs projecting clearly to cover long distances. The low end also has a significant presence at a distance, matching up with 40Hz frequency response. It's definitely capable enough to support large gatherings.

The speaker is easy to connect to via Bluetooth and the partner app allows EQ customization and firmware updates. You can plug into the Soundboks Gen 3 via 3.5mm stereo in and even daisy chain to others through a 3.5mm stereo out. You don’t need to, though, since you can connect up to five more Soundboks 3 speakers wirelessly using the built-in SKAA wireless support at the touch of a button. There are also two combo (XLR or ¼-inch) microphone/instrument inputs. You get EQ control for these additional inputs inside the app.

Lastly, the battery pack is removable, swappable and also long-lasting for a speaker this size; at low to mid volume, it’s rated at up to 40 hours runtime. For transparency, Soundboks also lets you know to expect around five hours of play at full volume.

It’s no-nonsense, big sound in a rugged box with lots of connection options for real-world applications. The price is rather high, but the product is worth it for those who fit the use case. You can also keep an eye out for the company’s newly announced Soundboks Go, which halves the size and doubles the runtime.

Buy Soundboks 3 at Soundboks - $999

JBL PartyBox Series

The JBL PartyBox 710 photographed for Engadget's 2022 portable Bluetooth speaker guide in front of a shelf full of records.
JBL PartyBox 710

You may be surprised that JBL’s PartyBox series, one of the more ubiquitous loudspeaker-style devices out there, isn't properly represented in this guide. The company had sold out of most mid-sized speakers in this line and there were none for us to test. However, we did check out one of JBL’s larger models: the PartyBox 710. It’s neither battery powered nor really ‘portable’ considering its two tiny wheels, lack of carrying handles and roughly 69-pound weight. That said, if you don’t need something to go very far (ideally without stairs) and will always have a power outlet nearby, this thing is a beast.

Buy PartyBox 710 at JBL - $800

The PartyBox 710 has a bit of flare with lighting effects surrounding its dual 2.75-inch tweeters and 8-inch woofers. It's also a karaoke-focused device with guitar and mic inputs and line volumes, along with dedicated effects and controls on top. While it looks good, the real star here is its capable audio output. It has 800 watts of power and you can tell. This is a party rocker you can feel, helped along by its rear bass reflex port. It's competitively priced at $800, although as we said, this isn’t a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Some of the mid-sized models like the PartyBox 110 ($400) and PartyBox 310 ($550) seem to be worth a listen — if you can find them — considering what we’ve heard from this larger sibling.

Buy PartyBox 110 at JBL - $400 Buy PartyBox 310 at JBL - $550

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