In my experience, there have been few material objects that have boosted my quality of life as much as my bluetooth speaker has. If you’re a music lover, they’re an essential purchase in college, especially if you’re living in a dorm. They’re small, portable, and easy to use, so you won’t have to worry about them taking up a considerable amount of space or the hassle of setting them up. And of course, bluetooth lets you connect directly to your phone, wirelessly. So you can stream or play downloaded music easily, without having to use a cable or connect through an intermediary like WiFi. Speaker technology has improved to such a great extent that you really won’t be sacrificing much sound quality, even if you’re using your bluetooth speaker as your primary speaker. If you’ve never had one before, you’ll be shocked by the quality of audio that you can get out of such a tiny device. Seriously, it’s pretty incredible. They make it so easy to bring music outside as well, which is a godsend when you’re constantly holed up between the cement walls of your dorm room.
There are countless bluetooth speakers on the market, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the plethora of options to choose from. But fear not, we’ve got you. Here’s a complete breakdown of what to look for in a bluetooth speaker, and a list of the best options for every kind of consumer.
Things to Consider When Buying a Bluetooth Speaker
Where do you anticipate using this speaker most often? If you’re planning on primarily using your speaker in your own home, weather-resistance won’t be a priority. But if you’re the outdoorsy type and think you’ll be bringing your speaker on hikes, at the beach, or on boat rides, you’ll want to look for waterproof or weather-resistant models. If this is a priority for you, look for a set of speakers that is certified IP67 or higher (IP68 or IPX7), which means that it can be submerged in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Battery life is one of the main features you’ll want to consider when you’re making a decision on a bluetooth speaker purchase. This is especially true if you’re planning on taking your speaker out of the house frequently. You don’t want a speaker that’s going to die after only a couple hours. Consider this: there are portable speakers that can go as much as 35 hours without being recharged.
How portable do you want your speaker to be? Do you plan on bringing it along on hikes? Or are you looking for something to primarily use at home? Size is obviously a major consideration here. The variety of bluetooth speakers runs the gamut, from big boomboxes that you can stick in the trunk of your car, but likely won’t want to lug around by hand, to miniature options that you can clip onto your belt hook.
What kind of power does this thing put out? For most people’s purposes, around 10W should do the trick. But if you’re planning on using it to host huge parties, look for something a little more powerful. Do you want a speaker that’s going to absolutely blow your brains out? Look for speakers with over 30W.
The Full Package
Everything you’re looking for: great sound and a solid build in a small package. Not the cheapest options, you’re paying for quality.
The Bose Soundlink Mini II is simply a great speaker. It produces a fantastic, warm sound with crystal clear highs and lows. While it’s not the most powerful speaker out there, it gets plenty loud and doesn’t distort at top volume. The design is sleek and the build is super sturdy as well. The only downside: it’s not particularly weatherproof, so taking it out into particularly harsh conditions isn’t recommended.
The UE Boom series matches Bose’s Soundlink Mini line for best all-around quality. Bose’s speakers edge the UE Boom 3 in sound quality, but UE gives you full waterproofing and an ultra-portable bottle-shaped design. The Boom 3 is specifically designed to fit in cup holders or in the bottle holders in your backpack. It’s also super loud for its size, making it capable of cutting through wind at the park or the beach. The best all-around speaker for use outdoors.
The Fugoo Style XL combines the best features of the Bose Soundlink Mini II and the UE Boom 3. It’s fully waterproof, as well as dustproof, mudproof, and shockproof, making it perfect for bringing outdoors. And while the sound quality doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Bose Soundlink Mini II, it’s very close. The sound is very clear and pronounced at all levels, from bass to treble. It also features an outdoor mode that boosts the mids for a fuller, louder sound that carries further outside.
The loudest speakers on the market.
If your main priority is simply blowing the house down and ending all life in sight, look no further. This speaker packs a truly explosive 200W of power. It’s pretty large and has a lower battery life than some of the competition (about 8-9 hours), so it’s not the most portable option. But if you’re looking for pure power — and a great sound, I might add — you’re in luck.
The JBL Boombox has two 30W speakers that put out a huge sound with a really nice, punchy bass end. And while it’s big, it’s not too big to bring around with you — about the size of an old school boombox. It has great battery life (up to 24 hours) and is fully waterproof as well. But it ain’t cheap; a new one will put you out nearly $350.
Another hard-hitter from JBL, the JBL Xtreme combines power and portability. While it is not quite as loud as the Aiwa Exos or the JBL Boombox, it’s a fraction of the size and still manages 40W when plugged in (its wattage drops to 20W on battery power). The sound is heavy on the bass end, but maintains clear trebles and mids.
Small, super-portable options for outdoorsy folks.
The UE Roll 2, shaped like a small frisbee with a 5-inch diameter, is designed to be used around — and even in — the water. The speaker is fully waterproof and comes with a free inflatable floatie, so it can float atop the surface of a pool. On the back of the speaker, there is a bungee cord that can be used to strap it to a backpack or even a kayak. In addition, the UE Roll 2 produces a phenomenal, balanced sound.
This guy is teensy — literally no bigger than a baseball — and still manages to pump out really solid sound for its size. It’s waterproof and includes a built-in carabiner, which means you can clip it to your backpack or belt hook, making it the ideal option for bikers and hikers. It’s also cheap, with a price tag under $50.
Another ultraportable option, the Bose Soundlink Micro is similar in size to the JBL Clip 3, and while it doesn’t feature a carabiner, there is an integrated rubber strap that can be used to attach the speaker to a bike’s handlebars or to a bag. It is completely waterproof, meaning you can literally submerge it in water without it breaking. The sound quality is good, not great, with a nice bass end.
The Dollar Menu
Budget options, cause you’re broke.
Lasts up to 20 hours and creates a full, rich sound with plenty of bass, all for under $50. Sure, it might not be the very best speaker out there, but it gives you everything you need and more for a super low price.
A small, portable speaker that nevertheless pumps out a lot of noise, the Logitech X300 is a great option that you can find for under $50. It delivers good bass and stereo sound. Just an all-around solid, very affordable option.
The Aomais Go 30W deserves a spot on this list, if only for the sheer power it has for a speaker that costs under $100. With 30W of power, it gets as loud as almost any speaker on the market, and it boasts a powerful battery that lasts for a maximum of 30 hours at 50 percent volume. It’s waterproof with a super sturdy design, so it can take a serious beating, and while it’s not the smallest bluetooth on the market, it’s still super portable.
Sam Benezra is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in History from the Honors Tutorial College. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Sam enjoys writing on a variety of subjects, including science, music, politics, film. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, playing guitar, and writing songs.