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Best Overall: Bose Home Speaker 500 at Amazon
"It’s a speaker with a notable name that gives you sound commensurate with the brand’s track record."
Best Smart Speaker: Google Home Max at Best Buy
"If you like to crank up the volume on your portable Bluetooth speaker, then you'll like the Google Home Max."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: JBL Charge 4 at Amazon
"If a Bluetooth speaker could be labeled as perfect, it would be the closest thing."
Best Portability: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 at Amazon
"You never have to worry about nature getting in the way of your bops."
Best Budget: JBL Clip 2 at Amazon
"Not only lightweight to hold and carry, but it’s also light on the budget."
Best for Design: Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay A1 at Amazon
"Strikingly clean lines that offer booming sound."
Best for Parties: JLab Block Party at Amazon
"Great for an outdoor party or even for a multi-room audio system."
Best Battery Life: Anker Soundcore 2 at Amazon
"Promising 24 hours of playback on a single charge."
Cut the cord with our picks for some of the best portable Bluetooth wireless speakers available. Whether you're at home or on the go, there are plenty of options that can provide spectacular sound. However, not all Bluetooth speakers are created equal, you'll want to consider battery life, Bluetooth range, and potentially even connectivity with Alexa or Google Assistant.
Different situations call for different speakers, whether you're listening alone or in a group, indoors or out, we've outlined some of our favorites in our guide below. Of course, if you're looking for something a bit more robust, make sure to check out our guide to the best home theater starter kits as well.
Courtesy of Amazon
Excellent audio quality
Integrates smartly with streaming services
Bose app is a bit unintuitive
Bose has been in the Bluetooth and wireless speaker game for a long time — now they're taking their notable sound tech and moving into the more overt smart speaker world with the Bose Home Speaker 500. This speaker offers what Bose refers to as “room-filling sound” with the ability to use Alexa-enabled smart assistance functions. That means you can both stream music wirelessly and control it with your voice. There’s a small screen on the unit, but it just displays album artwork and is not a touchscreen — instead, they've relegated the physical controls to a series of buttons on the top.
Beyond the fact that it puts out big sound from such a compact device, the most notable thing about the Bose Home Speaker 500 is its Alexa functionalities. (Bose promises that other smart functionality, like Google Assistant, is on the way.) You can use the speaker with all the requisite platforms including Spotify, Amazon Music, SiriusXM and more. And there’s even a Bose Smart app that lets you pair this up with another unit or one of Bose's smart soundbars to give you multi-room sound and mobile device control.
However, during our tests we found the Base app to be a bit lacking and Wi-Fi connectivity to be a bit spotty. All told, it may be on the pricier side, but the Bose Home 500 is a speaker with a notable name that gives you sound commensurate with the brand’s track record.
"The Bose Music app seems to be the weakest aspect of this home stereo system." — Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester
Long battery life
No mounting options
The JBL Charge 4 has some of the best battery life among Bluetooth speakers. The 7500mAh battery can last up to 20 hours, although this will be more realistic when using an AUX cord, rather than Bluetooth. In terms of going wireless, the speaker has Bluetooth 4.2 and can connect to devices up to 30 feet away — and that’s “devices” plural. JBL Connect+ allows the speaker to buddy up with 100 other devices to play songs simultaneously for the ultimate party, surround-sound experience — or just to keep the music going from room to room.
One of the JBL Charge 4’s greatest claim to fame, aside from its battery life, is its durability. With an IPX7 rating, it is waterproof (yes, this means you can take it into the shower or bath) and also floats. Our testing found the Charge 4 to be extremely durable and handles the elements with ease. The single dual ranger speakers are paired with two bass radiators for high quality-sound, comparable to many “stereo” speakers. Flaunt your personality with the JBL Charge 4’s range of ten different available colors such as teal, pink, green, yellow, blue, and red.
"You can expect this speaker to stand up to the elements, endure heavy usage, and last all day." — Jeffery D. Chadwick, Product Tester
Spectacular sound quality
Can be paired with other audio devices
No lossless audio options
If you like to crank up the volume on your portable Bluetooth speaker, then you'll like the Google Home Max. Inside this low-profile speaker are a pair of 4.5-inch woofers and dual amps dedicated to a set of 0.7-inch polyester dome tweeters. The result: room-filling sound with serious bass. And at 100-percent volume, there’s almost no sound vibration (a rarity for a portable Bluetooth speaker). For even more sound, two Home Max speakers can be paired together.
Weighing almost 12 pounds, the Home Max is among the heaviest of the portable options. Fortunately, all that weight isn’t just about the audio. The Google Home Max also includes Google Assistant capabilities. You can ask it to tell you the weather, play a song, search the web, or control smart home devices like thermostats or lights.
Excellent sound quality
Bluetooth connectivity is spotty
When you’re shopping around for a Bluetooth speaker and portability is your top priority, you'll have to consider a few key factors, one of the most important of which is size. At only about 3.5 x 4 inches, the Wonderboom 2 is a truly compact speaker — one that you won’t find difficult to stash in a beach bag.
But you also want to think about durability, how much you can "rough up" the speaker before it goes radio silent. Fortunately, this sturdy little gadget has earned itself an IP67 rating, so not only is it waterproof, it can be submerged in shallow water and even thwart some degree of dust. Durability is key for this kind of speaker because it means you can travel with it. Whether you're camping, going to the beach, or watching outdoor sports, you never have to worry about nature getting in the way of your bops.
The Wonderboom 2 improves on its predecessor in terms of sound quality, too. Increased bass response and amped-up "outdoor boost" functionality make it the perfect outdoor party companion. In our testing, we found that you'll get about 100 feet of Bluetooth range and well over the promised 13 hours of battery life. Of course, much of this will depend on your usage, but we were pleasantly surprised by the connectivity and sound quality of this long-lasting Bluetooth speaker. On a final note, if you care about color, you'll be relieved to know the Wonderboom 2 comes in Bermuda Blue, Crushed Ice Gray, Deep Space, and Radical Red flavors.
"The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is the perfect speaker for a beach party, the shower, or a BBQ in the backyard." — James Huenink, Product Tester
Integrated carabiner makes for an easy carry
Integral 3.5mm audio jack
No previous track button
Bass could be better
The JBL Clip 2 is not only lightweight to hold and carry, it’s also light on the budget. In fact, it’s one of the most budget-friendly Bluetooth speakers that still delivers a quality sound. The speaker features a clip you can use to attach it to your backpack or your belt loops. Use the speaker’s controls to play or pause songs or skip tracks, all without having to take out your phone. The JBL Clip 2 may be small, but the eight-hour battery life rivals that of some of the larger Bluetooth speakers. It’s waterproof and while it does float, it can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.
"The JBL Clip 2 has since been superseded by the Clip 3, which is virtually identical to its predecessor but lacks the integrated 3.5mm audio jack." — Alice Newcome-Beill, Associate Commerce Editor
Excellent audio performance
Mono audio only
No navigation controls
Sometimes the best-designed products are almost the simplest and that’s exactly where the Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay A1 Portable Bluetooth speaker knocks it out of the park. The basic circular design mimics the look of a hockey puck, but with strikingly clean lines that offer booming sound. With a battery life that hits around 24 hours at regular music volume (recharging 2.5 hours from zero-to-full), the 1.3-pound all-aluminum dome is both dust- and splash-resistant to help protect against the elements. The sound has peak power of around 2X140 watts.
Connection to the A1 is easily done through B&O’s Play application available on both Android and iOS (in the app you can also personalize the audio experience, set up wireless stereo pairing for even bigger sound and update the software on the A1). Beyond music, the A1 doubles as a speakerphone with an omni-directional microphone that sits on the bottom of the device and can pick up 360 degrees of voice recognition no matter where the A1 is in relation to your body.
Outdoor EQ modes
Connects with up to 8 additional speakers
For serious parties, the JLab Block Party is what you need. You can connect up to eight of these speakers together for a full sound. The multi-speaker system is great for an outdoor party or even for a multi-room audio system. It even includes indoor and outdoor modes, with the speakers equalized to play the optimal sound based on the amount of sound-absorbing surfaces nearby. (The outdoor mode may be better for houses with a lot of sound-absorbing surfaces). There’s a built-in status indicator to let you know how much battery time is left, and the speaker features buttons for volume, power, as well as to play or pause the music.
24-hour battery life
Bass could be stronger
Really not loud enough for most outdoor environments
The Anker Soundcore 2 is a surprising little Bluetooth speaker for a lot of reasons. First of all, its small form factor (just over six inches long and only about 12 ounces) doesn’t hold back the surprisingly deep and booming sound quality. It does lack a bit of detail, but considering it’s so small, sports IPX5 waterproof, and delivers a 66-foot Bluetooth range, it’s pretty solid. But, as our category choice here denotes, the real “wow” factor is the battery life. Anker promises 24 hours of playback on a single charge — that’s a whole day of music without the need to plug it in. Considering that most other speaker options promise only 10–15 hours, this one blows them all out of the water. Plus, with a unibody design and a few sleek colors to choose from, it's pretty stylish too.
For clarity and connectivity, it's tough to beat the Bose Home Speaker 500. Its smart app integration and sleek design make it the perfect choice for a portable Bluetooth speaker to those who can afford it. However, if you're on a budget, the JBL Charge 4 is an excellent analog.
Alex Williams is a certified web developer and professional journalist with over five years of experience covering tech. His work has appeared in a range of top tech publications, and he's been writing product reviews and contributing to roundups for Lifewire since 2016.
As a musician and tech expert with over 20 years of experience, Lifewire contributor Benjamin Zeman knows his Bluetooth speakers. He thoroughly reviewed our top pick, the Bose Home Speaker 500, and found that it was both stylish and full of integrated features like Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Audible.
Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick has been reviewing audio equipment for over 10 years. He tested the JBL Charge 4 and gave it a perfect 5-star rating for its strong, clear sound.
Our own commerce and tech editor, Alice Newcome-Beill, owns and regularly uses the JBL Clip 3, the (very similar) successor to the Clip 2 on our list. She loves the lightweight design, portability, and massive battery life.
Sound quality - The best way to test sound quality is, of course, by listening in person — but in the age of online shopping, that’s not always possible. Perhaps the most important spec to consider is sensitivity, measured in decibels (dB). This indicates how loud the speaker will get; the higher the sensitivity rating, the louder the speaker will be. An average speaker is around 87 dB to 88 dB, but 90 dB would be excellent.
Battery life - It’s handy to be able to bring your speaker on the road with you, but you might as well be carrying a brick if its battery dies. Most Bluetooth speakers will average about 8 to 24 hours per charge, depending on how loud you’re playing your music. Another thing to consider is how long a speaker takes to recharge its battery — in some cases, a 10-minute top-up can prolong battery life for hours.
Waterproof - If you’re taking your portable speaker to the beach, you’ll want to be sure it won’t be drowned by an unexpected wave. Many models have waterproof ratings ranging from splash-resistant up to IPX7, which means it can be submerged for up to 30 minutes and still work.