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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
Courtesy of Best Buy
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 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.
Top-mounted controls are easy to use
Multi-speaker setup support (using companion mobile app)
Having a truly thunderous sound output, Ultimate Ears' Hyperboom is a dream come true for bass lovers. The powerhouse Bluetooth speaker packs in a total of six drivers - two precision woofers, two large passive radiators, and two soft-dome tweeters - all working in tandem to deliver an audio experience that needs to be heard in order to be believed. Its "Adaptive EQ" technology utilizes a built-in microphone to sense the usage environment's acoustics and adjust the speaker's equalizer settings automatically, enhancing the audio output even further. Thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, the Hyperboom can connect to two devices at a time, and has an impressive wireless range of up to 150ft. You also get an optical input port and a 3.5mm audio port for wired connectivity, and there's even a USB Type-A port that can be used to juice up other devices such as smartphones. Ultimate Ears Hyperboom can go up to 24 hours on a single charge, and comes with a convenient pull-out strap that lets you carry it anywhere.
Built-in carabiner is really useful
Extremely dated Bluetooth standard
There's no lack of affordable Bluetooth speakers in the market, but our vote goes to JBL's Clip 3. Despite weighing just 0.49 lbs, this diminutive thing is crammed with features. It uses Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity and has a power output of 3.3 watts. The speaker is also IPX7-rated (waterproof for 30 minutes when submerged up to three feet deep), which is definitely a welcome addition, especially given the low price. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Clip 3 is its integrated metal carabiner, which lets you conveniently hook it up just about anywhere (e.g. backpack). The integrated speakerphone makes it easy to answer calls when the speaker is paired with your smartphone, and includes both noise and echo cancellation for improved call quality. JBL Clip 3 comes with a 3.5mm audio port, and its 1,000mAh battery can go up to 10 hours on a single charge.
Lightweight yet sturdy construction
Good battery life
When you're enjoying a poolside party, the last thing you need to worry about is the speaker (and hence, the music!) going kaput due to an unintended splash or two. And with JBL's Flip 5, you don't have to. The IPX7-certified Bluetooth speaker is waterproof for 30 minutes, even when submerged up to three feet deep. It features a rugged cylindrical body made up of fabric and rubber, and can be used in both vertical and horizontal orientations. The Flip 5 delivers a powerful bass output despite having a rather compact design, thanks to its racetrack-shaped driver. There's also support for JBL's "PartyBoost" feature, which lets you pair multiple (compatible) speakers for a bigger sound output. It includes Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless connectivity and comes with a USB Type-C port for topping up the internal battery, which can provide up to 12 hours of playtime on a single charge.
Gorgeous 360-degree lightshow sequences
Voice assistant integration
Micro USB charging port
Undeniably one of the funkiest Bluetooth speakers available out there, JBL's Pulse 3 looks even better than it sounds. Weighing in at 0.96 lbs, it boasts a power output of 20 watts. The speaker is also IPX7-waterproof for 30 minutes when submerged up to three feet deep, and even comes with voice assistant functionality that lets you access Siri or Google Assistant with the touch of a button. However, the biggest highlight (quite literally!) of the Pulse 3 is its integrated LED array, which really takes your listening experience to the next level. These 360-degree lightshow sequences look absolutely stunning, and can be extensively customized using the companion smartphone app. There's also support for JBL's "Connect+" technology, which can be used to wirelessly connect more than a hundred (compatible) speakers and amplify the audio output massively. Among other noteworthy features are a 3.5mm audio port, auto power off, and a speakerphone that lets you easily answer voice calls. JBL Pulse 3's battery provides up to 12 hours of playback on a full charge.
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.
Rajat Sharma is a technology journalist with over six years (and counting) of experience in covering/reviewing the latest and greatest gadgets out there, including everything from TVs to smartphones. Having been a contributor for Lifewire for almost two years now, he has worked with The Times Group and Zee Media Enterprises Limited, two of the biggest media houses in India.
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.
In much the same way that Bluetooth headphones have taken over the consumer sound market, Bluetooth speakers are becoming nearly synonymous with home audio systems. That doesn't mean that home theater systems, floor speaker sets, and the like, are not still prevalent, but particularly in the last 5 years or so, the market has seen an influx in sleek, premium speakers that deliver amazing sound and the convenience of beaming your music wirelessly from apps and phones.
Something that’s interesting with the Bluetooth speaker market is that you won’t see quite the transparency in spec info as you will on high-end, audiophile products. That’s for a couple reasons: First off, Bluetooth speakers tend to be small(ish), contained units that often don’t even feature multiple drivers. Therefore, these speakers tend to have a lot of proprietary digital audio processing and rely less on specs like impedance, sensitivity, and frequency response. In fact, many brands don’t even list what those numbers are—a fact that would be unheard of when advertising, say, a pair of floor speakers.
With all that in mind, there are some core considerations when purchasing Bluetooth speakers, and oddly, this purchase has a lot more in common with Bluetooth headphones than it does with normal consumer speakers. Because sleek design is so common, and because a small footprint is important for aesthetic reasons, you’ll find a lot more manufacturers going in the whole home audio direction, and as such, many of the best speakers offer great smartphone software to support your system.
Sound quality is a factor too, of course, but you have to look at it differently, mainly relying on a brand’s track record rather than the raw numbers we mentioned above. Read on for a breakdown of what to consider when making the purchase.
Design: Do They Look as Good as They Sound?
Design—what you might not initially consider a key feature in an audio product—is actually really important when you look at how people use Bluetooth speakers. Many of these units are meant to sit on a bookshelf or a kitchen counter, giving you quick access to music, but otherwise blending in as an appliance would.
As such, you’ll see a lot of manufacturers offering really small, futuristic designs that do away with massive, utilitarian speaker enclosures. Take a brand like Bose, for instance, whose SoundLink and Home series of speakers look more like a Star Wars droid than a traditional speaker. Plus, if you’re purchasing a battery-powered Bluetooth speaker, manufacturers will often lean on sportier designs, giving you multiple color options. This all makes sense considering the spirit of a Bluetooth speaker—since we’re trying to do away with clunky wires and aux cords, why would the speaker itself be designed with a clunky aesthetic?
Build Quality and Durability: How much ruggedness do you need?
This category largely hinges on what your main goal is for your speaker. Are you looking for something small and battery-powered to toss into a beach bag? Or are you looking for a more powerful at-home unit that can sit as a centerpiece in your office? These two use cases imply vastly different approaches on the build quality front. Portable speakers tend to feature rugged builds, often with rubberized bumpers and shells. They’ll also tend to throw in IP-rated waterproofing and dust resistance. This makes these speakers perfect for outdoor parties and quick listening sessions on the go, but you’ll definitely sacrifice some sound quality.
On the at-home side of things, build quality is part and parcel with the design conversation. Many top brands will build hybrid wood and composite enclosures that tend to be heavier than battery-powered speakers, but will stand up to years of at-home listening, even with the volume cranked. But these speakers will not respond well to drops, and certainly not to the elements. And as far as premium constructions go, the higher end of the price range will yield more finesse in the materials used, whereas one main corner that budget manufacturers cut is that they’ll lean on more plasticy builds.
Frequency Range: How much can you hear?
As a brief discussion in audiology 101, how high-pitched or bassy a sound is based on its frequency spectrum (measured in hertz and kilohertz). The human ear can hear as low as 20Hz and as high as 20kHz, theoretically—though most people’s range is much narrower due to outside forces. Most larger speakers will cover more than the full spectrum, where some smaller speakers will cover just barely the full range.
An important note here is that just because a speaker can produce sounds as low as, say, 16Hz, doesn’t mean your ear can hear them. But rather, a speaker being rated to a range outside of the hearing spectrum means that the full human spectrum is covered by the speaker without it pushing its hardware to the extremes.
So what does this mean for a Bluetooth speaker? Well, if the manufacturer lists this range, it’s a good barometer of how much of the frequency spectrum you’ll hear, and how effective the speaker is at portraying the spectrum. But it’s not the whole story—most manufacturers in the space will include some digital audio processing in the speaker to boost or cut certain parts of the spectrum. Bose, for instance, provides tons of detail in the low-mid part of the spectrum, whereas portable speakers from brands like Anker will punch the bass really hard. So, even if the speaker you want doesn’t list the spectrum, it’s best to hear the speaker in person (or read a review from a reputable source) before purchasing, because all sound profiles are not created equal.
Drivers: The bigger, the bassier
Another important factor for frequency response is the physical size of the speaker cone inside the enclosure. Because there are portable and home options in the Bluetooth speaker category, there’s a wide range of offerings in the driver department. You’ll find small speakers in portable units that sometimes measure just a couple inches in diameter, but you could find larger 8–12-inch cones inside larger units.
In general, the bigger a speaker is, the more capable it is at providing support and power on the bassier end of the spectrum—it’s why many speakers will feature tiny tweeter drivers tuned to the high end of the spectrum to add sparkle and clarity. While a brand isn’t always clear in the advertising what the measurement of a speaker is, you can get a good idea by looking at the dimensions of the enclosure. Just note that many speakers will employ larger, ported enclosures to create bass-friendly echo chambers that further boost the low-end.
Loudness: Don't rely too much on specs
Sensitivity and impedance are likely terms you’ve run across when shopping for speakers, and while all sound systems rely on these factors, you shouldn’t worry too much about the raw numbers in the Bluetooth speaker space. Impedance is the amount of resistance a speaker supports in relation to its amplifier (measured in ohms) and its sensitivity is more or a less a measure of its peak loudness.
These two numbers work together to indicate the power and fullness of an amp/speaker pair. Because Bluetooth speakers feature, in almost all cases, a built-in amp, the loudness and impedance are paired already. What’s more is, because brands like Bose load in tons of processing effects, what you hear isn’t going to match up to the raw numbers anyway. If you want a really loud speaker, you can dig into these numbers, but in general, this is another category that is more important for sound systems than for wireless speakers.
Bluetooth and Audio Codecs: A sound quality tradeoff
One major oversight that people have when shopping for headphones or speakers is that Bluetooth, while convenient, has some inherent trade-offs with sound quality. That’s because, by definition, the Bluetooth protocol has to compress the source audio file in order to send it quickly and efficiently, wirelessly.
The most typical codecs are SBC and AAC, but these codecs compress files with the most loss to the source data. This will be fine if you’re just streaming MP3s from Spotify or watching YouTube videos, but if you want to stream your high res audio files (like WAV or FLAC), you’d be better served with a speaker unit that supports a higher-quality Bluetooth codec like Qualcomm’s aptX.
Amps and Space Considerations: Mostly all-in-one
One final note on amps: while speaker systems and home theater setups will usually center on a dedicated amp unit to power a series of multiple, passive speakers, Bluetooth speakers are almost always standalone units. This means the amp that the manufacturer has loaded into the speaker dictates how much power and control you’ll get.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t find soundbars with Bluetooth functionality or standalone amps that have Bluetooth connectivity—and both can fold into a larger system. In fact, these are great ways to bring that wireless convenience to an otherwise traditional home theater setup. This is largely overkill for most users though. Sure, if you want tons of coverage for big spaces and parties, they can be helpful. But most small-format Bluetooth speakers are plenty loud and plenty rich, and because they often use multi-room app functionality, they make for great party systems.
Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi
This is a guide specifically about Bluetooth speakers, so we won’t spend a ton of time on Wi-Fi speakers, but it’s an important category to consider. The biggest example here is Sonos. While normally, Sonos would be at the top of a wireless speaker list, the brand has opted to not include Bluetooth support in any of the speakers produced. That’s largely because of the proprietary software system that Sonos has become known for. Instead, speakers like this have to be connected to a Wi-Fi network and then controlled using an app or a computer on that same network.
Bose also offers functionality in this way, but will give you the additional option for Bluetooth connectivity. You’ll get better lossless audio performance with Wi-Fi, but it’s much harder for guests to patch in and play music if they aren’t already a guest on your Sonos account.
Bluetooth Pairing and Software: Standard across the board
The pairing process for most speakers is pretty straight-forward if you’ve ever paired Bluetooth headphones to your phone. Most speakers will boot up for the first time in pairing mode, but almost all speakers have a very obvious Bluetooth pairing button. Then it’s just a matter of finding the speaker in your device’s Bluetooth menu. Some manufacturers like Bose have developed mobile apps to more easily control the speakers your phone is connected to, which is nice, but these aps tend not to be as robust as the Wi-Fi speaker apps from Sonos.
Range and Stability: How far can you wander?
The other factor to consider is the Bluetooth version. Most speakers on the market today run on Bluetooth 4 or 5, and those two versions are more than adequate for in-home use. But, if you want to bring a portable speaker out to the field for a picnic or larger parties, Bluetooth 5 vastly increases the line-of-sight range that your speaker has. Another benefit of Bluetooth 5 is that you’ll get the option to tether two host devices to the same speaker, allowing you to more easily switch between audio sources.
While the high-end speakers in the Bluetooth market are almost entirely at-home options, there are a ton of added benefits to going for a battery-powered option. The most obvious of these is that you can bring the speaker anywhere. This portability brings new considerations to the table. First off, you have the need for additional durability, particularly drop, dust, and water protection. JBL and Anker are great brands in this regard, but Bose also features a few rugged battery-powered options that aesthetically match the sporty headphones in the SoundSport line.
The other side of the portability coin is battery life. The JBL Charge line hovers around 20 hours of listening, whereas Anker and Bose have offerings just a tad lower. The highest battery life on the market reaches upwards of 40 or 50 hours with products from Altec Lansing, but you’ll pay a premium for this.
While not exactly “Bluetooth speakers” unto themselves, smart speakers are probably the most widespread example of this product category. With most homes featuring at least one Alexa or Google Home, it begs the question—do you need an additional Bluetooth speaker? Most of the smart speaker options will work fine for at-home music streaming and give you the added benefit of voice control.
Apple’s HomePod is an impressive option because the designers have taken the time to provide a truly impressive sound response for a smart speaker. Beyond Apple, though, these speakers tend to pale in the sound quality department. But it’s also important to note that many Bluetooth speakers from outside brands have licensed Alexa and Google Assistant for their products—ready to use out of the box.
There is a vast range in price options, but a clear divide between small battery speakers and premium home speakers. At the high end, you’ll find premium systems from Bose, Marshall, and Bang & Olufsen that approach $1,000. Or, you can find budget-friendly portable speakers from JBL and Anker that don’t even break $100.
Price isn’t always an indication of sound quality though, as there are tons of other features (from smart functionality to battery life to whole-home audio functions), so it’s important to weigh your preferences before setting a budget. If portability is your number-one priority, you can probably save a lot of money.
The premium audio staple Bose provides a ton of Bluetooth speakers for all parts of the price range. It’s not surprising considering how long Bose has been focused on wireless products. Today you can pick up small battery speakers, rugged canister-style units, and even full-sized stereo systems.
While not strictly a Bluetooth speaker (again, please note that Sonos does not support Bluetooth out of the box), it’s hard to discuss wireless speakers of any kind without mentioning Sonos. If you are okay with not having the flexibility of Bluetooth, these speakers are truly impressive units for whole-home audio.
This budget brand known perhaps more for portable batteries is actually quite a capable producer of portable Bluetooth speakers. The SoundCore series gives you powerful, if bass-heavy, sound that fits right into your bag or even keychains to your backpack strap.
If you want the Anker ruggedness and portability, but would prefer a bigger name and notably better sound, go for the JBL Charge series that, to our ears, sound almost as good as an in-home system. The Clip version of the Charge actually lives in a carabiner-style build that easily attaches to a day pack or even a keychain.
Sony focuses mainly on portable speakers, and they feature a ton of color options like you’d find on portable speakers from Bose or JBL. Sony tends to be a bit pricey for what you get though, so only focus here if you have real brand loyalty for Sony.
Marshall & Fender
One interesting phenomenon that’s cropped up in the last few years is the addition of legacy guitar brands to the Bluetooth speaker space. Both Marshall and Fender offer mid-to-high-end Bluetooth speakers that look and feel like their classic guitar amps. Marshall in particular offers truly high-end options (like the Woburn) that will look perfectly at home next to a record player.
Accessories aren't super prevalent in this space for a couple reasons. First off, portable speakers tend to feature rubberized coatings, tons of protection from the elements, and even in some cases feature clips and attachments right on the device itself. So, while there are some cases available for bigger brands, you likely won’t need one. On the at-home side, the main accessories to consider are receiver units and cables.
If you want to include your speaker as part of your larger sound system, or you want to add Bluetooth functionality to a non-Bluetooth system, you’ll have to purchase cables, adapters, and receivers. Bose, for instance, offers a SoundLink Bluetooth receiver that will help to link together non-Bose speakers using the app. There’s a lot that goes into audio cables, and seeing as this is a wireless speaker guide, it’s sort of out of the scope of the conversation here. But just know that many Bluetooth speaker packages don’t feature cables to connect, so you’ll have to purchase those if you want them.
We live in truly incredible times where our homes are full of wireless devices—from Wi-Fi routers to smart speakers to fully connected TVs. So it stands to reason that we’d take that convenience and extend it to our music listening. While the best sound is still achieved via full-on wired systems, you can get truly rich audio at-home from tiny Bluetooth speakers. And, because many options are battery powered, you can carry that sound quality with you on the go.