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The best Bluetooth speakers can be a revelation, letting you take music on the go with you without the annoying necessity of cables or a wired connection to another device. They're the perfect solution for entertaining at home, listening to podcasts while you cook, or anytime you're lounging on the beach or poolside and don't want to wear a pair of the best headphones or the best earbuds.
But speakers, especially of the wireless variety, can get expensive fast, especially if you're looking to pick up more than one. We sorted through the best options that won't break your budget but are still portable, rugged, and stylish enough to not trigger any buyer's remorse. We also prioritized the key features you should be shopping for in any great speaker, like audio quality and frequency range, so going wireless doesn't feel like a compromise.
Courtesy of Amazon
Not the sleekest form factor
Anker is well-known as the maker of quality cables and portable batteries, and the company is now expanding strongly into the speaker market as well. The Soundcore 2 offers impressive sound at a great price, and it's our top overall pick in the sub-$50 Bluetooth speaker category.
Available in a small range of colors, it ticks all the right boxes in terms of features: 12W of stereo sound with balanced high tones, a bass boost that actually works, and a Bluetooth range of over 60 feet. You'll get up to a remarkable 24 hours of battery life between charges, and there's an aux port if you want to play music from a Bluetooth-incompatible device.
The brick-shaped speaker is IPX5-rated, so it can handle a splash of water (but not full submersion) with ease. Weighing 12.6 ounces, the Soundcore 2 feels solid and sturdy but is still light enough to throw in your bag.
Clear, crisp audio
Easy to set up
Suction cup stays in place well
Doesn’t come with a wall adapter
Button controls take some getting used to
While you can use pretty much any waterproof speaker in the shower, a few companies make models designed specifically for this purpose. The iFox iF012 is a solid, well-priced example, with all the features you're likely to need. Despite its low price, it's still completely waterproof, even fully submerged. That means it can deal with sitting in up to three feet of water for thirty minutes, not just getting a few splashes here and there. That means you can have it in the shower with you for easy access, rather than having to keep it somewhere else in the bathroom. Most of the speaker's front consists of a set of large buttons, easy to use even when you've got soap on your hands. You can pause, play, and skip tracks, or (if you really want to) answer and end a call directly from the speaker, so you don't have to touch your phone at all.
A strong suction mount lets you securely attach the iF012 pretty much anywhere you want to stick it. Combined with up to ten hours of battery life and more than enough volume to be heard over running water, this is the ideal way to enjoy your favorite music in the shower. Our reviewer Danny loved the Fox's impressive audio clarity and long-lasting battery life.
"If you want a basic, affordable shower speaker that reliably sticks to the wall and delivers clear audio, the iFox iF012 is the model to buy." — Danny Chadwick, Product Tester
Great battery life
While the chunky design of the AOMAIS Sport II+ is unlikely to win any style awards, it gives this well-priced Bluetooth speaker plenty of durability. Able to handle dirt, mud, and most drops, the IPX7 rating means it can also survive being submerged in water for up to half an hour.
The 20W output is impressive from an inexpensive speaker like this, loud enough to be easily heard outdoors. If you need even more volume or stereo output, you can also pair two of these speakers together.
Battery life is up to 20 hours, depending on how loud you're cranking the music. There's also a noise-canceling microphone onboard so you can use it as a speakerphone if you need it. Basic controls on the top of the speaker let you control volume, play, pause, and skip tracks, and make or end calls. There's also an auxiliary jack and cable included for a wired connection.
Helpful carabiner to clip and go
Available in a ton of great colors
Great IPX7 waterproofing
Not best in class battery life
Want to listen to music on the move? The JBL Clip 3 helps you do so, with an attached carabiner that lets you securely clip it to almost any hook or loop you can find. It's ideal for hanging off the strap of a backpack while hiking, for instance, or around the handle of your cooler at the beach to keep the speaker out of the sand.
Measuring 2.4 x 5.7 x 7.8 inches and weighing less than eight ounces, you'll get up to 12 hours of music from the Clip 3 on a single charge. Controls are very simple, with three buttons near the top to control volume and playback.
Available in nearly a dozen colors, the speaker has an IPX7 rating that allows it to remain submerged in up to three feet of water for half an hour. That's should certainly give you some peace of mind when blasting out tunes beside the pool.
Rugged, with IP66 resistance rating
Limited battery life
The Creative Muvo 2c is a surprising little speaker. Weighing under six ounces and measuring just 2.6 x 3.7 x 1.5 inches, it's small enough to literally carry in your pocket.
Despite its compact size, it's pretty rugged. An IP66 rating means it will take splashes, dirt, and dust in its stride, although it's best not to completely submerge it in water.
It puts out better sound than you'd expect for a speaker this size. There's enough bass and volume for the speaker to be the backbone of a small beach party or picnic in the park, and it can be paired with another Muvo 2c for louder, stereo sound. Available in a few different colors, the Muvo 2c can also act as a speakerphone. You can also take the retro approach and plug in a micro-SD card full of your favorite tunes. Doing so also extends the battery life beyond the 5-6 hours you'll typically get when streaming over Bluetooth.
Dual 6W speakers
Great capacitive controls
Not ideal for phone calls
Since low-cost Bluetooth speakers are often used outdoors or while traveling, most are designed to be relatively rugged, and they look like it.
The DOSS Soundbox takes a different approach, and while it's certainly still small enough to put in your bag and take along on a trip, it's attractive enough to keep on display on a desk or bookshelf the rest of the time. There's basic IPX4 weatherproofing, which can handle minor splashes and liquid spills but not much more.
The Soundbox comes in a range of colors, and its dual 6W stereo speakers are loud enough to fill a room. Capacitive buttons on the top need just a light touch to switch modes or control playback, including a ring that you circle with your finger to turn the volume up or down.
You'll get up to 12 hours out of the inbuilt battery, and can also play music by inserting a micro-SD card or plugging in the included aux cable.
Handy triangular design
Only available in black or white
One of the problems with many Bluetooth speakers is the short range between the speaker and the streaming device. Older versions of Bluetooth topped out at a theoretical maximum of about 30 feet, and you'd often get much less before the skipping and interference started.
No such problem with the OontZ Angle 3 Ultra, which uses Bluetooth 4.2 to give you up to 100 feet of range. The triangular design of this sturdy speaker makes it easy to fit into your bag, and there's a surprising amount of bass response from such a small device.
The IPX6 rating means there's nothing to fear from rain or splashes, and you'll get up to an impressive 20 hours of battery life between charges. There's an auxiliary port on the side and the appropriate cable in the box, letting you use a wired connection if you'd prefer.
Available in black or white, it's also possible to wirelessly connect two of these speakers together for extra volume and stereo sound.
Haven't found what you're looking for? Take a look at our pickings for the best bluetooth speakers at Walmart.
If you're looking for a great, inexpensive Bluetooth speaker, the Anker Soundcore 2 is a no-brainer, delivering great, balanced sound with excellent range and connectivity. For an absolute bargain basement pick, the Fox iF012 is a fantastic alternative, perfect for poolside, the shower, or virtually anywhere else.
Our expert reviewers and testers evaluate Bluetooth speakers under $50 similarly to how we test most speakers, except with more focus on design quality and wireless connectivity. First, we look at the design and portability, what waterproofing rating it has, how much space the speaker takes up, and how easy it is to connect devices through Bluetooth. Since a big trade-off for cheaper speakers tends to be test waterproofing, we dunk or immerse the speaker in a bucket and wash it under running water, provided it's rated for that.
Next, we play a variety of media content, including music, movies, and games, so we can get a good idea of the sound profile, frequency response, and bass. Here's also where we consider any special features like software customization that allows tweaking of frequency response, directional audio, bass enhancements, or extras like RGB lighting. Finally, we compare it to competitors in a similar price range to make a final judgement. All of the Bluetooth speakers we test are purchased by Lifewire; none are provided by the manufacturer.
David Dean worked in corporate IT for 15 years before transitioning over to tech journalism, and is an expert in consumer, travel, and photography electronics and accessories. He founded his own technology site and has written for a number of leading publications.
Danny Chadwick is a tech writer with more than 12 years of experience, covering everything from dash cams to photography peripherals, with a specialty in mobile audio equipment. He also wrote and produced a daily tech news show for three years.
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.