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Great sound quality
Excellent Bluetooth connectivity
Too loud for small spaces
Heavy and bulky
A little too expensive
Marshall’s consumer speaker line has grown leaps and bounds over the past few years. A name that was previously associated with high-end (and high-volume) guitar amps has now staked a real claim in the consumer speaker market. The Woburn II is their largest standalone Bluetooth speaker and, as such, packs a serious punch. There are two 1-inch tweeters that deliver a surprisingly clear treble response and two 5.25-inch main drivers to cover most of the rest of the spectrum. That’s all powered by class D amplifiers, giving clean, pristine power, pumping out about 110 watts. This is more than enough to fill a large room, and for some small spaces will likely be too much. Marshall has also loaded in the latest in wireless connectivity with Bluetooth 5, allowing for pristine connections up to about 30 feet.
But what really makes the sound quality of this speaker shine, in our book, is the inclusion of Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth codec—a method of Bluetooth compression that leaves more of the source audio file intact than with the standard SBC codec. Round all this out with an intuitive app, some nifty on-board controls, and a design that really looks just as at home in a musician’s listening room as it does in a home office, and you have a solid all-around Bluetooth speaker.
Rich, Bose sound
The Bose SoundLink Revolve is a really interesting entry into the larger SoundLink lineup. As a precursor to brands like Sonos, the SoundLink family has tried to centralize the way wireless speakers interact with each other. The Revolve is a small-format, battery-powered option that will be just at home in your home as it is on the blanket at your picnic. It sports IPX4 waterproofing to brave some light precipitation, though it likely won’t be truly safe in a torrential downpour. The rechargeable battery provides a decent 12 hours of listening on a single charge, depending of course on usage and listening volume.
What’s cool is that, because of the way the Revolve connects via Bluetooth and the Bose Connect app, it allows you to pass through voice prompts and control your phone—opening up handsfree call answering and voice assistance through the speaker. Perhaps the most unique feature is hinted at by the design, which is a solid aluminum cage going around the entire speaker’s perimeter. This is because the Revolve actually provides what Bose is calling “True 360-degree Sound”. They accomplish this with an “omnidirectional acoustic deflector”, which is basically just marketing-speak for a housing that projects the sound from an internal speaker in a few directions. Bose is notoriously vague about the actual makeup of their devices, but it does seem that, compared to most other speakers of this type, the Revolve should provide the best atmosphere of sound, due to its lack of focused directionality.
Excellent sound quality
Connectivity via the Heos app
A bit bulky
Not super easy to mount
Denon is a brand most known for its bookshelf and surround sound speakers—and their legacy is well-earned with solid sound quality. But the Heos line is basically a direct response to the rise in popularity of Sonos’ whole-home speakers. The Heos 7 is their flagship workshorse speaker, meant for larger rooms or situations that require a rich, full sound. The 7 is so named for its seven sound components that work in tandem: two custom tweeters, two woofers covering the mid-range, one larger subwoofer, and two passive radiators to further direct the sound. It’s all powered by five dedicated Class D amplifiers to provide plenty of focused power to direct all those speaker cones. Of course, the design looks like a futuristic update on the more subdued Denon looks we’ve come to get used to, and the physical build and materials at play are classic for the brand.
What’s unique here is that, connected with the Heos app, this speaker can be paired to other Heos units to create a multi-room environment, much the same way Sonos’ systems do. You can connect to the Heos 7 via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and Denon has also loaded in High Resolution Sound capabilities to this package. Overall, if you’re looking for the Denon brand and the Sonos capabilities, the Heos 7 could be a good bet.
Smart functionality built-in
Easy to connect with other Sonos devices
Solid sound quality
Lacking some bass
Requires a Wi-Fi network
A bit pricey
The Sonos system has carved out a very specific place in the wireless speaker market—one focused on multi-room audio combined with solid sound quality, rather than just high-end speakers connected via more traditional means. The Sono One is the smallest speaker the brand offers, and it’s an excellent entry point for those who don’t want to spend too much, but want a high quality Sonos speaker for a bathroom or a kitchen. The Sonos 1 SL takes the same functionality—glossy high-quality sound, excellent connectivity via Wi-Fi and the Sonos app, and a classy design—and adds smart functionality right out the box. That’s because there are Alexa capabilities built right into the software, meaning that you can treat the SL just like you would an Amazon Ecco or a Google Home. Previously, accessing smart functionality on the speaker had to be done via the phone, so this is a helpful addition for Sonos fans. Sonos has also included the updated Apple Airplay 2 into the unit, which means that, though Siri isn’t functional on the speaker alone, you can integrate with Apple Music and stream from your phone more easily.
Plenty of volume
Somewhat muddy sound
Pricey for what it is
The JBL Flip is one of the most ubiquitous grab-and-go Bluetooth speakers out there. If you’ve been to the beach or a public park where a Bluetooth speaker was around, it’s likely that you've seen this one. That design has become a classic because of its portability and its premium build quality. It’s basically just a rubberized-plastic enclosure with a grill around the outside of the cylinder. The Flip 5 is available in a ton of different colors as well, including a Green Camo (which is really more beige/burgundy than green), classic colors like Gray and Red, or more vibrant colors like Teal or bright Yellow. The speaker itself offers a waterproof rating of IPX7, meaning it should withstand most weather you throw at it—though we wouldn’t recommend leaving it submerged in any significant amount of water for very long.
There’s also a 4,800mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery that, according to JBL, will last you about 12 hours of play time. The sound this Bluetooth speaker provides isn’t terribly detailed or focused, but it is surprisingly full and bass-y for a speaker of its size. This is likely okay, considering it’s meant as an on-the-go party speaker, but don’t expect truly audiophile sound here. This package comes with the speaker and a gSport Deluxe Hard Case for even more protection in transit.
Small and portable
Impressive battery life
Lacking in bass
The Tribit is the answer for those who want an affordable, durable, decent-sounding portable speaker, but don’t want to shell out the same price required from a larger brand like JBL. This tiny, pill-shaped speaker houses two dedicated drivers to pump out stereo sound, and they’ve even included a passive radiator port to help push more bass. It’s important to note that this isn’t a dedicated subwoofer driver, but rather just a passive port. The construction is pretty impressive, especially for the price point, as the speaker sports IPX7 waterproofing for decent protection in both the rain and brief submerging. Perhaps the true standout feature here is the battery life. The rechargeable on-board battery lasts, according to Tribit, up to 24 hours of continuous music. That is pretty impressive considering most of the rest of the market sits around 12 hours of continuous play. These totals are only projections, and will be largely dependent on what you use the speaker for, but this figure is encouraging nonetheless. The unit connects via Bluetooth 4.2 and has an on-board mic for working with voice assistants and answering calls.
Handy, clip-style design
A bit too expensive
Not the best sound quality
The JBL Clip 3 is a playful little Bluetooth speaker that is just about the most portable option we found in our search. In part, that’s thanks to the handy carabiner-style clasp that easily lets you hang this speaker on a backpack strap, a bike, or even in the shower. That last placement is only possible because of the IPX7 waterproof rating, which is plenty for the splashes and steam of a shower, but won’t be quite enough to submerge the speaker for any meaningful period of time. But how does the speaker actually sound? Because it seems to sport one single driver, you aren’t going to get a nice stereo spread, and because that driver is so small, the bass likely won’t be anything to write home about. But, the volume should be plenty for basic outdoor peripheral listening. There’s a 1,000 mAh battery that JBL clocks at about 10 hours of continuous playback—impressive considering just how small this thing is. You can pick up the Clip 3 in Black, Blue, Gray, Red, Teal, or White and it comes with a nice travel case.