We've lent our ears to a massive range of Bluetooth speakers so we can let you know just which is worth buying to boost your listening experience.
In this day and age, there's really no excuse to make do with the disappointing, lacklustre sound from your smartphone or tablet. As phones and tablets get thinner and thinner, the speakers have less room to work with – meaning sound quality becomes just as thin as well. A Bluetooth speaker can be a simple and effective audio upgrade that doesn't have to break the bank (unless you want it to).
A simple Bluetooth speaker can be used simply for around the home, or you can look at more ruggedised, easily transported models for taking on your next outdoor adventure.
We’re going to be looking at exclusively Bluetooth speakers, not big home-bound wireless speakers that just happen to have Bluetooth built into them. If you’re simply looking for a wireless speaker, be sure to check out our multiroom guide as well as our review of our go-to recommendation, the Sonos Play:5.
Trusted Explains: Bluetooth Speaker Buying Guide
What is there to consider about Bluetooth speakers? As you’ll see from our picks, the good models still aren’t quite going to fit in your pocket. A bag is needed to carry a wireless speaker worth having but that's not to say some of the smaller options aren't worth considering, provided you keep your expectations in check.
Jam Heavy Metal HX-P920 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £119.99 | Now £72
UE Boom 2 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £169 | Now £99
Jam Heavy Metal HX-P920 at Amazon.com | Was $100 | Now $80
Riva S at Amazon.com | Was $149 | Now $99
Consider whether you’re bothered about extra features such as NFC and aptX. NFC lets you pair with a phone simply by holding the phone over part of the speaker, but as iPhones don’t support this it’s still missing from quite a lot of models. It's more of a nice-to-have.
aptX, on the other hand, is a Bluetooth codec that enables higher-quality streamed audio. It’s not worth getting too worked up about this one either, though, as when talking about small wireless speakers rather than bigger hi-fi ones, it’s the design and tuning of the drivers that matters much more than the codec and, again, iPhone users are left out in the cold.
Bluetooth speakers also come in all manner of shapes and sizes. A speaker like the UE Boom 2 is cylindrical and means it'll fit in a side pocket or bottle holder with ease. Others come in more standard rectangular shapes.
More importantly, how long do you need your speaker to last? And does it need to be water resistant?
You can expect most wireless speakers to last at least 8-10 hours at moderate volume, but some last much, much longer. Some of the bigger options can last 24 hours or more before they need to be charged. Some speakers user rubbery flaps to protect their ports, giving them splash-proofing that's useful outdoors. But some take this a step further and have waterproofing, often to 1m for up to 30 minutes. Perfect for use by the swimming pool without worry.
Some Bluetooth speakers even have a USB port you can use to charge your other devices, although this will of course mean less music playback time but it's always handy to fall back on when your smartphone's battery is running low. Many Bluetooth speakers also have a microphone so you can use them as a handsfree conference phone.
It's not uncommon to have Bluetooth speakers that can be partnered up in a stereo pair for better separation and more volume. Some even have 'party modes' that let you pair together even more speakers simultaneously. It's a bit like a multi-room Sonos setup on a budget. The UE Boom 2 in our list is one such speaker, and will work with a vast majority of other UE speakers and not just other UE Boom 2s.
Priorities in order? Here are our top Bluetooth speaker picks of the moment.