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Best Bluetooth Speakers 2017: The 9 you should consider

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We've listened to dozens of great, and not so great, wireless speakers. Here are the picks we think are worth your money from ultra-portable, to rugged and waterproof, and Bluetooth speakers that will even keep audiophiles happy.

There's no longer any excuse to make do with the disappointing sound from your smartphone or tablet. Bluetooth speakers are a simple and often effective audio upgrade that doesn't have to break the bank. Unless you want it to.

A simple Bluetooth speaker is worth considering just for around the home, or you can look at more ruggedised, easily transported models for taking on your next holiday.

If you care about sound quality, however, a small portable Bluetooth speaker might not be for you. As you'll see from our list, the better-sounding models generally aren't going to fit in your pocket. A Bluetooth speaker can also be another device you'll need to charge if it's designed for portable use.

Best waterproof speaker

Many Bluetooth speakers are water-resistant, which makes them a great companion to use beside the pool. Not only can many of them survive being splashed, many of them can even handle being submerged complete.

Be sure to check the water-resistance of your particular model before putting it to the test, however. Right now, one of the best Bluetooth speakers for poolside is the UE Wonderboom by virtue of it not only surviving being submerged but the fact that it also floats, which is particularly useful for your next visit to the pool this summer.

Meet our experts

Andrew WilliamsAndrew Williams

If Andrew stacked up all of the Bluetooth speakers he's put before his ears, we're sure they'd reach higher than Big Ben – or at least make for an awesome game of Jenga. He most definitely falls under the category of 'audiophile', having tested all manner of audio equipment for well over a decade. If you want to know your 'sub-bass' from your 'treble', Andrew is your man. We just feel a little sorry for his neighbours...

Richard EastonRichard Easton

Our Wearables & Fitness Editor, Richard never leaves the house without some form of music, whether that be from a pair of headphones or a Bluetooth speaker. As a self-titled 'traveller of the world', he also often finds himself on backpacking adventures in the great outdoors. Of course, this makes for the most opportune time to test out the more ruggedised, outdoor-friendly Bluetooth speakers available. He can tell you if a Bluetooth speaker can handle falling off the back of a moped at 50km/h.

This Week's Best Bluetooth Speaker Deals

Jam Heavy Metal HX-920 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £119.99 | Now £99

UE BOOM 2 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £ 169.99 | Now £99

Jam Heavy Metal HX-920 at Amazon.com | Was $120 | Now $59

Bose SoundLink Mini II
Great for room-filling: Bose SoundLink Mini II

Key features:

  • Up to 10-hour battery
  • Charge dock
  • Dual passive radiators
  • Review price: £169

Bose used to be an easy company to sneer at, selling almost bizarrely expensive radios advertised in the back of broadsheets. However, now that its audience has become truly mainstream it offers class-leading performance with some of its gadgets.

The Bose SoundLink Mini II is a great mini speaker, offering thundering bass for its size matched with coherent, lifelike mids you just wouldn’t expect from a small portable speaker. What this particular model does better than a lot of the competition is in making the sound seem to come from a much larger source. The drivers are tiny, but they don't sound it, as the sonics expand way beyond this little guy's dimensions.

Bose doesn’t talk about exactly how it achieves this sort of secret sauce, but it’s partly down to psychoacoustic processing tricking your ears. Clever. It also comes with a very neat charging dock.

Jam Metal
Best budget buy

Key features:
  • Top for value
  • Up to 8-hour battery
  • Aluminium frame
  • Review Price: £119.99

Until fairly recently, it was hard to get a good deal among Bluetooth speakers. Cheap ones sounded rubbish, others were expensive. The Jam Heavy Metal changes that.

It costs just £59, but is made of metal and offers sound as big and loud as some of the competition costing well over £100. Like most of the best small wireless speakers, it uses passive radiators to squeeze big bass out of a tiny box.

Other than its amazing value, the highlight of the Heavy Metal is its very clear, detailed treble. Unless you’re willing to spend over £100, you can’t do much better than this.

UE Wonderboom
Best waterproof speaker: UE Wonderboom

Key features:

  • 10-hour battery
  • Water resistant (IPX7) and floats
  • 40mm active drivers
  • Review Price: £89.99
Ultimate Ears' range of Bluetooth speakers are famed for their incredible volume and rugged designs and the Wonderboom is no different. If you're looking for a Bluetooth speaker to accompany you on your travels, you'll struggle to find better value.

The Wonderboom is available in a range of vibrant colours meaning you can find one to your taste. Like UE's other speakers, one of the draws is the speaker's water resistance. The Wonderboom can survive submersion to 1 metre for 30 minutes, meaning it'll be great for poolside use. It also floats, too, which is now something we wished UE's other speakers were all capable of.

Sound quality is very respectable for a speaker of this size, with plenty of bass to live up to the speaker's name. With 10 hours of battery life, you get a very respectable amount of stamina before you need a charge.



Harman Kardon
Best large portable speaker

Key features:
  • Metal carry handle
  • 8hr battery
  • Hi-fi-scale sound
  • Review Price: £249.99

The most popular portable speakers today are quite small, but the Harman Kardon Go + Play 2 takes us back to the glory days of iPod docks. It's big, the sort of size normally tethered to a power cable.

This may automatically rule it out for many of you, but this speaker has bass weight and sheer scale of sound most battery-powered speakers can't touch.

It has refinement, too, and may be enough to use as your main hi-fi as well as a speaker for BBQs, days out at the park and so on. While large, the chunky carry handle makes transporting the Harman Kardon Go + Play 2 easy. The battery lasts for up to eight hours, and the volume/power doesn't drop off a cliff when running off the battery either. This is a pure Bluetooth wireless speaker, so there's no multi-room on offer, though.

Riva S 11

5 / 9

Our Score:

9

Riva S

Read full Riva S review
Best sound in a small speaker: Riva S

Key features:

  • 13-hour battery
  • Water resistant (IPX4)
  • Seven drivers
  • Review Price: £199

With probably the best sound quality per square inch you’ll see anywhere among wireless speakers, the Riva S is something special. It’s not just down to clever tuning, either – the Riva S has more drivers than any speaker of this size we’ve reviewed.

Inside a speaker smaller than a house brick are three active drivers and four passive bass drivers. That’s right, seven in total.

This is easily the most musical-sounding speaker in this class, offering a remarkably complete tonal picture considering we’re still dealing with tiny speaker drivers. If you truly care about sound quality, the Riva S is tops, but it’s not cheap and isn't as loud as some.

DALI KATCH
Hi-fi fans' choice

Key features:

  • 2x 25W Class-D digital amp
  • 2x 21mm soft dome tweeters, 2x dual 3.5-inch woofers, 2x passive bass radiators
  • aptX support
  • Review Price: £329
While the Dali Katch is undoubtedly a pricey speaker, this is the Bluetooth speaker you should be looking at if you value sound quality above all else.

Dali has packed in some serious speaker tech into a delightful package that ensures your music sounds its best. You'll instantly know where all your money has gone as soon as you start playing your favourite songs. There's an impressive level of volume on offer as well yet it maintains its composure and control.

You also get an impressive 24 hours of battery life meaning the party won't stop abruptly if you're entertaining.


Muvo 2c
Best for size: Creative Muvo 2c

Key features:
  • MP3 player via microSD
  • Splashproof
  • Passive radiator
  • Review Price: £40

If you're looking for a compact Bluetooth speaker just to get better sound out of your smartphone, the Creative Muvo 2c is a good choice. At around £40 it's not going to break the bank yet packs in some useful features including a built-in MP3 player. A passive bass radiator means it still has some serious oomph for a speaker of its size, too.

The speaker is splashproof too, so you don't have to worry too much about it getting wet. Thanks to Creative smarts, you can even plug the speaker into your laptop over USB and it'll work as an external soundcard as well as speaker. It'll sound much better than your laptop's speakers.

Battery life at around 5-6 hours isn't the greatest stamina, but it's understandable considering the Muvo 2c's small size. You have a choice of four different vibrant colour finishes so you can pick one to your tastes. If you buy two you can pair them in stereo mode, too.

Bluetooth Minirig Portable Speaker
Longest stamina: Bluetooth Minirig Portable Speaker

Key features:
  • Up to 50-hour battery
  • 3-inch driver
  • Aux input
  • Review Price: £129

One of the first portable speakers we really fell in love with was the original Minirig. It was almost all-speaker, and sounded better than anything its size. Now there’s a Bluetooth version.

Driver smarts mean some of the slightly larger rectangular speakers you’ll see here will sound much bassier, but the MiniRig is still hard to beat among speakers that’ll only fill your palm. It has a 3-inch driver, the sort of size used in speakers many times the size. This driver is also super-efficient, helping the Minirig offer up to 50 hours of use between charges.

This figure applies when using a wired connection instead of Bluetooth, but the Bluetooth Minirig will still outlast just about any rival speaker out there when using wireless too.


Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2
Great for true stereo hi-fi sound: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

Key features:

  • Bluetooth aptX
  • Remote control
  • Optical input, sub output
  • Review price: £329.99

Ruark is perhaps best known for its class-leading DAB radios and all-in-one hi-fi systems, but this pair of Bluetooth stereo speakers perhaps offer's the best sound-per-pound of any of the company's impressive line-up.

In addition to offering truly excellent hi-fi sonics from gorgeous retro-chic cabinets, the MR1 Mk2 have a ton of versatility tucked behind their designer wool grilles. For a start there's an optical input, which means they can be hooked up to a TV for boosting audio like a soundbar, and they have a subwoofer output for adding extra meat if you fancy.

Their other neat trick is the optional battery pack, which offers up to 12 hours of portable playback. You don't have to carry both speakers around, either; the battery can be bolted to just one that becomes a more rucksack-friendly mono unit. Neat.

Buy Now: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 from Amazon from £329

Summary

What to look for when shopping for a Bluetooth speaker – and what they mean:

  • aptX: A wireless audio codec that offers superior wireless audio quality on supported devices. Many phones support it, but iPhones don't.
  • NFC: This stands for Near Field Communication and lets you pair compatible devices just by touching them together.
  • Portable power bank: Some Bluetooth speakers will have a USB port that you can use to charge an external device, such as your smartphone. This will drain the battery of your speaker, so keep that in mind.
  • Stereo pairing: Some speakers let you pair more than one together as a separate stereo pair. This will get you not only more volume but proper stereo separation from left and right channels. Some speakers let you combine more than two speakers to really boost the volume.
  • Water resistant: This will tell you to what depths a speaker can survive being submerged in water.
What do you think of our list? Let us know your favourite Bluetooth speaker or speakers you think we should test in the comments below.

Michael LaRosa

July 19, 2016, 4:55 pm

It's disappointing that this site hasn't reviewed any of Sound Matters portable speakers, for example, the excellent Foxl v2. IMHO, the best sounding speaker in such a small, rugged package.

Terry Williams

July 21, 2016, 6:17 am

I'd also have thought a review, or at least a mention to the Audio Pro Addon T3 would have gone down well. The device was my favourite when I went from shop to shop looking to purchase a device. The sound quality is fantastic, and is loud and so clear. It's aesthetically more beautiful than the other models mentioned here too

dua

July 25, 2016, 9:29 am

What about Sony SRS X77?

MikeX

July 25, 2016, 5:57 pm

What about the Libratone Zipp? Not only offers Bluetooth but also WiFi and the possibility of multiple speakers joined wirelessly together. They also do a mini version if additional portability is required.

George West

July 28, 2016, 9:24 pm

Follow the link to Amazon UK, where it is claimed the price is 60 Pounds - Try 120 Pounds instead. Misleading to say the least!

Jav Vix

October 2, 2016, 11:25 am

How do you compare the Jam Hevay metal to the Anker Premium? Which one do you guys prefer??

jimmy

April 3, 2017, 9:39 am

I bought an Azatom Storm from Amazon. £32. (or £40 with the case)
sound is great, can't really tell it from friends UE Boom or Bose Soundlink. Plus it has 20 hour battery life. nice solid build with rubberised finish. Check it out if you fancy a cheap speaker to carry around.

Brando Pozzan

June 8, 2017, 7:21 pm

Can't decide which one to get can one of you please help? Only priorities are low cost (preferably under $100) and loudness. Thank you

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