We've listened to dozens of great, and not so great wireless speakers. Here are the picks we think are worth your money.
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 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 regarding 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 a 'nice-to-have', not an essential feature.
aptX 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.
A big consideration is 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 can withstand being submerged. 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. It'll eat up the battery but it's always handy to fall back on when your smartphone's own 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.
Priorities in order? Here are our top Bluetooth speaker picks of the moment.