We pick out the best portable speakers and best Bluetooth speakers for your home and for travelling
Playing music through the loudspeaker of your smartphone is more often than not a recipe for disappointment. The result is often tinny and lifeless sound and hardly does justice to your favourite tunes.
For many, a simple Bluetooth speaker is the best solution to instantly improving their audio experience. You can take them around the house, they needn’t cost a fortune and many of them sound an order of magnitude larger than they are. They're also a great choice paired with a tablet when watching films, improving both sound quality but volume as well.
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 going to fit in your pocket. A bag is needed to carry a wireless speaker worth having.
Jam Heavy Metal HX-P920 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £119.99 | Now £96
UE Boom 2 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £169 | Now £124
Jam Heavy Metal HX-P920 at Amazon.com | Was $100 | Now $71
Riva S at Amazon.com | Was $249 | Now $199
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.
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.
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 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.
Priorities in order? Here are our top Bluetooth speaker picks of the moment.