Wireless and Bluetooth speakers have one main purpose: to play music. But many pack in a surprising range of features – so be sure to make the most of them.
Our audio testing lab sees wireless speakers of all shapes and sizes: from tiny portable Bluetooth speakers to the latest stylish smart speakers with Alexa or Google Assistant voice control.
But many have extra features that aren’t reserved for flagship models. Read on to find out what they are.
Best Bluetooth speakers – our lab uncovers the models that give you real bang for your buck.
Five extra features of wireless speakers you didn’t know were there
1. Take hands-free phone calls
What if your phone rings while you’re listening to your music? Bluetooth speakers aren’t just music devices – almost all also have built-in microphones so you can take calls hands-free when you’re streaming music from your smartphone.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Bluetooth speaker without this feature, making sure you’ll never miss a phone call while bopping away to your favourite tunes.
2. Adjust the sound to suit you
If you buy anything more than the most budget speaker, it will probably have an equaliser to adjust the sound to your personal preferences. In fact, they’re often much more sophisticated than simply adjusting levels of bass and treble.
Many will allow you to adjust a wider range of frequencies or select from presets optimised to specific musical genres like pop or rock. You can also get other tone controls such as ‘live sound’ modes to make it seem like you’re at a music concert, and a ‘loudness’ setting, which boosts the bass and treble so music sounds just as good even when listening at low volumes.
Find the sound settings recommended by our experts for each speaker by clicking through to the tech specs page on each of our wireless, smart and Bluetooth speaker reviews.
3. Take them for a plunge
The vast majority of portable speakers now have some level of water resistance, so they can survive accidental splashes or even total submersion in water.
To find out how water resistant a Bluetooth speaker is, look for its IP (ingress protection) rating. This rating also tells you whether the speaker can survive dusty environments such as the beach.
For example, a speaker rated IPX4 doesn’t have dust protection, but can survive the odd splash of water. Meanwhile, a speaker rated IP67 is totally dustproof and can survive full submersion in up to 1 metre of water. That means you don’t have to worry about taking it into a steamy bathroom or sitting near the pool in summer.
Discover the full range of waterproof speakers by checking our reviews of water-resistant speakers.
4. Connect to speakers from other brands
Long gone are the days when if you were looking to create a wireless multi-room speaker setup, you had to stick to models from the same brand. Many wi-fi speakers now have built-in Google Chromecast compatibility, which allows you to connect them to any other Chromecast-enabled speaker.
Find all the Chromecast-compatible speakers on our Chromecast speakers reviews page.
5. Use them to charge your phone
Many portable speakers also double up as handy power banks, allowing you to use their powerful batteries to charge your smartphone when it’s running low. Our independent battery life tests show you can get more than two days of heavy listening with the best models, giving you plenty of spare capacity.
Find which speakers support USB charging by checking the models on our USB speakers reviews page.