Top wireless and Bluetooth speakers
Best six best portable Bluetooth speakers for 2019
By Oliver Trebilcock
Article 1 of 3
Good speakers do come in small packages. See the models with top-notch sound and great battery-life that are still small enough to be taken anywhere.
Whether you’re after a quick and easy way to improve the sound from your smartphone at a family barbecue, or something loud and waterproof for poolside parties, a portable Bluetooth speaker is a handy companion that’ll make sure you’re not stuck with second-rate sound wherever you are.
There are plenty of speakers to choose from, whether it’s a £20 own-brand model or a £200 Bose. But if you’re after a portable Bluetooth speaker at the cheaper end of the scale, you don’t have to compromise on sound quality. We’ve found Best Buys and Don’t Buys across a range of prices, proving that more expensive doesn’t always mean better.
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Top portable Bluetooth speakers
With a durable cylindrical design, this is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker capable of surviving the great outdoors or kitchen accidents. It produces well-balanced, powerful and clear sound, with crystal-clear speech. It performs strongly across genres from classical to pop, and has a high maximum volume. It also has Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant integrated so you can control the unit hands-free, and the 12.4-hour battery life will see you through the day.
This small speaker is ultra-portable and sounds great. We’re used to criticising small speakers for lacking bass, but that’s not the case here – in fact there’s almost too much of it at higher volumes. The battery will get you more than eight hours of music and there’s a built-in microphone, so you don’t need to disconnect your phone to receive calls.
This Bluetooth speaker has a superb 19-hour battery life, a great build and you can even charge your smartphone from the speaker while it’s playing. The sound is excellent with a great sense of energy that’s enjoyable to listen to. It’s even fully waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about it getting caught out in the rain. It’s a fantastic Best Buy.
This retro portable speaker looks and sounds the part. It has easy-to-use rotary dials with treble, bass and volume controls. The speaker goes surprisingly loud for its size, delivering clear speech and performing well with energetic music – there’s no distortion even when cranked up to the max. It’s one of the best-sounding portable speakers we’ve seen.
If you’re looking for a simple and low-cost Bluetooth speaker, this one is ideal. It’s rare to find a small portable speaker with great sound, but this speaker excels, impressing our expert panel with its great energy and drive, and a surprisingly large sound for its size. It’s very easy to set up, with a ten-and-a-half hour battery life, and is even slash-proof as well.
If you’re looking for a portable speaker that has it all – a rugged well-built design, great sound with good bass and a sense of fun as well, you’ve met your match with this portable speaker. It’s fully waterproof and dustproof (IP67) with a sensible compact size – a good all-rounder. And has some tricks up its sleeve as well – if you’re looking for true entertainment this speaker delivers it in spades.
And here are three portable speakers to avoid
Bluetooth speakers designed to be taken with you on your travels need to strike a balance between portability and sound quality. There's no point picking up a compact and lightweight speaker to put in your carry-on suitcase if it sounds tinny and lacking in bass.
We've found small speakers that defy all expectations to provide stellar sound, but there are plenty of inferior models, the sort that are bought on impulse at the airport, that will lead to their fair share of buyer's remorse.
As well as sounding terrible, the worst portable speakers will run out of battery long before the sun starts to set by the pool. Some speakers can't even manage five hours.
The three speakers below may be portable, but you'd be better off humming your favourite song than putting up with the unimpressive racket they produce.
Portable Bluetooth speakers to avoid
This brand makes some of the best multi-room speakers, which is why we were so surprised that the same brand managed to produce our worst-rated Bluetooth speaker. The battery life is excellent at 30 hours, but that’s 30 hours of harsh, unpleasant music. Hopefully the company’s multi-room team will share some of their wisdom and make future iterations of this speaker sound better. This model is beyond saving.
This hockey puck speaker is loud enough, but the lack of bass makes music sound feeble. The device’s small size may be what’s to blame for the lack of bass and the terribly short battery life. In our tests, we managed to eke out just four and a half hours from this speaker, which isn’t good enough considering some manage 10 or more.
The unconventional look of this speaker will appeal to some, but the sound fidelity will appeal to no one. Top notes are clear, but the bass is entirely absent, which makes music sound flat and listless. To make matters worse, the battery life is a measly four and a half hours.
How to buy the best portable speaker
No one enjoys the sense of dread that accompanies having to lug travel bags onto check-in scales. Exceeding the baggage weight limit is of course a no-no, and if you're planning on bringing a Bluetooth speaker with you on your next getaway, you'll want one that's as lightweight as possible. Some Bluetooth speakers are about the same size as a carry-on bag. That's fine for slinging in the boot of a car, but not ideal if you're on your way to a festival or you like to travel light.
If you're the outdoorsy type, it's likely you won't have access to plug. We measure, to the minute, how long each Bluetooth speaker will survive on a single charge so that you can choose one that won't give up before you've finished breakfast. This may not be as big an issue if you're staying in a villa or a hotel, but we've found Best Buy speakers with excellent battery life, so you don't need to compromise.
Some portable speakers have additional useful features too. While they aren't essential, they could make your life a bit easier. If you find yourself inundated with calls, look for a portable speaker with a built-in microphone. That way you don't need to disconnect your phone every time you get a call. Some speakers also have splash-proof cases, which means you don't need to worry about a bit of rain ruining your speaker – splash-proof doesn't mean you can dunk it in the pool though.