Top wireless and Bluetooth speakers
Top six best portable Bluetooth speakers for 2020
By Oliver Trebilcock
Article 1 of 4
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
This is our best-scoring portable speaker since 2015 – and it’s at a great price too. This Bluetooth speaker is fully waterproof, and you have the option of a 3.5mm wired connection to connect to your devices. It’s easy to use with a choice of using the buttons on the speaker or the accompanying smartphone app. Music is engaging and detailed, and you can connect two together for stereo sound.
This Bluetooth speaker is a great all-rounder. 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. Not only that, it’s fully waterproof with a durable design and has a 10 hour battery life. It also has the option of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built-in so you can control the unit hands-free with just your voice.
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.
With a durable cylindrical design, this portable and waterproof Bluetooth and wi-fi speaker 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 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 low-cost simple Bluetooth speaker on a budget, this speaker 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.
Looking for more information? See our guide to the best wireless and Bluetooth speakers.
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.
It may look the ideal size for a small Bluetooth speaker to carry round with you, but you'll quickly regret your purchase when you discover this speaker's weak sound and low volume. Some functions are also awkward to access even for a simple speaker such as this. We've found notable small Bluetooth speaker success stories, but buying this one would be a mistake.
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.