1. Expert reviews

Top 25 Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2021

Elina Blom

Updated September 20, 2021

We have tested 24 Bluetooth speakers and name Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 as our favourite Bluetooth speaker of 2021. It’s a speaker that is packed with many different functions, has a long battery life and affords really good sound. We also recommend the powerful JBL Charge 3 as another all-round good speaker. Let’s just say these speakers hit the right notes among our testing team.

Top 25 Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2021

How we did the test

We tested all of the speakers in two different indoor environments: in a smaller room with muted acoustics and in a space with an open layout. The speakers were tested at three different volume levels (maximum, average and low) with the same selection of modern pop/RnB, rock and classical music styles. We tested their sound quality when using them in hands-free mode with a mobile phone and also tested their sound quality outdoors in a light wind. Since we had no rain during the test period, we tested the waterproof qualities of speakers by simulating artificial rain in the shower. The speakers with relevant IPX classifications also had a dip in our bath to test how waterproof they really are. We carried out the decibel measurement using the Decibel 10 and SoundMeter apps on an iPad. The measurements were carried out at ear height, two metres from the speakers. The values quoted in these reviews are an average based upon the readings from both apps. In addition to sound quality, operating time, output power, functions and whether the speaker was waterproof, we also factored the speaker’s design and product price into their overall score. We found that it is possible to spend under 100 pounds and sown an awesome speaker.

We tested the speakers using the following music:

  • New York Dolls – Personality crisis

  • Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra – Mahler, Symphony no. 5

  • NEIKED feat Dyo – Sexual (Oliver Nelson remix)

  • M83 – Lower your eyelids to die with the sun

Sound source: We connected a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and an Apple iPad to the speakers via Bluetooth and streamed the music through Tidal.

1. Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 - BEST CHOICE BLUETOOTH SPEAKER 2021

Budget, bath-friendly speaker with lots of clever functions

Width: 87 mm Height: 225 mm Depth: 87 mm Weight: 925 g Connection: Bluetooth, USB Measured battery life: 19 hours Waterproof: Yes (high, IP67) Miscellaneous: Can be connected to two source units simultaneously, can be connected to up to 8 other UE speakers for louder sound

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3

The Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 is a speaker that can play music at very high volumes. It’s a substantial unit that feels both stable and well built. The rounded shape means that it produces 360-degree sound. In other words, you don't need to angle it towards the listeners because you get just as good sound if you're sitting anywhere near it.

The buttons have a minimal response, but otherwise we have no negative comments on the design.

Control the sound via the equaliser

As the name indicates, this is a speaker that focuses on the bass. And this becomes really clear when we start the music. It has good punch and real depth.

The bass eats up some of the mid-range. If you're going to listen to bass-heavy music that requires a certain amount of finesse in this register, the results may disappoint you. That said, the app accompanying the speaker has a built-in equaliser so you can reduce the bass. After a little fiddling with the settings, you can achieve really good sound quality for its price. There isn’t a huge difference, but enough for you to be able to find a personal profile with better well-balanced sounds. Vocals come through particularly well too.

As mentioned above, you can play your music on a very high volume with this speaker. It's ample for a large apartment or single-storey house. One minor disadvantage is that there's a certain amount of distortion at the higher volume. But you really have to have the volume turned up a lot for this to be a problem.

The app we mentioned earlier supports a mode called “block party”. This means you can allow several people to connect to the speaker and contribute to the playlist. You're limited to your friends’ music that's stored locally on their phones – or Amazon's music service. But the idea's still a good one.

Unfortunately, the app doesn't support Spotify. But it does allow Amazon and Deezer. Naturally, you can always run Spotify through its own app, but the speaker has a button on the top allowing you to link to your favourite playlist, and this doesn't work with Spotify which is a shame. One nice feature is that you can connect the Megaboom with other Ultimate Ears speakers and get them to play music in several rooms at once.

The speaker has really good IP classification, which means you can take it in the pool with you. It also floats. As long as the speaker is at least partly above the surface, it continues to play music. But the part beneath the water doesn't produce any sound. In other words, if you submerge it, it’ll go silent.

The battery life is good as long as you don't play the music too loud for too long. We had it running in the daytime during working office hours, and it lasted for about 2.5 days before it needed to be charged. You can charge it using either the cable that it comes with or buy a wireless charging station.

In terms of price, the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 is in a category with considerable competition, but it stands up well all the same. The sound isn't as clear and rich as experienced in the slightly more expensive speakers. But it has a lot of oomph in the bass, and you can set the sound profile with the included equaliser to get a better sound balance. Overall, you get a lot of sound, battery life and functions for your money. It is not one of the speakers under 100 pounds, but the little extra seems to be worth it.

Great battery lifelots of functionstons of volumepowerful bassreally good range
Some distortion at high volume

Price Comparison

Compare all prices
Tekshop247 Logotype

logitech megaboom 3 black

£128.54
OnBuy.com Logotype

Ultimate Ears Black MEGABOOM 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

£129.97
Amazon.co.uk Logotype

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 Speaker Black/White Bluetooth IP67 360° Sound

£133.71

2. JBL Go 2

A straightforward, well-balanced and value for money Bluetooth speaker

(HxWxD): 71.2 x 86.0 x 31.6 mm Weight: 184 g Connection: Bluetooth, line in (3.5 mm) battery life: 5 h Water resistant: Yes (average, IPX7 class)

JBL Go 2

The JBL Go 2 is extremely good value for money and a compact Bluetooth speaker that, despite its cheaper price, feels neither plasticky nor low quality. The speaker essentially has the same control functions as more expensive models by the same manufacturer. You can increase/reduce the volume, pause, Bluetooth pair and turn the unit on/off directly on the speaker. The sound is really good, particularly for such a compact speaker. Yes, there could have been a bit more depth in the bass level, but on the other hand, the speaker’s sound is well-rounded and rich overall. The bass level also isn’t that bad. Genres that rely on a little more bass still sound good, but the speaker is at its best when it comes to pop, classical music and similar genres. You can turn up the volume without distorting the sound and it can receive calls via the speaker’s built-in microphone. This latter feature works fine, but it gives around the same sound quality as if you were using the speakerphone on your phone itself.

The JBL Go 2 isn't a luxury Bluetooth speaker, which becomes clear when you look at its details. For example, there's no way to hang the speaker, nor does it have NFC support. You also won’t get any detailed information about the speaker’s remaining battery life, which felt slightly frustrating. The battery life as a whole lasts five hours, which is just about acceptable. However, the Go 2 does have a very high IP classification, meaning that you can take it swimming without any worries.

It looks like JBL had some clear priorities when designing this speaker, which they succeeded well in achieving. This is a super-compact Bluetooth speaker with a good sound quality that would be great for a camping trip since it won’t weigh down your rucksack unnecessarily. If you're looking for a good value for money and compact Bluetooth speaker, the JBL Go 2 would be an excellent choice.

Very compact & lightwatertightrelatively good soundhigh build quality
Relatively short battery liferather weak bass levels

3. Beoplay A1

Delivers amazing sound

Dimensions: 133 mm in diameter, 48 mm high Weight: 555 g Connection: Bluetooth 4.2, ADK 2.0, 3.5 mm AUX-input, charging via USB-C Battery life: Up to 24 hours (charges in 2.5 hours) Waterproof: No Impact resistant: No

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A1

At first glance, the Beoplay A1 doesn’t look like much at all. But it certainly delivers once you've got it going.

If you aren’t familiar with the Beoplay A1, this is a little brother to the Beoplay A2, another Bluetooth speaker that’s extremely popular, with more than 200,000 sold. But the A1 is only half the size. Just like its bigger sibling, it’s quite flat, but this one is rounded rather than rectangular. If you were being cruel, you’d say it looks like a cold, stale hamburger. If you were being a bit kinder, you’d say it looks like the kind of “saucer” that for some reason everyone in the 1950s thought aliens would use if they popped by to say hello.

It’s also got a cord so you can easily carry it with you. This may not sound very attractive, but it’s actually a really nice speaker and one of the most attractive we tested. The anodised aluminium case, the robust plastic underside combined with fairly hefty weight of 555 g means it feels just as expensive as B&O's gadgets often are.

Bluetooth pairing works without any problems, and it’s all very straightforward. You press the on/off button and then the Bluetooth button. Simply connect and play. Unfortunately, this isn’t very common these days, but it’s very convenient here.

Amazing bass

So now it’s time to test the sound. And we start with something really tough – in other words Barry White’s “Let the Music Play”, which quickly reveals any shortcomings in musical reproduction. We’re immediately pleased by a particularly well-defined and fine treble. The mid-range too offers plenty of B&O-type finesse. In fact, when it comes to Barry White the sound's so good and full that we have to check to make sure we haven’t paired a bigger speaker in the test lab by mistake. But nope.

Next we put the bass to the test with German chillout house by Satin Jackets and a classic club track in the form of Spiritchaser’s “Sueño Latino”. This time we literally jump out of our seat and have to check once again that we haven’t paired the wrong speaker. No, it’s definitely the A1 pumping out all that noise.

Because this little burger-like box produces bass that’s truly amazing. It’s clear, well-defined, lively and strong all at the same time. According to the specifications, the A1 is indeed supposed to have a deeper bass reproduction than many hi-fi speakers... And that’s absolutely true. Music with heavily mixed sub-bass does swallow something of that excellent mid-range, but we’re still talking about engineering and sound appreciation in the very top class.

Getting this sort of sound out of such a compact speaker for and amazingly humane price is an incredible feat, and we can only applaud the Danes for doing such a great job.

As well as this, the speaker offers a built-in microphone that allows you to answer phone calls, and of course this too delivers excellent sound. If you want to play around with the sound, you can do this using the Play app for iOS and Android (we only tested the former).

Obviously there are cheaper Bluetooth speakers on the market, and there are lots of impact resistant and watertight options for lower prices. But none of them sound even remotely as good as the Beoplay A1. 86 dB is more than enough for most of us, particularly with bass this good. And the battery life is also excellent (up to 24 hours). We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it’s made by Bang & Olufsen. But the A1 is still a speaker that talks for itself.

Fantastically good & strong sound for its sizeattractiveportable
Doesn’t tolerate outdoor use (moisture, rain etc.)

4. Marshall Emberton

Great sound, waterproof and stylish design for your home

Type: Bluetooth speaker Dimensions: 16 x 8 x 7 cm Weight: 700 g Battery: 20 h, supports fast charging IP rating: IPX7

Marshall Emberton

You may already know that it’s Swedish company Zound Industries that’s behind consumer electronics gadgets with the Marshall name. And you probably knew that the design was largely taken from the classic guitar amplifiers of the same name. In other words, black boxes with brass details. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to design, but if do you like it, you'll probably also appreciate this little Bluetooth speaker called Emberton.

It’s a fairly normal Bluetooth speaker. Other than the design, it stands out from the crowd largely because it’s unexpectedly heavy. You’re actually surprised when it falls out of the packaging and weighs a full 0.7 kilos. Is that a problem? No, we wouldn’t say that. At least not if you plan to have it at home in the house or garden. But it’s unexpected given the size as it's quite compact.

Marshall-Emberton

As always with Marshall products, it has really attractive controls. They are also well positioned and function extremely well. You control most things with a button placed centrally on the top of the unit, which can be used to change tracks and adjust the volume.

And now we come to the sound – which is where Emberton impresses. It sounds far better than speakers of this small size normally do – perhaps this explains why it’s so heavy? Marshall’s products can sometimes tend to be somewhat over-exaggerated in the mid-range, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The treble and upper mid-range are actually excellent, with fine separation and detail. You don’t exactly get magnificent bass, but nor would you expect that in this size class (although there are some exceptions, such as the Bose Soundlink).

Another nice feature is the claimed 20 hour battery life, which is actually correct when we test it over a long drive with the speaker at normal volume. It also has fast charging and reaches a playback capacity of five hours in just 20 minutes. The IPX7 rating means you don’t have to worry about the rain if you take the speaker on a picnic, and the price is also quite competitive. If you like the design and aren’t bothered about the weight, you should really go for this one.

Well-balanced soundeasy to operatefast charging
Weighs quite a lot

5. Ultimate Ears Boom 3

Ingenious and reasonable standby solution

Width: 73 mm Height: 184 mm Depth: 73 mm Weight: 608 g Connection: Bluetooth Measured battery life: 12 h Measured maximum noise level: 90.6 dB Water resistant: Yes (average, IP65 class) Miscellaneous: Can be started via the app, can be paired with multiple speakers

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is a sleek and well-built Bluetooth speaker with several welcome features. For example, it can wirelessly pair with other Bluetooth speakers from the same manufacturer to play the same music in sync. This means you can spread the music over a larger area without having to increase the volume significantly, which guarantees a better climate for conversation on the patio or in your home.

The Boom 3 is a fairly compact speaker. Control buttons are located on the top, one of which can be linked directly to your music library, so you don’t have to launch the app on your phone to start the music. However, there’s no Spotify support.

The sound quality is perfectly reasonable, even if the bass is a little on the soft side. Above all, the sound is well balanced and you can turn up the volume a lot without losing sound quality. As we’ve already said, what you’re missing is, bass with a bit more impact. If that’s what you’re looking for, the Megaboom is a good alternative.

The speaker spreads the sound at 360 degrees, making it non-directional.

Ultimate Ears Boom test pågår

Can be started remotely

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 doesn’t support voice assistants but is a dedicated Bluetooth speaker. And as we mentioned above, the app allows you to connect multiple Ultimate Ears speakers together to expand the sound. You can even start the speaker directly from the app – this is one of the very best features of the Boom 3. The majority of Bluetooth speakers on the market require you to turn them on via a physical button in order to start playing music. But with the Boom 3 you don’t have to leave your couch, as it’s always on standby. Nor does standby mode consume much battery power, so this feature is really great in every way.

The battery will last approximately 12 hours before the speaker needs to be recharged. You recharge it via micro-USB. Unfortunately, this is very fast. We’d have preferred USB-C now that it’s becoming more and more common, but micro-USB is still an acceptable alternative. You can purchase a wireless charger for the device if you want to impress your friends.

The Boom 3 is water resistant and easy to carry.

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is a perfect Bluetooth speaker for your patio or balcony. It also does a great job on the beach or as a kitchen speaker.

Can be started through the appgood sound qualityhigh build quality & durablegood sound distributioncan be connected to more speakers
Direct button doesn’t have Spotify supportrather slow charging

6. JBL Charge 5

Great party speaker for by the pool

Width: 223 mm Height: 96.5 mm Depth: 94 mm Weight: 976 g Connection: Bluetooth 5.1, Measured battery life: 18-19 hours Measured maximum noise level: 90.9 dB Waterproof: Yes (IP67) Miscellaneous: Three units can be connected to the speaker at the same time, and it can be linked to other JBL speakers for more powerful sound.

JBL Charge 5

The JBL Charge 5 is one of the larger models in JBL's range of Bluetooth speakers. It’s a solid piece of kit with a robust chassis and rubberised details for extra durability and stability. With a weight of almost one kilo, however, it’s not exactly a speaker you’re going to take to the beach with you, which means it doesn’t get moved around very much and so the robust exterior is mostly just a nice plus.

The Charge 5 certainly offers plenty of power and pressure in the sound. It sounds very much like its predecessor, but offers significantly more volume. Unfortunately, the sound is also very directional, and you need to place the speaker carefully in your home so the sound reaches where you want it. The balance and pressure are very good, however. The mid-range comes through nicely despite a fairly deep bass.

JBL-Charge-5

Just like with other JBL speakers, you can connect several speakers wirelessly and synchronise them to get the sound spread over a larger area. This is ideal when, for example, you don’t want maximum volume but you do want the sound to reach the other side of the room.

The Charge 5 has another good feature, and that’s the option to use it as a powerbank. The battery life of over 20 hours may be best used for playback, but if you’ve connected the Charge 5 to the only wall socket, you can use the output on it to charge your phone.

In other words, the JBL Charge 5 is an excellent speaker – albeit a relatively stationary one due to its weight. It lives up to its price acoustically and also in terms of the functions you get. The build quality is robust and the IP rating is sufficient.

Good sound quality with real pressurewater resistantcan be used as a powerbank
Heavydirected sound

7. JBL Go 3

Small, robust speaker with good sound for days out

Width: 71.2 mm Height: 86 mm Depth: 31.6 mm Weight: 184 g Connection: Bluetooth, line in (3.5mm) Battery life: 5 hrs Waterproof: Yes (medium, IPX7 rated)

JBL Go 3

The JBL Go 3 is an ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker perfect for day trips to the beach or forest. This speaker has a high IP rating and can withstand a lot of water. At the same time, it is minimalist in design.

We like the fact that the JBL Go 3 is equipped with a robust rubberised surface, together with a sturdy strap to keep it secure in your bag as you walk. The strap loop also has rubber protection for extra durability. Overall, this affordable speaker gives the impression that it’s well built and will last a long time.

The sound quality is also impressive. The sound profile is quite clean, and even if you turn up the volume a fair bit it doesn’t become shrill. You can get good power from it in terms of its size, even if the bass feels a bit hard and short. The sound is also generally quite well balanced.

JBL-Go-3

Well-built but sensitive buttons on the side

In many ways, we love this ultra-portable speaker. But there’s one really big downside that’s hard to overlook. The buttons on the side aren’t very well thought out. You don’t tend to think about it with the speaker in your hand. The buttons feel nice and react quickly once pressed. But as soon as you put the speaker in your bag, lay it on the ground or even just happen to brush against the buttons, they more or less press themselves. For example, playback turned off several times when we carried the speaker in a bag on a walk in the woods. The same problem arose when we weren’t careful when we placed it on the ground. And this quickly becomes an annoyance.

All of that is a shame because almost everything else is positive. The battery life is said to be five hours, but our example actually carried on a good bit this limit when we had the volume at around 50 percent. Maybe in hot or cold weather, that wouldn’t happen, and battery life would more likely agree with what the manufacturer states. But in any case, the claimed battery life isn’t exaggerated.

The JBL Go 3 is great for taking out on adventures as long as you more or less settle down in one place. That means you can hang the speaker in a tree or something and not have to worry about the thing randomly changing track or turning itself off in the bag. It’s also available in several lovely colours and really is ultra compact. In addition to all that, it is very well-built and durable. You quite simply get what you pay for.

Good battery liferobust designlight & compact
Hard profile on the bassthe buttons react to the lightest of touches

8. JBL Flip 5

A neat companion with great sound!

Width: 69 mm Height: 181 mm Depth: 74 mm Weight: 540 g Connection: Bluetooth, USB-C Battery life: 12 hours Waterproof: Yes (very high tolerance, IPX7, doesn’t float) Miscellaneous: Can be connected with more speakers from the Party Boost series for louder sound or to create a stereo effect

JBL Flip 5

The JBL Flip 5 is much like previous generations of the same model, but with much better sound quality. Given the size and price of the speaker, the sound is really good. Above all, it now has highly appreciated bass pressure. Its predecessor was much less convincing in this regard. But it isn't the kind of bass that drowns out everything else; instead it contributes to better balance in the sound.

Unfortunately, despite the 360-degree design, the sound is highly targeted. If you’re standing behind the speaker, the soundstage is clearly worse.

But if you're facing the sound, the detail is high over the entire frequency spectrum. The Flip 5 can cope with relatively high volumes without creating distortion, although the treble can seem rather shrill.

In terms of sound, it doesn't quite achieve the same level as the same company’s Boombox, but the sound quality and volume are definitely sufficient for hanging out on the beach or for listening to music while you cook.

One aspect that’s rather a shame is that you can only connect the Flip 5 to other speakers from JBL’s PartyBoost series. For example, if you already own a Charge (or another model from the Connect+ series), you won't be able to pair them to play music simultaneously from a single source. We would have preferred JBL to expand the Connect+ series so their customers only needed to consider one system.

Best for the beach

The JBL Flip 5 is equipped with USB-C, which charges the battery quickly. The battery lasts for a long time between charges.

The battery life is perhaps on the short side given that many competitors are now approaching the 20-hour mark. But we clock it to just over 11 hours of playing time at high volume, and that’s far from poor given how portable it is. The competitors with a longer battery life are often larger. The big advantage with the Flip 5 is how compact and neat it is, and as long as you can play music for an entire day on the beach without having to worry about the battery life, we think it does pretty well.

Another factor that means the Flip 5 works so well on the beach is that it has a high IP classification. For example, you can spill juice on it and then rinse it off with water, or drop it into the pool, although if you do this you’ll have to dig out your goggles and take a deep breath - because it doesn't float.

The buttons for Bluetooth and power are a bit stiff. But the volume, play and connect buttons are significantly more responsive. The materials feel well chosen and the build quality is sturdy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have NFC. Nor does the speaker have an AUX input. But on the other hand, this isn’t really a deal-breaker any more as most people play music from their phones using Bluetooth. If you do need AUX, this is worth noting.

The JBL Flip 5 delivers a relatively good sound quality given the its price and size. It's ideal for anyone looking for a light and compact Bluetooth speaker that can cope with being splashed with liquids or rinsed off with water.

Very portablegood sound qualityhigh IP classificationhigh build qualitygood volumefast charging
Can only be connected to PartyBoost seriesrather short battery lifedoesn’t float

9. Marshall Kilburn II

Wide frequency range and well-balanced soundstage for indoor use

Dimensions: 243x161x140 mm Weight: 2.5 kg Connections: Bluetooth 5.0 aptX, 3.5 mm input Battery life: 20 hours (measured) Miscellaneous: IPX2 rated

Marshall Kilburn 2

Swedish Zound Industries owns the rights to the Marshall brand for both headphones and Bluetooth speakers. However, the similarities between the classic guitar amplifier brand and the Swedish electronics manufacturer don’t altogether cease there. Just almost. These are speakers that – like the amplifiers – deliver both good and loud sound.

On the design side, the similarities are striking. The Kilburn II looks just like a Marshall top, complete with logo and finish. An attractive addition to any room, and an important detail even from a strictly lifestyle perspective. It also has a strap that can be used as a handle if you want to take your Kilburn 2 to the park or beach. But if you choose to do this, you should be aware that this device weighs 2.5 kilos, so it’s not a particularly convenient Bluetooth speaker. It also has a low IP rating. Perhaps this is a speaker you’d buy for your kitchen or living room.

The battery life of 20 hours is really good. The stated time is also consistent with what we get from it during our tests. Unfortunately, you can’t charge this speaker via USB – you have to rely on a classic power cable, which feels a bit limiting. This also means you can’t use it to charge other gadgets, which is an option that many Bluetooth speakers offer.

It takes about 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery, but pleasingly we reach an operating time of three hours after just 15 minutes of charging time.

Marshall Kilburn 2

How does it perform on the sound front?

So what about the sound? Well... We’d say it’s pretty good. The speaker is equipped with dual D-class amplifiers and the frequency range is 52 Hz to 20 kHz. But of course, a few listens say more than all the specifications in the world. And we’re actually a little surprised. The Kilburn 2 offers really fine definition and clarity, and is pleasantly free of distortion and intrusive frequencies even at high volumes.

What is missing, however, is deep bass, which we’d never have expected. Don’t get us wrong. There are bass resources, but they are surprisingly thin in relation to the size of the speaker, especially when it comes to the very lowest notes.

All in all, it’s a well-designed and good sounding speaker. But given the price class and the size, we’d have liked to have seen a bit more deep bass. Otherwise, it’s highly recommended, provided that the rock’n’roll aesthetic is your cup of tea.

Well designedwell balanced & good soundgood battery lifequick charge
Rather thin baselow IP rating

10. JBL Clip 4

A lightweight and neat portable speaker for trips out

Width: 84 mm Height: 135 mm Depth: 44 mm Weight: 242 g Connection: Bluetooth, USB Measured battery life: 9-10 hours Waterproof: Yes Miscellaneous: Clip function, rubber cover

JBL Clip 4

The JBL Clip 4 is the fourth generation of ultra-portable speakers from the manufacturer JBL. This is a 5-watt speaker with a modern design that feels robust and durable in most aspects. For example, on the back you find a rubber cover to protect the device from scratches. However, one thing we have to mark it down for is the frame itself, which developed scratches even after the first use.

One of the things we most appreciate about the JBL Clip is exactly its clip function. It has a kind of carabiner on the top. This is incredibly convenient as it makes it easy to attach the speaker to your backpack or suitcase.

The JBL clip 4 has distinct buttons and a clear logo.

Unfortunately, the buttons on the Clip 4 are very easy to press – there is not enough resistance to prevent them from being activated, for example, when the device touches your backpack or is placed on the ground. So it’s easy to find that the Clip 4 pauses, skips tracks and so on if you have it in your bag, for example, which over time becomes something of a nuisance. This would have been easy to solve using a lock function.

The design of the Clip 4 is water and dust-tight, allowing you to take it out with you to the beach and play music even in the rain. With a weight of 242 grams, it’s not the lightest for its size, but it’s not particularly heavy either. It’s actually very convenient in terms of size and weight, especially when it comes to sound.

Because this speaker does a pretty good job when it comes to sound. We are surprised and impressed by both sound level and strength. Even in noisier outdoor environments, you can clearly hear the sound and it retains impressive crispiness even at high volume. In terms of bass, it does a good job, even if it naturally can’t achieve the same results as bigger devices.

As you’d expect, the Clip 4 has a clip in the form of a robust carabiner.

JBL says that the Clip 4 has a battery life of 12 hours. Battery life is linked to volume, and also to the temperature. In our case, we had 50-60% volume and were indoors, and got about 9-10 hours. This is far from the stated 12 hours, but acceptable given the price. When it comes to the Clip 4’s range, we could walk about 20-25 metres in an open environment before the connection started to break down, which is impressive.

With its smart clip function and clear sound, this is a speaker that's perfect for those on the move. But it needs to hang freely to avoid the risk of it pressing the buttons by mistake or scratching the device.

Clear & balanced soundclip function
Easily scratchedsensitive buttons

11. JBL Charge 3

A powerful sound and very water resistant, but not without its shortcomings…

Dimensions: 213x87x88.5 mm Weight: 800 grams Connection: Bluetooth, USB Battery capacity: 6 Ah Measured battery life: 20h+ Measured maximum sound level: 90.9 dB Water resistant: Yes (high, IPx7) Miscellaneous: Three units can be connected to the speaker at the same time, and it can be linked to other JBL speakers for more powerful sound.

JBL Charge 3

The JBL Charge 3 distinguishes itself from other speakers with its combination of good sound quality and exceptional water resistance, making it suitable for outdoor use and even in the pool. We were sceptical when we first dropped JBL's Charge 3 into the water, but we quickly saw that the speaker both floats and carries on playing as if nothing had happened. When we angled the speaker up to the surface of the water, we also got an entertaining demonstration of its bass as the speaker bounces water droplets off itself in time with the music. The IPX7 classification means that you could in theory take this speaker into the bath with you. Often these kinds of claims don't always stand up in the consumer electronics world, but JBL deliver what they promise here. In our test, the speaker survived for 30 minutes at a 1m depth.

If this impressive waterproofing wasn’t already enough, the Charge 3 also has an extremely good sound quality. It's primarily the bass level that impressed us, with the speaker having an energy and bite that's pretty rare in this price class. We also feel that the speaker’s mid-range may be the best on the market. The treble is equally good but is unfortunately extremely direction sensitive. Aiming the JBL logo on the front of the speaker towards you makes an enormous difference compared to if you aim it only a few centimetres in another direction. While it doesn't sound bad, you should definitely take a little care when positioning the speaker in order to get an optimal sound. The speaker elements maintain a good sound until you've got the volume turned up high, which is where we noted some distortion in the otherwise pleasant mid-range. At lower volumes, the frequency response is good right from bass to treble. Thanks to its relatively large 6000mAh battery, the speaker works as a portable power bank and can be used to charge smartphones or other units via USB. Unfortunately, there is no support to connect the speaker to other units via NFC.

Waterproofgood bass pressurefantastic mid-rangemany connection options
No support for NFCtreble is direction sensitive

12. JBL Flip 4

A competent and value for money water resistant speaker

Dimensions: 68x175x70 mm Weight: 515 grams Connection: Bluetooth, USB Battery capacity: 3 Ah Measured battery life: 12h + Measured maximum sound level: 86.2 dB Water resistant: Yes (high, IPX7) Miscellaneous: Can be connected to two source units simultaneously, can be linked to several other JBL speakers for more sound

JBL Flip 4

The JBL Flip 4 is without a doubt one of the very best speakers of its size and definitely the best if you're prioritising a waterproof speaker. This speaker can join you in the pool without any problems, as long as you don't use it at depths over 1 metre for more than 30 minutes. However, the speaker doesn't float so you do need to be careful if you’re using it in deep waters. We thought this was a bit of a shame as other JBL speakers have the ability to float. The Flip 4 feels heavy and robust in a way that's reminiscent of its big brother, the Charge 3. In many respects, it can be seen as a watered-down version of that speaker.

This speaker offers a sharp and precise bass, an unparalleled mid-range and a really good treble, while its battery lasts for a long time on a single charge. We tested the speaker on a medium to high volume and can confirm the battery lasted for the promised 12 hours without a problem. The Bluetooth connection is very stable. The connection didn’t drop until we were 17 metres away, which is an impressive range. On the negative side, however, the speaker’s sound quality isn't the best when you use it as a hands-free unit for your mobile. It sounds tinny and distant, which will be a problem for many buyers. Apart from this minor shortfall, this is an excellent buy in terms of price and size.

Good sound for the sizeIPX7 classifiedgood battery capacity
Poor sound for hands-free use doesn't float

13. Bose Soundlink Mini 2

Easy on the eyes and pleasant on the ears, but unfortunately not rain resistant

Dimensions: 180x58x51 mm Weight: 620 grams Connection: BT, line in (3.5 mm) Battery capacity: 3 Ah Measured battery life: 12h+ Measured maximum sound level: 86 dB Water resistant: No (not impact or water resistant) Miscellaneous: No NFC

Bose SoundLink Mini 2

The Bose Soundlink Mini 2 stands out from the speakers we tested due to its long battery life and high sound quality. Just like the four-years-older Soundlink Mini model, this unit quickly became a favourite of ours due to its capability for an amazing amount of bass. In terms of the higher frequencies, the sound is characterised by a soft and extremely detailed treble, but a slightly less obvious mid-range. One impressive aspect of this speaker’s sound is that both its bass pressure and sound definition are consistent and well distributed, regardless of the volume you choose. The Soundlink Mini 2 also worked well in our larger room test in a way that speakers this small rarely do, even though its stereo width is clearly limited by its size.

The Soundlink Mini 2 is a neat looking speaker, with its aluminium outer shell and design that leans towards minimalist Danish interior design rather than home electronics. The speaker has a huge battery life capacity, which despite the fact that we used it intensely for more than 12 hours, it coped without any problems. It also gets plus points for having a voice feature to tell you how much battery life you have left.

However, the Soundlink Mini 2 does lack a number of useful functions and features such as NFC and water resistance, which means it will primarily be of interest to those who want a speaker to use indoors. This is a shame given its higher price and long battery life capability. As a result, the Soundlink Mini 2 may feel a little on the expensive side for someone who wants the flexibility of using it outside. However, anyone looking for a compact and attractive indoor speaker won’t find anything better on the market.

Excellent sound quality with impressive treblehigh class build qualitystylish design
Expensive for the size classno NFC

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14. Bose Soundlink Micro

A well-designed small format speaker that has excellent sound

Weight: 290 g Connection: Bluetooth, micro-USB Battery capacity: 6 Ah Battery life: 6h Waterproof: Yes (high, IPx7 classified) Miscellaneous: Suspension strap

Bose SoundLink Micro

The Bose Soundlink Micro is a compact Bluetooth speaker with a well-thought-out design. The speaker has a strap on the back that allows you to attach it to a belt, chair or bicycle handlebars, amongst other things. This means that you can easily keep the speaker off the ground in order to achieve better distribution of sound. The fastener for the strap is quite loose but has a special kind of hook that means you tighten it as you stretch it. This allows you to attach the speaker to things that are quite thin – but not too thin or else the speaker will fall off.

User-friendly design

The buttons for voice control and volume are located on top of the speaker so that you can easily access them even when it's hanging up. The power and pairing buttons are on the other side so that you won’t mix them up. The four-step battery indicator is also here. If you switch the speaker on and off, the built-in voice system will give you the exact battery level, together with the unit that the speaker is connected to. The material around the speaker is a kind of Silicon which can be a little slippery to hold, but doesn’t attract dirt or dust.

Good sound quality

The Bose Soundlink Micro produces excellent sound. It’s impressive that Bose have managed to get such a well-balanced sound out of such a small speaker. The sound is a little muffled at higher volumes but is significantly better than what we expected from something of this size. The speaker is easily good enough for you to take with you to a day at the beach or the park. It’s also IPX7 classified, meaning you can spill a drink over it or drop it in the sea without problems. Ours also worked fine in the bath and it would be great for boat or for jet ski enthusiasts.

The Soundlink Micro is part of the Bose Connect system. This means that, via the Bose app, you can link together a number of speakers and play music through all of them at the same time. This is probably not something you’ll benefit from enormously unless you have other products with this functionality, but it is a good feature if you do and want to have a more substantial speaker system to use outdoors. If you're looking for a very compact, well-designed speaker with good sound quality, the Soundlink Micro is definitely a good buy if you can find it for less than £100.

Good sound qualityCompact formatwatertight
Slightly slipperyLimited shape for suspension

15. Sony SRS-XB13

Ultra-portable speaker with a good battery life

Width: 76 mm Height: 95 mm Depth: 76 mm Weight: 255 g Connection: Bluetooth Battery life: 16 hrs Waterproof: Yes (medium, IP67 rated)

Sony SRS-XB13

The Sony SRS-XB13 is a wireless Bluetooth speaker with a really convenient design and a full 16 hours of battery life. That battery life may not sound very long by today's standards, but if you take into account the size of this speaker, it’s a pretty good performance.

One thing we were surprised by is that the SRS-XB13 doesn’t turn off automatically when not in use. This is a function most manufacturers have embraced by now, and it feels like a real miss in this ultra-portable segment.

In terms of design, you otherwise get what you’d expect from Sony: good build quality and a design that’s very functional. The navigation buttons are lined up tidily on one side, where you will also find the USB-C. The buttons are textured, but don’t stick out. One advantage of the latter is that you can’t accidentally click on them when you have the speaker in a bag or when you’re picking it up.

The SRS-XB13 also has a strap so you can easily attach it to things. This solution is not quite as robust as the carabiner you find on some of its competitors, but still suffices for most situations. The strap is quite long though, and does easily get caught in things when you’re travelling in busy environments.

In terms of sound, you get a reproduction geared towards the treble. The sound profile is OK, but there’s no real pressure in the speaker. Given the size, all of that is probably OK, but there are competitors which allow you to play music at a lower volume and still experience more pressure in the sound. Here you need to turn up the volume a lot to compensate.

The battery life is the Sony SRS-XB13’s strongest point. It delivers what it promises and outclasses many others in the segment, even when we turn up the volume. As long as you remember to turn it off between uses, you won’t need to continually use your powerbank.

Good battery lifesolid build qualitywell-thought-out construction
No automatic shutdownsound is a bit thin

16. Marshall Tufton

Solid sound for anyone with high decibel ambitions

Dimensions: 229 x 163 x 350 mm Weight: 5 kg Power: 1x40 + 2x15 + 10 watt Battery: 20 hours (measured) Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20 kHz Connections: AUX 3.5 mm + Bluetooth 5.0

Marshall Tufton

The Marshall Tufton simply screams “beach party”. Swedish Zound Industries has once again released a Bluetooth speaker under the legendary Marshall guitar amplifier brand and it’s a pretty big affair, as at the time of writing, it's the biggest of Marshall's portable speakers. As expected, it also has enormous decibel resources. The size also means that there’s plenty of bass pressure.

But – just like a guitar amplifier – this speaker has a rather shrill mid-range. Of course, this is most noticeable when playing mid-range-intense music, such as hard rock or punk. There is a distinct lack of clarity and definition that reduces the overall impression in terms of the sound.

If you mostly play EDM or modern, airy pop, this is a minor problem, however. Overall, the Marshall Tufton sounds very good, even though it has some shortcomings.

Full-body shot of the Marshall Tufton

Quick charging and plenty of battery power

As we mentioned above, the speaker is the biggest portable one in Marshall’s range, and it’s actually borderline whether it’s portable at all. It weighs a full five kilos (11 lb), which is doable if you’re taking a short walk with it, but if you’re walking two kilometres (1,2 miles) or more, it’ll definitely start to feel heavy. You might instead want to see it as a home speaker that’s easy to move around.

As always with Marshall products, all of the materials and components are of high class. The robust knobs for volume, bass and treble are accompanied by a battery indicator on the top. You can also find the Bluetooth pairing button here. There’s also an auxiliary input, so you can plug in phones or tablets, which is always preferable to Bluetooth, even if 3.5 mm connections are starting to disappear from modern mobile devices.

The battery should last for 20 hours, and this is correct when we test the speaker at moderate volume. During our tests, the weather never gave us the opportunity to take it outside, so we haven’t been able to test how it performs in terms of battery when you turn it up properly. However, we’re pleased that it has quick charging and can scrape together three hours of play time in just 20 minutes.

Given the price, it's an OK speaker. If it had been £50 cheaper, we’d probably have pushed it up a notch on the rating scale, but this is undeniably a rather expensive speaker. And in light of that, we’d have liked to see slightly finer definition in that mid-range. Perhaps a USB port too, so you could charge other gadgets.

Well designedgood battery lifeplenty of volume resources
Not the best world’s best mid-range

17. HK Citation Oasis

Not real HK sound quality, but lots of features

**Width:**14 cm Height: 18.8 cm **Depth:**14 cm Weight: 2 kg Connection: DAB antenna, USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, AUX 3.5 mm, Chromecast, Airplay (2) Drivers: 1 x 20 mm tweeter, 1 x 89 mm woofer Miscellaneous: Multi-room function, Google Assistant, built-in Qi charging

Harman Kardon Citation Oasis

The Harman Kardon Citation Oasis both impresses and disappoints. The basic idea is fantastic: Harman Kardon's excellent Citation series combined with a clock radio and Google Assistant. However, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Admittedly, our judgement is based in part on what we’ve come to expect when it says HK Citation on the box, namely gorgeous design, easy operation, and – perhaps above all – crisp and elegant sound. It's hard to find many clock radio-like smart speakers that tick all these boxes in a good way, but we hadn’t expected HK to miss the target somewhat with this device.

It’s not that it sounds bad – it just doesn’t sound great. The sound is markedly tinny, with a smoothed out treble and a definition that isn’t even close to what the Citation One speakers are capable of, for example.

OK, so maybe we’re being a bit fussy. After all, this is a smart clock radio. Not a fully fledged Sonos competitor intended to replace a proper Hi-Fi speaker in the multi-room solution. This is just a complement. But all the same.

There’s a nice tension in the bass, although it’s not very deep. This can be put down to the form factor and of course isn’t a problem in the true sense, because this is just a clock radio replacement. It’ll primarily be played at moderate volume, and function is more important than bass. But we would at least have liked to see a clearer treble and a much less hollow mid-range.

An expensive clock radio

So isn’t it at least attractive, then? Weeell... Same thing here. It's not ugly, exactly, but the Oasis is by no means as stylish as the Citation One speakers. It’s oval and chunky and has a fairly large display on the front. But it’s not very futuristic or "Danish furniture trend" in its visual style (even if it has woollen fabric from the Danish brand Kvadrat on the outside). It feels very much like… well, yeah… a clock radio.

We also experience a lot of problems when we try to connect the speaker via the Google Home app. Exactly why is difficult to say, but only after the fourth attempt does the speaker finally connect to our Wi-Fi, which otherwise works flawlessly. Although we named the speaker “Dining Room” (we’re testing it in the kitchen), it’s still called HK Citation Oasis in the list. Repeating the installation a couple of times, we still have the same problem, no matter where we place it. We try connecting it via the Google Home app both on a Huawei Mate 20 Pro and via an iPad. But still get the same result, no matter where we place the Oasis.

Ah well. It finally works as it should and has all those smart functions that make it really helpful if you view it as a clock radio. It has everything from DAB support to Google Assistant and wireless charging (place your phone on it overnight), with all that means in terms of convenience in this context (“Hey, Google… set the alarm for 06.30”).

But given that it says Harman Kardon on it and costs the best part of £200, we can’t give it more than an average score. For a higher score, it would have needed significantly better definition and treble, and a cooler appearance. A little disappointing, at least by HK standards. But that still goes a long way.

Lots of finesselots of features
Hollow mid-rangethin treblea bit dull looking

18. Bose SoundLink Revolve

Powerful 360-degree sound in a neat format with microphone

Dimensions: 15.2 cm x 8.2 cm x 8.2 cm Weight: 680 g Connection: Bluetooth, NFC, line in (3.5 mm), micro USB Measured battery life: 11 hours Waterproof: Yes (average, IPX4 class) Miscellaneous: Support for Siri and Google Assistant commands, built-in microphone for use as a speaker telephone

Bose SoundLink Revolve

The Bose Soundlink Revolve is a Bluetooth speaker in a neat format with good enfolding sound stage. The tower design means you get good sound from all directions. For example, the format is suitable for the dining table on a smaller patio. The fact that the design is also stylish means the speaker fits in well on the table.

The battery lasts for about half a day, which is roughly two dinner parties’ worth. It’s nothing to boast about, but nor is it too bad given how compact the speaker is. The battery is charged easily via micro USB, but of course you can run it on a mains cable too.

Given the price, we'd have preferred a slightly higher IP classification. You can splash this model with water, but you can't drop it in the bath. It’s also got a rather poor range. We calculated you can go about 6-7 metres from the speaker but then the connection quality starts to suffer. This isn't great given that it promises 9 metres.

Otherwise, the speaker has similar functions to its competitors in the same price class. For example, you can answer calls with it and pair it with units using NFC.

Great sound and a good app

As we’ve already mentioned, the Bose Soundlink Revolve offers very good sound quality, particularly given its compact format. You get well-balanced sound with sufficiently powerful bass and a clear treble. The mid-range emerges nicely too. The sound spreads out well in the room, because the speaker is round.

The associated app is also very easy to use. For example, you can link together two similar speakers to cover a larger area. Unfortunately, however, you have to keep the speakers within a relatively short distance of each other, because otherwise they lose the connection, which is pretty much the whole point of this function. If they'd worked on Wi-Fi, it would have been better

Reliable-feeling build quality

The Soundlink Revolve exudes “quality product”, both in terms of material choices and user experience. This speaker is great for anyone looking for a neat table unit for the patio that gives equally good sound in all directions. You're paying above all for a neat, well-designed format, really good sound and high quality.

Great sound quality360 degree soundwell built, with microphone built in
Poor rangerather low IP class

19. Bose Soundlink Color II

Excellent sound and easy to carry

Dimensions: 127x131x55.5 mm Weight: 540 g Connection: Bluetooth, NFC, line in (3.5 mm), micro USB Measured battery life: 8 h (measured) Measured maximum sound level: 86 dB (measured) Water resistant: Yes (average, IPX4 class)

Bose SoundLink Color 2

Despite its small size, the Bose Soundlink Color II offers impressive dynamics and meticulously balanced timbre. Here you get just the right amount of treble, a well-defined mid-range – and a whole load of bass, at least in relation to the size of the speaker. It may not move mountains, but it's still extremely powerful for its price. And it does it with style too. It has both tone and definition. However, other than the sound, the speaker's a bit nothingy. For example, eight hours of operating time is perfectly acceptable, but not astonishing. And the IPX4 classification means that it's water-resistant rather than waterproof. You shouldn't take the Soundlink Color II in the pool with you. But if it's raining a bit, it should cope without problems.

A plus point for the Soundlink Color II is how mobile it is. It's not exactly flat, but it's certainly thin enough to fit in a jacket pocket. The rubberised material covering the speaker gives a good grip, and keeps away dust and dirt very effectively. The controls are well positioned on the upper part of the speaker, although they could have been a little bit clearer. But once you've learned what's where, it quickly becomes easy to operate. It's easy to pair the speaker with your phone, and the clear instructions from the built-in voice makes the whole procedure simple. So, who is the target audience for this Bluetooth speaker? The Soundlink Color II is a speaker for anyone prioritising portability and sound quality over volume and watertightness. Although to be perfectly honest, you'd better not be all that bothered about stylish design either.

Compact formatvery good soundvoice instructions for pairing
Not watertightoperating time below average

20. Sony SRS-XB10

Simple model with a cool design

Weight: 259 g Connection: Bluetooth, NFC, line in (3.5 mm) Battery life: 16 hours Waterproof: Yes (average, IPX5 class) Miscellaneous: Suspension ring

Sony SRS-XB10

The Sony SRS-XB10 is easy to get started with. When you first start it, Bluetooth mode is initiated automatically and we could immediately find the unit in the phone's device list. You can set it up and start playing music. It also supports NFC as well as Bluetooth.

But the sound quality leaves quite a lot to be desired. The speaker sounds as if it's underneath a rug. The bass pressure is perfectly acceptable for a compact speaker, but that's at the cost of details in both the mid-range and treble. There's also distortion at high volume.

As it's such a compact and cheap speaker, the sound is okay, but no more than that.

The SRS-XB10 also has a microphone, which means you can take calls using the unit and you don't have to pick up your phone. The microphone does a good job of excluding environmental noise. But it's very sensitive, so you pretty much have to speak directly into it from close range for the person on the other end of the line to understand what you're saying.

Attractive design but boring sound quality

The Sony SRS-XB10 has a rubberised surface that offers good grip. But the material also attracts a good deal of dust and dirt. The speaker does feel well designed, however. It's a bit reminiscent of a small soft drinks can with buttons on the side that give nice haptic feedback.

On the top, there’s a ring you can use to hang up the speaker so you get a better spread of sound. And the ring also doubles as a holder for the speaker if you lay it down, preventing it from rolling away. That's clever!

The SRS-XB10 is IPX5 classified, so it should be able to cope with some water, but you can't take it swimming. The speaker’s battery life of 16 hours is exemplary.

Given the price, this is a really portable speaker with rather poor sound quality but a long playback time. It's perfect if you're looking for a simple speaker that you can take into the bathroom or out on a cycle trip in the rain.

Easy to get starteduseful suspension ringattractive design
Unbalanced sounddistortion at high volumesattracts dust

21. Creative Muvo Play

Watertight speaker with dull sound profile

Width: 80 mm Height: 80 mm Depth: 110 mm Weight: 0.36 kg Connection: Bluetooth 5.0, AUX (3.5 mm) Battery life: 10 hours Waterproof: Yes

Creative Muvo Play

The Creative Muvo Play is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker whose primary selling point is its affordability. Of course, you might feel that there's a bit more to a speaker than that, but let’s start with the positive things.

The speaker is really small (about the size of a 33 cl drink can) and it's very attractive with its mesh grille and matte plastic housing. It’s also very easy to pair with your phone, tablet or other device.

But other than volume, there aren’t many setting options when it comes to sound. There's no associated app for handsfree use, or any controls on the actual hardware. You set the sound from the client you’re using to play the music.

However, there are play and pause buttons on the unit. These are responsive and a reasonable size, but aren't very visible, particularly in poor lighting.

Dubious 360° sound

The unit is equipped with two speaker elements which claim to deliver 360° sound. This means that the sound should be sent out in all directions so that you can stand where you want in relation to the speaker and still get good sound. In other words, it should sound about the same from all angles. But unfortunately - it doesn’t. The treble in particular changes enormously with even minor adjustments in the position of the speaker in relation to the listener.

But the fact that the speaker only delivers 5 watts is astonishing, because it can be really loud when you want it to be. Unfortunately, being very loud isn’t the same as producing a good sound – and it definitely doesn’t do this. The lower register rumbles quite a lot and the treble is often overdriven and sharp.

There’s no bass pressure to speak of at all, but on the other hand that was only to be expected given the size of the speaker, so it hasn't affected our score much. But if you're looking for a party starter, this probably isn’t the speaker for you.

Perfect by the pool

The Muvo Play is watertight and you should be able to take it in the pool with you. We tested it in a slightly less-demanding situation – in the bath (in other words, where there’s no chlorine). It’s here that it does live up to its promised watertightness. The sound isn’t affected too much by the water, even though the distribution effect isn’t the same with part of the speaker under the water.

In terms of connection, the speaker offers a relatively classic Bluetooth 5 experience. The signal holds up until we pass either thicker walls or reach about 12-15 metres from the unit.

For charging the speaker, it uses a USB-C connection.

It also works for mobile conversations and with the Siri or Google Play AI assistants. That’s a nice touch.

Overall, our feeling is that you have to be price conscious to consider this particular portable Bluetooth speaker. It does offer a number of features that you don’t normally get in this price class. But it really doesn’t produce good sound - and good sound is pretty much the point of owning a speaker.

Attractivewatertightgood battery life
Poor sound qualityuneven sound distribution

22. Dell AD211

A budget model that is perfect for office desks!

Width: 213 mm Height: 87 mm Depth: 88 mm Connection: Bluetooth, NFC, USB Measured battery life: 10h Waterproof: No

Dell AD211

The Dell AD211 is a relatively straightforward Bluetooth speaker that still features NFC support despite its relatively low price. This makes it easy to connect to your mobile phone if it has an NFC connection. If you don’t have NFC, you can still connect it via Bluetooth. The connection is stable and delivers on Dell’s stated ten-metre range. The construction of the speaker is solid enough, but the material choice is a bit boring and feels slightly cheap. The buttons provide a moderate - almost weak - response which makes it rather difficult to feel whether or not you’ve pushed the button. Once you have succeeded in pressing the buttons, the response is immediate and the LED icons clearly show the function of each button. The grey colour is the same as you find on many laptops, so the speaker will fit in nicely on a desk or for office environments.

The Dell AD211 has an acceptable sound quality, but nothing more than that. Unfortunately, the sound is a bit unbalanced, tending to edge towards a high treble level. The bass is limited, and the mid-range is a little bit mushy. At higher volumes we \ felt that the sound quality was a bit too sharp. We’ve definitely heard speakers with worse sound quality, but this Bluetooth speaker somehow manages to sound cheap, which, of course, it is. Despite this, the battery life of the speaker is pretty good for its price and we got about ten hours out of it. It has a low battery warning which is a rather irritating ‘bloop’ noise. It took us a while before we realised that this was a battery level warning rather than problem with the music.

Today, the majority of speaker manufacturers build a voice feedback function into their speakers and this Dell speaker would have benefited from this. The Dell AD211 is aimed at anyone looking for a cheap Bluetooth speaker that’s easy to carry around, while also fitting in nicely on a desk.

NFC supportneat sizegood battery life
Unbalanced soundirritating battery level warningboring material choice

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23. Philips BT6000A

A compact and ultraportable Bluetooth speaker that unfortunately has a short connection range

Dimensions: 188x71x28 mm Weight: 490 grams Connection: BT 4.0, USB, NFC, line in (3.5 mm) Measured battery life: 7h 20 min Measured maximum sound level: 85.4 dB Water resistant: Yes (average, IPX4 class) Miscellaneous: 360° sound, hands-free function

Philips BT6000

The lightweight Philips BT6000A is an incredibly attractive and well-built Bluetooth speaker with a compact design, making it very easy to carry around. Its build quality feels sufficiently solid and robust, and it has an attractive solution for turning it on and adjusting the volume - in the form of an aluminium knob on one side. This is a welcome break from the regular rubber or plastic button panels that most other speakers have.

Unfortunately, our positive initial impression was somewhat marred by the exceptionally short USB cable that comes with the unit. This was problematic right from the start, forcing us to stand the unit on the floor while charging it, which wasn't ideal.

We had quite a lot of problems with the Bluetooth pairing. Only after a couple of failed attempts at turning the Bluetooth on and off at both the speaker and the source did they finally find each other. However, we didn't have this problem with the second source we tried, so it might have been a particular problem with that first device. In general, the Bluetooth connection of this speaker did leave a lot to be desired as the unit lost connection at a mere 6 metres and 7 metres during our repeated tests in a range of different environments.

The sound from the unit is perfectly adequate, but definitely not the best compared with other speakers we tested in this size class. At low volumes, the bass was far too weak and only started to come into its own at volumes that were so high that the higher frequency ranges were distorted. This somewhat tinny sound also made the upper mid-range and treble levels feel rather thin. However, the speaker’s sound was less direction-sensitive than many of its competitors; the unit has full range speakers in its front and back. As a result of its low weight and compact size, the BT6000A is very easy to take with you and its IPX4 classification means it can cope with rain without problems.

Attractive designmany connection options360° sound
Tinny sound with thin trebleshaky Bluetooth connection

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24. Marshall Stockwell

A solid Bluetooth speaker that provides plenty of volume

Dimensions: 260x140 mm Weight: 1200 grams Connection: Bluetooth, USB, line in (3.5 mm) Battery capacity: 6 Ah Measured battery life: 15h+ Measured maximum sound level: 93.8 dB Water resistant: No Miscellaneous: Can be used as a mobile charger, hands-free function

Marshall Stockwell

The Marshall Stockwell is a substantial piece of kit which has a solid build quality that would work just as well on the patio as it would on the beach. It's not just its classic design that the Marshall Stockwell shares with Marshall’s iconic guitar amps; perhaps not unsurprisingly, its sound also packs a punch. This is a speaker that provides a great deal of volume. With full bass, we measured a volume of an astonishing 93.8dB. However, it doesn't offer particularly spectacular hi-fi quality. While its black and gold plated rectangular casing is no doubt attractive, it has a relatively tinny and muffled sound. The bass doesn't bottom out or distort, but it isn’t particularly obvious or heavy. When you play music that has a slightly more airy and separated sound, it becomes painfully obvious that the frequency response is rather weak in the lower mid-range - and the treble lacks bite.

If you're looking for a speaker that's both loud and doesn't sound awful, this one won’t a bad choice for wall decor. It's a very attractive and well-built speaker that feels nicely heavy, stable and sophisticated and has cool metal controls. It’s a high-quality design that you'd expect on a unit displaying the classic Marshall logo. The speaker’s intelligent support also makes it easy to position to get the best sound quality for the conditions it’s situated in. But if you're primarily after a speaker with really good sound quality, this won’t be the speaker for you.

Build qualitydesigngood build qualityclassic and stylish design
Tinny mid-rangeweak bass pressure

25. Philips TAJS50

Width: 299 mm Height: 100 mm Depth: 98 mm Weight: 1120 g Connection: Bluetooth, USB-C, line in (3.5 mm), USB Battery capacity: 4400 mAh Measured battery life: 12h+ Water resistant: No Miscellaneous: Power bank for phone

Philips Georg Jensen TAJS50

The Philips TAJS50 is designed by renowned Danish design firm Georg Jensen. It’s important to bear this in mind if you’re considering buying this speaker, as you need to value products with famous designer logos.

Space guinea pig

The speaker is about the same dimensions as a milk carton. But with an asymmetrical rounded shape that ends in a small silver block at one end. The rest of the speaker is covered in a grey speaker fabric, with buttons on the top and connections on the back. The shape is very similar to an adult guinea pig, but one with some kind of space helmet on its head. Whether or not you like it is a matter of personal taste.

Charging is via USB-C, just like many mobile phones, and you can also plug in a phone to charge it. However, with the speaker’s rather tiny battery, you’ll see it as a final emergency solution rather than anything else.

philips-TAJS50-closeup

Getting the speaker running and connected doesn’t cause problems with any of our devices. If you’d like some company for your guinea pig speaker, you can buy another one and pair them wirelessly.

Just for the design

Remember that you have to like gadgets with designer logos if you’re thinking of buying this speaker. Because that way you’ll be indulgent with the poor bass and the fact that the whole mid-range sounds like it was generated from a wooden plank. But being able to get better sound for half of the price of this shouldn’t worry you, as with the TAJS50 you have a design product in your home.

We just ‘home’, because other than its built-in battery, the speaker has neither water resistance nor any kind of handle or carrying strap.

The important thing here is that it’s a gadget with a known name. Everything else is secondary.

Easy to operateability to link two speakers together
Poor basswooden mid-rangefor indoor use onlyvery tiny battery

What you need to know about Bluetooth speakers

There are a wide range of Bluetooth speakers available on the market today, but perhaps this isn’t surprising. It has become extremely easy to carry your music collection or stream music via the internet and recent technological developments have meant that it’s easy to find a compact, light speaker system that doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Given that we’re now all running around with about 20 million songs in our skinny jean pockets, it seems like a carefully selected Bluetooth speaker is a mandatory gadget to add to your home technology arsenal!

The major advantage of Bluetooth speakers is that they are portable. The combination of an built-in battery and wireless connectivity – normally using Bluetooth – means that you have the freedom to play music indoors and take your speaker out into the garden. A Bluetooth connection normally allows for distances of around 10 metres between the speaker and the streaming source. This range can vary depending on the version of the Bluetooth protocol they use and due to the speaker’s materials and other components within the product.

Some of the speakers in our test are splash resistant and some are even fully waterproof. This means you can take them outdoors even when it’s raining or when they’re likely to get splashed on, such as by the pool. One easy way to help you tell which speakers are waterproof is to look at the speaker’s IP code number. IP code numbers are constructed so that the first digit indicates the level of protection against foreign objects, such as dust, whereas the second digit indicates protection against water. The higher the figure, the better the protection. For example, an IP56 code indicates the speaker has protection against dust and powerful jets of water, while IP44 indicates that a steel wire of 1 mm cannot penetrate the unit and that it is protected against splashes of water. If the figure is 0, the speaker has no protection from the elements. In our test, we chose to focus on how waterproof the speakers were because portable speakers are often used near water.

Waterproof IP code guide:

  • None = IPX0
  • Low = IPX1-IPX3
  • Medium = IPX4-IPX6
  • High = IPX7<

A low waterproofing score means that you should avoid soaking the unit, but it also means that it won’t hurt it if it gets dripped on. A medium waterproofing score means the unit can cope with more severe soakings for longer periods, including pouring rain or splashes from the pool. If the waterproofing score is high, you should actually be able to take the speaker into the pool with you!

NFC (Near Field Communication) is another exciting feature that many Bluetooth speakers have. This means you can connect two speaker units together simply by touching them together. Both units must support NFC for this to work. Once connected, a Bluetooth connection will be used for the actual transfer of data between the units.

Buying the right Bluetooth speaker

When you buy a Bluetooth speaker, it’s crucial that you choose a model that has a combination of a long battery life, a high sound quality and an attractive design to suit your preferences. Often, you will have to compromise between sound quality, battery life and features if you're looking at speakers in the lower price bracket. Of course, the design of the speaker is an important feature for many people. And this is an area where the speakers vary considerably. There are larger speaker models that are intended to be stood in a single place and look nice, and there are smaller models that are meant to be carried around and used in different locations. Often, you’ll find the same speaker model is available in a range of different colours so you can choose the colour that hits the right notes with you.

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