We have tested 11 Bluetooth speakers and name the Sony SRS XB30 as our favourite Bluetooth speaker of 2020. 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.
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.
A great Bluetooth speaker with light disco functions, a long battery life and really good sound quality
Dimensions: 228x82x86 mm Weight: 980 grams Connection: Bluetooth, NFC, line in (3.5 mm), USB Battery capacity: 6 Ah Measured battery life: 24h+ (without “Extra Bass”) Measured maximum sound level: 91.8 dB Water resistant: Yes (average, IPX5 class) Miscellaneous: Disco lights
With a great sound quality, many different functions and an extremely long battery life, we believe that the Sony SRS XB30 is the best speaker in our test. Looking at the speaker’s appearance, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a "party speaker". The speaker grille has blinking LED disco lights and the words "Extra Bass" splashed across its box would normally indicate that the speaker has more volume than finesse. But in the case of this speaker, appearances are deceptive. This speaker sounds great, with a bass, mid-range and treble that are all extremely well balanced. It can cope valiantly with everything from modern RnB to classical music, regardless of the volume you want to play it at. The sound is characterised by impressive airiness and noise separation. If you do want to add a little more oomph there is the aforementioned "Extra Bass" button, which gives a surprisingly sophisticated boost to the lower ranges. Surprisingly, it does this without affecting the mid-range too much. The extra bass does swallow a little of the lower mid-range and the energy of the sound does diminish a bit, but this is nothing like as bad as similar functions on other speakers. It almost sounds as though two new speakers have popped out of the side of the unit to make the bass a little broader, while the rest of the sound remains largely unchanged. We felt that the speaker was less direction sensitive compared to many other products in our test.
The operating time of the speaker is stated as around 24 hours. With the disco lights and the extra bass activated this is more likely to be around six hours, but without these functions the XB30 does in fact deliver on the promised timeframe. You can also control the disco lights via an app if you prefer.
A slightly odd aspect of this speaker is the patent protected USB charging cable that it comes with. You really don't want to lose this as the speaker can't be charged using a normal USB cable. This is a big negative for the speaker, and one that felt entirely unnecessary. However, one clever detail that makes up for this somewhat is that the speaker can be used to charge other USB gadgets via an outlet on the back. The Sony SRS XB30 is also IPX5 classified, which means that it should tolerate splashes of water and even light rain – something our testers can confirm. The XB30 can also be used as a hands-free unit with your mobile. When we tested these functions both the functionality and sound quality were impressive.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 Bluetooth Waterproof Portable Speaker
Ultimate Ears Black MEGABOOM 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Powerful Sound + Thundering Bass, Bluetooth, Magic Button, Waterproof, Battery 20 hours, Range 45 m) - Night Black
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Creative MUVO Play-Portable Bluetooth 5.0 Outdoor Speaker, IPX7 Certified Water Resistant, Up to 10 Hours Runtime with Siri and Google Assistant (Blue)
Creative Muvo MF8365 PC Speaker Set - Black
Creative Labs Creative MUVO Play 10 W Stereo portable speaker Blue
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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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