Finding an audiophile who doesn’t like Bluetooth headphones is easy to find, just ask Sound Guy’s own Chris Thomas. Wireless headphones have more or less the same use case as wired ones, and not everyone is willing to dish out the money for the convenience of Bluetooth. Especially when for the most part using wired headphones has the benefit of better sound quality. But that logic falls apart when you start talking about some of the best Bluetooth speakers. Having a wireless Bluetooth speaker is awesome.
There are plenty of places where if you want to listen to music, a wired speaker just isn’t practical. So what are some of the best picks out there today? The Sound Guys team once again joins us to help answer that question.
Editor’s note: want to dive even deeper? Head over to Sound Guys where they go into even greater detail dissecting the reasons behind their picks for the best Bluetooth speakers of 2017.
Best all-around pick: JBL Charge 3
Whether you’re having a pool party or going camping, the best all-around speaker you want by your side should be the JBL Charge 3. The Charge 3 is the perfect blend of performance, price, and features, especially if you need big sound capable of filling up a large space.
Why we recommend the JBL Charge 3:
- IPX7 waterproofing means you can take the Charge 3 just about anywhere
- dual passive radiators on either end help pump out a little more low end for your bass-lovers out there
- Charge 3 hits the sweet spot right in the middle of the JBL family, balancing price, performance, and size
- Sound quality is very good, though the mids are a weakness
- The Charge 3 may not satisfy everyone’s needs, but it really shines in large rooms and open spaces.
Best sound: Marshall Stanmore
If you’re looking to have a party or just want to fill your house with the sound of music, this is one of the best Bluetooth speakers out there.
Why we recommend the Marshall Stanmore:
- Wireless speakers are great for portability, but if you really want to power a party, a plug-in solution is a better choice.
- The Marshall Stanmore has the best sound you’re going to find, along with Bluetooth v 4.2, Wi-Fi support, Chromecast support, and more.
- What you’re sacrificing in terms of portability you’re making up for when it comes to sound.
- Well-balanced sound with a slight emphasis on mids
- Marshall’s amp style design language is a favorite among many audiophiles.
What are some alternatives?
While the JBL Charge 3 is our recommended pick for most users, and the Marshall Stanmore for those looking for the biggest, best sound — not everyone has the same needs. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few other Bluetooth speakers worthy of your consideration.
Best design: BeoPlay A1
If you’re looking for a speaker that’s as much an art piece as it is a speaker, you'll love this one. The Beoplay A1 has great looks, sound, and is a quality speaker through and through.
Reasons to consider the BeoPlay A1:
- You can lay it flat and let the speaker pump out 360-degree sound.
- As previously mentioned, this sold aluminum speaker is absolutely stunning looking.
- Great sound quality, though you won’t get too much bass.
Best waterproof option: UE Wonderboom
You wouldn’t walk into the surf with your cellphone, but with the UE Wonderboom you can bring your music with you.
Reasons to consider the UE Wonderboom:
- IPX7 waterproofing means you can submerge in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes
- Sound quality is good for a waterproof speaker, though clearly defined highs or a controlled low end are missing.
- Attractive design that will look great at the beach or poolside.
Best bang for your buck: CB3 Armor XL
For an inexpensive durable speaker, take a look at the CB3 Armor XL. This is a waterproof speaker that’s as rugged as it look.
Reasons to consider the CB3 Armor XL:
- Bass and kick drums come in loud and clear thanks to dual 50mm drivers.
- Excellent sound quality, especially factoring in the sub-$50 price tag.
- Waterproofing means you can take it nearly anywhere, though it shouldn’t be fully submerged — more for splashes and rain.
- Durable design can handle just about everything you throw at it.
How the Sound Guys team chooses
There are thousands and thousands of Bluetooth speakers in the world and it’d be impossible for us to review them all, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to get our grubby hands on all of them. If a speaker made it onto this list, then you can be sure we’ve had first-hand experience with them and in many cases put them through our entire review process. Whittling down an entire product category to only a handful of recommended items takes a lot more work than you might expect. For one, not everyone is after the same kind of product. Just like how sound is different to every person, some products might check all of the boxes for some people and not for others.
Which brings us to the second aspect of one of our best lists: categories.
Depending on what the list is covering, the categories within it might change as well. Some remain constant through all lists such as “Best All-Around” or “Bang for your Buck”, but others might change. For example, a list discussing the best headphones might have a pick for “Best Active Noise Cancelling”, but that isn’t an important factor when it comes to something like a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. So each list has a few different categories that are relevant to the kind of products that are being discussed. We hope this will cast as wide a net as possible so that whatever your use case is, you’ll find the product that’s right for you.
The last thing we consider when choosing is what other people are saying about it. We review a ton of stuff here at Sound Guys but let’s be real: we can’t review all of them. So how do we remedy this? Research, research, research. In addition to the vast personal network of reviewers we’ve built in our time around the block, we’ve dug through forums, read reviews, scrolled through comment sections, and done everything we possibly can to gather as much information about a product we haven’t reviewed before putting it on a list. Even if we’ve reviewed a product, we’ll give our picks a gut-check by seeing what the community, or former colleagues we trust have to say.
Why should you trust SoundGuys?
Both Adam and Chris have several years of reviewing consumer audio products under their belts individually. Having kept a finger on the pulse of Bluetooth speakers for several years allows us to be able to figure out what’s good, and what’s best avoided. Considering Chris’ burning hatred for all things Bluetooth, if he approves of something—it’s damned special. In a similar vein, Adam has reviewed tons of these speakers over the course of almost three years, so he’s heard the best (and worst) of what the category has to offer. Then you’ve got Lily who has put in countless hours working at a radio station in a professional studio environment, and even reviewed audio products on her own time before coming to SoundGuys. Needless to say, she’s passionate about audio gear.
We should also state that the SoundGuys team regularly updates these lists as items become available. However, they only add them if there’s a really solid reason for doing so. Usually, they have to use it first—unless there’s some mind-meltingly awesome feature or price-change that would deem a test or re-test unnecessary. As you can imagine, that doesn’t happen… almost ever. This also means that your favorite Bluetooth speaker may not make this list. Additionally, speakers that are out of production or not widely available are prohibited from consideration as well.