Update: January 18, 2021: This list of the best Bluetooth speakers was updated to address the JBL Charge 5 announcement and include the Sonos Move.
Whether you are looking to take the party outside or just want something louder than your phone for when you’re cleaning your room, a good Bluetooth speaker might be all you need. The problem is there are so many options that it’s hard to know what’s actually good and what’s trash. Luckily, we’re here to help you figure out which are the best Bluetooth speakers that are worth your dollar.
Best Bluetooth speakers:
1. JBL Charge 4
JBL is one of the top brands when it comes to Bluetooth speakers, and to no surprise, they top this list as well. The JBL Charge 4 is a perfect compromise between a speaker that sounds good but is still tough enough to bring to the beach. Like the Charge 3 before it, it’s still wrapped in an IPX7 waterproof fabric that protects it from any water damage. You can expect just under 14 hours when it comes to battery life but, as the name implies, you can also siphon off some of that juice to your other devices via a USB output on the back. Plus, it charges via USB-C which is nice for anyone looking to future-proof their devices.
While the Charge 4 isn’t the best sounding speaker on this list, it doesn’t sound bad at all especially if you’re a fan of bass thanks to the dual passive radiators on either end of the speaker. One thing that’s worth noting is that there is no speakerphone functionality on this speaker, so if that’s something you need you’re probably better off saving some cash and going with the older Charge 3. Alternatively, you may want to wait and save up for the JBL Charge 5, which is slated to hit store shelves this April.
2. Sonos Move
The Sonos Move is the perfect smart speaker for listeners who want something simple to use, with multiple streaming options. The Move supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth playback. If you want wired audio, you’ll have to look elsewhere — perhaps the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). This speaker is more than just smart, it’s strong too and has an IP68 rating to prove it. This means you can take it to the beach, and even submerge it for up to 3o minutes without issue.
Its battery lasts 6 hours, 24 minutes on a single charge. Though this isn’t great, it should be enough for at-home use and some evening barbecues. Sound quality is very good, and the Sonos Move pumps out loud bass, and fairly accurate midrange notes. As with most portable speakers, clarity falls to the wayside as you increase the volume, but this only becomes apparent once you boost it beyond 70%.
3. UE HyperBoom
There are plenty of waterproof speakers on this list, but the UE HyperBoom is the company’s latest party speaker and is outfitted with an IPX4 water-resistant build. It has a 24-hour playback time, which is huge and fitting of the speaker’s size. One of the coolest features on the HyperBoom is the ability to connect two Bluetooth devices to it at a time; this means you and a friend can both be DJ. It features an adaptive EQ and plenty of bass emphasis to pump out your favorite tunes.
4. Anker Soundcore Flare 2
At only around $69, the Soundcore Flare 2 follows in the mold of great “bang for your buck” products that Anker is known for. It takes some of the best features of the other speakers on this list and puts it in a speaker that costs significantly less. It has an IPX7 build to protect it from water damage and a colorful ring of lights that changes colors while you listen to music.
While the sound quality is fine and the accompanying app does offer some extra EQ settings, don’t expect it to make much of a difference. Similar to other Bluetooth speakers, you can wirelessly connect multiple Flare 2 speakers together for synchronized sound. If you’r ea diehard fan, this number maxes out at 100 synched SoundCore Flare 2 speakers. For the price, you can’t go wrong.
5. JBL Flip 5
The JBL Flip 5 is one of our favorite Bluetooth speakers, because of its versatility. This IPX7-rated speaker can take a splash and a dip into the pool. Its lightweight, compact build is perfect for any adventure, and it can stow away into your backpack’s water bottle holster. Battery life is greatly improved over the JBL Flip 4, and it even charges via USB-C now.
Bass notes are reproduced loudly by the Flip 5, though sub-bass notes leave a lot to be desired. In all fairness, a proper sub-bass response is nearly impossible for a standalone speaker of this size to achieve. If you have a hard $100 budget, stop reading and get the JBL Flip 5.
The Google Nest Audio is a smart speaker with Bluetooth
The Google Nest Audio smart speaker is a great option for listeners who don’t want to pay the full price for a Sonos One speaker, but want something with more intelligence than most Bluetooth speakers afford. The Nest Audio mainly connects over your home Wi-Fi, but you can resort to Bluetooth in a pinch — or if you subscribe to a music service that Chromecast doesn’t support.
Two of the coolest features the Nest Audio supports are Media EQ and Ambient IQ, both of which reduce the amount of time you need to interact with any hardware. Media EQ dynamically changes the sound profile, depending on the type of content you’re consuming (e.g., music or podcasts). Ambient IQ, on the other hand, automatically increases the volume of spoken word content if the microphones register excess background noise. This is great for anyone who listens to podcasts while cleaning the house.
What you should know about wireless speakers
When discussing wireless speakers there’s a lot of talk of IP ratings and Bluetooth codecs, but what does that even mean?
IP ratings denote dust and water-resistance
Let’s start with IP rating. The letters “IP” stand for ingress protection, but you have to dig a little deeper to learn what the numbers mean. We have a full explainer that you can read over here, but what you need to know for this article is that an IPX7 speaker is waterproof up to one meter for 30 minutes, while IPX8 is waterproof in up to three meters for 30 minutes. Similarly, an IP6X speaker means that the speaker is completely dustproof.
Get the best sound quality from high-quality Bluetooth codecs
A Bluetooth codec is how the data gets packaged and transferred between devices. Read our explainer on this that breaks down all the details, but if you only want the cheat sheet, then an easy way to think of a codec is like a language.
If two devices speaker the same language (or codec), then more information can get transferred between them. That means more data and therefore better sound quality. If they don’t have the same codec then Bluetooth devices will default back to SBC, which is the standard and most basic codec. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all codecs play nice, especially if you’re an Android and want to use AAC.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
SoundGuys is the sibling site to Android Authority that mainly focuses on everything audio. If you want to know anything about a pair of headphones or a new Bluetooth speaker, this is a good place to start. The team has a broad understanding of audio and respects that certain aspects are objective and quantifiable without disregarding the importance of subjective enjoyment.
When it comes to consumer audio, the SoundGuys team has made it their mission to cut through the noise, giving clear and concise explanations as to why some products might be better (or worse) than others. Ultimately, the team hopes to educate, so make sure to check them out if you haven’t already.