Amazon’s Echo series provides next-generation voice control with an ever-expanding set of “skills.” By now, you know the drill; tell Alexa to order a pizza, and she’ll order a pizza. Tell her to adjust your smart thermostat, and you’ll hear your HVAC system kick on in a few seconds.
The voice control features are nice, but we’re reviewing speakers here, not artificial intelligence. Fortunately, the second-generation Echo Plus improves dramatically on its predecessor. It delivers rich lows and crystal-clear highs, and it can be paired with the Echo Sub for extra bass. It also plays nicely with other Echo devices, so you could easily build a wireless speaker system that extends through every room of your house.
The Echo Plus is portable enough to take on trips, though it requires a Wi-Fi connection for its more advanced features. It doesn’t have a built-in battery, but given its extraordinary sound quality and extra features, it’s easily one of the best options available.
- 360-degree sound with great bass response
- 0.8-inch tweeter and 3-inch woofer
- Users can voice control music on Spotify, Apple Music, and other services
- When not traveling, voice control capabilities for your smart home
- Can use like intercom to communicate to family or friends in other rooms
- Three color options
- Brand: Amazon
- Model: Echo Plus (2nd Generation)
- Weight/Dimensions: 1.71 pounds, 5.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches
- Interacts seamlessly with other Echo speakers
- Multiple privacy features including a “microphone off" button
- Voice controls are easy to use and accurate
- Some buyers might not need the voice control features
- No battery-powered options available
- Smart speakers are more expensive than comparable conventional speakers
Bose has a strong track record in the high-fidelity sound market, and the SoundLink Revolve lives up to the brand’s lofty standards. The slim cylindrical speaker offers 360-coverage and can link with another SoundLink speaker for stereo playback. It provides deep, immersive bass without an add-on subwoofer, and its rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to 12 hours of playback on a single charge.
Simple voice cues allow users to connect to the SoundLink Revolve from up to 30 feet away via Bluetooth, and there’s an aux-in port for non-wireless devices. It’s also water resistant, so it’s an excellent option for outdoor use, and it connects with your phone’s Google or Siri to function as a smart speaker. The only real drawback is the hefty price tag, but great sound is worth the expense.
- 360 degree, immersive sound
- Aluminum body durable and water resistant
- Lithium-ion battery provides up to 12 hours of playback
- Take calls or access Google or Siri via voice commands
- Pairs with other SoundLink speakers
- Connects with up to eight Bluetooth devices
- Two colors available
- Optional charging cradle
- Brand: Bose Corporation
- Model: 739523-1110
- Weight/Dimensions: 1.46 pounds, 3.3 x 3.3 x 6 inches
- Legendary Bose sound with deep lows and crisp highs
- 360-degree coverage fills any room
- Bluetooth mode allows users to take calls and talk to Google or Siri
- Relatively expensive for a portable Bluetooth speaker
- Built-in battery is not user replaceable
- Charging cradle is extra (but is not needed for charging)
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly Bluetooth speaker, the OontZ Angle 3 is a formidable choice. It features dual stereo drivers and a passive bass “radiator,” which works similarly to a traditional subwoofer on a much, much smaller scale. The sound quality is decent, but isn’t particularly impressive. While you might not want to use this speaker for everyday playback, it’s certainly a competent option for a trip to the beach.
The Angle 3 is water resistant and provides up to 14 hours of playback on a single charge. You can also play music through the speaker while it’s charging—a handy feature that isn’t common on budget speakers.
- Triangular design by Cambridge Sound Works
- Dual stereo drivers, bass radiator
- 10+ watt power AMP
- Water-resistant chassis with IPX5 certification
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to 14 hours of playback at 2/3 volume
- Connects via Bluetooth up to 100 feet away from your device
- Aux In jack connect to non-Bluetooth devices
- Built-in microphone allows for hands-free phone calls
- Seven color options, including Coca-Cola design
- Brand: Cambridge SoundWorks
- Model: Oontz Angle 3m Black Grille
- Weight/Dimensions: 0.625 pounds, 5.3 x 2.8 x 2.6 inches
- Can play music while charging
- Great sound for the price
- Water-resistant chassis makes it ideal for outdoor use
- Sound quality is decent, but with mediocre bass response
- Cannot be paired with other Bluetooth speakers for stereo playback
- Lithium-ion battery is not user replaceable
While the JBL Clip 3 isn’t the best speaker on this list, it’s certainly the most portable. An included carabiner clip attaches easily to backpacks or luggage, and its solid chassis is waterproof with an IPX7-certified rating. That makes it an ideal option for camping and backpacking.
This is a budget speaker, and it sounds like a budget speaker—the bass is fairly thin, and the sound distorts at higher volumes. Still, it’s not designed as an alternative to a home stereo, and its portability makes up for its acoustic shortcomings. It even has a built-in speakerphone for hands-free calling.
- Rugged metal housing with durable fabric coating
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery for up to 10 hours of playback
- Fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating
- Carabiner clips
- Built-in speakerphone
- 14 color options
- Brand: JBL
- Model: JBLCLIP3BLK
- Weight/Dimensions: 0.48 pounds, 2.4 x 5.7 x 7.8 inches
- Lightweight, portable speaker with integrated carabiner clip
- Surprisingly loud with decent high-end response
- Built-in speakerphone has noise- and echo-cancelling technology
- Mediocre sound quality with weak bass
- Bluetooth pairing can be difficult with some devices
- Includes charger cord, but no wall adapter
If you’re looking for bold Bose sound in a small package, the Soundlink II makes a decent choice. This is a small, highly portable speaker with a textured silicone surface that won’t slip out of your hands, even when they’re wet.
Speaking of water, this speaker is rated for IPX4 water resistance. That means it can handle the odd spill or splash, but you wouldn’t want to take it snorkeling.
The Bose Soundlink II is packed with the standard features you’d expect from a higher-end Bluetooth device, including access to voice assistants, party mode linking with other Bose speakers, and voice prompts that tell you which device is currently linked. It’s also available in four bold colors to match your decor, if that’s a concern.
- Bose-quality sound in a compact frame
- Lithium battery for up to 8 hours of play time
- Silicone exterior for grip and, yes, fashion
- Built-in microphone for hands-free calling and voice prompts
- Pairs with other SoundLink speakers for stereo or party modes
- Four color options
- Brand: Bose
- Model: SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II
- Weight/Dimensions: 1.2 pounds, 2.2 x 5 x 5.2 inches
- Great sound for the size
- Speakerphone mode makes hands-free calls simple
- Voice prompts eliminate confusion when pairing with devices
- Only 8 hours of playback per charge
- Ships with only a USB cable, no wall plug
- Limited waterproofing
At first glance, the JBL Flip 4 looks like any other cylindrical portable Bluetooth speaker. But a glance under the hood reveals features that put it a cut above many on the market. It’s waterproof, for instance. The speaker’s IPX7 rating means you can sink it in 3 feet of water for a full half-hour without harming the electronics.
Like other JBL speakers, the Flip 4 kicks out the low end with dual bass radiators. It also connects to two devices at once, allowing you and a friend to take turns picking the playlist. And speaking of cooperation, this speaker’s JBL Connect+ feature allows you to link it with up to 100 other JBL speakers at a time. More speakers equals more sound, making the Flip 4 a surprisingly effective party system under the right circumstances.
- 3000 mAh lithium-ion battery lasts up to 12 hours per charge
- Noise- and echo-canceling speakerphone setting
- Bright, punchy stereo sound with powerful bass response
- Ipx7 waterproof can be submerged in water
- Can link with more than 100 JBL connect+ enabled speakers
- Nine colors available
- Brand: JBL
- Model: Flip 4
- Weight/Dimensions: 1.14 pounds, 2.76 x 6.89 x 2.68 inches
- Lightweight and highly portable
- Voice integration connects to Google Assistant or Siri
- Dual bass radiators pack a lot of low-end into a small package
- Lacks the USB-C quick-charging feature of later generations
- Cylindrical design won’t win any style awards
- No functionality to skip backwards or forwards on device
Not all Bluetooth speakers are designed to work in a rainstorm. The DemerBox, on the other hand, will keep the party going in the middle of a hurricane. The speakers and electronics are housed within a waterproof, military-grade Pelican case. This is one speaker you can take on your next canoe trip without worrying.
This speaker even doubles as a dry box to protect your wallet and phone while you float. Oh, and if the DemerBox does go overboard, it floats, too. This speaker is the camper’s best friend—but expect to pay a premium for all that durability.
- Two 3-inch, 8 ohm speakers provide crystal-clear high-end
- Removable waterproofing plug for better bass response in dry situations
- Powerful case with stainless steel hardware
- Waterproof case keeps valuables secure and dry, internal USB charges phones and other devices
- 40 hours of playback between charges
- Globally tested for durability on every continent
- Fully serviceable speaker designed to last for life
- Brand: DemerBox
- Weight/Dimensions: 5.4 pounds, 10 x 7 x 10.5 inches
- Waterproof, crush-proof, and extremely durable
- Long-lasting battery provides 40+ hours of playback
- Internal dry storage compartment with charging
- Relatively high price point
- Not loud enough for all situations
- Dry storage compartment adds bulk
Bluetooth speakers aren’t just for taking your tunes on the go. Before you buy, think about what you’re looking for: Do you want to relax at the beach, easily communicate with family in various rooms, or have a speaker that will outlast the elements?
Here are a few of the features to consider before buying your next wireless speaker system:
Battery Performance and Playback Time
If you’re planning on connecting via WiFi and using your speaker in the home or hotel, you don’t have to worry about battery size; you can just plug in the device and start listening. However, if you’re planning taking your speaker with you on your adventures, limited playback time can be a real buzzkill.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries come in various sizes and capacities. Most manufacturers advertise in terms of playback time, so ask yourself if six hours will do the trick, or if you need a charge that will last for a week-long hiking trip.
Many newer Bluetooth speakers incorporate a microphone so you can make hands-free calls with crystal-clear reception. If you’re expecting to be making or receiving frequent calls, look for speakers that explicitly mention a speakerphone function.
Speakerphones don’t necessarily make a phone compatible with voice assistants, so if you’re looking for a smart speaker, make sure that the product offers that functionality.
Many Bluetooth speakers are either water resistant or fully waterproof, and while this isn’t an important feature in a home speaker (unless you’re looking for in-shower use), it’s an important consideration if you’re looking to take your music outdoors.
Manufacturers use IPX scores ranging from IPX1 to IPX9K to declare their devices’ water resistance. The IP stands for Ingress Protection, a standard published by the International Electrotechnical Commission, and a higher score indicates better resistance.
An IPX3-rated device can withstand spraying water, while an IPX6 device can withstand powerful water jets. Devices with ratings lower than IPX7 aren’t fully submersible in water. If you’re planning on getting your speaker wet, pay close attention to these ratings when making your purchase.
Volume and Sound Quality
Not to state the obvious, but a true audiophile will have to pay a little extra to get the sound quality they expect. Dozens of factors can affect a speaker’s sound, from the arrangement of the speaker array to the size of the driver.
For the loudest volume with the best-quality sound, look for high wattage, stereo speakers with a subwoofer, and a larger form-factor. Sound is vibration, after all, and a bigger package puts out more vibration.
By considering how you’ll use the speaker in the real world, you can find a high-quality option that meets your needs while keeping your budget in check. The good news: Whether you’re looking to improve your home audio setup or hit the trails with a road-ready mini-speaker, you’ve got plenty of great options to choose from.