Whether you’re looking for a speaker to take on the go or a smart speaker to add to your home, here are our favorites.
These days, most of us carry around our music playlists on our phones, which is just fine when we’re wearing headphones, but not as good when we want to play music in our backyards, by the pool, or at a hangout with friends. That’s when you’re going to need a good speaker. Specifically, a good Bluetooth speaker.
As per usual, we want to help you find the best one, so let’s get into it.
What type of sound quality do you need?
Will you be using your speakers solely for music? For podcasts (yes, some people do that)? Maybe a bit of both? You should decide that now, because it will surely factor into what kind of speaker you end up getting — whether that’s surround sound, Dolby Atmos, something for the great outdoors or just plain old stereo (which is also great, don’t feel pressured to get something super fancy and expensive if you don’t really need it). Not all speakers produce the same kind of sound quality, so it’s important to know exactly the kind of listening experience you’re looking to get out of it before you make the purchase
How much space do you have?
Speakers can get pretty big, even portable ones, so take stock of how much useable space you want to dedicate to your audio setup both horizontally and vertically. Not everyone has the room for multiple speakers that work in tandem, so don’t overwhelm yourself with something gigantic if it’s constantly going to be getting in your way. There are plenty of speakers that can be easily stored or concealed, and some that are small enough to rest on a tabletop or shelf.
What’s the deal with wattage?
When you’re shopping for a new speaker, you’re going to see the word “wattage” a lot. While that might be meaningless gibberish to you when you see it on a product page, it’s actually a pretty simple concept. Basically, wattage defines the limit of how high your speaker can go without distorting the sound. Unless you enjoy really blasting your tunes or you regularly host parties, 50 watts is normally going to be more than enough for the average listener. But if you really like to crank it up to 11, the more (watts) the merrier. While smaller portable Bluetooth speakers tend to have the least amount of wattage, there are certainly some exceptions (which you’ll see within our picks below).
How many speakers do you need to buy?
We always say that you should choose quality over quantity. Having two amazing speakers is always going to get you better results than having five “meh” speakers. Plus, having too many speakers around is just going to take up an unnecessary amount of space. If you have the room, we think two speakers maximum is the perfect number.
Two speakers are especially ideal if you listen to a lot of music — music is normally recorded for a stereo setting, so having a left and right channel will do you wonders. And if you have a smaller space, even one really good speaker should do you just fine (as long as it sounds great). Many Bluetooth speakers also have easy pairing options with other speakers of the same make, so setting them up should be a breeze.
Should you get a smart speaker?
Smart speakers are great in their own right, but they aren’t always the best way to listen to your audio — most of them are too small to get the best audio experience possible, and aren’t really prioritized for music in the first place (sorry, Alexa). If you really can’t live without having some sort of smart assistant within your speaker setup, we recommend getting something that is Bluetooth-enabled and connecting it to your smartphone. That way, you get the perks of your phone’s built-in smart assistant without having to downgrade the speaker itself.
Does it need to be waterproof?
It doesn’t, but it really can’t hurt. Even if you’re not planning on taking your speaker out by the pool during the summer, it’s not out of the question that it could be a target for spills no matter where you have it in your home. It would be a shame if a rogue glass of water ended up being the demise of your new speaker, so if you have the option to go waterproof, do it (unless you have your heart set on one that doesn’t have the feature).
What are the best Bluetooth speakers?
No matter what you’re looking for in a Bluetooth speaker, we’re positive that at least one of our recommendations will definitely fit your style. Below, our picks for the best Bluetooth speakers in 2021.
Built-in smart features, supporting Alexa and Google Assistant • Great audio quality • Easy switch from WiFi to Bluetooth • Features Auto TruePlay technology • Available in black or white to match decor
Pricey • No smart features in Bluetooth mode • Not small or light weight enough for convenient travel
The Sonos Move has the quality and flexibility to be a great at-home Bluetooth speaker.
Sonos MoveThis easy-to-use, rechargeable speaker streams over Bluetooth as well as WiFi, which is convenient if you want to use it at home.
This speaker is also super easy to use: it’s quick to set up, it’s easy to control through the Sonos app, and you can easily switch from WiFi to Bluetooth streaming when needed. It’s also weather-resistant and able to stand up to humidity, rain, snow, dust, sun rays, and salt.
360 Reality Audio • Seven drivers for a balanced experience • Smart assistant support
Port on the bottom is a bit hard to access
If you want ambient, room-filling sound without having to buy a multi-piece sound setup, the Sony SRS-RA5000 is the way to go.
Sony SRS-RA5000The Sony SRS-RA5000, with its room-filling 360 Reality Audio and balanced set of drivers, is one of the best ambient experiences you can have with a Bluetooth speaker right now.
That enhanced experience comes in a relatively compact speaker, and boasts more than just great sound. You’ll get three total up-firing speakers, three side speakers, and a woofer for rich, well-rounded end product, as well as smart and easy-to-use Bluetooth, WiFi, Chromecast, and Spotify functionality. It’s also compatible with most smart speakers, so voice controls can be used to control the device.
Solid audio output • Water resistant design • Easily portable • Built-in 3.5mm cable for physical connection • Available in fun colors
Low bass output • Speaker only has skip forward button • Shorter battery life compared to other speakers
The Clip 2 is super portable and reasonably priced, but the button functionality is less than ideal.
JBL Clip 2This speaker is the definition of compact, and it’s small enough to clip to your belt.
You can get it in a wide range of fun colors, including red, blue, green, it has an integrated audio cable and a mic for speakerphone calls.
Of course, it’s small so it has limited volume but you can wirelessly connect two or more clip speakers together to amplify your sound if you need it (say for a backyard barbecue).
Available in fun colors • Portable • Easy to charge • Good audio • Water resistant for 30 minutes
No 3.5 mm input • No USB charging
The Flip 5 provides great sound quality in a portable body — it’s a great value for the money.
JBL Flip 5The JBL Flip 5 is a great size for taking on the go and has amazing sound quality, making it a good value for your money.
The sound quality is good and well balanced, with more bass than its predecessor, the Flip 4. It offers decent battery life and it’s small enough to be portable — you can slip it into your bag without losing too much space.
Great sound for its size • Waterproof and dust proof • Rugged, durable and drop-proof up to five feet
Bass not as deep as larger speakers
The UE Wonderboom 2 delivers a small, portable speaker that’s ideal for dealing with anything nature can throw your way.
UE Wonderboom 2Ultimate Ears delivers a small, portable speaker that’s ideal for dealing with anything nature can throw your way.
But the mark of a good speaker isn’t just how portable it is. What matters most is the sound — and again, the UE Wonderboom 2 performs. However, it doesn’t have the deep bass of some larger speakers.
Waterproof • Floats • Long battery life • Clear sound
Charging dock not included • Bass is not great at high volumes
This speaker is loud enough to throw a great outdoor party, waterproof to survive a fall in the pool, and portable for being on the go.
UE Ears Boom 3If you’re looking for a wireless speaker for the pool, this waterproof, floatable speaker is your best bet.
One of the best features, though, is that it’s waterproof enough to survive being dropped and left in a pool for up to 30 minutes. In fact, it floats in water, so it’s easy to retrieve if it does end up taking a swim.
360-degree sound • Siri and Google Assistant compatible • Weatherproof
Charging dock not included • Not fully waterproof or dust proof
A great choice if you’re looking for a speaker that provides a 360-degree listening experience.
Bose Soundlink ResolveIf you’re looking for a 360-degree Bluetooth speaker that’s smaller than Sony’s new line, the SoundLink Revolve is a great choice.
The speaker is easy to use and features a built-in mic that can be used to take phone calls or use your phone’s smart assistant. It also features a good battery life of 12 hours, though the charging dock must be purchased separately.
Built-in Alexa • Privacy protection
Not waterproof • Connected by wire
The Echo gives you a solid speaker and virtual assistant all in one.
Echo Dot (4th-gen)If you want a smart assistant that also can generate solid sound, the new Echo Dot is a good choice.
While the sound may not be as powerful as others, its multi-room feature will be sure to fill your entire home. With it, you can play synchronized music across Echo devices in different rooms or even synch your Echo to your Fire TV device to bring movies to life with home-theater audio. You can also use it as a speaker when you have multiple Echos connected and make announcements to whatever room you choose.