We’ve tracked down all the best speakers that should always be in your bag, including top devices from popular brands like Bose and Sonos.
Using your smartphone or tablet’s built-in speakers should only ever be a last resort. Instead, you’re going to want a great pair of headphones — or if you’re more inclined to listen to your tunes out loud (or even with friends), a nice portable speaker. With the weather getting nicer, it’s the perfect time to invest in a stellar device for a superior listening experience — one that’s not bulky and tied into a power supply.
Plenty of portable Bluetooth speakers are high quality, while also offering the flexibility of a great battery life and convenience. These are great for taking out with you while you’re walking, or simply for when you’re travelling away for the weekend and you still want to listen to your tunes in the hotel room.
But what should you look for when buying a portable Bluetooth speaker? We’re here to help.
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 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. Typically, smaller speakers are more portable, but their sound quality isn’t quite as exceptional as a bigger device. Consider whether size or sound quality is most important to you.
Should you care about wattage?
When you’re shopping for a new speaker, you’re going to see the word “wattage” a lot. Do not be alarmed, because it’s actually a pretty simple concept.
Wattage defines the limit of how high your speaker can go without distorting the sound. 50 watts is normally going to be more than enough for the average listener, unless you really enjoy blasting your tunes or you regularly host parties. While smaller portable Bluetooth speakers tend to have the least amount of wattage, there are some exceptions.
How many speakers do you need to buy?
You should always choose quality over quantity, and having two amazing speakers is going to get you better results than having multiple speakers that are just OK. However, 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, one really good speaker should do the trick.
Does a portable speaker need to be waterproof?
Finding a waterproof speaker is not absolutely necessary, but it really can’t hurt. Even if you’re not planning on taking your speaker to the beach this 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 portable Bluetooth speakers?
If you’re not much of an audiophile and just keen on stepping away from using your smartphone’s built-in speaker, don’t get too stressed over whether the bass is strong and the mids are crisp. Go with the form that suits you best, and you’ll be satisfied regardless.
We’ve tried to make the buying process a little easier by handpicking some standout speakers from top brands like Bose and Sonos. There should be something for everyone in this roundup of the best portable speakers, with something for every budget.
These are the best portable Bluetooth speakers in 2021.
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.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2Ultimate Ears delivers a small, portable speaker that’s ideal for dealing with anything nature can throw your way.
It’s the perfect size for travelling — you can easily stick it in your bag without taking up any real space — and it’s rugged enough to endure the normal bumps and bruises that an active lifestyle brings with it. In fact, you can drop it from heights of up to five feet and have it survive. It’s also waterproof and floats if you drop it in water, and features a healthy 13 hours of battery life.
But the mark of a good speaker isn’t just how portable it is. What matters most is the sound — and again, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 performs, though it lacks the deep bass of some larger speakers. All in all though, it has excellent sound for its size.
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 RevolveIf you’re looking for a 360-degree Bluetooth speaker that’s super portable, the SoundLink Revolve is a great choice.
This 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 smart features, supporting Alexa and Google Assistant • Great audio quality • Easy switch from WiFi to Bluetooth
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.
The Sonos Move is also strong enough to take the occasional drop or bump. And while it is portable, it’s not the easiest to travel with over long distances, due to its weight and bulky size. The battery lasts up to 10 hours and comes with a charging base. You can also recharge it with a USB-C charger.
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.
Rugged and weatherproof • Very portable and travel-friendly • Impressive sound for its size
Only plays for six hours on a charge
If you want to take your speaker with you everywhere without worry and enjoy great sound, this could be the speaker for you.
Bose SoundLink MicroThe sound quality is great for the size, and really shines when it comes to portability.
It’s also bordering on indestructible, so it’s perfect for taking out and about with you. It gets right to the point with a top-facing speaker and a micro USB charging port to the side, ensuring that tech novices will still know exactly how to use it.
Its small stature makes it far more travel-friendly than its rivals, proving easy to toss into your bag, and an included strap enables you to easily clip it to yourself or your luggage. The only real downside is it doesn’t have full 360-degree sound, due to the placement of its speaker, and its battery life is a little stingy at six hours.
Stylish • Great sound for its thin size • Uses gestures and voice instead of buttons
If you prefer buttons to gestures/voice, this isn’t for you
This high-tech portable speaker is different in that it uses gesture and voice controls instead of buttons.
Bang and Olufsen Beoplay P2This speaker offers impressive performance in a small shell, and throws in some convenient gesture and voice controls to set it apart from the rest.
The speaker looks far thinner than its rivals, but still provides high quality sound. The bass is powerful, if not quite as imposing as it sounds on larger devices, while the mids are well balanced and the lows are crisp. Some compensation may have been made for the size, but it’s hardly an issue here.
Much of the slimline design is thanks to the lack of controls. An on/off switch is located under the logo of the speaker, but otherwise, playback controls are dictated by gestures or your voice. It takes a brief amount of time to get used to, but it’s quickly very useful.
Waterproof • Floats • Long battery life • Clear sound
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.
Ultimate Ears Boom 3If you’re looking for a wireless speaker for the beach or 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 even floats in water, so it’s easy to retrieve if it does end up taking a swim.