There are currently around one gazillion Bluetooth speakers on the market (we counted), and while all that competition has stoked innovation, it’s made picking the right Bluetooth speaker harder than ever. You simply can’t listen to all of the top choices to see which speakers are worth your dollars. But we can.
Our list outlines the very best speakers we’ve tested thus far, from a wide range of price points, each with its own unique features suitable for myriad purposes. No matter how, or where, you like to listen, there’s something here that is just right for you.
Why should you buy this: Gorgeous design, loaded with features, and best performance in its class.
Who’s it for: Those who don’t mind spending a little extra for the finer things in life.
How much will it cost: $250
Why we picked the Riva Turbo X:
It’s rare that a company that comes out of nowhere and blows our minds by upending everything that has come before it, but that’s basically what happened when we heard the Riva Turbo X. While its performance can be closely matched with another fantastic choice on our list, the Bowers & Wilkins T7, as we wrote in our review, the Turbo X just does it for us.
It’s got the burst of power you want from a brick-sized speaker, punching well above its weight to put out impressive volume and a lot more bass than you’d expect. But, like any great audio device, it isn’t only the power this speaker can muster, it’s also the delicate touch it takes with more subtle tracks and instrumentation that really gets your motor running. Whether you’re streaming acoustic mandolin, the flash of electric guitar tones, or the light lip movements in an intimate vocal line, the Turbo X is a master.
But hey, it’s not just about performance — with a front of features, including DSP sound effects, USB charging for your smartphone, and even motion activated controls, the Riva Turbo X checks boxes in virtually every category within the Bluetooth manual. Most importantly, a good portable speaker needs to handle itself well on the road, and the Riva is also at the head of the class with 26 hours max battery life. If you’re looking for a gorgeous speaker both inside and out, with features galore, the Riva Turbo X is the choice for you.
The best luxury portable speaker
Why should you buy this: Beautifully detailed sound, long battery life, and a tough shell of rubberized armor.
Who’s it for: Those who want to take that fantastic B&W sound to the ends of the earth and back.
How much will it cost: $280-350
Why we picked the Bowers & Wilkins T7:
A close second in almost every way to the Riva Turbo X, B&W’s first try at a Bluetooth speaker is one of the best ever created, and for those serious about sound, it makes a pretty strong argument over just about anything else on the market. Performance is first and foremost for the T7, and make no mistake, it sounds fantastic. There’s a warm touch to the midrange, rendering it richly and flooded with detail. That’s balanced with sweet and clear treble above, and enough bass to trick your friends into thinking you’ve mounted outdoor audio fixtures. Seriously.
What the T7 lacks in comparison to the Riva is a powerhouse of features — it won’t charge your phone, there’s no DSP, and no motion-activated features, so waving your hand at this speaker will only weird out your friends. However, the T7’s honeycomb construction, a B&W patented design, helps create a chassis that’s virtually impossible to distort, even at top volume, while the rubber coated border around the outside is both stylish and rugged, protecting the speaker from any unfortunate outdoor incidents.
Tack on an 18-hour battery runtime and the secure feeling of a Bowers & Wilkins logo on the T7’s sexy front side, and it adds up to one of the finest Bluetooth speakers money can buy.
The best mini Bluetooth speaker
Why should you buy this: Fun, rugged, feature packed, and ready to … well, roll.
Who’s it for: Those looking for a speaker that’s easy to afford, and even easier to haul.
How much will it cost: $100
Why we picked the Ultimate Ears Roll 2:
Durability and dunkability are the first words that come to mind when discussing UE’s Roll 2, the subtly updated follow-up to the company’s disc-shaped wonder. That’s right, this tough-as-nails speaker can double as a frisbee, or a water toy, able to be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without missing a beat — literally.
But you don’t just want a speaker that can survive a fall into the deep end, you want one that sounds good doing it, and the Roll 2 has you covered there as well. No, this isn’t a bass bumper, and it won’t sound nearly as full as some of the more accomplished (and pricier) speakers on our list. What it does offer is respectable sound, especially in the midrange and treble, on a serious budget to boot. The only real question about the speaker is its 9 hour battery runtime, which takes as much as 5.5 hours to charge, so you’ll want to make sure it’s juiced up before you head out.
Ultimate Ears has also rolled in (sorry, we can’t seem to resist) some other cool features here via the UE app, including the ability to link up a pair of Roll 2s for stereo sound, add basic equalization, use the speaker as an alarm, adjust volume, or power the speaker on or off — a cool feature we’ve not seen in a Bluetooth speaker outside the Roll line. The Roll’s second coming also improves the sound slightly, and offers longer wireless range of 100 feet so you can step away without stopping the sound. At just $100 for the whole deal, need we say more?
The best luxury rugged speaker
Why should you buy this: You’re looking for all the rugged adventures of the Roll 2, but you’re willing to pay up for better sound quality.
Who’s it for: Audio aficionados who spend as much time at the beach as the listening room.
How much will it cost: $230-250
Why we picked the Ultimate Ears Megaboom:
There’s a reason this speaker has the word “Mega” in its name. Part of the “boom” line of Ultimate Ear speakers, this speaker is the granddaddy of the family, and has more than enough of said boom to earn its moniker. While the speaker is loaded with bass, however, it’s the warm and detailed midrange that make this one of our favorites of its time. It just sounds great, and not just from the front side either.
The Megaboom’s pillar shape is designed for “360 degree” sound, and while it technically doesn’t pump out sound from the top or bottom, it does an impressive job of keeping a full soundstage, putting you front and center no matter where you stand. While this may not be what you want from a hi-fi tower speaker, we’d argue it’s exactly what you want from a portable.
In fact, for durability and performance, the Megaboom might just be the most versatile speaker on our list. Its dunkable, it’s rollable, and it’s about as solid as a log — you can quite literally use this speaker as a weapon in a pinch. Tack on a slew of features via the Ultimate Ears app, and you’ve got a backyard or beach bomber that stands tall with the best of the best.
The best affordable rugged speaker
Why should you buy this: Power, clarity, and durability at a nice price.
Who’s it for: Those who want high sound quality and serious durability on a budget.
How much will it cost: $130-150
Why we picked the JBL Charge 3:
If the Megaboom is too rich for your blood, but you need more oomph than the Roll 2 can provide, this is the speaker for you. Look, there’s a reason we’ve picked so many durable speakers for this list; taking your sound everywhere is kind of the main point of Bluetooth. But the JBL Charge 3 isn’t just a stand-in. It’s got enough mettle to put it in the conversation with any speaker on our list, and at an excellent price to boot.
As the name implies, the Charge will juice up your smartphone while it plays. It’s also made of extremely hard plastic for durability and, like the Ultimate Ears speakers, it’s water proof, meaning you should be just fine by the surf. Battery life is also impressive, lasting as long as 20 hours per charge (no pun intended this time).
As for performance, it’s a little shouty at the top, and it doesn’t offer the detail of pricier choices on our list. However, it does offer warm and punchy bass, courtesy of the passive radiators on each end, alongside plenty of power and clarity to get you rocking. It also gets extremely loud (great for outdoors) while keeping distortion to a minimum. All of that for under $200 makes the Charge 3 a very solid choice. If you can still find them, you can also look at the previous JBL Charge 2+ or Charge 2 for even better value.
The best stylish Bluetooth speaker
Why should you buy this: Style, performance, and a classic rock and roll vibe.
Who’s it for: Those who put style and fun on par with sound performance.
How much will it cost: $215-300
Why we picked the Marshall Headphones Kilburn Bluetooth speaker:
When it comes to sheer style and design, Marshall Headphones is one of the best in the business. Leveraging the legacy of Marshall’s guitar and bass cabinets, Marshall Headphones’ line of Bluetooth speakers come with a nostalgic aesthetic that oozes rock and roll from top to bottom. Like other speakers in the line, the Kilburn includes flashy tactile controls like an analog power switch (with a satisfying click), and even a securely riveted guitar strap to carry it around.
The Kilburn is the first in its line to offer portability, packing a battery that offers an impressive 20 hours per charge. While this speaker isn’t water resistant like so many on our list, it’s also not really designed to ride along on your surfboard (or even in your backpack). With a bit of extra bulk, this sweet little cabinet is best suited for your backyard barbecues, your living room, or maybe a kickball game at the park. And just because it isn’t waterproof doesn’t mean it’s not durable. With solid construction inside and out, this speaker is as tough as it is sexy.
Along with great style, the Kilburn also offers great sound. It’s loud enough to fill up a room with the volume at half power, and offers plenty of punch in the lower register without sounding too heavy. The speaker is a little bright in the treble, but that’s evened out by a sweet midrange with fluid detail for a wide variety of genres. Little extras like the brass back plate and the guitar cord-style input cable make this speaker as fun for your hands as it is for your ears.
The best feature-packed speaker
Why should you buy this: Bombastic sound, add-on hardware, and tons of features.
Who’s it for: Those who want a versatile speaker that will rattle your windows, and even work with your TV.
How much will it cost: $350-450
Why we picked the Creative iRoar:
While this speaker wins its slot for features galore, it could just as easily be here for power. Pure, unadulterated power. The iRoar is, in fact, one of the loudest speakers of its size you can buy, shaking the windows even more than its predecessors, and doing so with virtually zero distortion, even in the ample bass register.
However, as mentioned, the speaker’s mountain of features are what really set the iRoar apart. First of all, the sound can be adjusted via free apps like the iRoar Dashboard, which can change various settings and audio profiles on the fly. Presets include options like BlasterX and Audiophile Bliss, each with its own distinct sound modeling, alongside a custom EQ. Like Ultimate Ears speakers, the app can also be used to activate an alarm clock, and two iRoars can be stereo paired. Then there’s the Roar button, designed to adjust volume as you stream for better clarity.
But wait, there’s more! A selection of inputs on the rear panel enable a variety of setup options, including a digital Optical input for TV or PC connection. There’s also a 3.5mm analog input, as well as a micro-USB port that allows the iRoar to work seamlessly as a wired computer speaker. Finally, hardware add-ons include the iRoar Rock subwoofer dock for massive bass, and even the iRoar Mic, a wireless microphone that turns the speaker into a PA system, complete with adjustable features like voice morphing. That makes this speaker perhaps the most versatile on our list (and beyond).
The best Bluetooth Soundbar
Why should you buy this: Massive soundstage from a tiny package, all at a great price.
Who’s it for: Those looking for Bluetooth streaming at home in a compact design, and a whole lot more.
How much will it cost: $300
Why we picked the Polk Magnifi Mini soundbar:
One of the most pleasant surprises from this year’s CEDIA show in Dallas, Polk’s new Magnifi Mini sound bar may as well be called “magic-fi.” This sound bar offers serious power and plenty of options, all at a crazy-low $300 price point. While the system does include Wi-Fi connection via Google’s SmartCast system alongside Bluetooth connection, we’ve included it here as a great way to stream audio from your phone at about the same price as many portables.
Bluetooth streaming to the system is impressive thanks to the bar’s crazy-wide sound stage that emits from a profile that’s just 14-inches long. Sure, it’s short and stubby, but it doesn’t sound that way, offering expansive sound that lines up perfectly with your 55-65-inch TV.
The bar also comes with an ample amount of bass via a wireless subwoofer and basic connection to your TV via HDMI or Optical digital ports. That’s a whole lot of awesome,for a few hundred dollars, making this a fantastic choice for your TV room or study.
How we test
We test Bluetooth speakers the way normal people live.
We run every speaker through a rigorous process over the course of several days. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios, be it in the park or at the beach (for portables), in the listening room, or at the office, and playing back from our device library and streaming services like Spotify. We also test range, connection stability, and interference in areas with a lot of radio frequency interference (i.e. the Digital Trends offices).
Finally, we compare each speaker to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above to find out if they can punch above their weight.
How to decipher Bluetooth speaker terms
- NFC – Shorthand for Near Field Communication, this oft touted feature is actually quite limited when it comes to Bluetooth speakers, allowing select phones (i.e. those not made by Apple), to pair with a speaker with a quick touch. Since pairing is often as simple as pressing a button, and speakers will be remembered by your device once paired, its not seen as a must-have feature.
- AptX – Another feature limited to phones and devices outside of Apple’s periphery, AptX is a codec (or group of codecs) said to allow Bluetooth streaming at “near CD quality” resolution. Apple products do not use AptX, but Android users may find it improves performance when paired with high-quality tracks and high-performance speakers.
- Passive radiator – A passive radiator is a type of driver used to enhance bass in a speaker. In a sealed speaker enclosure (no port holes) a passive radiator responds to fluctuations in air pressure within the enclosure, creating sound. Since a passive radiator doesn’t have to be powered by an amp, it has no magnet or voice coil, and is therefore lighter and smaller than a traditional driver. This saves space and cost while increasing the speaker’s performance.
- Pairing (or Bluetooth pairing) – In the case of Bluetooth speakers, pairing is the act of making a wireless connection from a speaker to your wireless device via Bluetooth.