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The best Bluetooth speakers for 2020

There are too many Bluetooth speakers to count these days, and our team has put in countless hours to review over 200 of the best and most popular items. However, only a few can make our shortlist for the best Bluetooth speakers.

We’ve listened to these speakers outside, in the car, at work, and at home. We have consistently given the best overall award to Ultimate Ears’ Megaboom series of Bluetooth speakers. But this year we are giving it to theMarshall Emberton because of its powerful sound and stylish design. 

If you’re looking for a sale, we’ve also found some of the best Bluetooth speaker deals ahead of Black Friday 2020.

The best Bluetooth speakers at a glance

The best Bluetooth speaker overall: Marshall Emberton

Marshall Emberton
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Why should you buy this? Marshall’s latest speaker offers great sound and strong battery life.

Who’s it for? People looking for the best sound in a small package.

Why we picked the Marshall Emberton:

Marshall’s Emberton speaker may lack some of the features of its biggest competitor, Ultimate Ears. However, the Emberton’s focus on being the best-sounding Bluetooth speaker without all the bells and whistles is where it excels. It doesn’t have an aux line-in or a mic, nor can it pair with additional speakers, but it offers a robust 360-degree sound pattern with plump bass and boasts a 20-hour battery life.

Taking its looks from the classic Marshall guitar amp, the Emberton is actually the company’s smallest speaker to date. It also has some great modern features like an LED battery display and USB-C charging. If you want the best sound in a small, compact package, the Marshall Emberton offers the best sound and battery for the price.

Read our full Marshall Emberton review

The best cheap Bluetooth speaker: Anker Soundcore Flare Mini

Why should you buy this? 360-degree sound and LED lights in a compact form factor.

Who’s it for? Anyone looking for a flashy and competent Bluetooth speaker without spending a lot of money.

Why we picked the Anker Soundcore Flare Mini:

Anker has been making budget-friendly Bluetooth devices for several years, and they consistently deliver decent sound for a reasonable price. The Soundcore Flare Mini is one of their latest iterations, and it offers 360-degree sound in a device less than six inches tall. The Flare Mini also has a ring of LED lights around the bottom rim that pulsate and glow along with your music. The lights are customizable and feature five different settings.

The Flare Mini’s dual 5-watt speakers deliver solid sound for the size, and it can be paired with a second speaker for stereo sound. Its IPX7 rating makes it great for pool parties as well, and its 12-hour battery will last through a full day with no problem.

It isn’t the cheapest Bluetooth speaker you can get, but theAnker Soundcore Flare Mini offers just enough features at a low price to make it worth it.

The best-high end Bluetooth speaker: Bose Home Speaker 500

Bose Home Speaker 500
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Why should you buy this? It has a wide soundstage and support for multi-room audio and smart assistants.

Who’s it for? Anyone looking for a Bluetooth speaker that can function as a smart home speaker.

Why we picked the Bose Home Speaker 500: The smart home speaker niche is quickly growing, and Bose’s Home Speaker 500 is a solid premium option for those in the market for one. The Bose Home Speaker 500 stands out in this category because of its ability to sync with just about anything. It supports Google Assistant and Alexa, as well as AirPlay 2 and Chromecast. It also has a feature called Simplesync, which allows users to group the Home Speaker 500 with any Bluetooth device, including wireless headphones.

Combine that with its rich sound and compact form, and it is a great option for anyone looking for an alternative to Google and Amazon’s options.

The Bose Home Speaker 500 is more than just a Bluetooth speaker, and that’s what makes it so unique. It is among the most flexible and capable speakers available on the market, and that’s why we think it’s the best premium option.

Read our full Bose Home Speaker 500 Review

The best rugged Bluetooth speaker: JBL Flip 5

JBL Flip 5 waterproof Bluetooth speaker

Why should you buy this?  It offers great sound in a rugged, portable, and affordable package.

Who’s it for? Those who want versatility and serious durability on a budget.

Why we picked the JBL Flip 5:

When it comes to wireless audio, durability is a big factor for those always on the move. After all, taking your sound everywhere is kind of the big seller for Bluetooth. JBL’s Flip 5 fits that bill, and it’s more than just another run-of-the-mill waterproof option.

JBL significantly upped the Flip 5’s power when compared to the earlier fourth-generation of this speaker. With more than double the power of the Flip 4, the Flip 5 get impressively loud, while generating a copious amount of bass.

Like the Flip 4, it is waterproof with an IPX7 rating, meaning you can submerge the speaker in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Battery life, while not massive at 12 hours, is still plenty for an entire day’s worth of tunes.

Using JBL’s PartyBoost feature, you can link two PartyBoost-compatible speakers for stereo sound, or link even more for a synchronized sound that can be spread around a whole house.

Want to make a fashion statement with your speaker? When you buy the Flip 5 from JBL.com you can order it in one of 12 colors, or you can have it custom-printed with a photo that you upload to the JBL site. This option costs a bit more, but no one will ever be able to claim it isn’t your speaker.

The JBL Flip 5 is the right choice for a durable go-anywhere Bluetooth speaker for those who place a premium on big, bold sound, However, the Flip 4 might be a better option for some. With its speakerphone function, voice assistant-button, and line-in capability, it trades absolute power for enhanced practicality. It’s cheaper too.

The best portable Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom

UE Wonderboom Bluetooth

Why should you buy this?  Inch for inch, it’s the most capable micro-speaker you can find that still produces decent sound.

Who’s it for? Those who value portability, but aren’t willing to sacrifice sound quality or durability.

Why we picked the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom:

Mini Bluetooth speakers often suffer from terrible audio quality and volume levels that simply can’t keep up with their larger cousins. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom defies this tendency and does it in a fully floating, waterproof package.

While its bass performance and overall power can’t quite match that of the JBL Flip 5, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom is shockingly good considering its diminutive size. Ultimate Ears speakers are known for being minimalist in design, and the Wonderboom is no exception. With only two buttons — for volume up/down — there isn’t even a visible battery life indicator (instead you get an audio prompt with three different tones). Still, it’s hard to find fault with that considering the sound, the ruggedness, the size, and mostly the price of the Wonderboom. You should be able to find it for less than $75.

Read our full Ultimate Ears Wonderboom review

The best multiroom-capable Bluetooth speaker: Sonos Move

Why should you buy this? It’s a Sonos speaker that can also do double-duty as a rechargeable portable Bluetooth speaker. Need we say more?

Who’s it for? Sonos owners who want a portable Bluetooth speaker that will work with their whole-home sound system.

Why we picked the Sonos Move:

Multiroom audio is something several companies claim their wireless speakers can do, but we’ve never come across a multiroom system that is as easy to use or as powerful as Sonos. So when Sonos finally introduced a battery-powered portable speaker that can effortlessly switch between Wi-Fi-based whole-home audio and go-anywhere Bluetooth connectivity, we were all ears.

The Sonos Move is pricey at $399, but it justifies that price through a build quality that goes well beyond most of the products on this list. Despite looking like the rest of the Sonos line of indoor-only speakers, the Move is just at home outside, with an IP56 rating for dust and water-resistance. That means get-togethers, unexpected rainstorms, or even trips to the beach are no problem for the Move. Just don’t immerse it in water — it isn’t waterproof.

It has a big, bold sound that easily fills a room with warmth and depth. Cleverly, the Move integrates a new form of Sonos’ excellent TruePlay EQ technology — one which requires no user intervention. It simply measures the room acoustics via the built-in mics and adjusts accordingly, and will do so every time you move it.

Of course, those mics would be under-utilized if they were only for Auto-TruePlay. They also serve as your smart speaker interface. Like the Sonos One and Sonos Beam, you get a choice of Alexa or Google Assistant. This won’t work when using Bluetooth, but it’s pretty handy when at home.

The Move’s battery is good for 10 hours of use between charges, which is frankly a little underwhelming for a portable speaker. But we have to give Sonos props for its decision to make the battery user-replaceable — a rarity in this category and a huge help in keeping the Move from an early trip to the landfill.

Filling out the Move’s benefits is AirPlay 2, which lets you stream directly to the speaker from any iOS device or MacOS computer. It’s a higher stream quality than Bluetooth and makes the Move an ideal source for better-than-iPad sound quality for YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, or any other video source you can think of.

If we have one criticism of the Sonos Move it’s that you don’t actually want to move it much. It’s very heavy compared to every other portable model on this list and its built-in carry handle isn’t comfortable for anything beyond a trip from the kitchen to the patio.

Read our full Sonos Move review

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 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, it’s 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. AptX Adaptive is the latest and greatest version of this codec, but both source device and Bluetooth speaker must support it for you to get any benefit.
  • Passive radiator: A passive radiator is a type of driver used to enhance bass in a speaker. In a sealed speaker enclosure (no portholes) 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.
  • IPXX: IP stands for “Ingress Protection,” and this rating denotes how resistant a device is to dust (first number) and water (second). For instance, a device with an IP67 rating is dust-tight and allows water submersion up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. The higher the numbers, the better the protection you get. If you plan to take your Bluetooth speaker near water, the minimum you should go is IPX7. Park it here for a full explanation of what it all means.

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