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These staff-favorite Bluetooth speakers are compact and portable

The best Bluetooth speakers deliver high-quality sound at all volumes and feature some degree of water resistance.
Take your Bluetooth speaker with you the next time you’re having an outdoor picnic or hanging out with your friends.
Take your Bluetooth speaker with you the next time you’re having an outdoor picnic or hanging out with your friends.Vivian Le / NBC

Whether you’re hanging out in your backyard, heading out on a camping trip or enjoying a day at the beach, you’re probably looking to take your favorite tunes along with you. Listening to music in your earbuds or headphones might be better if you’re by yourself, but a Bluetooth speaker can be more beneficial when you want to enjoy music with family and friends.

“Bluetooth speakers are often compact and lightweight, making them highly portable,” says Sean Roe, senior product development manager at House of Marley. “They can be easily carried around, allowing you to enjoy your music wherever you go.”

Below, we’ve listed some of the best Bluetooth speakers as well as answered frequently asked questions, including what to look for in a good Bluetooth speaker and advice for first-time shoppers. 

SKIP AHEAD The best Bluetooth speakers of 2023 | How to shop for a Bluetooth speaker

Our top picks

How we picked the best Bluetooth speakers

To pick the best Bluetooth speakers, we spoke with experts about what to look for when shopping. Here is what we kept in mind: 

  • Wireless: Bluetooth speakers are available in wired or wireless versions. Every option we chose is wireless and rechargeable via a USB-C or USB cable so that you can use them wherever you are.
  • Water resistance: Most options we picked have an IPX6 water resistance rating, which means they won’t be damaged if splashed by water. This rating will allow you to take your speaker to the beach or by the pool without having to worry water will impact your sound, according to our experts
  • Battery life: Every device has a battery life of at least 10 hours, allowing you to use them continuously without needing to stop for a recharge. 
  • Portability: Every speaker we chose weighs under 2 pounds, making them portable enough to take on the go. 

The best Bluetooth speakers in 2023

The below options include staff favorites and speakers I have owned for over three months. We also included important specifications including battery life, IPX rating and weight.

Sonos Roam

I own the Sonos Roam in the Wave colorway and have been using it for over six months. I love the sound quality on this speaker — it’s loud enough to fill my entire studio apartment even at low volumes. Its design is sleek and compact, and I can easily carry it in my tote or beach bag without feeling its weight. Battery life lasts 10 hours, according to the brand, and ithas an IP67 rating, which means it can handle the occasional splash of water. You can also use voice commands to operate this pick hands-free. Plus, it’s compatible with Apple AirPlay 2 and can be paired with a second Sonos Roam speaker for fuller sound. 

Battery life: 10 hours | IPX rating: IP67 | Weight: 0.95 lbs.

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

The Wonderboom 3 is a favorite of NBC Select reporter Harry Rabinowitz because it’s compact, durable and can get really loud — “I never have to push the volume past 70 percent,” he says. There’s a small fabric loop that you can use to sling a shoulder strap on, and the speaker is both water and dust-resistant making it a good match for outdoor use. It also floats, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping it in the pool or lake, according to the brand. You can pair it with a second speaker for stereo sound, and it’s drop-tested from up to 5 feet, according to the brand. 

Battery life: 14 hours | IPX rating: IP67 | Weight: 1.17 lbs.

JBL Flip 6

JBL’s Flip series has been with me through countless house parties, days in the park and overnight trips. One of the things I like most about this speaker is how clear the bass sounds — my EDM music sounds really good when I use this.With the compatible JBL Portable app, you can tweak bass and adjust other audio settings, plus install updates, according to the brand. The speaker also has a tweeter for high frequencies and a woofer for mid and low frequencies, according to the brand. It’s both dust and water-resistant, and can be paired with another JBL speaker for a more surround sound experience.

Battery life: 12 hours | IPX rating: IP67 | Weight: 1.21 lbs.

Polaroid P2 Speaker 

Polaroid is known for its instant cameras, but last year it launched its first-ever line of portable Bluetooth speakers. I’ve owned the P2 since its launch and love its funky colorful design, reminiscent of their instant cameras. It’s also got a color-matched shoulder strap, so I can carry it with ease. Unlike some of the other speakers on our list, the Polaroid P2 comes with a dial top, allowing you to surf internet radio stations. There’s also a heart-shaped button that you can use to favorite songs from streaming apps, Audio-wise, you’ll be happy with the bass and vocals on most songs — the only time I had trouble with this speaker was when I turned the volume up really loud and noticed low levels of distortion. You can also pair the P2 with another Polaroid speaker for stereo sound. 

Battery life: 15 hours | IPX rating: n/a | Weight: 1.46 lbs.

Marshall Emberton II

The Marshall Emberton II is my top choice for audiophiles, as it delivers balanced, clear and bass-heavy audio at all volumes, in my experience. It delivers 360-degree sound, producing room-filling audio, according to the brand. It also has 10 extra hours of battery life compared to its predecessor and is both dust and water-resistant so you can take this speaker with you on your next adventure. Pair it with a second Emberton speaker for an amplified sound session. 

Battery life: 30+ hours | IPX rating: IP67 | Weight: 1.5 lbs.

Anker Soundcore 2 

NBC Select updates editor Mili Godio likes this pick for its portability and sound quality. “I’ve brought it to outdoor picnics and parties, and the music is always audible and crisp even when there’s a number of other competing noises,” she says. It’s built to boost low-end frequencies (bass) and deliver little to no distortion at all volumes, according to the brand. It’s water resistant, according to the brand, and has physical touch controls up top to help you play/pause your music. 

Battery life: 24 hours hours | IPX rating: IPX7 | Weight: 0.79 lbs.

How to shop for Bluetooth speakers

If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, here’s what our experts recommend keeping in mind while shopping:  

  • Size and portability: “Bluetooth speakers come in various sizes, from compact and highly portable models to larger ones with more powerful audio output,” says Roe. “Consider whether you’ll be using the speaker mainly at home, outdoors, or for travel, and choose a size that suits your needs.” Wireless speakers are usually more compact than wired speakers, as they’re built with portability in mind, according to our experts. 
  • Durability: “A simple rule of thumb is: The longer you can use the speaker before having to replace it, the better — both for the environment and for your wallet,” says André Fredriksson, the global training manager for Marshall, an audio brand.  Look for certifications like IPX ratings to determine the level of water and dust resistance. Ideally you want an IP67 rating, which means your speaker is water resistant up to a depth of about 3 feet for up to 30 minutes and dust proof as well. 
  • Sound quality: Music is a personal experience, “some folks like a big bass sound and others like a more technical crisp sound,” says Roe. If you have the chance to test the speaker out in person before you buy, that might help you better understand if it’s right for you, according to our experts. Room placement, acoustics and whether or not your speaker can be paired with another will also alter the sound quality, so you might want to keep this in mind while shopping, according to our experts. 

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Sean Roe, Sr. Product Development Manager at House of Marley, an audio brand. 
  • André Fredriksson is the global training manager for Marshall, an audio brand. 
  • Saied Swalee is an audio engineer at Fluance, a Canada-based home audio brand. 

Why trust Select?

Nishka Dhawan is an associate commerce editor at Select who’s written about smartphones, tablets and earbuds for over three years. For this article, she asked Select staff about their favorite Bluetooth speakers and also tried a few options herself. She also interviewed audio industry experts on what to keep in mind while shopping. Experts were only used for shopping advice, none of the experts mentioned recommend products. 

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