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Whether you’re hanging out in the backyard or heading to a lesser-known beach for some socially-distanced relaxation, a few tunes usually make everything better. But the market is flooded with Bluetooth speakers and it’s easy to get turned around, which might mean you'll ultimately buy something sub-par. To help you get a lay of the land in the portable speakers space, we've compiled some of the best portable speakers to shop right now, with options at different price points and with different features.
How to buy the best portable speakers
When it comes to outdoor, portable Bluetooth speakers, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Portable speaker size
The smaller the speaker, the easier it is to lug around in your backpack. Larger speakers will produce better sound at higher volumes.
Just because something sounds good in your bedroom doesn’t mean it’ll sound good in the backyard. A speaker’s wattage rating can help you determine the max volume it can handle, though not all companies list watts on their spec pages.
You want a speaker that can clearly reproduce your music with a balanced sound. Speakers that can’t produce enough bass may sound tinny or shrill, while speakers that overdo the bass may sound muddy compared to more balanced options.
Portable speakers’ durability and water resistance
If you plan on bringing your speaker to the pool or on a hike, you’ll want something with a bit of shock protection or water resistance. You can read about water resistance ratings in our guide, but most of the speakers on this list are rated IPX7, which means they’re designed to be submerged in water — though I wouldn’t dunk them just willy-nilly.
If you download a speaker’s companion app, it may come with other goodies. Some may have an equalizer that lets you adjust the bass and treble, while many allow you to pair multiple speakers from the same brand for synchronized music across ever larger spaces.
Portable speaker prices
Cost fluctuates on Bluetooth speakers a lot, to the point where a certain color of a superior speaker may drop below the price of its normally-cheaper competitor. Make sure you’re getting a good deal by shopping around.
Best portable speakers
With all that in mind, after testing a number of Bluetooth speakers — and tying in my years of experience using and writing about speakers from popular brands — here's guidance to help you find some of the best portable speakers you can buy right now.
Best all-around portable speaker: JBL
Of all the options out there, the JBL Flip 5 sounds the best for its size and price, with decently strong bass and a clear midrange that’s perfect for bringing out guitars and vocals. Combine that with tons of color options and the ability to pair with other JBL products for a multi-speaker setup, and it’s one of the best Bluetooth speakers you can buy — as long as you don’t need to pump the volume too high.
Best loud and feature-heavy portable speaker: Ultimate Ears
Ultimate Ears’ Boom 3 hits a similar sweet spot of size, sound quality and affordability. While the Boom 3 doesn’t sound quite as good as the JBL Flip 5, it does get noticeably louder, and its slightly more bass-heavy sound does well with hip-hop and electronic music. It can pair with other Boom speakers for synchronized music, and has other creature comforts like an in-app equalizer, a sold-separately wireless charging dock and more. If the Boom 3 is a bit small for you, check out UE’s larger Megaboom 3 instead.
Best eco-friendly portable speaker: House of Marley
The Get Together speaker is no small investment but might be a fit for anyone looking to go with a speaker boasting earth-friendly materials. The speaker is partially composed of bamboo, cotton and hemp.
Best value portable speaker: Soundcore
Anker’s Soundcore Motion+ keeps it simple: great sound at an affordable price. The Motion+ gets noticeably louder than the similarly-priced Flip 5 and has a bigger battery, while sounding almost as good — but not quite. It also isn’t as portable, but it does boast an equalizer and multi-speaker pairing in Soundcore’s app, just like its competitors.
Best affordable portable speaker: Tribit
If you aren’t looking to spend much, Tribit has some of the best budget Bluetooth speakers in the business. Their XSound Go speaker may not fill your entire backyard with sound, but for nearby listening, it’ll sound great at a very affordable price.
Best clip-on, compact portable speaker: Tribit
Adventurous types looking for a clip-on speaker should check out Tribit’s Stormbox Micro. It’s louder and bassier than the other similarly-sized clip-on speakers I’ve tested, and it’ll strap on to just about anything: your bike, your backpack, or your off-roading stroller. If you don’t need a clip-on but want something in a similar price range, Tribit’s regular Stormbox is fantastic, too.
Best portable speaker with built-in charger: JBL
While all the Bluetooth speakers on this list have built-in batteries so you can rock out wirelessly, stepping up in price gets you speakers like the JBL Charge 4 — they can use that battery to charge your phone while also powering the music.
Best Bluetooth speaker with Alexa built-in: Ultimate Ears
If you like the look of the Boom but prefer to control the music hands-free, Ultimate Ears’ Blast line of speakers adds Alexa microphones to the mix, so you never need to touch your phone. For a bigger sound, check out the Megablast.
Best portable boombox: JBL
Most of these speakers will do well for small-to-medium sized spaces — and frankly, that’s probably enough if you don’t want your neighbors to hate you. But for pool parties and backyard barbecues that require more sound, the JBL Boombox 2 sounds fantastic and can crank the volume much higher.
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