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January 23, 2023  |  Electronics

BestReviews tech expert shares everything you should consider when buying a Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth speakers are perfect for those who love listening to music. These speakers make it easier to stream audio directly from your phone, and many are small enough to take on the go. Still, there are a few things you'll want to consider before buying a speaker. To learn more, we interviewed BestReviews tech expert, gadget nerd Jaime Vazquez.

In this article: Bose SoundLink Revolve+, Klipsch Heritage Wireless The One II and Sony SRS-XB43 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Portable vs. at-home speakers

Many buy people Bluetooth speakers to take to parties, camping or hiking. However, portable speakers often lack the sound quality and loudness you can get from those that plug into an outlet.

"Whether you plug it in or not is a big deal," said Vazquez. "Portable speakers and those that plug in are two different categories. Those that plug in are generally louder, larger and heavier. On the other hand, portable ones range from palm size to boombox size."

Bluetooth speaker size

Even speakers with built-in batteries can be relatively large. If you're buying a large portable speaker, you'll want one with a large battery that can keep it powered throughout the day. Although these large speakers are portable, they can be hard to lug around.

"Size and sound quality have a funny relationship," Vazquez said. "The largest speakers usually sound better. There are some really great-sounding small Bluetooth speakers, but they're way more expensive. It isn't hard to find something that's super portable, but if you want something that's super portable and sounds amazing, you're going to pay more."

Bluetooth speaker range

You'll want to consider the speaker's Bluetooth range before making a purchase. If you plan to take it camping or walk around your house while listening to music, you may want a speaker with a range of 20 feet or more. When the device you're using to stream music is placed outside the speaker's range, your music will stop playing or experience a significant drop in audio quality.

Other considerations

  • Standards: There are multiple Bluetooth standards. "4.0 sounds great; 5.0 sounds incredible," Vazquez said. "Really, anything with 4.0 or higher is more than good enough."
  • Headphones: Bluetooth speakers don't work with Bluetooth headphones, but some let you plug in corded headphones.
  • Multi-speaker capabilities: You can sometimes pair multiple speakers to enhance their sound, but some can only be linked via Wi-Fi.
  • Bluetooth alternatives: Apple Airplay and Chromecast Audio let you transmit higher-fidelity audio than Bluetooth, but with current Bluetooth standards, most people can't tell the difference.

Bluetooth speaker FAQ

Q. Are there any disadvantages to using a Bluetooth speaker?

A. Audio transmitted via Bluetooth rarely sounds as crisp as audio transmitted with a cord. This is because your music must be compressed to pass wirelessly from one device to another. Still, the technology has come a long way, and most people are unlikely to notice the difference.

Q. How much do Bluetooth speakers cost?

A. It depends on the size, brand and additional features. Some portable Bluetooth speakers cost as little as $50, while large name-brand models may run you $300 or more.

Q. What's the difference between a waterproof speaker and a water-resistant speaker?

A. Water-resistant speakers can withstand being splashed and may even work when used in light rain. Waterproof speakers should be able to handle being submerged in water. 

Q. How does Bluetooth streaming compare to Wi-Fi streaming?

A. Speakers that let you stream audio via Wi-Fi sound slightly better than Bluetooth speakers. Additionally, Wi-Fi speakers typically have a maximum range of around 125 feet, whereas Bluetooth speakers have a maximum range of about 33 feet.

Bluetooth speakers our tech expert recommends

Bose SoundLink Revolve+ Speaker

A built-in microphone lets you take calls using your speaker. It has a full, rich sound. Many reviewers said they were impressed with the battery life. The handle makes it easy to take on the go. You can pair it with other Bose speakers to fill your home with sound. It has a Bluetooth range of 30 feet.

Sold by AmazonBest Buy and Target

Marshall Stanmore II Speaker

It can produce near-lossless sound and is compatible with Bluetooth 5.0. The stylish design resembles a guitar amp. It lets you connect two devices simultaneously and switch between them. The sound quality and clarity are top-notch.

Sold by Amazon and Best Buy

Bose SoundLink Micro Speaker

This small speaker is waterproof and a strap lets you hook it to your backpack. It has a Bluetooth range of 30 feet. It comes in four colors.

Sold by Amazon and Best Buy

JBL Flip 5 Speaker

This waterproof speaker lasts around 12 hours on a single charge. The PartyBoost feature lets you pair it with other JBL speakers. It's easy to connect, and the sound quality is impressive. It comes in 14 colors, including black, red and pink.

Sold by Amazon, Kohl's and Best Buy

Klipsch Heritage Wireless The One II Speaker

This has an interesting design with a walnut wood finish. Many users said the sound quality was incredible, whether they were listening to music or audiobooks. The setup process is straightforward.

Sold by Amazon

Skullcandy Barricade Mini Speaker

This speaker lasts around six hours when fully charged. It's water-resistant, and the sound quality is pretty good. It has a rugged design.

Sold by Amazon

Sony SRS-XB43 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

This packs more bass than the average portable speaker. It's waterproof and features two lights that pulse to the beat of the music. It can be paired with up to 100 speakers simultaneously. It can last up to 10 hours on a single charge. 

Sold by Amazon and Best Buy

Skullcandy Barricade XL Speaker

This durable speaker is waterproof and isn't likely to break if you drop it. You can use it as a power bank to charge your other devices. It looks great, and the sound quality is pretty good. It has a Bluetooth range of 33 feet.

Sold by Amazon

Bose SoundLink Flex Speaker

This is built to withstand water and dust. The sound is crisp and clear. The built-in microphone lets you take calls with your speaker. It comes in black, red, blue and white.

Sold by Amazon and Best Buy

Sony SRS-XB13 Bluetooth Speaker

It's lightweight, and the bass is surprisingly good. The built-in strap makes it easy to take on the go. It lasts around 16 hours on a single charge.

Sold by Amazon

 

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.