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Best Bluetooth wireless speaker for 2021


Maybe you need an outdoor speaker for summer gatherings. Maybe you want great sound that can be moved on a whim, or maybe you’re building surround sound with multiple speakers in your home theater. There are so many reasons to get a Bluetooth speaker. And regardless of your reason, there’s almost certainly a portable speaker with powerful sound to meet your needs.

In our quest to find the best Bluetooth speaker, we considered factors such as sound quality, battery life and more — below, we present our current contenders, including compact mini models, pocket-size micro versions and heftier models with powerful audio. Looking for more? We can also recommend the best smart speakers and the best Wi-Fi speakers and music systems.

David Carnoy/CNET

EDITORSCHOICE
Dec 2020

Anker’s Soundcore Motion Plus came out in 2019 and managed to slip beneath my radar, which is a shame because it’s arguably one of the best-sounding speakers around $100, if not the best Bluetooth speaker for this price range. It’s a larger speaker than many mini Bluetooth speakers, but it’s still compact. It manages to sound quite a bit fuller than much of the competition under $100, with bigger bass, more volume and better clarity. It’s also fully waterproof (IPX7-rated) and has support for the aptX streaming codec for devices like Samsung’s Galaxy phones that support it.

Due to its popularity, it’s currently priced at $106, but for a long time you could get it for less than $100.

Read our Anker Soundcore Motion Plus review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

EDITORSCHOICE
Dec 2020

Tribit’s StormBox Micro is one of the best sounding pocket-sized Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested, with bigger bass and volume than most other tiny speakers. It lists for $50 but often gets discounted to $45 or less. For instance, it’s currently $50 on Amazon, but you can get it for $45 with a 10% coupon that’s applied at checkout.

Aside from its great design, Bose’s SoundLink Micro stood out because it was able to deliver more bass than every Bluetooth speaker in its size class, and it also managed to have limited distortion at higher volumes. And it’s the Tribit’s bass and overall volume level for its tiny size that allows it to stand out. 

It’s IP67 dust-proof and water-resistant (it can be fully submerged in shallow water for a short time) and has up to eight hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. Like the Bose, this portable Bluetooth speaker has an integrated strap so you can clip it to your backpack or bike’s handlebars.

Read our Tribit StormBox Micro review.

 

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For its first three generations, JBL’s Clip micro Bluetooth speaker had a circular design. But for the fourth-gen Clip 4, JBL has moved to a more oval shape, bulked up the speaker slightly and added USB-C charging. This portable Bluetooth speaker does seem more durable, with a sturdier integrated carabiner “clip.” Also, it sounds a little better, with more volume, clearer sound and more bass. With an IP67 water-resistance rating, it’s not quite fully waterproof (the Clip 3 is), but it’s now dust-proof.

One of the best wireless Bluetooth speakers for its tiny speaker size, the Clip speaker sells for $70 but should come down in price a bit later in the year. The older Clip 3 is frequently discounted.

Read our JBL Clip 4 review.

 

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Anker’s $95 Soundcore Motion Boom is what I’d call a mini boombox speaker. It’s kind of a poor man’s version of JBL’s well-regarded Xtreme 2 speaker, which currently sells for around $200 though its list price is higher. Equipped with a handle and weighing a little over 4 pounds, the speaker reminds me of one of those giant flashlights or “floating lanterns” that were in vogue about 30 years ago. For the record, the Motion Boom actually does float and is fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. 

Anker says the Motion Boom delivers “huge stereo sound” and yes, it plays pretty loud and has a decent amount of bass with reasonable clarity. (I kept the bass boost on at all times because the speaker sounds better with bass boost on.) It can’t compete against bigger and more expensive speakers like JBL’s Boombox 2 ($400) and Ultimate Ears’ Hyperboom ($400), but it packs a lot more volume and punch than more compact Bluetooth speakers like JBL’s Flip 5 that cost around the same. It also travels well, so it’s ideal for a beach excursion or a little tailgating.

Read our Anker Soundcore Motion Boom review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

JBL’s Charge 5 offers a good balance of size, performance and durability. It’s bigger than some of the mini speakers on this list (like the Flip 5), but is still compact and packs more bass punch and overall volume. Featuring a built-in USB charging port for juicing up your mobile devices, it offers improved audio and a dust- and waterproof design that’s elevated from the previous Charge. According to JBL, the speaker is equipped with a “racetrack-shaped driver,” with a separate tweeter and dual passive radiators, which improves both clarity and bass performance over the Charge 4. (In my tests, this indeed proved to be the case.) 

Battery life is rated at 20 hours at moderate volume levels. This model is also equipped with JBL’s PartyBoost feature that allows you to connect it to other compatible JBL portable speakers to augment their sound. The Charge 5 comes in six color options: black, blue, gray, red, teal and “squad” (which looks like a kind of camo). 

Sony

I’ve long been a fan of Sony’s smallest Bluetooth speaker, which has been modestly upgraded for 2021 with some design refinements and slightly improved sound. This portable Bluetooth speaker is both dust- and waterproof with an IP67 certification and is rated for 16 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels (it has USB-C charging while the older XB12 didn’t). The speaker plays bigger than you’d think for its small size, with some punch to its bass, but it can only output so much sound — yes, it has its limitations. If you add a second XB13, you can get stereo sound. 

The XB13 is available in multiple color options and includes a strap so you can attach it to various objects. It also has speakerphone capabilities with an integrated microphone. It lists for $60, but should be sporadically discounted later in 2021.

David Carnoy/CNET

Ultimate Ears Boom Bluetooth speakers come in a few different sizes, but none of them are as big as the all-new Hyberboom. A supersize wireless speaker that tips the scales at a hefty 13 pounds, the Hyperboom makes the UE Megaboom 3 look unquestionably puny. It’s not cheap, but its sound quality is better than a lot of the jumbo portable speakers on the market right now.

UE Boom reps told me the Hyperboom was created after the company got feedback from its customers looking for a bigger speaker that could play loud enough and have deep enough bass to power a party. The speaker can do just that — Ultimate Ears says it’s three times as loud and has six-and-a-half times the bass of Megaboom 3 — and has no trouble filling a fairly large room with sound.

Read our UE Hyperboom review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

At $30 (with an instant 20% off coupon), the Tribit XSound Go is one of the top Bluetooth speakers for the money. Besides sounding decent for streaming your favorite music and more, this affordable Bluetooth speaker is also fully waterproof.

Read our Tribit XSound Go review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

We liked Ultimate Ears’ original Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker, which sounded good for its compact speaker size and was also waterproof. Now the company has released the Wonderboom 2, which is a touch bigger than the original and sounds slightly better for streaming your favorite music, with more bass and a special Outdoor Boost mode that boosts treble.

Like its predecessor, the fully waterproof Wonderboom 2 with Bluetooth connectivity carries a list price of $100, but often sells for less. What’s different is the IP67 rating that means it’s dust-proof, more shock-resistant and also able to float. This Bluetooth device also has 30% better battery life — lasting up to 13 hours at moderate volume levels, according to Ultimate Ears — and you can link two together to create a stereo sound pairing by pressing a button on each speaker.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Tribit MaxSound Plus ($50 with an instant coupon) is about 30% bigger than its sibling XSound Go and costs about $25 more, but it performs substantially better and is one of the best-sounding speakers in its size and price class. It has a long-lasting rechargeable lithium-ion battery and superior sound quality for a Bluetooth speaker.

Read our Tribit MaxSound Plus review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

JBL’s Flip 5 ($130) is slightly bigger than the older Flip 4, which now costs around $80, with improved sound that features a little more bass. It has an IPX7 waterproof certification, which means this small speaker can be submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes and survive. Tribit’s StormBox is about $30 less and plays louder, but I like the tonal balance of the Flip 5 better. It also offers USB-C charging.

David Carnoy/CNET

Bang & Olufsen has upgraded its dome-shaped aluminum-clad A1 speaker with improved battery life, better speakerphone performance (it now has a three-microphone array) and slightly improved sound. It’s not only the smallest wireless speaker from the Danish company, but also the most affordable at $250 (you can get certain colors for about $20 less).

While the speaker drivers remain the same, the Qualcomm chipset that powers the speaker has been upgraded (the speaker uses Bluetooth 5.1), bumping the sound quality a tad, particularly at higher volumes, with better digital signal processing. It remains one of the best-sounding mini Bluetooth speakers, with richer more tonally balanced sound than other Bluetooth speakers its size — and it should sound good, considering its elevated price point.

It’s also worth noting that the A1 has multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect this to your PC and smartphone at the same time and easily switch back and forth between the two if a call comes in on your phone. Additionally, the smart speaker is Alexa-enabled, meaning you can activate Amazon’s voice commands assistant by just saying “Alexa.” 

Battery life is rated at up to 18 hours at 50% volume (the earlier A1 didn’t live up to its battery life claims but this number is more accurate) and if you can afford it, you can link two A1 speakers to create a stereo pair. The speaker is waterproof with an IP67 rating that allows it to be submerged briefly in shallow water.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tribit’s StormBox speaker looks like a cross between a UE and a JBL speaker. We suspect that’s not an accident. This fully waterproof speaker costs about $50 less than the JBL Flip 5 and produces bigger sound. Its rechargeable battery offers up to 20 hours of battery life to play music and more. Tribit’s XSound speakers are probably a better value, but the Stormbox is more stylish.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose SoundLink Micro is arguably the best-sounding speaker for its tiny size. Although this Bose SoundLink is a little pricey, Bose did shave $10 off its list price, bringing it down to $99. It’s a fully waterproof Bluetooth speaker and available in three Bose SoundLink color options.

Read our Bose SoundLink Micro review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

The JBL Bluetooth speaker that received the biggest improvements for 2021 is among the company’s smallest. The JBL Go 3 has a completely new look — it’s now covered in durable fabric instead of having the naked plastic design of its Go predecessors — and that new design coupled with surprisingly decent sound for its small size makes the Go 3 ($40) one of the top micro Bluetooth speakers out there.

Available in multiple color options, it has an IP67 water-resistance rating (it can be dunked in water and is dust-proof). Battery life is rated at up to five hours.

David Carnoy/CNET

Available in white or black for $169, the Roam is currently Sonos’ smallest and most affordable speaker (if you don’t count those $99 Sonos-compatible Symfonisk Ikea Wi-Fi bookshelf speakers), though it’s fairly expensive for a mini wireless speaker. This model, like Sonos’ earlier Move portable speaker ($400), is equipped with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and can tap into an existing Sonos multiroom audio system and link with other Series 2-compatible Sonos speakers. This gift idea makes for a good starter speaker for those new to the Sonos world.

Read our Sonos Roam review.

 

Bose

Bose’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Portable Home Speaker is more compact and easier to carry around than the Sonos Move and costs a little less. This Bose speaker delivers big sound for its relatively small size (the Sonos does sound better, however) and links with other speakers in the brand’s Wi-Fi Home speaker line to create a multiroom audio system.

Read our Bose Portable Home Speaker first take.

 

More audio recommendations

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Source from www.cnet.com

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