Best Bluetooth Speakers

Editor's Note:
If the sound quality of your music matters, it's tough to beat the Peachtree Audio Deepblue2 Bluetooth speaker for at home, wire-free listening. For listening on the road, Bose is best. And for listening on the beach or at the pool, the dunk-proof and rugged UE Boom2 is a top choice.
Peachtree Audio Deepblue2 Review
Best Reviewed

Best Bluetooth speaker

Peachtree Audio Deepblue2

Quite simply, the Peachtree Audio Deepblue2 is the best Bluetooth speaker system you can buy for $500 or less, experts say. Its sophisticated driver array and powerful 440-watt amplifier crush the competition, pumping out distortion-free bass and treble as loud as you want. It's plug-and-play, pairing easily with your Bluetooth devices straight out of the box. It's not portable, but the sound quality is unbeatable.

Bose SoundLink Mini II Review
Best Reviewed

Best portable Bluetooth speaker

Bose SoundLink Mini II

With the Bose SoundLink Mini II, you can carry your music anywhere you want -- without sacrificing sound quality or volume. The brick-sized Bose effortlessly fills rooms with amazing bass and distortion-free treble. It comes with its own handy charging cradle (as well as a microUSB cable), and it can play for up to 10 hours on a single charge. It has a speakerphone function, too.

Harmon Kardon Onyx Mini Review
Runner Up

Best value portable Bluetooth speaker

Harmon Kardon Onyx Mini

Though the MSRP is much higher, the Harman Kardon Onyx Mini can often be found for $100 or less, and it blows away the competition at that price, experts and users say. This little black disk (it looks like a solid black alarm clock) sounds good, plays loud enough to fill a room, lasts up to 10 hours on a single charge and even works as a speakerphone.

UE Boom 2 Review
Best Reviewed

Best outdoor Bluetooth speaker

UE Boom 2

In the pool, at the beach, in the shower or wherever, the UE Boom 2 can survive dunkings and drops -- and sound good doing it. In reviews, it shrugs off testers' abuse better than any other Bluetooth speaker. It's loud enough to easily fill a suburban backyard with music, and its water-bottle-shaped body makes it easy to tote. The Boom 2 can function as a speakerphone and alarm clock, too.

Types Of Bluetooth Speakers

Full-sized Bluetooth Speakers

In general, larger speakers offer better sound quality, so for home use, your best choice is a full-sized Bluetooth model. Speakers like this can measure nearly 2 feet wide, so while it's technically possible to slip them in a backpack and take them to an event, they'll probably spend most of their time on a shelf.

Portable Bluetooth Speakers

For a true on-the-go music experience, a better choice is a compact speaker. Small enough to carry in your hand, these Bluetooth speakers trade some sound quality for much improved portability and longer battery life.

Bluetooth Speakers for Outdoor Use

What To Look For
  • Great sound quality
  • Smooth wireless performance
  • Ease of use
Read More

If you plan to use the speaker mostly outdoors (for camping, tailgating or wherever), consider a Bluetooth speaker designed specifically for outdoor use. These models offer rugged construction that can withstand being jostled, dropped and splashed with rain and mud.

Bluetooth speakers go anywhere and pair with a variety of devices

For raucous parties or quiet listening on a leisurely afternoon, a Bluetooth speaker lets you enjoy the music stored on a phone or other digital device without being tethered to a set of headphones. These speakers do have their drawbacks, including limited range and less-than-audiophile-quality sound reproduction -- but the fact remains that most of the wireless speakers on the market today are Bluetooth models. There are other options, such as Apple's AirPlay technology, of course, but those have their own drawbacks such as higher cost (though with sometimes better fidelity), less portability, and less compatibility.

Bluetooth speakers, on the other hand, are available in a wide range of options -- some with sound quality that, unlike years past, can please all but the hardest-to-please audiophiles. They're compatible with the widest range of devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, music players and more. They also pair directly with devices, so you don't need to connect via a Wi-Fi or another network, as is the case with some other wireless speaker technologies.

Finding The Best Bluetooth Speakers

We selected our best-reviewed portable speakers based on their sound quality, ease of use, design and, if applicable, battery life. We relied chiefly on professional reviews by technology publications. These sources conduct exhaustive hands-on tests of speakers, using a variety of music styles to get a better picture of their overall performance. Then we checked these professional results against user reviews from retail sites to learn about how these wireless speakers hold up over the long term.

The best Bluetooth speakers for home listening

The clear standout among Bluetooth speakers is the Peachtree Audio Deepblue2 (Est. $350). "The best sounding Bluetooth speaker we've ever heard, period," says Chris Martens at Hi-Fi+. "Highly recommended," concludes Tyll Hertsens at InnerFidelity.com. And after painstakingly testing 11 high-end Bluetooth speakers, TheWirecutter.com names the Deepblue2 its top pick. "For the price, nothing else can touch it," TheWirecutter.com's experts conclude.

The Deepblue2 is bigger than most other Bluetooth speakers -- about the size of a toaster oven -- and experts say it simply boasts better innards than its dinky rivals. In fact, you can't even beat it with a multi-piece stereo system at this price. "Quite frankly, I know of no other $499 playback system that could do a better job," Martens says. (The Deepblue2's U.S. price has since dropped to $350).

The Deepblue2's big body provides a nice, wide soundstage. Inside, its sophisticated driver array and powerful 440-watt amplifier absolutely wallop the competition. "Any music you throw at the Deepblue2 will sound great," TheWirecutter.com says. It "flat out rocks the bass," Hertsens says, pumping out tremendous volume with no distortion. It actually rattles the windows in testing at TheWirecutter.com.

A simple black box, the Deepblue2 is plug-and-play. Hertsens had it "up and streaming from my Galaxy Note 4 about as fast as I could unpack it." Owners tend to love it: It earns nearly perfect ratings at Crutchfield.com, and most Amazon.com customers give it high marks. However, about one in five Amazon.com reviewers give the Deepblue2 a bad grade, usually saying it broke quickly. The Deepblue2 carries a one-year warranty.

Compact Bluetooth speakers trade off sound quality for better portability

Although bigger speakers usually sound better, sometimes you just need a portable speaker you can easily tote from room to room, and that won't gobble a lot of space in your kitchen, bedroom or dorm room.  No other portable speaker gets as many recommendations as the Bose SoundLink Mini II (Est. $180). Both professional tests and user reviews consistently say this little brick-shaped speaker produces amazing sound -- especially its "uncanny ability to produce convincing bass from its tiny frame," says PCMag's Tim Gideon. "At times, you'll ponder its size in minor disbelief."

The SoundLink Mini II replaces the original, much-loved SoundLink Mini. It boosts battery life to 10 hours (up from seven) and adds a speakerphone function. Otherwise, reviewers are happy to say, not much has changed. The SoundLink Mini II boasts the same tank-like aluminum unibody ("it looks a lot like a speaker Apple would design," CNET's David Carnoy says) and handy charging cradle (you can also charge by plugging in the included microUSB cable). Conveniently, you can connect the SoundLink Mini II to two Bluetooth devices at the same time -- "your tablet for music and your phone for calls, for example," Gideon says.

It's really no contest in reviews: If you want the best-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker money can buy, this is it by a landslide. "It's shocking to hear how much better the SoundLink Mini II comes across than most competitors, with clearer voices and a fuller sound closer to what you might expect to hear from a decent small stereo system," says Brent Butterworth at TheWirecutter.com. "It also plays loud enough to drown out a small dinner party."

Bose's closest runner-up is the pricier Marshall Kilburn (Est. $230). It provides similarly clear, room-filling sound, but with adjustable bass and treble knobs and a retro design modeled after classic guitar amps.

Unlike the Bose, the Marshall Kilburn lacks a speakerphone feature. Like the Bose, experts love it -- the Kilburn collects awards at PCMag, TomsGuide.com and TechRadar.com -- and owners at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com go crazy for it, just as they do for the Bose.

The only drawback for these two speakers is their price. If under-$100 is more your speed, the Harmon Kardon Onyx Mini (Est. $70) is your best bet -- though you'll need to shop carefully for price as some retailers sell it at the MSRP, which is closer to $200. The Onyx Mini is a 6-inch-diameter, 3-inch-thick black circle that sits upright like an alarm clock. Sound-wise, it can't match the Bose -- but you'll get "powerful performance" and a "very pleasant" mix of bass and treble, Gideon says. Considering how dismally sub-$100 Bluetooth speakers usually fare in tests, that's high praise indeed -- and Gideon reviews the Harmon Kardon as a $200 model.

Owners are hugely impressed at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com (the Onyx Mini  earns between 4.5 and 7.7 stars at those retailers). It can function as a speakerphone, and it doesn't take up much space. "The Onyx Mini gets just about everything right," Gideon says, naming it an Editors' Choice along with the Bose.

The best wireless speakers for outdoor use are ruggedly built and compact

Thanks to a much-needed battery upgrade, the UE Boom 2 (Est. $150) by Ultimate Ears is now officially the best outdoor Bluetooth speaker you can buy. In our last report, the original UE Boom failed to make the cut solely due to a fatal battery flaw: Owners repeatedly complained that the (non-replaceable) rechargeable battery pooped out within two years, rendering the Boom a $200 useless brick. The new Boom 2 has fixed that problem (we found very few owner complaints at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, battery-related or otherwise) and experts and owners now happily hail it as the life of the pool party.

The rugged Boom 2 is designed to "get wet, muddy and beat up," What Hi-Fi? editors say. About the size of a water bottle, the Boom 2 is drop-proof to 5 feet, and it'll survive being submerged in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. "In my testing, the speaker worked fine after being in a sink full of water for five minutes, though once submerged, it lost the signal from my phone," says Michael Gowan at TomsGuide.com. "As soon as I removed it from the water, the sound resumed. It also survived a drop onto hardwood floor from about 5 feet without any effect or blemish."

The sleek, rubber-and-cloth cylinder comes in your choice of color (black, white, gray, blue, green, orange or red). It'll last up to 15 hours on a charge, connect to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, function as a speakerphone and alarm clock, and fill an average room or suburban backyard with big, open sound -- "impressive for a speaker that could fit inside a pint glass," What Hi-Fi? says. You can connect up to 150 Boom 2 speakers, for even louder (or multi-room) sound.

Of course, the Boom 2's sound can't quite match bigger, pricier Bluetooth speakers -- it's designed for toughness and tininess, after all. Still, "for casual listening, most people will be quite happy with how the Boom 2 sounds," CNET's Carnoy says.

Runner-up is the Boom 2's little brother, the UE Roll 2 (Est. $75). For half the price, the Roll 2 is just as waterproof -- in fact, it comes with its own inflatable pool floatie, plus a built-in bungee cord so you can hang it from your shower faucet, backpack, etc. Shaped like a 5-inch flying saucer, the Roll 2 likewise comes covered in your choice of colorful, rugged fabric and rubber: "If it gets muddy or dirty, you can simply clean it with good old soap and water," What Hi-Fi? says. The trade-offs? Battery life is shorter (9 hours), there's no speakerphone, you can join only two Roll 2s together, and it doesn't sound nearly as loud and clear as the Boom 2 in tests.

Still, "the UE Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes to cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a spot at the beach with sound, " says Butterworth at TheWirecutter.com. "Seven months of worldwide traveling with the original Roll have only confirmed our love of this design." Butterworth says it's the ideal balance of sound quality, ruggedness, features, portability and price, and it beats 138 other portable Bluetooth speakers to win first place in his test. Owners like it too: The Roll 2 earns 4.5 stars or better at both Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, with hundreds of reviews posted.

Even smaller -- and cheaper -- is the JBL Clip 2 (Est. $55). No bigger than a hockey puck, the Clip 2 comes with a built-in metal carabiner clip and stowaway headphone cord (handy if you want a wired connection, instead of wireless). Like the UE speakers, the JBL's rugged fabric-and-rubber body comes in black, gray, or bright colors, and it's waterproof under 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. The inexpensive Clip 2 even has a speakerphone function. Battery life is about 8 hours. Sound-wise, "the Clip 2 delivers nearly as much fidelity as the ... UE Roll 2," TomsGuide.com says, and owners likewise award it high marks. Butterworth prefers to spend more for the Roll 2, "but if you really need something small, such as for hanging from a backpack strap, the Clip 2 is a nice choice," he says.

Expert & User Review Sources

TheWirecutter.com conducts outstanding head-to-head tests of wireless speakers, subjecting 11 home Bluetooth speakers and more than 100 portable Bluetooth speakers to a listening panel, battery life tests and (for the outdoor Bluetooth speakers) abuse tests. Reviews by other expert sources -- CNET, PCMag, TomsGuide.com, Gizmodo.com, What Hi-Fi?, TechRadar.com, TrustedReviews.com, Hi-Fi+ and InnerFidelity.com -- are just as thorough, although not head-to-head. ConsumerReports.org tests wireless speakers, rating their sound quality, ease of use and versatility, and ranking them from best to worst, but it doesn't provide many details, and Bluetooth speakers are mixed in with other wireless technologies. Owner reviews at Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Crutchfield.com reveal how well various Bluetooth speakers work in real-world use.

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Peachtree Audio DEEPBLUE2 Bluetooth Powered Speaker
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New: $349.00   
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Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II (Carbon)
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New: $199.00 $175.00   
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Marshall Kilburn Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Black (4091189)
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New: $299.99   
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Harman/kardon - Onyx Mini Portable Wireless Speaker - Black
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New: $65.90 $56.00   
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UE BOOM 2 BrainFreeze Wireless Mobile Bluetooth Speaker (Waterproof and Shockproof)
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New: $199.99 $164.49   
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UE ROLL 2 Volcano Wireless Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Waterproof)
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New: $99.99 $74.99   
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JBL Clip 2 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Black)
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New: $52.99 $45.06   
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