When reviewing wireless speakers designed for outdoor use, we came across a lot of positive reviews for the Ultimate Ears Boom (Est. $200) . The Wirecutter awards it the title of Best Rugged Bluetooth Speaker, and it also earns 4-star ratings from CNET and PCMag.com. We also found hundreds of positive reviews for this speaker from users at Amazon.com and other retail sites. Most reviewers praise the speaker's sound performance; compact, yet sturdy construction; and long battery life. However, when investigating user reviews, we came across a major flaw in this speaker's design: The rechargeable battery cannot be replaced. When it eventually wears out and can no longer hold a charge (a process one user estimates at about two years), the speaker will no longer work -- or at least will no longer work without AC power. Logitech, the manufacturer of the Boom, acknowledges in its user forums that the nonreplaceable battery may be an "inconvenience," but we think shelling out $200 for a portable speaker that will cease to be portable in two years is a deal-breaker. Consequently, we cannot recommend this otherwise well-reviewed product.
Fortunately, there are other good choices available for less money. For instance, the TDK Life on Record Wireless Weatherproof Speaker A33 (Est. $150) performs well in professional tests and also gets very solid reviews from users. CNET says it "delivers very good sound for its size" and describes its design as sturdy and splashproof. The Wirecutter, though it doesn't recommend the A33, acknowledges that it's the one outdoor speaker they tested that delivers a decent amount of bass without becoming muddy. However, both sites are unimpressed with the speaker's battery life of five to six hours per charge. Users at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com love the speaker's sound and portability, but several report problems with the streaming process.
An even less expensive option is the G-Project G-Boom Wireless Bluetooth Boombox (Est. $100) . Its battery life is comparable to the TDK's, and at 5.7 pounds, it's roughly twice as heavy. However, it's very solidly built, resembling an old-fashioned lunch box, with rubber coating over the USB port and other inputs to protect them against splashes. Professional reviewers are split on the quality of this speaker's sound; Jeremy Horwitz of iLounge.com says it "sounds great at any volume," while reviews at CNET and Digital Trends describe the sound as a bit muddy. The G-Boom has far fewer user reviews than the TDK, but they are largely positive, describing this speaker as a great value with powerful sound. As with the TDK, however, we found a few complaints about glitches with Bluetooth.