Bluetooth speakers cut the cord
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.
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
The best Bluetooth speakers for listening at home
You could spend
anywhere from $400 to $700 on a luxury Bluetooth speaker – but it's
really not necessary. For around $250, experts and owners say the retro-styled (Est. $250) looks gorgeous, and sounds incredible.
The Kilburn looks
exactly like a classic Marshall guitar amp. It's wrapped in the same Tolex textured vinyl (either black or cream), with the
traditional cloth speaker grille and famous cursive Marshall logo in gold. The
controls are equally old-school: A metal toggle switch flips the speaker on or
off, and three smooth-turning knobs adjust the volume and – a fundamental
feature now almost extinct from Bluetooth speakers -- the bass and treble.
You can use the
Kilburn with non-Bluetooth devices for wired listening: It comes with a 3.5mm
aux input and a coiled audio cable. It's at least somewhat portable as well, with
a wide leather strap makes the bread-loaf-sized, 6.6-pound Kilburn easier to
carry from room to room.
"The detail work
on the system is beautiful," PCMag's Tim Gideon says. TechRadar's Lewis Leong calls it "a piece of audio
art." Build-quality is rock-solid, and – thanks to its replaceable
battery (another unheard-of treat) – "the Kilburn could be the last
portable you need to buy," says Michael Gowan at
How does it
sound? "Fantastic," Gideon says. From opera to bass-thumping hip-hop, it faultlessly
handles every genre Gideon throws at it. And the balanced sound won't distort,
Gideon says – not even if you crank the volume all the way to 10. And
when you do, the Kilburn "simply rocks," TechHive's Theo Nicolakis says. Gowan finds
that the Kilburn's sound "easily fills a large room, or a small house." Leong
calls the Kilburn "near perfect," and owners agree: It earns overwhelmingly
rave reviews at Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield.
If price is no
object, check out the (Est. $700), the champion of luxury Bluetooth speakers. The 26-inch-wide,
sleek, cloth-covered cigar (available in black or white) is meant to adorn a
tabletop as a work of modern art. It plays music wirelessly via Apple AirPlay and Spotify Connect as well as Bluetooth –
including the highest quality aptX codec -- and
there's a 3.5mm aux jack for wired listening.
"But most of all
I love that sound," says Dave James at TechRadar. "Mind-blowing,"
Trusted Reviews' Danny Phillips calls it. At Wirecutter,
"Our listening panel awarded the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless an
almost perfect score." Even the hard-to-impress audiophiles at What Hi-Fi? approve: "The latest Zeppelin is everything we want from a
Bluetooth speaker." The only problem is that price tag – and perhaps a
spotty AirPlay connection. One out of seven Amazon
owners flunks the Zeppelin Wireless with a lowly 1-star rating, mostly because AirPlay won't work properly.
At first glance,
the (Est. $400) looks like a good
Zeppelin alternative. Its predecessor, the Deepblue2, wowed even the pickiest
critics with its jaw-dropping sound. With the new Deepblue3, Peachtree Audio
says it has simply extended the range and reliability of its Bluetooth
connection infuriated some Deepblue2 owners. Nearly one in five Amazon
reviewers downgrades the Deepblue2 to just 1 or 2 stars, almost always
complaining about the glitchy Bluetooth. With no
expert reviews of the Deepblue3 yet (and very few owner reviews), it remains to
be seen if Peachtree Audio has fixed the problem. That said, initial owner
reviews seem promising, making this an option to consider, especially if
feedback begins to accumulate.
For on-the-go listening, these Bluetooth speakers
Rough, tough and waterproof,
the (Est. $85) takes a beating and sounds much more expensive than it
actually is – and it's the one Bluetooth speaker reviews recommend more
than any other. "The new sub-$100 speaker king," Tom's Guide declares The Flip
4 also wins awards from CNET and TechHive, is named a
best buy by Consumer Reports, and is a customer favorite at Amazon, Best Buy
About the size of a water
bottle, the cloth-covered Flip 4's rubber bumpers protect it from getting
knocked around, and it'll survive being submerged in 3 feet of water for 30
minutes. It comes in your choice of color (black, white, gray, blue, teal or
red), with a shoestring loop at one end to wrap around your wrist, hang over
the showerhead, etc. Its strong Bluetooth connection easily ranges more than 50
feet indoors in Tom's Guide's test.
The Flip 4 can last up to 12
hours on a charge, connect to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, function as
a speakerphone and Siri or Google assistant, and fill an average room or
suburban backyard with big, open sound -- "a quality of sound that you
wouldn't expect for its size or price tag," TechHive says. It's JBL Connect+ enabled, meaning You can connect together more than 100
Flip 4 (or other Connect+) speakers for even louder (or multi-room) sound. Even
solo, Trusted Reviews' Andrew Williams says, the Flip 4 is the life of the pool
party: "It's a fun speaker with plenty of volume available."
Runner-up (Est. $70) looks like a
squattier Flip 4. It's likewise fabric-covered and waterproof, with rubber
bumpers and a little elastic carrying loop (which is very short and
"unhelpful," TechRadar's Lewis Leong says). Like the
Flip 4, the Wonderboom can connect to two Bluetooth
devices simultaneously and works with Siri or Google Assistant. Its max battery
life (10 hours) is a bit shorter than the Flip 4's, but the Wonderboom advertises a super-long Bluetooth range (100 feet). It can't take phone calls, though.
The Wonderboom can play "ridiculously loud" – high praise from Trusted Reviews' Alistair
Stevenson – with bass that Leong describes as "good, but not
class-leading." Williams at Trusted Reviews agrees that the Flip 4's bass depth
and power outperform the Wonderboom's "by a
significant margin … The JBL Flip 4 is a better party speaker than the Wonderboom, unless your idea of a party is listening to
some Nick Drake as your guests nibble cheese and crackers." But CNET's David Carnoy prefers the bass – and the overall sound
– of the Wonderboom. Owners are just as happy
with it as they are with the Flip 4: The Wonderboom averages 4.5 stars or better in hundreds of reviews at Amazon, Best Buy and
If price is no object, the (Est. $300) wows
experts and owners. "It's probably the best-sounding speaker of its size I've
ever heard," says David Carnoy at CNET. It wins
awards at Trusted Reviews and TechHive, too, and
owners at Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield rave about it.
The Revolve+ looks like a
lantern, with a saltshaker-shaped body and a carrying handle. Its aluminum body
(available in black or light gray) has rubberized bumpers like the JBL Flip 4
– but the Revolve+ is only splashproof, not
Like the Flip4, the Revolve+
offers long battery life (16 hours), works as a speakerphone and Siri or Google
assistant, and can play music from non-Bluetooth devices (via USB and 35mm aux
inputs). So far, so similar.
"What separates the Bose from
its competitors is the ability play a little louder, put out more bass without
distorting and sound a little more natural with decent detail," Carnoy says. "Is it worth three times more? Maybe not, but
it's clearly a better-sounding speaker."
A smaller, less expensive
version, the (Est. $200), delivers less bass, less volume and shorter battery life (12
hours). "It, too, is an excellent speaker for its size," Carnoy says, "but if I personally was deciding between the two, there is enough of
difference in sound quality (and that integrated handle is nice) that I'd spend
the extra dough on the Revolve Plus."
If you'd prefer something smaller
-- and cheaper – the (Est. $40) sounds
surprisingly good for its tiny size, reviews say. 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 its big
brother, the JBL Flip 4, the Clip 2'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
"impressive treble, midrange and bass for a small speaker," Tom's Guide says. PCMag agrees that "the JBL Clip 2 strikes just the right
balance. It gets quite loud, boasts a waterproof design, and there's no need to
worry about losing any of its built-in accessories." Both name it an Editors'
Choice tiny Bluetooth speaker. Wirecutter says, "if
you need something small enough to hang from a backpack strap, the Clip 2 is a
nice choice." Owners are crazy about it: It averages 4.5 stars or better over
thousands of reviews at Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield.
Expert & User Review Sources
Wirecutter 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, Tom's Guide, What Hi-Fi?, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, TechHive, Hi-Fi+ and InnerFidelity -- are just as thorough, although not
head-to-head. Consumer Reports 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, Best Buy and Crutchfield reveal how well various Bluetooth speakers work in