We pick out the best portable speakers and best Bluetooth speakers for your home and for travelling
For many, a simple Bluetooth speaker is the best solution. You can take them around the house, they needn’t cost a fortune and many of them sound an order of magnitude larger than they are.
We’re going to be looking at exclusively Bluetooth speakers, not big home-bound wireless speakers that just happen to have Bluetooth built into them. If you’re simply looking for a wireless speaker, be sure to check out our multiroom guide as well as our review of our go-to recommendation, the Sonos Play:5.
What is there to consider about Bluetooth speakers? As you’ll see from our picks, the good models still aren’t going to fit in your pocket. A bag is needed to carry a wireless speaker worth having.
THIS WEEK’S BEST BLUETOOTH SPEAKER DEALS
We’ve found you great deals on portable speakers we recommend you buy.
Jam Heavy Metal HX-P920 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £199/$298 | Now £59/$88
UE Boom 2 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £169/$253 | Now £129/$193
Consider whether you’re bothered about extra features such as NFC and aptX. NFC lets you pair with a phone simply by holding the phone over part of the speaker, but as iPhones don’t support this it’s still missing from quite a lot of models.
aptX, on the other hand, is a Bluetooth codec that enables higher-quality streamed audio. It’s not worth getting too worked up about this one either, though, as when talking about small wireless speakers rather than bigger hi-fi ones, it’s the design and tuning of the drivers that matters much more than the codec.
More importantly, how long do you need your speaker to last? And does it need to be water resistant?
You can expect most wireless speakers to last at least 8-10 hours at moderate volume, but some last much, much longer. Some speakers user rubbery flaps to protect their ports, giving them splash-proofing that’s useful outdoors.
Priorities in order? Here are our top Bluetooth speaker picks of the moment.
JAM HEAVY METAL HX-P920
- Top for value
- Up to 8-hour battery
- Aluminium frame
Until fairly recently, it was hard to get a good deal among Bluetooth speakers. Cheap ones sounded rubbish, others were expensive. The Jam Heavy Metal changes that.
It costs just £59/$88, but is made of metal and offers sound as big and loud as some of the competition costing well over £100/$150. Like most of the best small wireless speakers, it uses passive radiators to squeeze big bass out of a tiny box.
Other than its amazing value, the highlight of the Heavy Metal is its very clear, detailed treble. Unless you’re willing to spend over £100/$150, you can’t do much better than this.
Buy Now from Amazon.co.uk from £59.99 | Amazon.com from $76
At time of review the Jam Heavy Metal was available for £119.99/$180.
BLUETOOTH MINIRIG PORTABLE SPEAKER
- Up to 50-hour battery
- 3-inch driver
- Aux input
One of the first portable speakers we really fell in love with was the original Minirig. It was almost all speaker, and sounded better than anything its size. Now there’s a Bluetooth version.
Driver smarts mean some of the slightly larger rectangular speakers you’ll see here will sound much bassier, but the MiniRig is still hard to beat among speakers that’ll only fill your palm. It has a 3-inch driver, the sort of size used in speakers many times the size. This driver is also super-efficient, helping the Minirig offer up to 50 hours of use between charges.
This figure applies when using a wired connection instead of Bluetooth, but the Bluetooth Minirig will still outlast just about any rival speaker out there when using wireless too.
Buy Now from Amazon.co.uk from £129.99 | Amazon.com from $189
At time of review the Bluetooth Minirig Portable Speaker was available for £129/$193.
BOSE SOUNDLINK MINI II
- Up to 10-hour battery
- Charge dock
- Dual passive radiators
Bose used to be an easy company to sneer at, selling almost bizarrely expensive radios advertised in the back of broadsheets. However, now that its audience has become truly mainstream it offers class-leading performance from some of its gadgets.
The Bose SoundLink Mini II is a great mini speaker, offering thundering bass for its size matched with coherent, lifelike mids you just wouldn’t expect from a small portable speaker like this. What this particular model does better than a lot of the competition is in making the sound seem to come from a much larger source. The drivers are tiny, but they don’t sound it, as the sonics expand way beyond this little guy’s dimensions.
Bose doesn’t talk about exactly how it achieves this sort of secret sauce, but it’s partly down to psychoacoustic processing tricking your ears. Clever. It also comes with a very neat charging dock.
Buy Now from Amazon.co.uk from £169 | Amazon.com from $199
At time of review the SoundLink Mini II was available for £169/$253.
UE BOOM 2
- Multiple colour options
- Loud ‘360-degree’ sound
The UE Boom 2 is a beast among Bluetooth speakers. It looks a bit like an oversized energy drink can, but actually has one of the smartest designs around.
It’s bold and colourful, but also almost completely waterproof, making it perfect for use outdoors. Most of the other speakers here are not just at risk of dying if they get wet; they’ll also get damaged far more easily. The outside of the Boom 2 is tough mesh and rubberised plastic. It’s a bit less fancy than aluminium, but handles a pounding much better.
To add to the neat design chops, the UE Boom 2 is also very, very loud. Once again, that’s perfect for outdoors use, where sound will dissipate more than indoors. Sound quality doesn’t quite match the very best here, though. It will sound quite strained at top volume, and the similarly priced Bose SoundLink Mini II just sounds better.
Buy Now from Amazon.co.uk from £129 | Amazon.com from $179.99
At time of review the UE Boom 2 was available for £169/$253.
- 13-hour battery
- Water resistant (IPX4)
- Seven drivers
With probably the best sound quality per square inch you’ll see anywhere among wireless speakers, the Riva S is something special. It’s not just down to clever tuning, either – the Riva S has more drivers than any speaker of this size we’ve reviewed.
Inside a speaker smaller than a house brick there are three active drivers and four passive bass drivers. That’s right, seven in total.
This is easily the most musical-sounding speaker in this class, offering a remarkably complete tonal picture considering we’re still dealing with tiny speaker drivers. If you truly care about sound quality, the Riva S is tops, but it’s not cheap and isn’t as loud as some.
Buy Now from Amazon.co.uk from £188 | Amazon.com from $234
At the time of review the Riva S was available for £199/$298.