Quick answer: The beauty about the portable Bluetooth speaker market today is that there is something for everyone. Different devices perform different functions at various levels of competence, and prices vary accordingly. For those seeking the best all-around Bluetooth speakers, the three we’ve identified – the UE ROLL, the Fugoo Style, and the UE Megaboom – are choices that any buyer would be happy with.
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Portable Bluetooth speakers
In this day and age, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of portable Bluetooth speakers available. As a result of increasing competition, the pace of the portable Bluetooth speaker market has caused companies to provide innovative designs and solutions for the flaws in existing models. In 2015 alone, portable Bluetooth speakers as a group went from being predominantly vulnerable to water to overwhelmingly waterproof, or at least water-resistant. Likewise, the sound quality of the devices – both bass and treble, but especially bass – has improved dramatically. The Bluetooth speaker industry is simply adapting to the rapid growth and demands of the audio market. With smartphones and music streaming services playing music through great portable speakers has never been easier and never sounded so good. The differences in current popular models of portable Bluetooth speakers come down to four primary elements: battery life, style and design, sound quality, and (of course) price. For this review, let’s look at the top choices in different price brackets: less than $25, $25 to $100, $100 to $200, and above $200.
Best speaker less than $25
Spending more than $25 may not be feasible for everyone. Not everyone needs to blast music and you might want a speaker thats a bit more personal. Whether you want a portable speaker for background music or want to get your karaoke on in the shower, then there are a couple great budget options. Our first pick is the Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Curve which provides great sound for the price and is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The physical quality is surprisingly good for this price range while pumping out a respectable amount of bass compared to it’s size. It easily connects to Bluetooth and the lower part of it has standard volume and track changing buttons. If you need a small, cheap portable speaker to sit on a flat surface, the OontZ Curve will be perfect for you, or even as a gift or stocking stuffer.
On the other hand, if you want an inexpensive but waterproof speaker then you’ll want to go with the IPX7 rated Polk Audio Swimmer. This is the one that will survive your shower without worrying about it. An IPX7 rating means that it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, so it will definitely survive minor splashing. It has a unique bendable hook that it is designed to hang from something like a shower head. For the bathroom or other areas where it can be hanged the sound is great, but it doesn’t work well on a flat surface as the sound vibrations cause it to move around. However due to its unique design it is still pretty easy to hang from a handle or something. Just be careful though because the bendable hook is not strong enough to stay attached during too much movement, such as if you were to attach it to your bicycle or your backpack. Either way, for this price range the Polk Audio Swimmer is the best waterproof portable speaker under $25.
The Ultimate Ears ROLL is not “awesome” at anything. It does not have the highest quality sound, it does not look like the nicest portable Bluetooth speaker on the block, and it does not have the additional bells and whistles like a speakerphone or a control panel on the device itself. However, what the ROLL does do is achieve the perfect balance between omnidirectional sound quality, portability, design, and price. It has a unique disc-shaped design and an attached bungee cord that allows the user to hang it from anywhere they desire, including the shower, since the ROLL is also waterproof. And while it may not have the sound quality of a more expensive Bluetooth music player, for this price range, the ROLL excels in terms of the richness of its sound. Its treble is fairly crisp and it has a good-enough bass. Additionally, the ROLL’s nine-hour battery life is above average at this price point. All things considered, the ROLL is a very solid portable Bluetooth speaker – but not an exceptional one.
Next up we have the Logitech X300. Compared to the ROLL, the X300 provides even better sound, with a more impressive bass, a smoother treble, and just a more full sound overall. The X300 also has a speakerphone function, again setting it apart from the ROLL. Where the X300 falls short, however, is in its design and battery life. It is comparatively bulky and has a somewhat awkward shape, making it difficult to pack away. Its battery life is typically somewhere between five and six hours, which is near the lowest on the market. Both of these factors severely limit the device’s portability. Additionally, unlike nearly all of its competitors, the X300 is neither waterproof nor even water-resistant. However, it is worth adding that although its design is inconvenient, it looks sharp and comes in four different color schemes. All in all, the Logitech X300 is a solid device with high sound quality, is certainly not the “jack of all trades” that the ROLL is.
The final contender at the under-$100 price point is the JBL Flip 3. All things considered, the Flip 3 is remarkably similar to the ROLL. Rather than being disc-shaped, the Flip 3 is cylindrical. Like the ROLL, however, it hands on a bungee cord that makes it easy to carry and set up. In terms of sound quality, it offers an impressive bass, and it has a solid speakerphone function. While it is not waterproof, the Flip 3 is “splashproof,” making it a safe choice for pool-related entertainment or biking or running in rainy weather. Additionally, the Flip 3 has a 10-hour battery life, slightly exceeding that of the ROLL. Perhaps the primary downside of the device is its subpar sound quality at high volumes. Unlike the ROLL and the X300, which retain a full sound even at high volume, the Flip 3 becomes slightly distorted. Still, the Flip 3 joins the UE ROLL as the two portable Bluetooth speakers that got it “right” the most in this price range.
When it comes down to it, any of these three options are solid choices. However, the UE ROLL stands slightly taller than its closest competitor, the Flip 3, in terms of sound quality and waterproofing, which makes us give it the nod as the best option for this category. It is worth noting, though, that the X300 could be a very good choice depending on what the buyer plans to use it for. If it is mostly for use at home or in a hotel room, then the X300 is a more affordable option with better sound – it’s tough to argue with that. For most buyers, however, the convenience and portability of the ROLL’s design is too valuable to pass up.
Best speaker between $100 – $200
Of the three price ranges, this one tends to be where the majority of portable Bluetooth speakers fall. Accordingly, there are a number of solid options. The best of these are the Ultimate Ears BOOM 2, the JBL Charge 2+, and the Fugoo Style.
The UE BOOM 2 is a solid all-around portable Bluetooth speaker. It has a cylindrical design that provides excellent omnidirectional sound. Unlike the smaller UE ROLL, the BOOM 2 is shock-proof in addition to being waterproof. Additionally, it has a respectable battery life of 15 hours. The features that set the BOOM 2 apart from the competition, though, are its extended Bluetooth range and impressive volume. Despite the high price point of $198, as a product of a well-known Bluetooth speaker manufacturer, buyers can’t go wrong with the BOOM 2.
Up next we have the JBL Charge 2+. Like other versions of the Charge, the 2+ has a cylindrical design that can be stood upright or laid on its side. Powered by two 7.5-watt drivers, its sound is superb. The quality of its bass is particularly surprising. Furthermore, it has approximately 12 hours of battery life and is water-resistant. One unique feature of the Charge 2+ is that is can multi-task and serve as a backup battery for phones, music players, and tablets. Both in terms of battery-life and sound quality, it falls short of the UE BOOM 2 and the Fugoo Style (discussed below), but it is more reasonably priced at just under $150.
The Fugoo Style, much like the UE ROLL in the under-$100 category, does most things really well but nothing spectacularly. Priced at $180, its omnidirectional sound is top-notch. It has excellent bass and treble tones, which were further enhanced in late 2015, and has a number of sound modes that allow the user to customize the volume and range of the sound accordingly to the surroundings, whether that be a small room, a large room, or outdoors. Additionally, at just over one pound, it is highly portable. It is also a rugged device, and is built to withstand water, mud, and snow, and has a battery life of up to 40 hours. It is also shock-proof. However, the same design that lends the Style its ruggedness detracts somewhat from its portability; it has a triangular design that is more difficult to pack away than many of its competitors.
The UE BOOM 2 and the Fugoo Style are both strong contenders for the top slot at this price point. However, the one feature that sets the Style apart is its extraordinary battery 40-hour battery life. Despite its limited portability, that battery life really puts the Style on a whole different level than the previous two devices, and it is the clear first choice for this price range.
Best speaker above $200
The above-$200 price range consists of some deluxe Bluetooth speakers both in terms of quality and size. Generally speaking, they all tend to provide better sound quality than any of the cheaper models, but are not particularly portable and may be better suited for home use. Still, there are several that catch the eye in this category as deserving consideration for this review: the Ultimate Ears Megaboom, the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III, and the Riva Audio Turbo X.
The UE Megaboom is very similar to the UE BOOM 2, but it performs better nearly across the board. It is slightly larger and has a bigger (and louder) sound, better waterproofing, and a longer battery life. It’s sound may not be the equivalent of the Bose SoundLink III, and certainly falls short of the Riva Turbo X, but the Megaboom is as versatile and portable as they come in this price range. It comes in at just under $300.
For the same price, buyers should also consider the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III. Much like the Megaboom, the SoundLink 3 is essentially an upgrade over its younger sibling – the SoundLink Mini series – across the board. Its sound is more precise and higher quality, it has a much better battery life, and boasts a sharper design that is simultaneously sleek and sturdy. One major downside to the SoundLink, however, is that it has no speakerphone function, unlike its competitors. Additionally, much like the Turbo X below, it requires a dedicated adapter in order to charge.
It just wouldn’t do to exclude the Riva Audio Turbo X from this review. While the Turbo X is not without a number of flaws, there simply isn’t a better portable Bluetooth speaker out there in terms of sound quality; it’s abundantly clear when listening to the Turbo X that it’s in a league of its own. Just like for standard home stereo systems, both voices and instruments sound clear and natural. Design-wise, the Turbo X isn’t all that bad, and it is relatively compact, making it possible to travel with the device. In terms of battery life, the Turbo X can last for approximately 24 hours. However, it is not without its flaws. The Turbo X is comparatively fragile compared to the other devices under consideration, and it requires a dedicated charger. Additionally, the speakerphone quality is average, at best. For the hefty price of $350, buyers likely expect something more specifically tailored to their needs, like one of the previous models.
All things considered, this price range is perhaps the most difficult to pinpoint a winner. The UE Megaboom and Bose SoundLink 3, while upgrades over their cheaper versions, still have their shortcomings. The Turbo X, for its part, is the ideal Bluetooth speaker, but lacks the valuable portability and additional bells and whistles that most users desire. This one is close, but it seems that the UE Megaboom has the least flaws and is the best all-around device of the bunch.