Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Seven Portable Bluetooth Speaker Systems, Tested And Reviewed

Seven Portable Bluetooth Speaker Systems, Tested And Reviewed
By

We're testing a wide range of Bluetooth-capable speakers, priced between $50 and $250, to gauge how well these wireless audio devices fare. Believe it or not, there's a ton of differentiation, and a number of systems clearly rise to the top of our list.

The wireless Bluetooth-based speaker market really took off over the last two years. Of course, we shouldn't be surprised. It was bound to follow the evolution of smartphones and tablets taking the place of dedicated MP3 players. With access to music services like Spotify and Pandora, you no longer need to carry your library with you. Then again, if you're at home, tapping into a well-stocked repository of tunes is super-easy with those devices, too. With more music all around us, there are more situations where we'd like to share with friends instead of hiding it between a set of headphones.

With all of the speaker systems we were introduced to in 2013, it's a good time to take a closer look at what's available. After all, a lot of these would make great little stocking stuffers.

After a fair bit of research, I was surprised by the specifications that were consistent and those that varied wildly between devices. In today's story, all of the sub-$100 options are what I'd consider ultra-portable. They're small enough to tote around in a purse and equipped with mics to double as speakerphones. From $100 to $200 there are the slightly larger models with bigger drivers and better sound, but none of that speakerphone business. Call those products portable. Finally, above $200, there are the more powerful options, which are modern versions of the boombox that was popular back when we were kids.


Arctic
S113BT
Luxa2
Groovy
Edifier
Extreme
Connect
Cambridge
Audio
Minx Go
Supertooth
Disco
Twin
Eton
Rukus
XL
Logitech
UE
Boombox
Power (RMS)
2 x 3 W
2 x 2.5 W
2 x 2 W
unlisted
2 x 16 W
22 W
10 W
Audio
Inputs
BT 4.0
3.5 mm
BT 2.1
3.5 mm
BT 2.1
3.5 mm
MicroSD
Micro USB
BT 4.0
3.5 mm
BT (Unlisted)
3.5 mm
BT 2.1
3.5 mm
BT 3.0
3.5 mm
Charging Port
N/A
N/AN/AUSB
Charging
Port
(AC Only)
N/AUSB
Charging
Port
N/A
Weight
290 g
(0.6 lbs)
556 g
(1.2 lbs)
450 g
(1 lb)
1089 g
(2.4 lbs)
2 x 553 g
(2 x 0.9 lbs)
3175 g
(7 lbs)
1980 g
(4.4 lbs)
Hands-Free
Yes
YesYesNoNoNoNo
NFC
YesNoNoNoNoNoNo
Warranty (Years)
Two
OneTwoOneTwoOneTwo
Amazon
Price Range
$50 to $70
$82
$83 to $100
$149
$160 to $170
$199
$238 to $250

We're reviewing each speaker in order of price, from the lowest to the highest, starting with Arctic's S113BT.

Display 22 Comments.
  • 3 Hide
    vmem , December 10, 2013 9:51 PM
    whatever happened to really popular products like jambox and solemate? they're well within your price range
  • 1 Hide
    DarkSable , December 10, 2013 10:56 PM
    I run a firespinning troupe. When you're practicing routines, you HAVE to have loud, clear music, because the fire tools are spinning quickly, causing a massive amount of air turbulence with the flames, creating a very, very loud roar.

    In order to practice a routine with perhaps five other people on stage, you have to be able to hear the music to know where you are in the routine - otherwise someone might move too early or not move, and, well... bad things would happen.

    When I founded the club, I was looking at all sorts of options; what I really wanted was a shop boombox, but they were expensive and didn't have the battery life I needed for practice... and couldn't be plugged in because you practice outside.

    After reading a lot of reviews, I got the UE boombox. It has several features that were incredibly useful to me - most notable the fact that it could store three bluetooth profiles AND connect through a normal 3.5mm jack - that way we didn't have to just use my music collection, but could use other members' as well without them having to mail me the files.

    Solutions we tried to use before was an iHome system, which didn't come close to having enough volume, and an old CD boombox... which worked fine, except the CDs got worn out pretty quickly as they were outdoors, and it was limiting on what music we could use - we had to have it beforehand.

    So I got this UE boombox, and it was perfect. It doesn't have THE sharpest sound in the world, but it doesn't have distortion with everything turned to max volume, and it has solid base (so you can hear the beat clearly) and good battery life.

    For anything requiring outdoor music that has to carry well or be particularly well, I highly, highly recommend the UE Boombox. (It would work perfectly for, say, a beach party, or something like that.)
  • 1 Hide
    lp231 , December 11, 2013 7:18 AM
    i was hoping you guys would also include the Creative Airwave.
    http://us.store.creative.com/B00COIHWVG/M/B00COIHWVG.htm
  • -1 Hide
    thesuperguy , December 11, 2013 8:00 AM
    The problem with this review is that they are basing their recommendations on the purely technical aspects that in the end, really don't contribute to sound quality. Ranking them based on features, range, and maximum volume is fine and all, but frequency range is not an indicator of quality. It is a very subjective thing.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , December 11, 2013 8:49 AM
    1.  
    Quote:
    The problem with this review is that they are basing their recommendations on the purely technical aspects that in the end, really don't contribute to sound quality. Ranking them based on features, range, and maximum volume is fine and all, but frequency range is not an indicator of quality. It is a very subjective thing.


    That's not true, sound quality is foremost when it comes to factors that contribute to our final recommendations.

    Both subjective and objective measures of sound quality were taken into account.
    We can't chart subjective sound quality but that doesn't mean you should assume it's unimportant. It's a huge part of the analysis.

  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , December 11, 2013 8:50 AM
    Quote:
    i was hoping you guys would also include the Creative Airwave.
    http://us.store.creative.com/B00COIHWVG/M/B00COIHWVG.htm


    We asked Creative for a sample and they declined to answer.
  • 1 Hide
    boogalooelectric , December 11, 2013 9:54 AM
    I just bought one of these for $20 from Monoprice

    http://www.monoprice.com/Product?ab3=b&utm_expid=58369800-11.KFcpHWqASSutMqNPOqaJVg.1&c_id=108&cp_id=10827&cs_id=1082704&p_id=7364&seq=1&format=2&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.monoprice.com%2FCategory%3Fc_id%3D120%26cp_id%3D10827

    I hooked them up to a pair of old cambridge soundworks 2.1 speakers and voila I have bluetooth speakers.

    Monoprice has another for $45 that can also do NFC.

    Also where is the JBL3
  • 0 Hide
    lp231 , December 11, 2013 10:07 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    i was hoping you guys would also include the Creative Airwave.
    http://us.store.creative.com/B00COIHWVG/M/B00COIHWVG.htm


    We asked Creative for a sample and they declined to answer.


    I went to this shopping center one time and one of electronic stores has it on demo. It doesn't sound too bad, quite good actually, was about to get it, but its price was a bit steep during that time.
  • 0 Hide
    DarkSable , December 11, 2013 10:59 AM
    Quote:
    I hooked them up to a pair of old cambridge soundworks 2.1 speakers and voila I have bluetooth speakers.

    Monoprice has another for $45 that can also do NFC.


    I've got an NFC/bluetooth receiver for my stereo system as well. The trouble with that is that it requires two wall outlets to run - the idea behind these is you can take and use them anywhere. (I would consider them bluetooth boomboxes, rather than speaker systems.)

  • -2 Hide
    TunaSoda , December 11, 2013 2:14 PM
    My Bose Soundlink Mini blows all of those away for sound quality
  • 0 Hide
    gofasterstripes , December 11, 2013 11:47 PM
    Dunno man, BOSE can be a pretty mixed bag usually.

    Anyway - they should have tested a few vibration speakers. I've heard the 10W "Adin" branded Chinese unit a few times, and it's a bit of a game-changer to be honest. On a good solid desk the bass is remarkable and everything else is listenable enough. Goes loud too.
  • 0 Hide
    LORD_ORION , December 12, 2013 7:07 AM
    Buy a Mighty Dwarf and be happy.
  • 1 Hide
    rwinches , December 12, 2013 7:08 PM
    The Logitech UE Boombox has been on sale online Bestbuy for $99 and it was just before that $129 in-store. It is currently $149 BB online.

    It is tuned for outside so it has loudness compensation on by default. Inside if you use an EQ and pull down 250Hz on down just a bit it it really opens the mids and highs.
    At it current discount it is hard to beat. It truely provides room filling sound.

    I also have the Philips DS7880 which is a great sounding speaker and would be a great choice because of it's wide range and uncolored sound. If you grab the speaker while it's playing the bass vibrations is surprising. I don't use it's docking feature just direcr or BT.

    The Soundfreaq SFQ-04 Sound Kick is another speaker to consider ($99 Amazon) it too has quality sound that is easy to listen to for hours on end.
  • 0 Hide
    rwinches , December 12, 2013 7:53 PM
    Now after reading this joke of a review and seeing that the highly acclaimed Logitech UE Boombox was panned because Tom's doesn't know how to use an EQ I am amazed.

    The Minx is a good speaker.

    The Monster Micro Clarity currently $75.99 at Amazon will blow the doors off of the rest of the field, not only does it have speaker phone you can give it voice commands. It is compact and easy to carry THe BT has apt-x and AAC.
    http://www.amazon.com/Monster-Micro-Clarity-Bluetooth-Speakers/dp/B0084Y9V54

    The Sony SRSBTX300 ($128 Amazon) 20 watts, is another excellent choice as is it's bigger brother the SRSBTX500 ($249 BestBuy) 40 watts, they have NFC and speakerphone.
  • -2 Hide
    cypeq , December 13, 2013 3:36 AM
    They are all pretty crappy... I've seen Bose release some passable mobile/bluetooth players but they are out of this budget range and they are still just passable/ok-ish.

    It's cool gadget and there is market for all this buit it ain't very good sounding speaker for the price. I would only consider this as mobile solution.
  • 0 Hide
    rwinches , December 13, 2013 6:00 AM
    ^^ Wrong, there are quality speakers as I listed above, they of course are not sound system replacements, but they are HiFi.
    The Klipsch Music Center KMC3 $399 (Street $359) or the Beats by Dre Beatbox $399 (street $320 -$359) will replace the spl and fidelity of a home system and are luggable,
    they take 6D batteries

    If you want really to go for excellence the Polk Audio AM6119-A Woodbourne $699 should satisfy your needs remote, BT, apt-x, USB (charging), ethernet, optical, 3.5mm 180 watt 4 channel amp 24" x 7" h x 6.88" d 17 lbs DSP and Dolby, Airplay, no batteries. If you can afford this and need portability then get a 12 volt gel-cell and an inverter.
  • -2 Hide
    DarkSable , December 13, 2013 7:55 PM
    ...why in the world would you spend $700 on something that someone could walk past, pick up, and walk away with?
  • -1 Hide
    utomo , December 14, 2013 6:26 AM
    I wish they can add built in mp3 player and radio
  • 0 Hide
    lp231 , December 14, 2013 6:31 AM
    What about those outdoor speakers that look like a rock. Are they better than all of this?
  • 0 Hide
    JAJ13063 , December 17, 2013 8:26 AM
    I was hoping you could include Phoniture as well - the sound quality is great and it acts as a phone stand & charger too. I have compared to a few listed here that cost a bunch more. The product details are on phoniture.com.
Display more comments
React To This Article