Skip to main content

Seven Portable Bluetooth Speaker Systems, Tested And Reviewed

Wireless Speakers From $50 To $250

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.

ArcticS113BTLuxa2GroovyEdifierExtremeConnectCambridgeAudioMinx GoSupertoothDiscoTwinEtonRukusXLLogitechUEBoombox
Power (RMS)2 x 3 W2 x 2.5 W2 x 2 Wunlisted2 x 16 W22 W10 W
AudioInputsBT 4.03.5 mmBT 2.13.5 mmBT 2.13.5 mmMicroSDMicro USBBT 4.03.5 mmBT (Unlisted)3.5 mmBT 2.13.5 mmBT 3.03.5 mm
Charging PortN/AN/AN/AUSB Charging Port(AC Only)N/AUSB Charging PortN/A
Weight290 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-FreeYesYesYesNoNoNoNo
NFCYesNoNoNoNoNoNo
Warranty (Years)TwoOneTwoOneTwoOneTwo
AmazonPrice 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.

  • vmem
    whatever happened to really popular products like jambox and solemate? they're well within your price range
    Reply
  • DarkSable
    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.)
    Reply
  • lp231
    i was hoping you guys would also include the Creative Airwave.
    http://us.store.creative.com/B00COIHWVG/M/B00COIHWVG.htm
    Reply
  • thesuperguy
    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.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    12155233 said:
    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.

    Reply
  • cleeve
    12154939 said:
    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.
    Reply
  • boogalooelectric
    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
    Reply
  • lp231
    12155607 said:
    12154939 said:
    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.
    Reply
  • DarkSable
    12156054 said:
    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.)

    Reply
  • TunaSoda
    My Bose Soundlink Mini blows all of those away for sound quality
    Reply