Three best Bluetooth speakers
Smartphones are incredible little devices that do a lot of things well, but one thing most phones don't get right is audio. Despite being able to reach across the globe for any information you can think of, most phones come with speakers that sound terrible and aren't sufficient for listening to music. That's where Bluetooth speakers come in.
Bluetooth speakers are small, often portable speakers designed to connect wirelessly to your smartphone (or any Bluetooth device) and amplify audio. In other words, if you need the music on your phone or tablet to sound good, you need a Bluetooth speaker.
The Bluetooth speaker market is incredibly diverse, with models ranging from tiny to huge and feature sets that include everything from basic playback to your favorite digital assistant. Get to know Bluetooth speakers with our shopping guide - the features you want, the gimmicks to ignore, and the right price to pay - and find the perfect model for your lifestyle, then get ready to enjoy your smartphone's audio like you've never heard it before!
Considerations when choosing Bluetooth speakers
Depending on what you're looking for, there are several factors that can make or break a Bluetooth speaker. You'll want to pay the closest attention to the following.
Sound quality Of course, the most important thing about a Bluetooth speaker is how it sounds. Some low-end speakers are only capable of producing tinny, AM-radio-quality sound, while more expensive models bring enough bass to fuel a rave. As you're considering different models of Bluetooth speaker, pay close attention to how users describe the sound quality in reviews, and if you're an audiophile, be prepared to pay more for a speaker that lives up to your standards.
Portability Many Bluetooth speakers are portable, so you can take them with you on a day at the beach or your next camping trip. Portable speakers are among the most affordable Bluetooth speakers on the market, but they make some necessary concessions, most commonly with sound quality. Affordable portable Bluetooth speakers usually produce good - but not great - audio, while more expensive options deliver much higher-fidelity sound.
Connectivity Bluetooth speakers are primarily designed to connect to devices via Bluetooth, but it's always nice to have additional options just in case. Some Bluetooth speakers support WiFi, too, so you can stream music in better quality. Other speakers include a 3.5mm auxiliary input for using wired connectivity. If you plan to use your speaker with any non-Bluetooth devices, you'll need to buy one with additional connectivity options.
Bluetooth speaker features
Once you're comfortable with the basics of Bluetooth speakers, consider some less common features that you might want to seek out.
Extended battery life If you're looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker, be sure to check reviews to see how long the battery lasts in real-world conditions. Most battery-powered Bluetooth speakers last a minimum of three to four hours before needing to be recharged. Some more expensive models have larger batteries that last longer.
Digital assistants Some Bluetooth speakers have a built-in digital assistant, so you can control them with voice commands. Speakers with web-connected assistants are definitely pricier than those without, but if you've ever been curious about Google Home or Amazon's Alexa, a Bluetooth speaker is a good low-stakes way of trying it out.
360° sound Many Bluetooth speakers are cylindrical and manufactured with speakers that wrap around the entire unit. These speakers deliver "360° sound," which is a fancy way of saying that they play music in every direction. Using a Bluetooth speaker with 360° sound is perfect for filling up an entire room with music, and it generally sounds better than a unidirectional speaker of the same size.
Q. How close does my smartphone need to be to a Bluetooth speaker in order to stream music wirelessly?
A. It depends. The Bluetooth standard has evolved and its range has expanded, so modern Bluetooth devices are able to maintain connectivity over much longer distances. Most can keep a stable connection for up to 30 feet, and much farther in some cases. For best results, keep your Bluetooth device within 30 feet of your Bluetooth speaker.
Q. How do I connect my smartphone to a Bluetooth speaker?
A. The process for connecting a smartphone to a Bluetooth speaker will vary based on the make and model of the phone. However, most smartphones connect to Bluetooth devices in the Settings app. To begin pairing, open the Settings app on your smartphone and look for a menu labeled Bluetooth. From there, you should see your Bluetooth speaker as an available connection. Tap it to pair the two devices. If you experience any problems with Bluetooth connectivity, refer to your phone manufacturer's website.
Q. Can I stream music on a Bluetooth speaker without a smartphone?
A. It depends on the Bluetooth speaker, but not usually. Most Bluetooth speakers are designed to stream music from Bluetooth devices, such as smartphones or tablets, and don't include their own content sources. If you're looking for a Bluetooth speaker that doesn't require you to use a smartphone, consider getting a smart Bluetooth speaker that includes a digital assistant. That way you can access online content through voice commands, no smartphone needed.
Bluetooth speakers we recommend
Best of the best: Bose SoundLink Revolve
Our take: Bose has done it again: this tiny speaker delivers incredible sound with enough bass to please even the pickiest listeners.
What we like: The SoundLink is just plain gorgeous, and it sounds great. It's the perfect poolside speaker, thanks to its durability and water resistance.
What we dislike: At this price point, a digital assistant like Alexa or Google Home should be included.
Best bang for your buck: Amazon Echo
Our take: The smart speaker that started it all is still one of the best. The current-generation Echo sounds amazing, and having Alexa on board is a game changer.
What we like: Amazon has enabled Alexa with more than 50,000 skills, so she can do anything from telling you the weather to giving you the latest stock market updates.
What we dislike: Having a smart speaker on in your home means it's always listening, so many users have privacy concerns.
Choice 3: JBL Pulse 2
Our take: The JBL Pulse 2 is a behemoth that gets everything right: great sound quality, solid battery life, and echo-canceling speakerphone functionality. A solid choice for anyone in search of a portable Bluetooth speaker.
What we like: If you buy multiple JBL Pulse 2 speakers, you can link them so they're playing the same music. The splash-proof enclosure means you can take it anywhere.
What we dislike: The dynamic light show on the exterior of the case is a gimmick that wastes battery life.
Jaime is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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