Here at the Strategist we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy (like bed sheets or pillows), but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we’re introducing People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed (that’s four-to-five-star reviews and lots of ‘em) products and single out the most convincing. Here, the best portable speakers on Amazon, according to the people (note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity).
Best Very Small Speaker
“I’m an airline pilot spending about ten to 12 nights a month in hotels. This speaker is my new best friend. Sound quality: very good. I like talk radio, news, website sounds, etc. I listen to music, also, but if I only wanted this for music, I’d get something else. It’s as good as a high-quality radio; but for music, I’d spend a little more money for a higher-quality sound. For my usage, I’m very happy. Size: larger than a golf ball, about the size of a plum. It’s surprisingly small for the sound it emits. I pack it in my shoe for travel, in the little bag it comes with.”
Best Audio Quality at $200
“In summary (and to my surprise): The SoundLink II produced the highest-quality audio of any wireless-speaker device I have auditioned. It is the unit I kept, and will continue to use. For context, I almost exclusively listen to Spotify on this device, and almost exclusively around the pool. From a music-reproduction perspective, nothing I have heard in this price range matches the SoundLink II for wireless sound. It emits truly high-quality audio.”
Best Audio Quality at $300
“I did weeks of research on high-end Bluetooth speakers (JBL, Harman, Fugoo, Bose, etc.), and being a very indecisive person, it was a difficult task. Do you want the speaker that you can throw in a bag, has 35 hours of battery, and is waterproof. … Or the speaker that will beat the block down? At the end of the day, I chose SOUND, and I could not be happier. This speaker has great bass, and if you were playing baseball in the outfield and this speaker was at home plate, you could hear it clearly. Can the competition do that? Not even close.”
Best 360-Degree Speaker
“I am a Zumba fitness instructor and have used a huge music box for several years, but I needed to purchase a new one. The Best Buy salesman recommended the UE BOOM 2, but I thought it was too small. I asked someone who I totally trust with electronic products, and he had one, too. I bought it, and immediately got it hooked up with my iPhone 6 Plus to see how it would be. I used it in my class tonight and LOVED the sound. I was SO IMPRESSED. Never thought it would be as good as it is. I’m planning to purchase another one in case I do some outside classes, the two combined will have a great sound. Definitely recommend this product.”
Speaker With the Best Battery Life
“Dang this speaker is amazing. Cannot beat the metal-build quality and huge sound from this compact, but well-designed, cube speaker! Overall, I personally love this device, and it will be my daily Bluetooth from now on. I had an older 2.1 Bluetooth bar that sucked compared to this one. The ease of use, quality of the product, and just great sound from such a small package are worth way more than the price and reliability of this Anker product. I’m surprised by how low the price is, as this is a premium product! Charging and battery life — five stars. Battery life is definitely impressive with 2100mAh of power! I was able to get 20 hours of playtime with this device, as advertised, using the latest 4.0 Bluetooth devices.”
Best Affordable Speaker
“I bought this as a gift for my boyfriend; unfortunately, his radio in his car no longer works, and he was the only person at work unable to listen to their own music, because he had no source. I think of all the gifts I’ve gotten him, this is definitely a favorite. He constantly tells me how good it is, and how long the battery lasts for him. He works in a loud factory, and while he said it can sometimes drown out the speaker a bit, he’s still able to hear it. I haven’t used it much — other than a quick test after I received it, just to get an idea — but he loves it, so I’d say it’s worth it.”
Best Kids' Speaker
“Shut the front door! I have an array of Bluetooth speakers from cheapest to high-end. I opened this, expecting to hear well if I were sitting at my desk with it on my desk, or in my kitchen IF the dishwasher or no other noise was competing. WAS I SURPRISED!!!!! This little cutie has a rich, quality sound, with volume that will blow your mind! In fact, if it’s playing in my kitchen? You can hear clearly in every adjoining room and farther. It also connects quickly with zero fuss. With some devices, it’s almost as if you have to stand on one leg with an arm next to device, and after ten minutes, you MAY be connected. This connected lickety-split. I purchased it as an extra gift to have on hand, or a last-minute stocking stuffer. Instead, I had two teens fighting over it during my trial run! I am absolutely beyond shocked at the volume and quality in this bitty, cute speaker.”
Best High-Design Speaker
“This HK Onyx Mini exceeded all my expectations. It is smaller than I imagined, but this Bluetooth speaker puts out big music sound. In keeping with Harman Kardon sound, this Bluetooth speaker is very clean and crisp in the sound it emits, and can get quite loud in relation to its size. The bass is tight and not boomy, with the nice separation of the lows where bass-guitar notes are clear, as well as the bass drum in music. The bass is definitely there and can be felt, but not overpowering and boomy like my JBL Charge 2+ ( which I like quite a bit as well). I would say the frequency response is more on the flat side, and not boosted on the lows or highs, just a clean, crisp, all-around great small speaker.”
“JBL is in it to win it. I own the JBL Xtreme, the Charge 2+, and now the Charge 3. If I had to pick one, it would be the Charge 3. I love the sound of the Charge 2+, but the volume is not loud enough. If you are going to listen to the speaker right next to you, the Charge 2+ is very good, as the treble and bass are boosted like a smiley-face-equalizer setting. The Xtreme is pretty much the same, treble and bass are boosted, and the volume goes pretty loud. However, it is not very portable, as it is a medium- to larger-size speaker. The JBL Charge 3, on the other hand, is a lot smaller than the Xtreme, and slightly larger than the Charge 2+. The sound is very well-balanced, with an emphasis on midrange and vocals. The treble and bass are not boosted like the other two; yet the volume can go twice as loud as the Charge 2+, and almost as loud as the Xtreme, with less treble and bass, but with better midrange. If you stream music using Spotify on an iOS device, you can go into the settings, into playback, and adjust the equalizer settings to boost the treble and bass a bit, and make the Charge 3 sound even better.”
Best Waterproof Speaker
“I live on the river, and we kayak and tube all the time. We’ve spent lots of money on waterproof radios that never work long after getting splashed. I actually dropped this one, submerged under water accidentally … We have used it four times since … Didn’t phase it. I LOVE IT!! It’s very loud and acoustics are great! So easy to connect, and it has a bag to keep all the stuff in. I’ve spent seven times on others that weren’t near as good!!!”
Best Portable PA Speaker
“We have a couple of different friends who already had this, so we knew right away that we were going to order this. I ordered this for my fiancé’s birthday and we had a blast with all of our friends singing karaoke or just blasting the jams to dance to! We rarely listen to the radio anymore, but there are preset buttons and it was super easy to save our favorite channels. This is on wheels and does have a handle so it is easy to cart around the house. We took ours into our backyard near the fire pit for some quiet late-night jams.”
Best Shower Speaker
“I love this thing for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s very sturdy. I’ve dropped this thing multiple times because I am easily one of the clumsiest human beings alive. This thing is very sturdy. I’ve dropped it in the shower just by dropping it. HOWEVER, it came with a hook for me to hang it up so I don’t have to struggle with it. It does comes with a really strong suction cups, so if you don’t have a place to hook it up, it’s fine. SOUND QUALITY WAS A SHOCKER. Loud enough to get through the water noise. So nice.”
Best Audio Quality at $10
“I truly have a fetish for Bluetooth speakers, which allows me to be very forgiving with certain limitations that speakers of this size possess. Sound is so much better than you would expect or believe that you find yourself constantly looking for songs just to see how well this thing can play them. This thing is TINY, and soooo portable. It’s the only speaker I can put in my pocket and not be annoyed any more than a wallet or phone would annoy me.
As far as fit and finish goes, it’s excellent, actually unexpectedly excellent. No case is included, though I don’t think it is needed due to the resilience of the aluminum housing and the water- and dustproof design. I left it out in the rain for about two hours the first night I had it, turned right back on immediately and dried very quickly. Impressive. Anecdotal evidence of its impressiveness: The first day I took it to work and three different people ordered one immediately after hearing it … it’s almost fun to see the look on people’s face when they hear it.”
Best Audio Quality at $40
“I was looking primarily for good sound quality and balanced output. Clear bass, clear highs, clear mids. Sounds like “duh,” but most speakers fall short in at least one area, especially in this price range. I read lots of reviews and this one seemed to fit the bill, so I bought it. I believe it totally lives up to the five-star hype it’s getting. In a small or medium room at medium volumes, it sounds like a much higher-quality unit than the price would indicate. I haven’t turned it nearly all the way up, haven’t needed to. And like others have said, I was surprised by the bass output of such a small speaker. The whole speaker seems to radiate bass, and when you put it near a wall or especially in a corner, it can fill the room with it (without being boomy of course).”
Best Speaker With a Floaty
“I swear I thought I’ve broken this thing a dozen times, but it turns on every time. This last time, I had it strapped to a golf cart, not very well apparently, trying to drift the golf cart, failing but speeding nonetheless, it flies off and hits the ground, splits in two. One half lies in the street while the other rolls into a gutter. I manage to gather the two hemispheres, snap them back together, and went on my merry way with music. I do not have one that floats. I learned the risky way, dropped it in the pool, 12 feet deep, let the water drip out for a second and then strapped it to a floaty and listened to music at the pool the rest of the day. I’ve dropped it on gravel and cement in puddles and rocks. This speaker is rugged and reliable. It just happens to have great sound, too.”
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