Are cheap portable speakers worth it?

Fergus Halliday
May 27, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read
// A cheaper price might sound good but does it sound good?

We might make money if you buy something through these links. Click as many as you want.

When the difference in price between a cheap portable speaker and an expensive one can end up being hundreds of dollars, it begs the question: Are cheap portable speakers worth it or is this one of those categories where the savings aren't enough to justify the sacrifices?

In this guide, we've made answering that question a little easier. We've rounded up Kmart and JBL's cheapest portable speakers and pitted them against one another to work out whether generic is the way to go when it comes to this particular corner of the tech world.

What to look for in a portable speaker

Megaphone
Weight

Every time you pick up or pack away a portable speaker, the relative heft of that hardware is going to be on your mind. The lighter, the better. That said, when it comes to things like party speakers, a heavier form factor is going to be hard to avoid.

Light Bulb
Durability

One of the big differences between portable speakers and their socket-bound siblings is that the former tends to be more ruggedised. The best indicator of how durable a given Bluetooth speaker is is an IP-rating akin to what you find in modern smartphones.

Info Box
Battery life

Given that the ability to use a speaker when you're away from home is the main selling point for portable speakers, the amount of playback you get per charge should be one of your biggest concerns.

While small speakers can offer between six and twelve hours of usage, larger ones can offer as much as twenty hours of listening time.

Bullhorn
Features

Even at the cheaper end of the market, modern portable speakers come with plenty of creature comforts. This can include things like integration with voice assistants like Siri, support for 360-degree or Spatial Audio and things like AUX-in ports.

Best JBL portable speakers

JBL is one of the biggest audio brands in the world, so it's little surprise that it has plenty to offer when it comes to portable and Bluetooth speakers. At the time of writing, the brand has a total of ten different options for Aussies looking for on-the-go audio.

Price-wise, these speakers range from as cheap as $59.99 to as expensive as $700. The biggest determinant of that price is size since a larger form factor also typically means a bigger sound. To help distinguish between who each speaker is designed for, JBL has broken the range out into several sub-brands: JBL Flip, JBL Pulse, JBL Go, JBL Charge, JBL eXtreme, JBL Clip and JBL Boombox.

JBL Charge 5
JBL Charge 5
RRP
$199
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 40W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 20 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IP67
JBL Boombox 3
JBL Boombox 3
RRP
$699.95
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 80W + 20W (x2) + 10W (x2)
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 24 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IP67
JBL Charge Essential 2
JBL Charge Essential 2
RRP
$179
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 40W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 20W
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IPX7
JBL Pulse 5
JBL Pulse 5
RRP
$379.95
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 30W + 10W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 12 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IP67
JBL Flip Essential 2
JBL Flip Essential 2
RRP
$129
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 20W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 10 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IPX7
JBL Flip 6
JBL Flip 6
RRP
$169.95
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 30W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 12 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IP67
JBL Go 3
JBL Go 3
RRP
$59.95
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 4.2W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 5 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IP67
JBL Clip 4
JBL Clip 4
RRP
$89.95
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 5W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 10 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IP67
JBL Extreme 3
RRP
$399
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 25W (x2) + 25W (x2)
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 15 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IP67
JBL Go Essential
RRP
$49.95
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 3.1W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 5 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IPX7

Cheap portable speakers: Pros and cons

What's the catch?
pro
Pros
pro You're saving a lot of money
pro Not a huge difference in designs
pro Many cheap speakers support pairing
pro Some cheap speakers have water resistance
con
Cons
con Smaller batteries and sound systems
con No premium features
con Inferior material design

Regardless of whether you're planning to put it in your backyard, car or shower, portable speakers have become pretty commonplace. When it comes to picking one out, most consumers don't sweat the details and if you're going by looks, there's often not a huge difference between what a dedicated audio brand like Sony or Bose is bringing to the table and what you can find at a department store like Kmart or Big W.

However, if you dig a little deeper, you'll quickly find that opting for a cheaper portable speaker typically means forgoing features like waterproofing and additional control over the sound profile. You're also usually looking at less battery life and a simpler speaker system that can't compete on either volume or fidelity.

Best Kmart portable speakers

From 2018 onwards, Kmart has been selling a variety of products under its generic Anko brand. That includes smaller gadgets and consumer electronics like portable speakers and wireless headphones. Price-wise, a portable speaker bank from Kmart can be as cheap as $12 or as expensive as $59.

While the underlying Bluetooth technology here isn't all that different from what a big brand like JBL offers, the size of the speakers involved caps out at around 30W. Another key difference here is battery life. If that matters to you then it might be worth scoping out the competition before you opt for the cheapest possible option.

Anko Bluetooth speaker - Black
Kmart Bluetooth Speaker - Black
RRP
$15
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 3W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 2-3 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: N/A
Anko Bluetooth speaker - Black
Bluetooth Speaker - Black
RRP
$15
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 5W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 3.5 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: N/A
Anko Portable Bluetooth speaker - Silver
Portable Bluetooth Speaker - Silver
RRP
$19
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 3W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 12 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: N/A
Anko Bluetooth Light Up Speaker
Kmart Bluetooth Light Up Speaker
RRP
$19
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 3W (x2)
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 3-5 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: N/A
Anko Bluetooth 5W Splashproof Speaker - Black
Kmart Bluetooth 5W Splashproof Speaker - Black
RRP
$20
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 5W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 5-6 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IPX4
Anko Bluetooth Portable Pro Mini Speaker
Bluetooth Portable Pro Mini Speaker
RRP
$35
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 6W (x2)
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 2.5-5 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IPX5
Anko Portable Bluetooth Pill Speaker - Black
Portable Bluetooth Pill Speaker - Black
RRP
$35
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 7.5W (x2)
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 3 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: N/A
Anko Bluetooth Portable Pro Speaker
Anko Bluetooth Portable Pro Speaker
RRP
$59
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 15W (x2)
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 3-6 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: IPX7
Anko Portable Barrel Large Speaker - Black
Portable Barrel Large Speaker - Black
RRP
$59
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 30W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 4 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: N/A
Anko Bluetooth portable pro speaker
Mini RGB Boombox
RRP
$39
  • Icon Blank
    Speaker output: 10W
  • Icon Blank
    Battery life: 2.5-5.5 hours
  • Icon Blank
    Durability: N/A

How do cheap portable speakers compare?

How do the portable speakers on this page compare to every other one we've reviewed and recommended?
Product
Price [RRP]
Availability
Battery life
IP rating
Weight
From
$149
14 hoursIP67420g
From
$99
16 hoursIP67340g
From
$89
16 hoursIP67240g
From
$148
12 hoursIPX7540g
From
$328
12 hoursIPX7540g
Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

Related Articles

The Final Shape header
Destiny 2 – The Final Shape review: Better late than never
At this point, I’ve stopped asking Destiny 2 to be a normal video game.
Espresso
What to look for in a coffee machine
Live, laugh, large oat latte