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Best Bluetooth speakers for every budget
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A great portable Bluetooth speaker is one of the best tech investments you can make. Being able to bring music wherever you go, whether you’re hiking or chilling at the beach, is a pretty powerful thing. However, there are so many different factors to consider when making your purchase. How’s the battery life? Is it waterproof? Can I link it to other speakers? How heavy is it?
Fear not, because we’ve done all the hard work for you. We got hands-on with some of the most popular portable Bluetooth speakers on the market to answer all your burning questions, including the most important one - which is best?
- : Sony SRS-XB12
- : Bose SoundLink Micro
- : JBL Flip 5
- : UE BOOM 3
- : UE MEGABOOM 3
- : JBL CHARGE 4
- : BlueAnt X5
- : JBL PULSE 4
No, it doesn’t have the catchiest name in the world, but the Sony SRS-XB12 is a truly amazing portable speaker for its size. It boasts some serious bass for something that weighs less than a cup of tea, and even at its loudest (which is pretty damn loud), distortion isn’t an issue.
With an IP67 rating, you and your SRS-XB12 can go anywhere - to the park, beach, by the pool - without much fear of water or dust damage. And, it’s so small, light and long-lasting (with 16 hours of battery life) that you probably will take it everywhere.
Pairing two SRS-XB12s is easy, so you could always buy two and connect them whenever you need that extra boost. We also love the inclusion of a stereo mini-jack, which allows for easy switching between devices and no more fighting over Bluetooth.
As much as we love the speaker itself, our favourite thing about the SRS-XB12 (and what put it in the top spot) is undoubtedly the price. While the RRP is $89.95, retailers routinely sell these tiny beasts for under $70, making them the perfect gift for just about anyone.
Bose SoundLink Micro
The race for second place was close between the UE Wonderboom 2 and the Bose SoundLink Micro. While the UE Wonderboom 2 beat the SoundLink Micro on looks and battery life, Bose’s offering came out on top with its audio quality, lighter weight and greater portability.
Bose has long been synonymous with sound quality, and the SoundLink Micro is no exception. It can fit in the palm of your hand, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack some incredible audio tech into its tiny yet rugged, waterproof build. Plus, the optional Bose app makes pairing your speakers and controlling music super easy.
With six hours of battery life, the Bose SoundLink Micro isn’t going to keep you going from dawn till dusk, but the sound quality truly is worth it. Plus, the inclusion of an ultra-durable silicone strap allows you to attach the speaker to just about anything (including bike handles and backpack straps) so you can take it on any adventure.
JBL FLIP 5
The JBL FLIP just keeps getting better, and its 5th edition is only further proof of that. A great in-between speaker for those wanting more than the pocket-sized speakers above but more portability than the big boys below, the FLIP 5 is a fantastic all-rounder.
Sound quality is really what this battle came down to, and the JBL’s middle child certainly has it in droves. They’ve managed to fit booming bass and multi-directional sound into a neat yet tough and waterproof little package.
As you’d expect from any good Bluetooth speaker these days, the JBL FLIP 5 is linkable with any compatible JBL PartyBoost-enabled device. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, that only includes other FLIP 5s and PULSE 4s.
What put the FLIP 5 just over the line in the race between it and the UE BOOM 3, though, is price. Its RRP is $30 less, but it provides better sound quality - a worthy sacrifice for slightly shorter battery life and no 360-degree sound or dust-proofing.
UE BOOM 3
Even though the JBL FLIP 5 was our top pick in this category, the UE BOOM 3 definitely gives it a run for its money. If you already have a suite of UE speakers, the BOOM 3 will pair with any BOOM, MEGABOOM or HYPERBOOM speakers (even previous generations), so it makes sense to stay loyal.
Although we preferred the sound quality of the FLIP 5, the UE BOOM 3 is not far behind, and if 360-degree sound is important to you, you may actually prefer it. The sound is easily on par with its predecessors, but we would’ve liked to see a slight improvement in the treatment of mid and high-frequency tunes with the new generation. That said, you can switch to four preset equaliser settings or even make your own through the UE app.
One thing we absolutely love about the UE BOOM 3 is the design. It’s sleek, simple, and like its big brother below, it floats!
UE MEGABOOM 3
The UE MEGABOOM 3 continues to exert its dominance as the best big Bluetooth speaker on the market. Its sleek tube design offers 360 degrees of powerful, immersive sound, and one-touch control, allowing you to pause, play and skip tracks with one magic button.
It’s also probably the most party-proof Bluetooth speaker on our list, with UE claiming the MEGABOOM 3 is drop-proof (and even kick-proof) in addition to being IP67 water and dustproof. They’ve even taken it to the next level and made this behemoth buoyant. Yep, it can float. And with 20 hours of battery life, it’ll carry you through party after party without needing a charge.
Speaking of party-proof, if you’ve got mates with other UE speakers, you can easily connect up to 150 of them (who even has that many friends?) and become both the best Spotify DJ and your neighbours’ worst nightmare.
While AUX-in and voice assist would be great additions, it’s still hard to beat this beast.
JBL CHARGE 4
Coming in at a very close second is the JBL CHARGE 4. At an RRP of $229.95 and regular deals under $200, it’s one of the best value Bluetooth speakers out there. Like the FLIP 5, it doesn’t officially have 360-degree sound, but you can still hear the crisp, powerful output of the CHARGE 4 from pretty much any direction thanks to the dual passive radiators.
One thing that really gives the CHARGE 4 an edge over the competition is the ability to charge other devices, like smartphones, from the speaker itself with a built-in power bank. What could be better for camping or long days at the beach?
Similarly to the UE MEGABOOM 3, the CHARGE 4 can also seamlessly link with up to 100 other JBL Connect+ enabled speakers (again, I beg of you to tell me who has that many friends). Another cool feature is the ability to connect two Bluetooth devices to the speaker, so you and a friend or family member can take it in turns picking music.
BlueAnt X5 Party Speaker
Most of the more compact speakers above will bring the noise if you're planning on throwing a party but can you really call it a party without some late-night karaoke that you'll later regret?
BlueAnt's X5 Party speaker is your one-stop solution for turning it up at any event. The X5 is a large 4.1kg 60-watt speaker that's packing a 6.5-inch woofer and 2.25-inch tweeter pumps out over 110 decibels of sound and an (optional) bass boost via a psycho-acoustic extension.
It doesn't offer 360-degree sound, and you'll want to position it off the floor for the best results, but it does offer the option to network multiple X5 speakers for a stereo setup if you really want to kick things up a notch (though that'll only be necessary if you're throwing a huge outdoors rager.
Most importantly, the X5 includes flashy LED-lit mood lighting and two karaoke microphones so you and a friend can duet Don't Go Breaking My Heart when the mood hits. It supports a wireless Bluetooth 5.0 connection, but it also has a good old-fashioned AUX cable if you want a hardwired connection. That could come in handy more often than you'd hope. In our tests, the big BlueAnt speaker was a little susceptible to interference when used around other tech and gadgets but you shouldn't have that problem if you're partying outside.
The BlueAnt X5 party speaker advertises about 20 hours per charge when listening at 50% volume, and that tracks with our experience. We ran the battery dry over a month with roughly 15 hours of usage at volumes typically higher than 50%.
JBL Pulse 4
I couldn’t not include the JBL PULSE 4, so it’s getting its own little category.
When the first PULSE came out in 2014, I thought it was a little gimmicky. A light-up speaker means nothing to me if it doesn’t sound as good as it looks, and assumed it couldn’t possibly live up to its funky appearance.
Well, it’s taken me almost seven years to get my hands on one, and the PULSE 4 has completely proven me wrong. In terms of audio quality, it sounds just as good as JBL’s other offerings, but with the added bonus of a 360-degree speaker array.
Sure, it’s a little on the heavy side and we wouldn’t say no to a few extra hours of battery life, but its stunning LED display and audio quality are worth the compromise for one of the coolest Bluetooth speakers you can get.