This may be a sweeping generalization, but I feel confident that most people would agree that summer days (and nights) are simply better with a little music. Whether it’s country music at a BBQ or jazz at a dinner party, playing some tunes is a sure way to set the mood and make everyone happy. That’s why we love portable bluetooth speakers—they’re easy, compact, and the true life of any party. We rounded up our favorites, to the very budget-friendly to the very high-end, so you can jam out all summer (and year) long.
How This Works
Every week we bring new products into our “test lab” and have the whole office test and vote on their favorites, based on quality, appearance and price.
Maxwell Ryan, our Founder & CEO, oversees the field, throws in his vote as well, and then demonstrates the favorites in a video so you can see them with your own eyes. Come back every Thursday for a new edition of The Guide right here and in social with Maxwell’s Instagram story!
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One of the really exciting inventions in the past five years has been the mini portable bluetooth speaker. These little babies have truly changed the way we listen to music on the go. They are powerful, fit in your hand, easily connect to your phone and now many are WATERPROOF as well. That last fact is ridiculous. I’ve taken one of my speakers and plunged it into a pool, only to have it bounce back up, smiling and playing music better than ever.
As for who gets top billing this year, I have to say that I love all the options on our current list (and some are definitely better for bigger sound), but I keep going back to my Mini Jambox because it’s so small, cute, and gratifying to turn on and off. It vibrates in your hand like a happy pet. It’s also bulletproof. OH, and it’s so classic (ie. it’s been around awhile), so the price is now super low. The Mini Jambox is tried and true. You can’t go wrong.
This tiny speaker may look unassuming, but it actually has high-quality sound not often seen in something so small and inexpensive. Clip it on your bag, carry it in your pocket, really take it anywhere—the only problem is that it can easily be lost if you’re not careful. The Nano’s audio output is 3W and it’ll play for four to four hours until it needs charged.
Another mini option, this three-inch tall speaker is housed in a wood casing (you can choose from three options) and has built-in speakerphone capabilities. It’ll look great on your bookshelf, but its small size means you can take it anywhere else too. You’re also getting a 5W speaker with up to 10 hours of battery life, plus the satisfaction of doing good—every LSTN purchase helps give hearing aids to someone in need.
For a completely stress-free speaker at a good price, check out the UE Wonderboom, which is waterproof, floatable and lasts up to 10 hours on a full charge. Sound quality is 80 Hz, and you can connect to two Bluetooth sources at the same time. Plus, we just really love the stylish muted colors.
I’ve had this waterproof speaker from the sound experts at JBL for a couple months and really love it. It’s not as tiny as some of the others on this list, but it’s still easily portable and lightweight. The big draw here is that it has the Google Assistant built in and multi-room compatibility, so you’ve got hands-free voice control and the ability to play music in multiple areas of your space at once.
A subset of Danish design company Bang & Olufsen, B&O Play’s entire line of products is beautiful, so it’s hard to choose just one to showcase. Ultimately, the Beoplay A1 takes the cake for being the most portable (and downright cute) of the bunch. It’s not waterproof, but it is splash-resistant, has a built-in speaker, and comes in six cool colors—plus, you can’t beat up to 24 hours of play time.
The most customizable option on this list, the Libratone Zipp Mini comes in four colors with seven extra cover options so you can easily make your speakers yours. It’s able to stream anything, from YouTube videos to Netflix shows, and is already connected to Spotify so you can play music directly from the Zipp and not your phone.
The Revolve + is an upgraded version of Bose’s high-performing SoundLink Revolve, with better sound, longer battery life and a convenient handle for added mobility. As for other features, this speaker is waterproof and dent-proof, and has up to 16 hours of battery life. The aluminum casing makes it look more like a traditional speaker compared to others on this list—it’ll fit right in any space.
From French sound company Elipson comes the Lenny, created through a collaboration with British home goods company Habitat. Minimalist and streamlined, this splash-resistant speaker is seriously well-designed—in fact, it won a German Design Award in 2016. It has up to eight hours of battery life, 2×10 W power and comes in two colors.
Another product that proves once again that you just can’t beat good old-fashioned Danish design. Simple and attractive, the Helsinki comes in four muted shades and really doesn’t look like a speaker at all, with woven fabric that creates a more permeated sound. If this look isn’t quite your style, Vifa also has two other models: the aptly named Copenhagen and Oslo.
This multifunctional product is a speaker and lantern in one, making it perfect for day-to-night outdoor entertaining. At just over one feet in height, it’s easily transportable and adds a warm ambient glow to your space, all while playing music to keep the party going.
Tips for Buying the Right Portable Speaker
- Location. If you plan on using your speaker mostly outdoors, check out options that are water- and bump-resistant, and smaller in size. If you’re more of an indoors person, look for models that are a bit more attractive and can blend in easily with your decor.
- Function. If you’re a multitasker, consider speakers that are compatible with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. You’ll get a device that not only plays music, but will also help you get organized and make your life a bit easier.
- Style. If you’re a design-savvy person who cares about the aesthetic appearance of your devices, there are plenty of stylish options on the market that come from distinguished design companies. These speakers typically come with a higher price tag, but they’re worth it if you love good design.
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Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.