Gone are the days when Bluetooth was just for ultra-busy people with tiny earpieces, in fact it’s really come into its own in recent years, and perhaps most notably in the form of the Bluetooth speaker. The best Bluetooth speakers these days are good-looking, great-sounding, robust and easy to carry – not too much to ask, is it? – and, for better or worse, there are more options out there than ever, so we’ve put together a list to help you decide which one’s right for you.
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If money is no object, go for the Dali Katch. According to at-home reviewers and expert testers, it sounds as good as it looks – translation: amazing – and its high-quality build and high-end functionality make it more than worth the outlay. If the prospect of spending over £300 on a speaker for house parties or otherwise high-energy households leaves you cold, you might want to look at our most rugged and least expensive portable speaker, the UE Wonderboom, which also just so happens to look great and blast out loads of sound. Spoilt for choice? Wait ‘til you see the rest of our list...
With the Dali Katch, there’s no need to decide between sound quality and aesthetics, because this slick speaker really does offer the best of both worlds. In fact, it’s our best Bluetooth speaker all round thanks to its mix of portability, power and great design. Testers loved the full-bodied sound with oodles of bass and its impressive volume levels, and noted that the build quality felt top-notch. The price is admittedly high, but for functionality; room-filling, beautifully balanced sound, and a gorgeous modern look, it feels justified.
This Google Home Mini-esque speaker is a tiny slip of a thing at just 600g, making it one of the most portable speakers on our list, and its elegant design, with matte aluminium dome and real leather strap, also makes it a serious contender for the Dali Katch’s crown when it comes to looks. The moulded polymer base not only looks smart, it’s non-slip, making it suitable for use on inclines and less-than-stable surfaces, and the fact that all the controls sit neatly on the underside mean the grille is uninterrupted, making for true 360 sound with what testers say is amazing quality, evenly dispersed sound.
Taking party proceedings up to 11 is no problem with this amp-style speaker. Its more obvious charms lie in the fact that it looks amazing, a dead ringer for the classic Marshall amp that all rock aficionados will be familiar with, but it’s surprisingly un-gimmicky. With a whopping 25 hours of battery life, it can last through even the wildest parties, and while some reviewers found the bass a little lacking, they said the sound was powerful enough to fill a room, and there are some stylish knobs up top to adjust the sound profile to your liking.
You don’t want to be fiddling about with some weird setup ritual right before the first guests come a-knocking, so if you’re looking for a speaker that can both withstand, and be ready for, anything, the Wonderboom may be it. Reviewers said it was really simple to pair with smartphones, and that it’s quite happy anywhere, even in the water. The waterproof, drop-proof, practically bomb-proof construction, not to mention the 360-degree sound and 100-foot range, make it one of our best party speakers.
The SoundLink Mini cemented Bose’s reputation as a purveyor of fine portable speakers, but in 2018, the Soundlink Revolve+ takes the cake. Unlike the Wonderboom, it’s merely water-resistant rather than waterproof, but it’s enough that you won’t have to worry if the heavens suddenly open on your barbecue, and the grown-up design sets it apart. Lantern-like, it comes with a top carry handle for easy portability, and its 360 sound emerges, loud and balanced, from an understated and elegant body.
Move aside Stevie Wonder, there’s a new Master Blaster in town. This Bluetooth speaker harks back to the glory days with its boombox-style design, but adds in functionality that is very much of the now, and a lower-key design that, while it might not look so cool mounted on your shoulder, looks just the part at home. As well as the power port, 3.5mm jack input, and USB port that lets you charge and play from your phone or tablet, there’s also a really handy mic input, great for those parties that demand at least one speech.
Rated by Stuff and What Hi-Fi?, the KEF MUO might not have an instantly recognisable name, but what it does have is serious sonic kudos. With an RRP just shy of £300, it’s spendier than most of our other picks with the notable exception of the Dali Katch, but with speaker drivers that expert testers say blow away the competition, and a superbly high-quality single-piece build, it justifies its own high price tag. It’s also simply incredible for the size, with amazingly rounded sound courtesy of that clever driver design, and stonking volume.
The KEF might be compact, but this Minirig speaker is next-level. A palm-sized mini Bluetooth speaker with a single button, it might not look like much, but its capabilities are great considering its small stature. There’s a smartphone and tablet app for more functionality, should you wish it; it can remember up to eight devices, and connect to two simultaneously; and it pairs easily with other Minirigs for stereo sound. Plus, it offers an average battery life of 40 hours and a maximum of an incredible 80 hours which, along with its simple design and compact size, make it our best camping speaker.
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