Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers in the UK 2018
On one end of the spectrum are the huge hi-fi systems with various speakers, soundboards and cables that sound great but take up a tonne of room and can’t be moved – at all. At the other end are Bluetooth speakers, which are portable, convenient and allow you to take music with you as you venture off into the great outdoors.
Previously, the fact that music was transferred via Bluetooth rather than cables massively diminished the quality of sound and walking just a few metres from the device would cause a total dropoff. However, technology has advanced and now there are a range of outstanding devices that will blow you away.
The best news is that your bank account needn’t be overflowing to get your hands on a decent speaker but you need to know what to look out for.
What should you look for in a portable speaker?
Where do you want to use your speaker?
The environment in which you want to use your speaker will partially dictate your choice. All products reviewed here offer elements that are suited to outdoor use.
If you want to use it whilst cycling trails in the countryside, you’ll need to focus on portability and the ease of attaching it to your bike, but if you’re wanting something to throw in the bottom of your kayak for a few hours, then waterproofing will be key.
If you want to use it at home as well as outdoors, consider getting one that will allow you to use it with your computer, laptop or tablet via an AUX cable.
Size and weight
Although it’s tempting to go for the big speaker with subwoofers and all the extra gadgets and features, you’ll quickly tire of it if you’re wanting to travel light on walks, hikes, etc. If you want to use your Bluetooth speaker on the move, consider something like the UE Roll or the JBL Clip 2, which are light, powerful and relatively inexpensive.
On the flip side of this, don’t jump straight in for the most compact speaker you find, as many of them offer little or no improvement on your phone speaker and may be inaudible when near boat motors, traffic and other background noise.
Are you willing to spend a little extra for better quality sound? As with most products, a higher price will generally equate to a higher quality with better sound and a longer life. Having said this, beware that sometimes you will be paying for the look or the brand name, when there are actually equivalents just as good – so do your research (or even better read on, because we’ve done the research for you!)
As with most speakers the higher the volume, the lesser the quality of the sound. After about 60% the sound quality will start to deteriorate but this may vary with products, and obviously better systems will get a lot louder before this deterioration is noticeable. If you’re a music fanatic then it’s going to be worth shelling out the extra cash to get a deep bass and clear treble, otherwise you face some clipping and loss of clarity but for most people this wouldn’t be an issue.
Regardless of what features you want from your speaker and what size it is, you need a decent battery life. Usually additional features and the ability to sync with multiple devices will vastly shorten the battery life. Depending on what sort of activity you’ll be using your speaker for, ensure it has no less than four hours’ play time.
What do you want to use the product for and where will you be taking it? If it’s going to be your new companion for treks and trails all over the country, use at home and the occasional garden or beach party – it’s worth investing in something robust with a metal cage and rubber casing. Plenty of speakers are now shockproof, so you can knock them off a table or drop it out of your bag with no serious consequences.
Waterproof vs non-waterproof
In general, it’s worth opting for something with a degree of waterproofing if you’re going to be using the speaker outdoors. Speakers come with an IPX rating from 1-7 depending on their protection. IPX1-3 is virtually redundant and should be avoided. IPX4 is splashproof and you could take it in the shower or dash through the rain with it. At the top end of the scale is IPX7, which is fully waterproof and can safely be submerged in a metre of water for up to 30 minutes.
Sacrificing waterproofing may allow you to save some money or gain other features, but all it could take is one rainstorm or slip in a stream and your investment goes out the window.
Ok, so now you’ve got your key elements for consideration lined up, you can start the hunt for your perfect portable speaker. Below we have reviewed six of the best on the market right now in their respective fields/categories, recommended for outdoor use. All of them offer value for money, pack a punch in the audio department and offer something their competitors can’t.
Portable Bluetooth Speakers Reviewed
SoundCore Sport XL from Anker
Anker’s SoundCore Sport XL comes in at number one as the best all-rounder thanks to its perfect combination of portability, durability, waterproofing and sound – all at quite a reasonable price tag of £75.
The focus of the SoundCore Sport is primarily on its outdoors suitability and ruggedness, rather than the sound quality. Although its volume range is great, as is the bass, the high and mids were a bit murky and the sounds deeper than in headphones. However, it stands up well when tested in the outdoors. It is waterproof and dustproof and rugged enough to be thrown in a bag or the bottom of a tent without risk of denting or perforating the speakers and has a very strong Bluetooth connection. In terms of durability, the speaker has a robust rectangular design and thick rubber coating along the outside of the casing and along the outer lip. In theory, the speaker can be dropped from two metres with no damage – although it’s probably not recommendable.
If you’re an outdoors adventure type, you may already know that extreme temperatures can rapidly decrease battery life. This often means having to sleep with your camera or phone in the bottom of your sleeping bag when you’re camping at the top of the mountain. But what about if you want to listen to music every night that you’re up there? Well, good news – Anker’s speakers hold in any temperature. A fully charged battery will last up to eight hours with the exact percentage showed on the notification panel so you don’t have to guess when your music will run out.
The speaker has the power button, volume, play/pause/multifunctional button at the top next to the power alongside it LED battery-level indicators. The USB port allows you to charge your phone without carrying an additional power bank with you – although will obviously drain your speaker faster and the downside of this is that it introduces static, but this can be negated by switching from Bluetooth to AUX. It also comes with a handy wrist strap, although whether this would be sturdy enough to hang the speaker from a bag or bike on the move, we’re unsure.
UE Boom 2
The only reason this was beaten to the ‘all-rounder’ position by Anker’s SoundCore Sport was its shape and lack of additional features such as charging ports. However, put simply, this speaker is completely outstanding. Whether you want to use it indoors, outdoors, loud or quiet, or accidentally drop it in the sea – it will perform.
The UE Boom 2 is everything a Bluetooth speaker should be. It’s portable but not flimsy, easy to use but not too basic, and performs well indoors and outdoors at all volumes. Its mesh wrap around is porous but highly waterproof and durable, and its cylindrical design allows for an incredible 360-degree sound delivery. Although its not exactly the cheapest speaker on the market, UE (an abbreviation for Ultimate Ears) are a well-respected audio brand, and their speakers are guaranteed to withstand the test of time.
The introduction of tap controls increases its ease of use, letting you change the song by simply picking up the speaker and tapping it – handy when your phone might be in the bottom of a backpack or buried in a tent. Boom’s accompanying phone app lets you unleash the speaker’s full potential, allowing more people to sync up and whether you want to pair it with another UE Boom 2 or its predecessor, this can easily be done through the app’s Double Up feature.
The Boom 2 can be used to take hands-free calls and be submerged in water up to a meter deep for 30 minutes – so if you get caught in a storm or leave it out in the rain, you don’t need to panic. This speaker is perfect for short camping trips and anywhere that you are sitting down in an open space where the music can project. Due to its battery life and weight, it probably wouldn’t qualify as an essential for those looking to travel light over long distances.
Upgrades from the first Boom speaker include waterproofing, slightly better-quality sound and more colours but as of yet no real improvement to battery life. Users can expect around 5-8 hours of playtime, depending on volume and how many mobile devices and speakers are synced up, so don’t expect to have it blasting throughout a weekend trip in the mountains unless you’ve got a battery pack in tow.
JBL Clip 2
Like UE, JBL is a leading brand in the audio space, with an array of high-quality and attractive products. Its latest mini Bluetooth speaker – the JBL Clip 2 – is no different. Completely waterproof, the Clip 2 allows the user to take their music wherever they go, by land or water, with ease. If you’re looking for something that is both budget and backpack friendly, then this is your best bet.
Its upgraded carabiner clip is held firmly in place with reinforced rubber, allowing the speaker to be attached to a variety of different things and its slim, circular design makes it perfect for throwing into a day bag, hanging inside your tent or clipping onto your bike. Weight-wise, it comes in at less than half of some of the major contenders on this list, so won’t weigh you down on long hikes or excursions.
Despite its size, not much is sacrificed on the sound front. Although it can’t hit the same volume levels as say the UE Boom 2, the quality is still very good when amped up and is distortion-free.
The Clip 2 battery provides circa eight hours of playtime, which is actually quite impressive given it is roughly the size of a hockey puck and music can be streamed via Bluetooth or cable. The speaker also has a built-in microphone and is IPX7 waterproof, able to withstand temporary submersion.
Philips BT3900 EverPlay
The Philips BT3900 EverPlay is a great little speaker that is hardly any bigger than a large smartphone and is perfect for hikers or ramblers that want to head out with a small day-bag and not be weighed down by bulky audio equipment. As the lightest speaker on our list, you could literally put it in your back pocket and hardly know it was there and it can withstand immersion in shallow water for up to 30 minutes. As you might expect due to its size, the range and quality of sound doesn’t match up to some of the larger speakers we have reviewed. The sound quality is relatively thin, with a non-existent sub-bass but the mids and highs are accurately reproduced. Simpler music sounds better but if used outside with background noise or on the move, you most likely wouldn’t notice.
An added feature, Anti-Clipping, lets you play music louder and keeps it high quality, by internally monitoring the musical signal as it goes through the amplifier and keeping peaks within the amplifier’s range to prevent audio distortion.
The EverPlay offers a stable long-range connection of up to 30 metres or 100 feet, although there is some drop in it closer to 80 feet. A bonus is the speakers are equipped with a sensitivity antenna and radio frequency filter to minimise background interference.
The speaker’s carrying handle is also the charging cable which is a great idea in theory, in that it saves you carrying additional components, but a number of users have reported that it’s quite fiddly and tough to secure – not something you would want to do in a hurry or on the move.
Vtin Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker
The Vtin speaker may not be the prettiest speaker, but it excels in two key areas – its extensive battery life and its sturdiness. This wireless speaker is built to withstand the elements with a metal frame, rubberised exterior and metal grilles to protect the drivers and subwoofer.
The lows and mids leave a little bit to be desired but the detail is much better on the highs, which suits outdoor listening well as highs tend to travel better over distance. The acoustic drivers have a combined output of 20Ws of pure sound, meaning it is easily one of the best outdoor Bluetooth speakers in the budget price range.
Although Vtin claims a battery life of up to 30 hours, it likely sits somewhere between 20 and 25, with the final two hours playing at a reduced quality and a notification beep to let you know it’s on the blink. However this is still significantly longer than many of its competitors and is perfect for anyone going on a weekend trip in the outdoors with no access to power or hosting an outdoor gathering.
The Vtin can take splashes, steam or light rain but can’t be submerged or exposed to large amounts of water – ruling it out of water activities. The only other gripe with this speaker is that the buttons on top are not clearly marked with their function, which is not a major issue but slightly lessens the user experience. On the flipside, its microUSB charger, AUX input and carabiner are all bonuses.
iJoy Beach Bomb IP66 Speaker
iJoy Beach Bomb speaker is perfect for outdoors-lovers and adventurists (and also pool and beach goers) thanks to its waterproof and shockproof design and it comes with a handy carabiner for hanging off a backpack.
This portable speaker is not only waterproof, but unlike virtually all of its counterparts, it floats. This means that whether you’re swimming, sailing or kayaking, you can enjoy your music knowing that there’s no risk of watching your money sink down to the depths below. It is fully functional and will continue playing in depths of up to three feet and can withstand being left out in the rain all night. The entire perimeter is surrounded by a thick rubber border, with a rubber door covering the charging ports.
Another bonus is it hands-free option, allowing you to take incoming calls with just a tap and use the built-in mic without having to get your phone out of your dry bag and risk losing it overboard. Or if you’re a sailor, it means you can leave your phone below deck all day and take calls and play music with ease. On the speaker itself there are six buttons to control power, volume, song choice and call-answering.
The iJoy is equally useful at home as it is on the road. The speaker can be connected via Bluetooth, microUSB, USB or an AUX cable – so it can be used with any phone, MP3 player or computer. Although it can’t be cranked up quite as loud as the UE Boom2 and lacks a punchy bass, the audio is clear and not distorted, even in the upper volume ranges – which is quite respectable for a speaker in this price range.
The Beach Bomb can play uninterrupted for five hours before needing to be recharged, which doesn’t make it a top performer for battery life, but this can be overlooked in favour of its watersport-compatibility.
Portable Bluetooth Speakers – BEST Sellers
|1||Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker...||£29.99||Buy on Amazon|
|2||Anker SoundCore 2 Bluetooth Speaker...||£45.99 from £42.99||Buy on Amazon|
|3||Bluetooth Speaker, Anker SoundCore mini,...||£18.99||Buy on Amazon|
|4||Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM Bluetooth...||£169.99 £123.00||Buy on Amazon|
|5||Ultimate Ears BOOM 2 Wireless/Bluetooth...||£99.00 from £89.00||Buy on Amazon|
|6||Sony SRS-XB21 Portable Wireless...||£100.00 £74.00||Buy on Amazon|
|7||Sony SRS-XB10 Compact Portable Wireless...||£60.00 £39.00||Buy on Amazon|