Best Bluetooth speakers 2021: portable speakers for every budget

© Provided by What Hi-Fi? Best Bluetooth speakers 2021

Best Bluetooth speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best Bluetooth speakers you can buy in 2021.

Finding the best Bluetooth speaker for your particular needs isn’t the cake walk it might seem at first glance. It’s nothing to do with shortage of options – every online manufacturer from Apple to Ultimate Ears is vying for a bite of the Bluetooth cherry and by association, your hard-earned cash. The challenge is knowing which model is most worthy of your precious pound coins. Fret not, for that is where we come in. We’ve done the heavy lifting and rounded-up our pick of the best Bluetooth speakers across all shapes, sizes and prices to ensure you discover a product you’ll be over the moon with.

It may sound obvious, but the number one piece of advice we always offer when looking for a Bluetooth speaker is to avoid opting for the first model that catches your eye. Yes, it might be a looker, but is it the best model for you? If you want your love for it to still be strong, after the boys of summer have gone, why not read our independent review of the product – and maybe reviews of competing products in the price category – first? You might discover a few features you didn’t know you could get for the money.

The JBL Xtreme 3 is a versatile, talented wireless speaker that’s as happy chilling at home as it is being the life and soul of a party. Yes, it’s rugged, it’s IP67 dust- and waterproof certified and you’d be forgiven for thinking at first glance that it might be more preoccupied with the amount of bass it’s producing rather than musical quality. But let us reassure you: the JBL Xtreme 3 proves to be a careful and considerate performer from the lowest of lows to the highest highs.

Bassheads should be more than satisfied with the healthy low-end clout on offer, but there’s quality as well as quantity. The JBL Xtreme 3 gained five stars across the board during our rigorous in-house testing, never appearing out of its depth no matter how complicated the musical arrangement. 

Read the full review: JBL Xtreme 3

Although portable enough to be your travel speaker (and boasting a stylish retractable travel handle and a 30-hour battery) the Katch G2’s dedicated mains charging port and adapter with bundled UK, EU and US adapter plugs makes it an easy fit for your lounge too – and once there, it’ll sound as detailed, clear and expansive as this money can buy. 

It’s at the pricey end of the market, yes, but it’s a stone cold stunner, delivering excellent clarity, impressive bass weight and good looks in spades – so much so that we recently handed it a What Hi-Fi? 2021 Award. This is a speaker that not only fills a room despite being the width of a paperback, it oozes class sonically. 

Read the full review: Dali Katch G2 

If all you want is a portable Bluetooth speaker that sounds as good as you can currently buy for around £100 ($100, AU$119), you’ll be hard-pressed to better the fantastic Flip 5. JBL’s offering sounds great for the price and is more than rugged enough to cope with a day at the pool.

The Flip 5 is waterproof to an IPX7 rating, boasts a 12 hour battery life and has a USB-C charging port, meaning it goes from flat to fully juiced in just 2.5 hours. It’s a pleasure to use and scores highly for portability, with a wrist strap that slips comfortably over our hand. There’s also a PartyBoost button that helps you pair two PartyBoost-enabled speakers to create a stereo pair, or link over 100 PartyBoost-compatible speakers in mono. 

Sound is impressively weighty and agile, with a good punch of bass and a real sense of openness and texture. Assuming you don’t mind the lack of an aux-in port or inbuilt microphone (as seen in the Flip 4), you’ll almost certainly be wowed by this speaker’s sonic chops. A superb performer.

Read the full review: JBL Flip 5

It’s hard to imagine a home decor, backpack or personal taste that the Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro couldn’t merge in with happily. It’s the size of a stack of drinks coasters, it’s IP67 rated, there’s a useful rubberised strap across the back of it and you can pair two of them in stereo mode. 

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the bass clout the Tribit is able to deliver. Although a speaker of such dimensions is obviously limited in terms of bass weight, it does remarkably well; close your eyes while listening and you’ll picture a bigger product. 

If your budget maxes out at £50 ($60), the Tribit is a splendid option. Similarly, if you only have a small zip compartment in the top of your backpack for a sonic travel companion, this speaker is worthy of that space. Take note, Ultimate Ears: a little-known brand called Tribit Audio just produced a budget belter of a Bluetooth speaker.

Read the full review: Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro

The JBL Charge 5 is even more durable and better sounding than the four Charges before it. Its predecessor carried an IPX7 rating, meaning it could handle being submerged in water to a depth of 1.5m, but the IP67-rated Charge 5 builds on that durability by also being fully dustproof. Want a speaker roughly the dimensions of a bottle of wine that’ll charge your phone and sound great? You’ve found it. 

Thanks in part to a new 10W tweeter and racetrack-shaped driver, the Charge 5 is currently as good a sound as you can get in a portable Bluetooth speaker design for under £200 ($200, AU$300). It boasts marginal improvements, both sonically and aesthetically, over its predecessor, the five-star Charge 4 (below). 

One day JBL may produce a Charge that can be outdone by a new and plucky rival, but rest assured, that has not happened with the rather splendid Charge 5.

Read the full review: JBL Charge 5

Bang & Olufsen isn’t noted for following the herd. In the Danish electronics specialist’s catalogue you’ll find a wheel-shaped wireless speaker, a TV that opens up like a butterfly, and an 8200-watt monolithic speaker comprising 18 drivers. Its output could reasonably be described as “premium” and “innovative” – and the B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) wireless speaker is no exception.

It boasts similar dimensions to a large floury bap, but that’s where any comparisons with baked goods end. The new A1 supports Qualcomm’s latest aptX Adaptive Bluetooth 5.1 codec, and of course, Alexa is built-in. 

It works a treat, too, delivering a pleasingly comfortable yet authoritative performance that you’d be happy listening to all day. Throw in its classy, well made design, easy to use operation and the bonus of Alexa, and you’re looking at a Bluetooth speaker sequel that has very much been worth the wait. 

Read the full review: Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) 

The diminutive, soap on a rope-styled Go 3 features Bluetooth 5.1 instead of 4.1 plus a maximum power output of 4.2W, up from 3W in the Go 2 (listed below). The one specification that hasn’t changed is the Go 3’s stamina. It takes 2.5 hours to charge fully, and you can still only get five hours of playtime from it from a single charge. 

If you can live with this, there’s much to celebrate in the sound department at the level. The extra power and overhauled design have resulted in some solid sonic enhancements, and aesthetically it’s perhaps even cuter than the original. We gave this iteration five stars for sound. Will five hours get you through a day at the beach or a lazy picnic in the park though? Probably best to take a wireless charger. 

Read the full review: JBL Go 3

The fact that we really like the JBL Charge 4 should come as no surprise to those who read our Charge 3 review – or the latest Charge 5 (above). Not only is this one of best-sounding Bluetooth speakers around at this end of the market, it serves up a whopping 20 hours of playback from a single charge and, thanks to the arrival of its newest sibling, you’ll find this slightly older model discounted across several retailers.

JBL fine-tuned the sound in this iteration to please even pickier ears. Obviously there’s a limit to the bass floor in a speaker of this size, but the low-end is tasteful – and there’s plenty of punch.  

You get a nice array of features for the money, too. The IPX7 water resistance means the Charge 4 can handle being submerged in water to a depth of 1.5m. And unlike the Flip 5 (above), you can also use the Charge 4 to juice up your phone – or any other device that will charge over USB from a 5V supply. 

The Flip 5 (above) is cheaper and lighter, but the Charge 4’s rugged design, excellent battery life and ‘battery sharing’ make it a near-perfect speaker for camping, beach trips and home use.

Read the full review: JBL Charge 4

Ultimate Ears has really made a splash in the Bluetooth speaker market with a number of colourful, fun-sounding and portable models. One its most biggest hits? The impressive Wonderboom 2.

It’s waterproof, sandproof, dustproof and is also designed to float, so it should withstand the most lively of pool parties. Battery life is 13 hours and a full charge takes just under three.

Sonically, the Wonderboom 2 is an exciting listen. Bass is impressive bass given its small dimensions and there’s plenty of detail and a fine sense of attack. You also get a ‘boost’ button on the underside of the unit. When pressed, it restricts the bass frequencies, allowing the UE to play louder through the midrange, which in turn makes the sound easier to hear when the unit is used outdoors.

There’s no built-in mic or app, but the Wonderboom 2 is still one of the best sounding little Bluetooth speakers you can buy for the money. 

Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2

The Dynaudio Music 5 is the second-largest one-box speaker in the company’s inaugural, four-strong Music series. And love or loathe its angular looks, we can’t help but be won over by how the Dynaudio Music 5 sounds.

It might be a powerful, but the Music 5 has the sonic nous to keeps things refined. While the Award-winning Naim (below) just edges it for both subtlety and a slightly livelier sound, there isn’t much in it – and the Dynaudio Music 5 boasts superiority in other ways. In a larger room, it boasts better weight, scale and authority. Sound is smooth, detail-rich, refined and resoundingly listenable. 

Connectivity is excellent, too, with aptX Bluetooth, wi-fi and AirPlay all present. Open up the Dynaudio app and you’ll discover NoiseAdapt, a feature that helps sound cut through a noisy room – useful during loud parties.  

Assuming you love its distinctive styling, the Dynaudio Music 5 is a sophisticated performer and a superb buy.

Read the full review: Dynaudio Music 5

The 2021 update (sensibly titled MkII) to the three-time Award-winning Audio Pro C10 (also listed, below) adds AirPlay 2 and Google Cast to complete a multi-room home run – and gets itself a What Hi-Fi? 2021 Award in the process.

When we tested its older sibling, we pitted it against models almost double its price and found it bettered them. We’re happy to report that it’s still the case today – if £500 ($500) is your maximum budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a speaker that comes close to the Audio Pro C10 MkII. 

We miss the leather handle and fun, slightly rock’n’roll aesthetic and sonic presentation of the original, but we can’t argue with three options for multi-room streaming (AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast and Audio Pro’s own slick and functional app) or the levelled-up grippy bass and improved hi-fidelity performance. 

Read the full review: Audio Pro Addon C10 MkII 

The Audio Pro Addon C3 isn’t just the best Bluetooth speaker at this price, it’s a stylish, wi-fi connected, multi-room capable centrepiece – plus it’s a What Hi-Fi? 2021 and 2020 Award winner. 

Sound is focused yet open and airy, meaning you can fill a decent sized room with immersive, weighty sound. It has an fantastic sense of refinement for such a small speaker, not to mention a rear-firing bass reflex port that delivers plenty of low-end grunt.

This model won’t charge your smartphone but it does feature an ethernet port, giving you the option to hardwire it to your home network. The battery serves up around 15 hours playback (less if you crank the volume up to the max).

The C3 supports streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and Apple Music, and while there’s no built-in voice assistant, you can control the speaker via the Alexa app.

If you’re after something more rugged and portable, we might suggest rivals from Ultimate Ears or JBL’s Xtreme. But as a sensational-sounding multi-room proposition, this speaker gives Sonos a serious run for its money.

Read the full review: Audio Pro Addon C3

At What Hi-Fi?, we know full well the value of revisions. Yet still, it was quite the surprise when first we heard about one made by Naim, with its second generation of the Mu-so Qb wireless speaker. The previous iteration was great, earning five stars when it was first reviewed. This version, however, is even better. 

You can now choose between an Olive, Terracotta or Peacock grille alongside the standard black, but the best tweaks Naim has made go far deeper. Remove whatever colour grille you’ve gone for and you’ll be rewarded with upgraded and optimised midrange and bass drive units, all powered by a total of 300W of amplification.

You won’t be short of streaming options, thanks to Chromecast Built-in and Apple AirPlay 2 alongside Bluetooth for streaming from a device, as well as Spotify Connect, Roon Ready, internet radio and Tidal.  You’ll also be able to access files up to 32-bit/384kHz anywhere on your home network via the updated Naim app 

With punchy bass and sparkling and rich tones across the frequencies, we had no hesitation in awarding the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation our 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award for the best home wireless speaker over £500 – for the third year running.

Read the full review: Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation 

It might be one of the less portable speakers in this list, but the T3 can still be carted around thanks to the carry handle. It’s robust rather than heavy, and boasts a battery life of up to 30 hours. Like bass? You’re in luck – the solid chassis and rear-firing bass port will have you tapping your toe in no time.

There’s no wi-fi (if you want wi-fi, opt of the Addon C3), but the Bluetooth-enabled T3 features a similarly classy design with textured surfaces and a leather embossed handle . 

Audio Pro tends to ignore gimmicks in favour of high-quality sound but this speaker does have the facility to charge up your smartphone or tablets via a USB port. You also get an auxiliary input for your TV/MP3 player/record player.

Sound is superb, with plenty of depth and detail throughout the frequencies. If you want something for home and in the garden, this could work nicely – maybe not the one for your carry-on luggage, though.

Read the full review: Audio Pro Addon T3

The JBL Xtreme 2‘s boombox design has fun and excitement written all over it. The rugged, IPX7 waterproof exterior, 15 hour battery life and ability to charge your phone from its USB port mean it’s a great option for the beach – and you’ll probably find deals on this model thanks to the arrival of the latest iteration, the Xtreme 3 (above). 

Wireless features have been stripped-back here, though. There’s no wi-fi, so you can’t stream from Spotify. And it won’t let you talk to Alexa or Google Assistant, just set a button to activate them in the manner of an earphone’s in-line remote.

JBL Connect+ is the most unusual feature on this otherwise standard Bluetooth speaker. It lets you link up to 100 JBL Connect+-enabled speakers, to make the equivalent of a nightclub PA in your home. Do note though: this isn’t compatible with JBL’s newer PartyBoost daisy-chaining feature.

There’s plenty of boom to the sound, but we’re not talking ridiculous levels. That deep powerful bass is also nicely controlled too. Mids are of a high quality and highs show more clarity than you traditionally get from such a product. For the money, the JBL Xtreme 2 is brilliantly balanced Bluetooth speaker.

Read the full review: JBL Xtreme 2

Ultimate Ears has a knack for making Bluetooth speakers that combine the right combination of sound, design and rugged features, and it does so again with the Blast. Its cylindrical 360-degree design means it throws sound evenly around the room, while the tough ‘IP67 waterproof’ exterior means it can  can survive in 1m of water for 30 minutes.

It’s crammed with connectivity, too. You get Bluetooth, wi-fi and Alexa smart assistant voice controls, meaning you can turn up the volume or play songs through Amazon Music Unlimited without lifting a finger. Far-field voice recognition is excellent, and there’s a nifty LED strip that glows and blinks when you interact with Alexa.  

The lack of 3.5mm audio input might bother some, but we found the Blast to be a real crowd-pleaser. The 360-degree sound and bass output is far better than one might expect for this kind of money; throw in Alexa smarts and you have a fun, energetic speaker that offers plenty of bang for your buck.

Read the full review: UE Blast

The Echo Show 5 is one of the more unusual Amazon products. Yes, it is intended to get us all invested in its virtual assistant, Alexa, but where much of the Alexa-enabled kit out there is audio based and concentrated on the Bluetooth speaker market in particular, the Echo Show 5 embraces both sound and video in its abilities to communicate. So, as well as playing music or reading out information, you can access video content on the 5.5in LCD touchscreen. There’s also a camera for video calls.  

The Echo Show 5 is a diminutive device, and as such cannot possibly offer the scale of sound that some specialist wireless speakers can. But then it offers so much more ability and functionality than a run-of-the-mill Bluetooth speaker. For what it is, we find the sound perfectly acceptable. It runs fairly warm, sonically, which helps voices on radio and the like, and makes for a comfortable listening experience. There are better speakers out there but this is much more than that. It opens up the world of the digital assistant to a whole new audience for both audio and video; and if that’s what you’re after, this is about as good as you’ll get. 

Read the full review: Amazon Echo Show 5

The powerful UE Megablast takes the performance of a portable Bluetooth speaker at this price to a new level. If you’re looking for thumping bass, well, let’s just say you’ve come to the right place.

Design-wise, the Megablast is waterproof (IP67 rated), so it will survive being dunked in the pool or exposed to a sudden downpour. Battery life is 16 hours, which is pretty respectable given that it has Alexa voice smarts built-in.

Say the wake word ‘Alexa’ and a white LED strip on top of the Megablast glows in recognition. Features include voice-controlled music playback over wi-fi, through Amazon Music Unlimited and TuneIn radio, plus support for the likes of  Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack, though.

A combination of pounding bass and enthusiastic sense of rhythm make for a hugely enjoyable performance. It might not be the most pocketable speaker around, but few rivals can match the Megablast for bass quality. An absolute treat. 

Read the full review: UE Megablast

Want a Sonos speaker you can drop in a backpack? Meet the Sonos Roam, the multi-room titan’s first truly portable battery-powered speaker (the 2019 Sonos Move is technically portable but weighs a hefty 3kg to the Roam’s 430g).

The Roam works perfectly well as a standalone Bluetooth speaker but it’s also designed to be immersed in the company’s burgeoning multi-room ecosystem. Features includes support for AirPlay 2, voice controls and Sonos’ Trueplay tech, which uses the built-in mic to tune bass and treble to suit your surroundings.

Headed to the beach or the pool? You’ll be pleased to note the IP67 rating, which gives it complete water and dust resistance. The built-in battery offers a pretty decent 10 hours playback and support for Qi wireless charging. 

Sound is confident, bold and better than you might expect from an outdoor/party speaker at this price. Other Bluetooth speakers offer a more expressive and detailed sound but if you’re invested in the world of Sonos, the Roam is a smart buy.

Read the full review: Sonos Roam

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