portable Bluetooth speakers buying guide

Portable Bluetooth speakers let you listen to your favourite tunes and playlists from virtually anywhere, both in the home and outside. You can find types that offer big sound at home to others that are small, rugged, and waterproof to take with you hiking or biking.

Table of Contents:

What is a portable Bluetooth speaker?

waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker

Portable Bluetooth speakers are wireless speakers that use Bluetooth to connect to your smartphones or other device. They are portable, easy to use, and are a great option if you’d like to listen to music on-the-go use or if you want to use them in a spot where you can’t connect a wired speaker.

Available in all sizes and styles

Portable Bluetooth speakers are available in sizes ranging from very small to extra large, giving you the option to choose a tiny speaker for travelling or a large speaker to put in your backyard. They have built-in rechargeable batteries so you can charge your speaker before you leave home and it will often last for a full day of listening. Some types have microphones so they double as a speaker for hands-free phone calls.

Connects to a wide range of devices

Most portable Bluetooth speakers connect to a wide range of devices. You’ll be able to connect anything that has Bluetooth including smartphones and tablets as well as portable audio players like iPods, laptops, or gaming consoles with Bluetooth. Some types will also have Wi-Fi or streaming options like Apple AirPlay for when you’re at home and you’d like to connect to your TV or another speaker.

Portable Bluetooth speakers vs wireless speakers

portable Bluetooth speaker vs wireless speaker

Although the terms “wireless speaker” and “portable Bluetooth speaker” are often used interchangeably, there are some differences between the two. While both types of speakers can stream audio over the air, portable Bluetooth speakers are a specific type of wireless speaker that has its own set of unique features.

  • Wireless speakers stream audio using Wi-Fi or platforms such as AirPlay, while portable Bluetooth speakers use Bluetooth technology.
  • Portable Bluetooth speakers are designed to be lightweight and easy to carry around, often featuring rechargeable batteries for complete portability. Wireless speakers may also be portable but they usually require access to a power outlet and a Wi-Fi signal to function.

You can read more about wireless speakers in the wireless speaker buying guide.

Types of portable Bluetooth speakers

portable Bluetooth speaker buying guide

The best part of having a portable Bluetooth speaker is that you can use it anywhere. You can choose one that is small enough to pack into a backpack or find a water-resistant or waterproof model to use on the boat or at the beach.

Mini portable Bluetooth speakers

mini portable Bluetooth speaker

A mini portable Bluetooth speaker is small, lightweight, and often the size of a hockey puck or tumbler glass. The size makes them easy to travel with, and some include a carabiner you can clip to your hiking backpack or have optional mounts you can add to a bicycle.

Waterproof and outdoor Bluetooth speakers

Waterproof speakers are designed to withstand varying levels of exposure to water and moisture. They have a rugged design in case of drops or bumps and they have covered ports so water can’t enter the speaker. Some types of waterproof speakers will even float, so if you drop your speaker in the lake you won’t have to worry about it sinking.

Average IPX rating on waterproof or outdoor Bluetooth speakers

You can tell how waterproof or splash-proof your portable Bluetooth speaker will be by its IPX rating. The higher the IPX rating, the more resistant to water and dust the speaker will be. Most waterproof Bluetooth speakers have an IPX rating of at least 4 or higher. If you’d like a completely waterproof Bluetooth speaker you’ll need to look for a IPX7 rating – meaning the speaker can be immersed in water up to 1 metre for up to 30 minutes.

Multi-room portable Bluetooth speakers

Multi-room portable Bluetooth speakers are indoor or outdoor Bluetooth speakers that connect to create sound for a larger space. Some types of multi-room Bluetooth speakers can connect to 100 other speakers of the same brand. You can also use a multi-room Bluetooth speaker on its own.

Smart Bluetooth speakers

Smart Bluetooth speakers capability are equipped with voice assistants including Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant. You can use voice commands to control music playback or, if using it indoor, use your smart speaker to control your smart home devices.

Party Bluetooth speakers

JBL portable Bluetooth party speaker

Party Bluetooth speakers are portable, often waterproof, and are designed to produce loud, high-quality sound. They are some of the largest types of portable Bluetooth speakers and they are ideal for parties, gatherings, or big events. They run on rechargeable batteries so you can take them anywhere, and some types of party Bluetooth speakers have built-in lights or special effects to get the party started.

You can also find party speakers that offer multiple Bluetooth connections so you can take turns being the DJ, and you may also be able to plug in a microphone and use your speaker for karaoke.

Features on portable Bluetooth speakers

mini portable Bluetooth speaker

Here are a few common features you’ll find on the latest portable Bluetooth speakers.

1. Bluetooth connectivity

A standard feature on this type of portable speaker, Bluetooth allows you to easily pair with your smartphone, tablet, or other audio device with Bluetooth capabilities. Some portable Bluetooth speakers have multi-connection options so you won’t have to disconnect from one Bluetooth device before you can connect another.

2. Battery operated

portable speaker

Most portable Bluetooth speakers have an average battery life of 6 to 10 hours on a single charge. You can also find types with a battery that lasts up to 20 hours or more. Just keep in mind that your battery charge will vary depending on how loud you play music or how often you are switching playlists. If you have a party portable Bluetooth speaker your battery life could be affected by how often you use built-in lights or bass boost.

Most portable Bluetooth speakers charge with a USB, USB-A, or USB-C cable.

3. Onboard controls

Some types of portable Bluetooth speakers work with an app to control volume and playlists, but you’ll find most types have controls on the handle or body of the speaker itself. You can turn the volume up or down, power the speaker off, or switch playlists. Some models will also have a low battery warning light, so you know when to recharge.

portable party speaker

4. Lights and party functions

If you choose a party Bluetooth speaker your speaker may have lights and other party functions that can help create a party atmosphere. The lights may sync with music, or you can create a strobe effect for dancing.

5. Waterproof or splash resistant

If you’d like to use your portable speaker at the lake or near the pool you can choose a waterproof portable speaker. If you are using your speaker in the backyard with easy access to shelter, you may only need a splash-proof portable speaker.

6. Durable cases stand up to drops

Some types of portable Bluetooth speakers have durable, rugged cases. If you accidentally drop your speaker the internal components won’t be damaged.

7. Sound quality

Portable Bluetooth speakers are capable of producing amazing sound. You can find types that offer high-fidelity audio with deep bass. If you’re interested in high-fidelity audio, you’ll want to look for brands like Marshall and Harmon Kardon.

8. Speakerphone capable

You’ll find some types of portable Bluetooth speakers offer built-in speakerphone capabilities so you can pair it with your phone and use the speaker to take hands-free calls.

9. Microphone included

There are portable Bluetooth speakers that include a microphone so you can sing along to songs or host a karaoke night with friends.

10. Wheels or carry handle

If you need to transport your portable Bluetooth speaker you may want to look for a model with built-in wheels or a handle you can use to pick it up and take it with you.

Take the next step

multi room portable Bluetooth speaker

Now that you know the features and types of portable Bluetooth speakers, you’re ready to choose the right one for you. Check out a wide selection of all types of portable Bluetooth speakers at Best Buy.

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