We've reviewed and compared the latest portable audio accessories for smartphone users who demand more than tinny, crappy built-in speakers for their music and media. Here's our pick of the best Bluetooth audio accessories.
We have three simple rules for this face off: each competitor has to be able to connect to a smartphone using Bluetooth; they need a built-in battery and they have to be portable. With that in mind, here are fifteen great portable audio solutions to choose from. We've covered a range of devices, so everyone should be able to find something that fits their needs.
Logitech UE Boom 2 - £169.99
Logitech’s Ultimate Ears brand has been making some serious waves in the speaker and headphone spaces in over the past year and the company has just refreshed its signature Boom for 2015.
It’s up there with the Bose SoundLink Mini for the top spot in our lineup and although it’s a smidge more expensive, it’s got greater mass appeal. Aesthetically you have six new colour combinations to choose from at launch, with plans to include a few graphic designs in there too, just as with the original UE Boom. The woven speaker grille looks great and offers plenty of grip, not to mention the lanyard on the base lets you secure it to all sorts of things, from wrist straps to bags (it's also the perfect size for a bicycle bottle cage).
On the performance side it promises up to 15 hours of music playback (making it one of the best of the bunch), support for up to ten Bluetooth devices at a maximum range of 100 feet (double that of its predecessor) and NFC pairing as standard. Audio quality is also excellent, with a perfect blend of bass, mid and treble at any volume, distortion-free and the ability to double up with another UE Boom is a nice inclusion too.
As its cylindrical form suggests, you get 360-degree sound output (that's 25 per cent louder than before), speakerphone functionality, an app that provides EQ control, an alarm function and software updates to your UE Boom, as well as uprated IPX7 certification making this a truly waterproof speaker. This thing is loaded and ready to rock making it one of the greatest in the lineup crossing from 2015 into 2016.
Available from UltimateEars.com [LINK]
Logitech UE MegaBoom - £249.99
No sooner had we finished playing with the original UE Boom than its successor, the bigger, beefier MegaBoom landed in our laps. As the name suggests this is the UE Boom scaled up, but it’s not just size that’s different.
The 360 sound experience has been bolstered with punchier speakers that don’t fire out with quite the same clarity as the Boom, but can be pushed that little bit harder instead. Naturally you also have Logitech’s app to toy with should you want to tailor the EQ settings to your taste and the whole system receives improvements via OTA (over the air) updates too.
More internal capacity means a larger battery as well and as a result you can snag an additional five hours of promised battery longevity (bringing the total up to 20 hours), making for one of the best figures in the lineup. Despite still being easy to pick up and swing around, the MegaBoom also boasts IPX7 certification, so it’s much hardier and happy, should you decided to play your tunes in the shower or a rainstorm for example.
Naturally you get the same colour customisation options too so there’s plenty of choice, although it’s fair to say that not everyone will appreciate the notably higher price tag.
Available from UltimateEars.com [LINK]
Scosche boomBOTTLE - £119.99
If you're the outdoorsy type, and in particular a keen cyclist, then seriously consider the Scosche Boombottle. This cylindrical speaker measures just under 21cms tall and is purpose built to slot into a bicycle drinks bottle cage, letting you play your tunes whilst you ride.
The chunky controls ensure that it's easy to operate, even with gloves on and thanks to its IPX4 certification, it's weather proofed body is perfectly happy getting covered in mud and spray from the road. It even comes with a carabiner to anchor to a bag, belt or coat and a microUSB lead for charging via a port underneath a protective rubber flap.
Using dual 40mm drivers the Boombottle pushes out some pretty explosive sound. It's one of the loudest in the lineup, albeit not the clearest. The balance seems pretty flat, but it does more than enough to reproduce your music collection without distortion. In truth it's built for purpose, as the finer details of music will be lost to background noise out in the wilderness, no matter
As an added bonus, connecting your phone via Bluetooth 4.0 also means you can use the Boombottle as a speakerphone for taking phone calls. Battery life is around 10 hours of continuous use and it's available in a range of colours.
Available from Expansys [LINK]
Jabra Solemate (2nd gen) - £129.99
We're no strangers to Jabra's Solemate family and now the original is back and better than ever. The second generation Solemate brings the same distinctive design to the table, featuring ruggedised, rubberised bodywork including its trademark sole tread, in which you'll find a 3.5mm auxiliary lead ready to connect to any nearby devices.
Similarly to the Boombottle, the Solemate is perfectly at home outdoors come rain or shine and it even comes with an additional carry pouch and belt loop to add a little extra protection when you're out and about. The controls are simple enough, with voice-guidance when pairing via Bluetooth, charging via an exposed microUSB port on the side, volume controls and a button for starting and ending calls in loudspeaker mode.
One of the key additions to this revised Solemate is the inclusion of NFC pairing, meaning it can take just seconds to connect your phone to the system by tapping it on the top of the unit. The new Solemate can also connect with Jabra's Sound app (iOS and Android compatible) which helps ensure your tunes sound as good as possible offering full Dolby-certified quality.
On the hardware side, this small speaker unit packs an impressive punch, with great lows and crisp highs from three dedicated drivers. Our only criticism would be that compared to some of the other offerings in this lineup, detail in the mids section don't come through as readily. That being said, this wireless speaker will still undoubtedly wow you.
Available from Amazon.co.uk [LINK]
JBL Pulse - £179.99
Your average speakers focus on sound, not light, and rightly so, but if you can do both well, why not? The JBL Pulse fuses the two to make an eye-catching portable speaker that's great for evenings sat out under the stars with your mates.
The Pulse offers up an assortment of lighting displays for you to try. There are a variety of visual equalisers that react to your music, and you can pick from simple complimentary colours to a full rainbow disco. You can even switch off the lights if you want to battery to go that little bit further.
Behind that permeable wall of 64 colourful LEDs are some solid speakers which give you a good spread of highs and mids. The bass needs a little work, but you're paying for a speaker that performs unlike any other, spend the same money on one that's just about the sound and you might get a slightly more impressive audio experience, but that loses out on the 'wow' factor the Pulse boasts.
You can connect wirelessly via Bluetooth with NFC pairing and it should last five hours on a charge. What's more, buy it direct from JBL and it comes with free shipping.
Available from JBL [LINK]
STK Groovez SMC960 - £29.99
The most affordable and one of the most compact units in our lineup, the SMC960 is a simple, colourful portable Bluetooth speaker with a distinctive inverted curve along its edge.
It’s impressively thin and light, although as you might expect for the price, the dual 3 watt speakers fall prey to distortion at maximum volume, rein that in however and you’ll find this little speaker immensely useful, partiocularly if you want to slip it in your bag when you head out on your travels.
As well as Bluetooth 3.0, you can connect your phone (or any other device with a headphone jack) via an auxiliary port on the back and skip, pause and play tracks using the inbuilt hardware controls.
Available from MobileFun.co.uk [LINK]
Bayan Soundbook X3 - £249.99
The Soundbook X3 isn't just a pretty face, but that doesn't stop it from being a beautiful piece of kit. It would look at home next to the likes of the Apple's aluminium-bodied laptops and has the fit and finish to match.
Its distinctive parallelogram profile angles the drivers up and out for better sound projection and audio quality is excellent. There's a broad dynamic range, from rich bass to crisp highs and an impressive overall maximum volume, without distortion, indoors or outdoors, Bayan's latest Soundbook sounds fantastic.
Everything is considered with the X3. When not in use, the front speaker grille is protected by a nylon cover that leads a double life as the NFC receiver for fast pairing with your smartphone and as an antenna. Should you tire of your own music library, the X3 is the only speaker unit in our lineup which doubles as an FM radio too.
The Bayan Soundbook X3 feels premium, it's simple to set up, comes in either silver or black, boasts a 10-hour battery life and best of all, it's British.
Available from Amazon.co.uk [LINK]
SuperTooth D4 - £48.50
SuperTooth’s long-standing Disco family has taken a dramatic twist with the arrival of the new SuperTooth D4 portable speaker. It may look a little like a megaphone but the D4 is all about music and comes in an array of punchy colours.
Aside from its shape, the D4 also boasts a rubberised grab handle and at just 500 grams, this lightweight speaker is easy to pick up and place around inside and out.
The back of the D4 is where you'll find all the hardware controls which consist of a power button and... nothing else. This speaker is incredibly simple to use, with your phone's volume rocker controlling volume output. You can connect via an auxiliary port and there's a microUSB slot for charging too.
The main driver produces a pretty flat, but loud sound, so it's best suited for pushing out some background music, rather than being the centre of the party. There's also a 'Bass Relfex' system, a passive bass outlet that gives a little more depth than rival speakers around the same price point.
Available from Amazon.co.uk [LINK]
Spaced 360 - £250
Stereo is so last season, this Bluetooth speaker has the unique ability to push sound out equally in 360-degrees with what its makers like to call airSOUND. Using a trio of custom designed drivers, interspersed with three passive radiators in between, no matter where you stand, the Spaced 360 offers up great audio, and best of all this isn’t just marketing spin, it actually works.
Although it might not offer the earth-shattering bass of the Bose SoundLink Mini, the Spaced 360’s audio range is wide, clean and crisp. What’s more it can be pushed to maximum volume without distortion and outperforms most of the pricier speakers in our lineup. This thing has been designed to stand out.
Alongside, its distinctive speaker arrangement, the Spaced 360 features a simple four-button control panel on top and a charging base that lets you set the speaker at any angle to charge. One-touch NFC pairing, a choice of black or grey and a range of colourful cases also help up the ante too.
Available from John Lewis [LINK]
Xqisit B06 Mini Speaker - £29.99
You may not have heard of Xqisit, but that doesn't stop them from making a lot of noise, particularly with what is undeniably the most powerful mini speaker around. For its diminutive size, the Xqisit B04 is an impressive little noisemaker.
Naturally such a small unit won’t afford mind-blowing battery life with a four-hour limit, and less-than-stellar audio fidelity compare to the larger units in our lineup, but it is loud and if you strap it to a bag on your next bike ride, it’ll give your more than an enjoyable musical experience.
At just 42 grams, the 3-watt speaker inside packs a surprising punch and thanks to the integrated hardware controls you can also change volume, skip tracks and answer calls via speakerphone, all using its inbuilt Bluetooth connection. Its construction is also a nice mix of durable plastic and aluminium, with a rubberised base for added grip.
It also supports a line in for devices lacking Bluetooth and charges via a standard microUSB. All in all, this is an ideal choice for those who want something beefier than the average phone speaker, without taking up too much space or costing too much cash.
Available from Amazon.co.uk [LINK]
Creative Sound Blaster Roar - £129.99
If you want a pretty speaker, check out some of the other offerings in our lineup like the JBL Pulse or the Spaced 360. The Creative Sound Blaster Roar adopts a far more utilitarian design – a grey cuboid of metal and plastic that’s surprisingly weighty, but also feels exceptionally well built as a result.
From the front, the controls are simple – options for switching between music playback and speakerphone modes, volume controls, a power button, NFC and a dedicated ‘Roar’ button to push the audio output as loud as it can go. Flip this speaker round however and it becomes the king of versatility. If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker then does more than just play your tunes, the Roar is one for you.
The rear plate is littered with additional ports and controls. There’s a full-sized USB port so you can connect the Roar to your PC as an additional speaker, a line-in, which pairs with some dedicated hardware controls so you can record directly to a microSD card (there’s a slot for those too), music playback controls, an alarm button that doubles as a bass-boost feature (dubbed TeraBass) and there’s a toggle so you can choose how many and which devices can be paired via Bluetooth for added control.
Sound quality is also excellent, with two front-facing drivers and large subwoofer on top, paired to a passive bass outlet on each side all working together to create a rich sound with a nice level of detail. Maximum volume is also impressive, with zero distortion and the aforementioned Roar feature is on hand for particularly loud environments. aptX support is a welcome inclusion for superior streaming quality and battery life is around eight hours.
Available from Creative [LINK]
Sony BSP10 - £79.99
As tech brands go, few are more reputable than Sony and if the company’s smartphones are anything to go by, you can expect excellent performance, functionality and build quality.
The Sony BSP10 might not have the catchiest name in our lineup, but it’s another offering that’s great for those who want maximum impact, whilst occupying minimal space.
You get all the gubbins you expect from a top of the range portable speaker, including Bluetooth connectivity with One Touch NFC pairing, a powerful 10-watt driver, 10-hour battery life, great sound quality without distortion and hardware controls for volume, media playback and speakerphone functionality.
The added hook comes with its Qi wireless charging support, which grants you the added convenience of forgoing the USB lead and instead letting you set down or pick up a fully charged speaker without having to fiddle with a lead. To top it off, this is made all the sweeter thanks to a very reasonable sub-£80 price tag.
Available from Sony Mobile [LINK]
Beats by Dr. Dre Pill XL - £260
Beats’ Pill XL might not offer the best sound quality around, but it feels perfectly suited to the party atmosphere, mainly as a result of its ability to push out serious volume without distortion. Expect decent bass performance with a flat overall quality and a surprisingly broad directional area.
Being Beats’ largest Bluetooth speaker it’s also its bulkiest and heaviest, but the intelligent grab handle design makes it exceptionally portable considering its size. Either side of the grab handle are a number of handy ports and controls. Volume, charging, battery meter and NFC are located on the back. Expect around 12 to 15 hours of playback depending on volume and usage and appreciate the inclusion of a USB-out so you can keep your phone charged whilst listening to your tunes. We’re also a fan of the XL’s party piece, the daisy chain NFC feature that lets you tap to connect two Pills together for either double the sound or stereo output.
At £260, it’s one of the priciest options in the lineup, but it's packed with features and has just hit the market in some funky new colour schemes too.
Available from Amazon.co.uk [LINK]
Bayan Soundbook GO - £79.99
If the Soundbook X3 is the Ferrari 458 of Bayan’s speaker empire, the GO is its plucky Fiat 500 Abarth. To look at, it features a scaled down design with the same leather cover that automatically powers the unit on when you fold it over into its standing position. The shiny plastic around the edge doesn’t look as sharp as the X3, but boasts the same hardware controls and speakerphone gubbins.
You can connect via NFC, Bluetooth pairing or a standard jack and it charges via microUSB so you can use your computer’s USB port or your standard phone charger. The battery in question should give you up to nine hours of music playback, or even more if you use a cable.
For its size we were pleased by the audio quality it pushes out. Its slanted design means that it outputs unidirectional sound, but the passive bass outlet on the Soundbook GO’s back is a nice inclusion that’s helps up the overall quality. At a snip under £80 it’s a pretty decent choice, especially if you’re after something a little more compact.
Available from Bayan Audio [LINK]
Bose SoundLink Mini - £169.95
The Bose Soundlink Mini might not be an all-singing all-dancing Bluetooth speaker like some of the offerings in our lineup, but for the company's smallest connected speaker, it offers the biggest sound of the bunch.
Get past the surprising weight (for its size at least) and somewhat unimaginative styling and you'll be blown away by what this tiny device can pump out. Not only does it yield the loudest volume overall, but the audio quality from bass through to treble is crystal clear and impressively rich.
Distortion never reared its head when we went ears-on and as with all Bose products, sound quality is the number one priority. As small wireless speakers go, this is arguably one of the best around and although it isn't cheap, it'll do your tunes justice, making it our top pick for the discerning sound junkie.
To sweeten the deal even further, the Soundlink Mini also comes with a dock so you can have it permanently charged and ready to connect to at home. When you want take it with you, the 7-hour battery will serve you well, as will the excellent build quality. Colourful skins are also available to add a little customisation into the mix. Happy listening.
Available from Bose [LINK]
Article last updated 15/9/15 - Replaced UE Boom with UE Boom 2.