Bluetooth Speaker Buyer's Guide

Bluetooth has been a standard means of connectivity in smartphones since the first days of Android. And, because of its flexibility, other devices such as laptops and computers will often include the technology. For many of us we’re now routinely pairing a set of wireless headphones or portable speakers to just about anything mobile.

With seemingly endless models of Bluetooth speakers to choose from, it might seem somewhat daunting to pick out the “right” one. But, if you break things down into various categories, you’ll find that it’s not terribly difficult to get into something you’ll truly enjoy.

Below you will find a number of features to pay attention to when considering a new portable wireless speaker with Bluetooth connectivity.

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Size

How much space are you looking to fill with your music? Is it a small office that’s going to be used for podcasts and audiobooks or are you hoping to throw a raging backyard pool party?

nynerock_3While some speakers are ultra-portable and convenient to tote around, others take up more space and require a little effort to lug about. On the smaller, ultra-portable side of things you will find speakers like the 808 XS, Braven Balance, or something from VicTsing. For more robust needs, look to a speaker such as the Harman Kardon  Nyne Rock.

Waterproof

Waterproof speakers can have a variety of use cases, including showers or out back at the pool. If you’re considering taking your Bluetooth portable speaker with you on a camp out or trip to the beach, you’ll want to look for something that’s protected against water.

ue_roll_wet (1)There are variable levels of protection against water including splash resistance or outright waterproof. You’ll want to look for IP Rating to determine whether a particular model will work for your needs.

  • IPX4 – splash resistant
  • IPX5 – withstand rain and basic spraying
  • IPX6 – withstand more moderate sprays, including jets and nozzles
  • IPX7 – can be fully immersed in a few feet of water for roughly 30 minutes
  • IPX8 – can be fully immersed in deeper water and for longer periods of time

We’ve put together a more comprehensive primer on what the various levels are and how they can help keep your products safe. Just remember, the higher the IPX level, the more it will withstand water splashes, sprays, jets, and dunks. Among some of the more popular Bluetooth speakers with waterproof protection are the UE Boom 2 and Yatra Aquatune 5712.

Where to Buy

There are many places to search for a Bluetooth speaker, including at your local cellular service provider. Head to any of the larger retail stores and you’re bound to find a few models on the shelves. Additionally, you can pick something up from the following outlets:

Battery

Not all speakers are the same size, so that means that not all of them can offer up the same battery life. If you don’t plan to stray too far from an outlet, then it’s not really an issue. But, should you want to get out of the house for extended periods, you’ll definitely want to get something with batteries that last.

It’s not uncommon to find speakers with 10-2 hours of playback with some getting upwards of 20 hours at a time. It’s also not unheard of, though, for a speaker to require a wall outlet.

Special Features

Look through the various models on the market and you’ll find that some of the speakers are more feature rich than others. One option that can make or break your purchasing decision is whether the speaker has a built-in microphone. Indeed, some of them can be used for making and receiving calls. Keep this in mind if you’d like to use your speaker on a kitchen counter or office environment.

Some models will let the listener pair two units together to create a stereo sound. Different than simply stringing two together in a row, this lets you enjoy music in the way it was created. If you expect to fill your backyard with tunes for a party, you might want to pair two of them together and space them apart.

Braven BRV-XXL portsMid-size and larger speakers sometimes feature internal batteries which can be used to charge up your smartphone or other mobile device. This is helpful when you’re at a party and don’t know if your phone will last the night. Often there’s enough juice to top off your phone without cutting your playlist short.

Select Bluetooth speakers will not have any physical buttons for volume levels or track advancement and playback. This means you’ll rely on your smartphone to control your music or audio source. While it may not sound like a big deal, it could be frustrating over time to have to constantly get out your phone to pause or skip a song.

Size

Perhaps the most important factor in any purchase decision, cost is what causes us to determine the difference between want and need. You don’t have to break the bank to get something that sounds good, especially if your needs are moderate.

Just about any speaker you pick up for about $20-$50 is going to work well, particularly in smaller environments such as the den or home office. Moving into the $100 range, this is where speakers offer stronger batteries and some of the extras such as microphones and protection against water. At about $150 and higher you should be looking at something that lasts all weekend, can take a dunk in the pool, and even charges up your tablet.

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