The Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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After listening to a total of 139 portable Bluetooth speakers (and counting!) in the the past two years, we think the UE Roll 2 is the best choice for most listeners. It sounds better and plays louder than most competitors, plus it has a slim, waterproof, rugged design that lets it survive almost any journey yet still slip easily into a backpack or laptop bag. It’s visually identical to the original UE Roll; the main difference is that it can play a little louder and its battery lasts longer. A year of heavy use across the US and around the world has confirmed the practicality and sheer fun of this design.

Last Updated: March 29, 2017
We’ve added UE’s new speaker, the Wonderboom, to the What to look forward to section below.
Expand Most Recent Updates
February 7, 2017: We’ve added a list of the Bluetooth speakers we’re checking out from CES 2017 to the What to look forward to section below.
November 23, 2016: Since our last update in September 2016, we’ve tested six new portable Bluetooth speakers and also had a chance to evaluate the updated app for the UE Boom and Megaboom, which lets you use several speakers together for multiroom audio. We haven’t changed our top picks, but the new Vava Voom 20 merits consideration as an alternative to our current runner-up, and the Polk Boom Bit might be the best audio stocking stuffer ever.
September 15, 2016: Since our last update in summer 2016, we tested 15 new portable Bluetooth speakers. Though we found several worthy of consideration, only one clearly outperformed one of our existing picks: the DKnight MagicBox II, which replaces the AmazonBasics BTV2 as our top budget-priced model.
July 26, 2016: After putting in more than 60 hours testing 40 new speakers, we found that the UE Roll 2—a recent update to our previous pick, the UE Roll—is the best choice in a portable Bluetooth speaker for most people. After traveling through five states and six countries with the original Roll, we’re still convinced its combination of sound quality, ruggedness, water resistance, portability, and price is unbeatable. The UE Roll 2 is basically the same speaker, just a little louder. For a no-frills alternative, the Logitech X300 costs less but adds a speakerphone function and still sounds great. If you want even better sound quality and louder volume than the Roll 2, the Bose SoundLink Mini II costs roughly twice as much but sounds a lot better. If you’re willing to spend significantly more for the best performance, the Riva Turbo X is one of the most expensive portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy, but we think it’s worth it. And if you’re looking for something small and inexpensive, we recommend the AmazonBasics BTV2, which is probably the best-sounding wireless speaker you can get for less than $30.
July 12, 2016: We’ve added long-term test notes on the original UE Roll, but finding last year’s speaker for less than $80 is getting more difficult. We’ll be updating this guide soon with our full thoughts on the new UE Roll 2, which will be our new top pick; you can find our initial thoughts on the Roll 2 in the What to look forward to section below. Unless you can save about $20 by choosing the original UE Roll, we think the Roll 2 is the best portable Bluetooth speaker to buy right now.
June 21, 2016: We’ve tested the UE Roll 2, Logitech’s updated version of our top pick. The new speaker is better, but the Roll 2 is currently generally priced at $100, and we’ve seen the original Roll priced as low as $70. At that price, we’d still go with the original. We’ll update this guide soon with full test results, but have added our initial thoughts to the What to look forward to section below. UE’s other speakers, which we discuss in the Competition section, now support Siri and Google Now commands.
June 16, 2016: We've updated the What to look forward to section below with information on the Libratone One Click and Too.
May 24, 2016: Logitech has announced the UE Roll 2, an updated version of our top pick. We’ve added it to the What to look forward to section below.
April 21, 2016: We’ve updated the What to look forward to section with info on the new Beoplay A1, an aluminum-bodied mini speaker from B&O Play.
January 6, 2016: We've added several new speakers that debuted at CES to the What to look forward to section below.
Our pick
UE Roll 2
Like its predecessor, the Roll 2 offers an irresistible combination of sound quality, ruggedness, water resistance, portability, cool features, and a reasonable price.

The original UE Roll was our unanimous pick for the best portable speaker when we tested 30 new models last year, and we feel just as strongly about its replacement, the UE Roll 2. Like the original, the UE Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes to cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a spot at the beach with sound. It’s so watertight, it will survive being dunked 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes. Seven months of worldwide traveling with the original Roll have only confirmed our love of this design. The only real downside is that it lacks a speakerphone function.

Logitech X300
The X300’s no-frills design sounds great, costs a little less than the Roll 2, and adds a speakerphone function.

If you want a slight upgrade in audio quality, if our main pick sells out or becomes unavailable, if you want something with a speakerphone function, or if you just want to save some money, the Logitech X300 is a terrific choice. With this speaker, the focus is on sound quality; it isn’t quite as loud as the UE Roll 2, but we think it sounds a little fuller and more natural. It’s not waterproof, and other than the speakerphone function, it doesn’t have any fancy features. But it sounds smoother than most Bluetooth speakers we’ve heard, even many larger and more-expensive models.

If you want better sound quality and louder volume, the Bose SoundLink Mini II is worth the cost (roughly twice the price of the Roll 2). It’s shocking to hear how much better the SoundLink Mini II comes across than most competitors, with clearer voices and a fuller sound closer to what you might expect to hear from a decent small stereo system. It also plays loud enough to drown out a small dinner party. At 1½ pounds the SoundLink Mini II is perfect for lugging along on family vacations but probably heavier than backpackers and business travelers will want to carry. A recent price reduction has pushed the larger, even better-sounding Riva Turbo X down into the SoundLink Mini II’s price range, but because the Turbo X is four times as large by volume, it’s really in a different category.

If portability isn’t your primary concern and you just want the best possible performance, we think the Riva Turbo X is one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy. Its sound is clearer, livelier, more spacious, and more natural than its competitors’. It gets you closer to the sound of a real stereo speaker system than any other Bluetooth portable we’ve tried, and it’s the only speaker among our picks that delivers enough volume to be heard over loud party conversation.

It’s also more refined and elegant-looking. Previously the Turbo X was one of the most expensive portable Bluetooth speakers you could find, and we thought it was worth its original price, but now that its price has been lowered to $200, it is an amazing deal. Note, however, that even though the Turbo X is splashproof when its rear jacks are protected by its included rubber cover, it’s heavy for its size and not as rugged as the other speakers we’ve picked, so it’s best suited to places like offices, bedrooms, and living rooms.

If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker for listening to TuneIn Radio or Pandora quietly in your cubicle, using in a workshop, or entertaining the kids, the DKnight MagicBox II delivers by far the best sound we’ve heard in a Bluetooth speaker for less than $35. It has a fairly natural, full sound for a speaker in its price range, with sound loud enough to fill a good-size living room. It runs for 13 hours on a charge, has above-average Bluetooth range, and includes a speakerphone function that works well.

Table of contents

What’s changed since our previous update to this guide

The Bluetooth speaker category is evolving faster than any other segment of the audio industry, with new models introduced literally every week. We can’t listen to all of them, but there are few, if any, major models we haven’t heard. We give a listen to every model that manufacturers offer us and occasionally buy samples if we stumble upon a model from an unfamiliar brand that looks promising (or even a familiar brand that looks dubious). This means we’ve likely tested more portable Bluetooth speakers than anyone.

For this update, we evaluated six new models. None were clearly superior to our top picks, but we did find one, the Vava Voom 20, that’s worth considering as an alternative to our runner-up, the Logitech X300. You can read about the Vava Voom 20 in The competition. The Polk Boom Bit, while handicapped by a short, three-hour battery life, pioneers a whole new product category and is priced and sized to make the perfect stocking stuffer or Secret Santa gift.

Note that many of the models we tested are quite competent and may be good alternatives to our main picks. Our job is to pick a few standouts rather than present you with a long list of speakers you should consider. If you’re curious about whether a particular model you’ve seen or heard about is worth considering as an alternative to our main picks, check out The competition near the end of this article, where we include our comments about more than 100 models.

In the past, we’ve broken out waterproof Bluetooth speakers into a separate category, but since so many of the latest Bluetooth speakers are water resistant to some degree, we decided putting them in their own category was no longer necessary. Of our five top picks, one is waterproof and one is water resistant; for picks that aren’t designed to survive encounters with moisture, we list a water-resistant or waterproof alternative.

Why you should listen to us

I’ve reviewed audio gear professionally since 1990. I currently review for websites including Home Theater Review and SoundStage! Xperience and have written reviews for magazines and websites including Sound & Vision, Stereos, and Home Theater. I’ve probably conducted more blind tests of audio products than any other journalist, and my home has a dedicated listening room (where we did most of the tests for this guide), racks built specifically for testing multiple compact speakers, and a dedicated testing lab. I’ve tested well over 200 wireless speakers to date.

I also spend roughly a quarter of my life traveling, and since 2008 have brought portable Bluetooth speakers with me on more than 50 trips, from bike tours to transoceanic junkets.

Dennis Burger has reviewed audio gear for more than a decade. He currently writes for The Wirecutter, Home Theater Review, and Residential Systems. He served as East Coast contributing editor for Home Entertainment magazine and editor-in-chief of HomeTechTell and, and has written for Electronic House, Big Picture Big Sound, Digital TV & Sound, and Home Theater.

Lauren Dragan, headphone editor at The Wirecutter, holds a bachelor’s in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College and spent several years in terrestrial radio before moving on to become a professional voice actor in Los Angeles. She has reviewed high-end home-audio equipment for magazines like Home Entertainment, Home Theater, and Sound & Vision.

John Higgins holds a master’s in music from the University of Southern California and works as a performer, composer, and audio mixer in Los Angeles. He has worked for Home Theater and Sound & Vision for the past 13 years, and has served as a panelist on numerous headphone and wireless-speaker reviews for The Wirecutter.

Geoffrey Morrison, AV editor here at The Wirecutter, also writes for CNET and Forbes. He has written for Home Theater and was the editor in chief of Home Entertainment magazine. His articles have appeared in Men’s Journal, Consumers Digest, Popular Photography, PCWorld, Robb Report, and more. He has been interviewed as an AV expert by a wide range of TV and radio networks, including NBC, NPR, and the BBC.

Who should buy a portable Bluetooth speaker

Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet would probably enjoy owning a portable Bluetooth speaker. The best deliver sound quality that’s good enough for casual music listening, podcasts, and Internet radio. Portable Bluetooth speakers have a rechargeable battery, so you can easily take them all around the house or to the park or the beach. We’ve found they make hotel rooms feel more like home and long business trips much more bearable.

Bluetooth is available in every current smartphone and tablet, and in most laptop computers. You can stream whatever sound is playing on the source device through a Bluetooth speaker. Mating the speaker with the phone, tablet, or computer is usually simple, and once you’ve done that, the devices will connect automatically when they’re within about 30 feet of each other, depending on conditions.

Any smartphone, tablet, or computer app works with Bluetooth, so you won’t need to install a new app on your device. You’re never limited to certain streaming services the way you are with most Wi-Fi–based wireless systems.

Though Bluetooth does degrade sound quality slightly, there’s little chance you’ll hear the effects through relatively low-quality speakers such as the ones discussed in this guide. Wi-Fi–based systems such as Sonos and Apple AirPlay offer better sound quality, but whether you could perceive that through a small, inexpensive speaker is debatable. And except in a very few cases, Wi-Fi–based systems don’t allow portable operation away from a power outlet. The sound quality of Bluetooth has been the topic of debate ever since Apple launched the iPhone 7 (which has no analog headphone jack); if you’re worried about it, take the online blind test on my website and see what you think.

Though Bluetooth does degrade sound quality slightly, there’s little chance you’ll hear the effects through relatively low-quality speakers such as the ones discussed in this guide.

Bluetooth wasn’t designed for multiroom use, but a few Bluetooth speakers—including the UE Roll 2—let you play the same audio on two different speakers in adjacent rooms, as long as the speakers are within Bluetooth’s maximum operating range, which usually varies from about 15 to 30 feet. UE offers more advanced multiroom Bluetooth capability in its Boom 2 and Megaboom speakers, which include a Party Up mode that lets you play the same audio through any number of additional Boom 2 and Megaboom units, although they have to be within Bluetooth range of the primary speaker. Alternatively, you can just pick the speaker up and take it with you from room to room, because it’s battery powered.

These are compact products, with small speaker drivers and comparatively weak amplifiers. They’re fine for casual use at moderate volume. If you want something you can crank up and you’re willing to sacrifice portability, check out the larger, more powerful speakers featured in our best home Bluetooth speaker, best AirPlay speaker, and best multiroom wireless speaker system guides. The best of those devices will handily outperform all the speakers discussed here.

For true high-fidelity sound, get a pair of decent speakers and a receiver, or one of the top picks from our best computer speakers guide, and add a Bluetooth adapter if the system doesn’t already have Bluetooth. You’ll get clearer sound, much better stereo imaging, and usually much deeper bass response.

How we picked

portable bluetooth speakers group testing

Some of the portable Bluetooth speakers we tested in 2016.

So many Bluetooth speakers are available today (and so many more are released every week) that it’s impossible for any article about Bluetooth speakers to be comprehensive. So we scoured retail and review sites to find promising models introduced since our last article, with a special focus on new models that readers asked us about. Because we can’t test everything that comes out (we can’t even find everything that comes out), we had to take educated guesses about what might have a chance at being one of our top picks. Frankly, most Bluetooth speakers stand little chance of making their way to the top of this article, because many of them are fairly generic devices designed and built by companies in China you’ve never heard of and then slapped with an English-language brand name. Though a company you’ve never heard of may have some brilliant engineer lurking in its development labs, and sometimes may even luck into making a great-sounding speaker, getting good sound generally takes careful design and the willingness to spend lots time and money on product development.

As of this update, we’ve tested 61 new portable Bluetooth speakers in 2016.

Our criteria here are based largely on a survey of Wirecutter readers, 82 percent of whom ranked “good sound” highest on their list of concerns when buying a Bluetooth speaker. This desire was followed by “long battery life” at 65 percent, and “lots of volume” at 35 percent. Most survey participants told us they were looking to keep the cost down: 43 percent said they were budgeting $50 to $100, with 30 percent planning on spending $100 to $150. When it came to size, almost everyone (73 percent) said they wanted “something I can throw in a backpack or purse.” And 62 percent told us they intended to use the speaker at home or in the yard, with 16 percent planning on traveling with it and 15 percent expecting to use it in the park, for camping, or at the beach.

How we tested

As has become my standard practice for updates of this article, I started by giving all new models a long listen, connecting them via Bluetooth through my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone and playing the same four test tracks: pop, heavy metal, hip-hop, and jazz. I compared the speakers not only with each other but with some of our previous picks. I also measured the maximum output of each speaker using an NTi Minilyzer audio analyzer and a calibrated NTi MiniSPL test microphone.

Following that initial testing, I narrowed the contestants down to the models I thought had a real chance to impress our listening panel. I then asked the panelists to give me their opinions of what I thought were the best speakers in the bunch. Panel members for past tests have included Wirecutter editors Dennis Burger, Lauren Dragan, John Higgins, and Geoffrey Morrison. For the current update (November 2016), I had only a couple of speakers that demanded a second opinion, which I got from Geoff.

New models we tested for the current update included the Aomais Sport II, JLab Crasher XL, Polk Boom Bit, Soundcast VG1, Tayogo Magic Cube, and Vava Voom 20.

Models tested for previous 2016 updates included the 808 XS Sport, Altec Lansing Boom Jacket 2, Altec Lansing Super Life Jacket, AmazonBasics Nano, Amazon Tap, Aukey SK-M12, Aukey SK-M15, Braven Balance, Braven BRV-1M, Braven BRV-Pro, Braven BRV-XXL, Braven 105, CB3 Ultra Slim, DKnight Big MagicBox, DKnight MagicBox II, EcoXGear EcoRox, EcoXGear EcoXBT, Edifier MP700, Hercules WAE Outdoor Rush, iHome iBT37, iHome iBT82, Jam Classic 2.0, Jam Tag-A-Long, Jam Xterior Plus, JBL Charge 3, JBL Clip 2, JLab Crasher Mini, JLab Crasher Slim, Libratone One Click, Libratone Too, Marshall Kilburn, Marshall Stockwell, Ministry of Sound Audio S, Monster Blaster, Nyne Rock, Omaker W4, Polk Swimmer Duo, Razer Leviathan Mini, Roker S-Cannon, Roland JC-01, Scosche BoomBottle+, Sony H.ear Go, Sony SRS-XB2, Sony SRS-XB3, Sony SRS-X11, Sticky Sounds, Targus TA-2000, Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903, Turcom AcoustoShock Mini TS-456, Turcom Titan TS-455, UE Roll 2, Vava Voom, Vifa Oslo, and Ye!! BTS700.

portable bluetooth speaker picks group

Our top picks, sitting together so you can gauge their relative sizes. Clockwise from top: Riva Turbo X, Logitech X300 (shown in the third-party co2CREA “bondage mask” cover), UE Roll 2, DKnight MagicBox II, and Bose SoundLink Mini II.

As in previous updates to this guide, features weren’t a major consideration in this test. Many of these speakers don’t have a lot of features and don’t need them. Volume and power controls are often all that’s necessary or even desired. Forward/reverse track-skip controls can come in handy if you use your speaker in the shower, but otherwise their utility is marginal.

One feature some people consider essential is a speakerphone function. Whether you need or want that feature is up to you. It’s important to note that our top pick, the UE Roll 2, does not have a speakerphone function.

Now that water resistance is so common, we considered it a moderately important feature, because many Bluetooth speakers are used outside and often poolside. Water resistance is rated on the Ingress Protection (IP) scale. For example, a speaker rated IPX4 can tolerate only splashes of water, but one rated IPX7 can take submerging in as much as 1 meter of water without damage. For most people, IPX4 is fine. Typically, products are certified to an IP level by an outside firm, but whoever does the testing and applies an IP rating to a product makes a specific and binding performance claim, exposing the manufacturer to possible legal action if the product’s performance falls short of that claim. This is not necessarily true of speakers that do not carry an IP rating but are described in nebulous terms like “splashproof.” We take such claims about as seriously as the use of the word “natural” in food labeling. One tip: If the speaker has an open USB or audio input jack, moisture can probably damage the unit easily, no matter what the manufacturer’s marketing blurbs say.

Some models, such as the UE Roll 2, UE Boom 2, Riva S, and Altec Lansing Boom Jacket 2, offer the ability to pair with another Bluetooth speaker, usually of the same model. Generally, you can use the two as separate left and right speakers in a stereo pair or run the same mono signal to both and split them up between two rooms.

This chart shows the decibels-per-dollar comparison of our top picks plus a few key competitors.

Another feature now offered on many models is the ability to pair with two Bluetooth devices at once. The speaker can’t play sound from both devices at once, but if you press play on phone B while phone A is playing, the speaker will switch automatically to what’s playing on phone B. We’ve tried this feature, and it seems like nothing more than an annoyance, especially when you have two people in a house using Bluetooth speakers with different Bluetooth source devices. If you’re having a party where everyone wants to share their favorite music, it could be useful, but in our experience, that happens more in ads than in real life.

For some buyers, battery life may be a significant consideration. If you’re just going to use your Bluetooth speaker around the house or occasionally take it out for a couple of hours at the beach, battery life isn’t usually a problem, because almost all Bluetooth speakers can manage at least six hours of play time. If you want to take the speaker on a weekend trip or all-day picnic, you’ll probably want a model with 10 hours or more of battery life. We did rundown tests on all of our picks to confirm their approximate playing life, repeating Steely Dan’s “Aja” at an average level of 75 dB (measured at 1 meter) over and over until the power ran out. Note that our results may not agree with the manufacturers’, likely because their testing methodology—which they almost never publish—varies from ours.

Many models have NFC support, which can make the pairing function slightly easier if you have an NFC-equipped smartphone, but the added convenience is fleeting because you use it only the first time you mate the products. Almost all Bluetooth speakers (including all of our picks) have a 3.5 mm stereo analog input that lets you connect non-Bluetooth devices like an iPod Classic.

You can recharge the small speakers through USB from your computer or a USB wall adapter. Some of the larger models include a dedicated power supply, although a few can recharge (slowly) via USB. If you choose a model with a dedicated power supply, you’ll have to bring the power supply with you on trips if you expect to run the speaker for more than a few hours.

About voice command

The success of Amazon’s Echo wireless speaker with voice command is inspiring the audio industry to incorporate this feature into its new wireless speakers. Amazon introduced a portable version, the Tap (covered in The competition), and Google has released a competitor, the Google Home. UE has added voice command to its Boom 2 and Megaboom Bluetooth speakers (also covered in The competition) through integration with Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Some leading manufacturers have told me that they plan to add some type of voice-command technology to upcoming models.

Despite the so-so sound of the Echo, Tap, and Google Home, we’ve become huge fans of these speakers. The Echo, for example, makes listening to music as simple as saying, “Alexa, play Band of Skulls” or “Alexa, play WBGO.” They can also answer questions such as “What’s the weather going to be like today?” (though such functions are beyond the scope of this article). The Echo—and eventually, we expect, the Google Home—can also integrate with a wide variety of home-automation products. We’re happy to see the integration of Siri and Google Now in UE’s Boom 2 and Megaboom, but you can already get those features from your phone and use them with any Bluetooth speaker.

So far, no speaker combines the sophistication of the voice-command features in the Echo and the Google Home with the sound quality of the best wireless speakers, but we’ll be watching for one that does.

Our pick

portable bluetooth speaker ue roll 2

The Roll 2 now comes with the inflatable donut that lets it chill with you in the pool. Cthulhu not included.

Our pick
UE Roll 2
Like its predecessor, the Roll 2 offers an irresistible combination of sound quality, ruggedness, water resistance, portability, cool features, and a reasonable price.

Though some of our Bluetooth speaker pick decisions involved numerous back-and forth comparisons plus a lot of discussion and hand-wringing, we agreed about making the UE Roll 2 our main pick. Like its predecessor, it’s not the cheapest or the best-sounding, and it lacks a speakerphone function. Yet, all things considered, we think it’s the most appealing portable Bluetooth speaker available, the one we’d buy if we could afford to buy only one. Consider it the Toyota Camry of portable Bluetooth speakers—if the Camry were styled like a Corvette, that is.

The Roll 2 is visually indistinguishable from the original Roll. UE claims that the new model plays louder, runs for nine hours instead of the original’s seven, and has 50 percent longer Bluetooth range. The pool float shown in the photo at the top of this article is now included with all Roll 2 units; with the original Roll, it came only with models purchased direct from UE.

The new model does play a little bit louder—typically 2 decibels louder, by my measurements. However, with some music (such as sonically dense and dynamically compressed hip-hop, R&B, and rock), the sound can be a little more distorted and less clear at the higher volume. Back the volume down a couple of clicks, and the Roll 2 sounds just like the original (something I confirmed by measuring the frequency response—the evenness of the sound level at different audio frequencies—of the two units). So the extra volume is there if you want it, but you don’t have to use it.

Battery life is substantially improved. With the new model, we got an average of 11.5 hours running time in our tests, compared with seven hours for the original. Bluetooth range is also improved: We measured a roughly 60-foot range with the Roll 2, compared with 45 feet for the original—although for most people, 45 feet will probably be plenty.

As of this writing, the original Roll was still available on Amazon for about $30 less, although we don’t know how long that deal will last. If you find the original at a closeout price that’s at least $20 lower, go for it.

portable bluetooth speaker ue roll 2 shower testing

The UE Roll 2’s integral bungee cord lets you easily hang the speaker from a shower faucet and lots of other places, too.

Not to be discounted is the simple joy of owning something that’s designed and built with originality, thought, style, and sheer nerve.

The Roll 2’s design might be the most radical of any Bluetooth speaker (except maybe that one that floats in the air), but the radical aspects of the design enhance its functionality. Its flat, saucer shape makes it easier to slip into a laptop bag or suitcase and also creates an omnidirectional sound pattern that fills a room better than most conventional Bluetooth speakers. The integral bungee strap on the back provides a secure, simple way to attach the Roll 2 to all sorts of things. Plus, the strap keeps the speaker from scooting or vibrating along a tabletop when playing deep bass notes.

Then there’s the whole waterproof aspect of it. Because it’s IPX7 rated, it can tolerate being submerged to a depth of 1 meter, so it’s safe for, say, campouts in a rain forest. The bungee also attaches the Roll 2 to the included inflatable pool float, eliminating the need to buy a dedicated floating speaker. And not to be discounted is the simple joy of owning something that’s designed and built with originality, thought, style, and sheer nerve.

None of this would matter if the Roll 2’s sound quality weren’t good—but it is. It plays about as loud as a typical smaller TV set (say, in the 32-inch range), enough to fill a bedroom or hotel room or to provide background music for parties. There’s not much bass, but the sound isn’t thin or harsh as it is with many Bluetooth speakers. Voices sound especially clear, and the little details such as the sizzle of cymbals are easy to hear.

That’s using the factory-default sound settings. UE also offers a free iOS/Android app that offers a Bass Jump setting plus a custom setting with a five-band audio equalizer that let me get the Roll 2 sounding even better. The app also offers an alarm function that turns the unit on at a preset time and plays the tune of your choice from your phone or tablet, and it allows you to pair up two Rolls so they both play from the same source.

The original Roll has proven to be a great companion on business trips. The omnidirectional design does seem to spread the sound out better around a hotel room, and I love being able to hang it from a faucet handle while I’m showering. I never once had to think about where to pack the Roll in my suitcase, because it fit handily between my clothes and the side of the suitcase.

It’s currently available in blue, purple, orange, or charcoal, plus two duotone color schemes. I’ve found the Roll rugged enough to just toss into whatever luggage I’m using, but you can also find purpose-built Roll carrying cases.

Who else likes our pick

CNET’s David Carnoy really likes the Roll and the Roll 2, concluding, “Overall, while this may not seem like much of an upgrade over the original, the UE Roll 2 is a better speaker and clearly one of the top mini Bluetooth speakers on the market.”

In an uncredited review, What Hi-Fi? gave the Roll 2 five stars (out of five), saying, “If you’re after a compact, portable speaker that sounds great and is genuinely fun to use, we can’t recommend the Roll 2 highly enough.”

As of this writing, the charcoal version had an overall rating of 4.4 stars (out of five) across 162 Amazon reviews.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The only glaring flaw of the UE Roll 2 might be its lack of a speakerphone function. None of us use this function much, but some people do; if that’s you, check out the Logitech X300, discussed below. The lack of a speakerphone does mean that, unlike other UE Bluetooth speakers, the UE Roll 2 doesn’t allow you to use Siri or Google Now directly from the speaker (although you can still use them from your phone). It also lacks playback controls that would let you start, stop, and skip tracks while in the shower.

We don’t think the Roll 2 sounds quite as pleasing as the Logitech X300, but it’s close. The X300 has more bass and a mellower treble response, so it doesn’t make singers sound as sibilant as the Roll 2 sometimes does (although only to a minor degree).

The Roll 2 plays loud enough to serve up background music, but half a dozen people talking will mostly drown it out, so it’s not party friendly, unless your parties are small and sedate. If you want something similarly portable, rugged, and waterproof but with more volume, check out the JBL Charge 3 or the UE Boom 2 (both discussed in The competition).

The Party Up feature found in the UE Boom 2 and Megaboom, which lets you play the same audio through multiple Boom 2 and Megaboom units to get multiroom audio on the cheap, is not included in the Roll 2.

In tests, the Roll 2 gave me about 60 feet of Bluetooth range with the signal passing through one wall. That’s 15 feet (33 percent) more than I got with the original Roll and well above average in this test. But as with the original Roll, when I was carrying the Roll 2, it seemed somewhat more prone to brief signal dropouts than some of its competitors.

Better sound, less portable

portable bluetooth speaker logitech x300

The Logitech X300’s styling may look a little dull, but the sound is anything but.

Logitech X300
The X300’s no-frills design sounds great, costs a little less than the Roll 2, and adds a speakerphone function.

Though we think the UE Roll 2 delivers the best combination of features, performance, and price, it’s also easy to make a case for the Logitech X300. All three of our panelists thought the X300 actually sounded a bit better than the Roll, with a little more bass, a somewhat smoother treble, and a fuller sound overall. So why did we pick the Roll instead? It boils down to design.

The X300 is comparatively bulky (probably part of the reason it sounds good), and its design is somewhat generic. It does have a speakerphone function (the Roll doesn’t), but the X300 is difficult to fit in a laptop bag and might be a tight fit in a packed suitcase. Also, it isn’t waterproof or even water resistant. And its sound lasted 6.5 hours in our battery rundown test—nothing special. We got about 25 feet of range with the Bluetooth signal traveling through one wall.

But we keep coming back to the X300’s sound, which is actually even better than that of our previous pick, the UE Mini Boom. According to my lab measurements, the X300 isn’t quite as loud as the Roll 2, but it can sound fuller because it has more bass. The X300 also always sounds smooth and natural. Running the X300 full blast, I found that Holly Cole, my favorite female singer, never sounded even slightly strained or distorted even when she was near the edge of her range, singing at top volume. However, the X300’s speakerphone is lousy; in our tests, voices sounded thin on both ends, and Geoff noted that it sounded like it was cutting off a fraction of a second from the beginning and end of every sentence I spoke.

Though we don’t love the X300’s styling, we don’t hate it either, and we have to admit that in an office or an elegant living room, its understated look might be more appropriate than the Roll’s flash. It comes in four color schemes: copper/black, silver/purple, blue, and red. Also, on Amazon I found a cheap leatherette cover for the X300 that will help prevent the speaker from getting dinged if you toss it in a beach bag or car trunk—and also gives the speaker a cooler Mad Max–style bondage-mask look.

In the process of putting together this update, we found a speaker we like just about as much as the X300: the Vava Voom 20. It’s larger and heavier than the X300 and not quite as loud, but it sounds smoother and carries an IPX5 splashproof rating. Check out our Vava Voom 20 discussion in The competition for more information.

In his review, CNET’s David Carnoy gave the X300 four stars (out of five) and concluded that “in a sea of tiny Bluetooth speakers, the X300 is a good catch.”

PCMag’s Alex Colon also gave it four stars (out of five), writing, “The Logitech X300 Bluetooth speaker delivers a ton of sound in a tiny package for a terrific price.”

The copper/black version has so far earned an overall rating of 4.2 stars (out of five) over 482 Amazon reviews.

Better sound, for a price

portable bluetooth speaker bose soundlink mini ii

The Bose SoundLink Mini II improves on the original SoundLink Mini with direct charging over USB, longer battery life, and a speakerphone function.

Even someone who doesn’t care much about sound can probably hear how the Bose SoundLink Mini II outclasses most other small Bluetooth speakers. Many small Bluetooth speakers (and some large ones, too) have a harsh, thin sound, as if your favorite rock band’s singer caught the flu, someone kicked in the guitar player’s speaker, and the bass player didn’t show up for the gig. (I’m not exaggerating.) But the SoundLink Mini II sounds clear and full, almost like a decent small stereo system but without the enveloping sound of a real stereo.

The SoundLink Mini II is a much more appealing model than the original SoundLink Mini. The sound seems about the same, but the features and performance have improved in other ways. We didn’t include the original SoundLink Mini as a pick in large part because the unit required the use of a separate charging cradle, making us question its suitability for portable use. The SoundLink Mini II can charge directly through its USB port, so you can use a generic USB smartphone charger with it if you want. It also has a speakerphone function and claims to get 10 hours of battery life. (We got only eight in our tests, but still, that’s pretty good.)

At 1½ pounds, this isn’t a speaker you’re likely to want to toss into a backpack or laptop bag, even though it’ll probably fit. The SoundLink Mini II doesn’t look especially rugged, but you can find several third-party covers and cases for it. The speaker is available in black or white. We got about 35 feet of range with the Bluetooth signal traveling through one wall, which is above average.

The SoundLink Mini II’s speakerphone is also above average—far above average. With the speaker on a table about 2 feet from me, Geoff said my voice sounded about the same to him when I used the SoundLink Mini II as it did when I spoke straight into my phone, and his voice sounded clear and full from my end of the line as well. If you want to make business calls through your Bluetooth speaker, this one is a superb choice.

This speaker isn’t a good choice for the beach or backpacking, though, because the SoundLink Mini II isn’t waterproof. If you want something more rugged, get the UE Boom 2 or maybe the JBL Charge 3 (both discussed in The competition).

If you want a much larger but better-sounding speaker for about the same price, check out the Riva Turbo X, which we review below. It recently got a price slash that puts it in the SoundLink Mini II’s price range.

Note that the SoundLink Mini appears to be the most counterfeited of any Bluetooth speaker design. We tested one of the counterfeits and found the copy to be probably the worst Bluetooth speaker we’ve ever tested. Even if your budget is under $20—typical counterfeits go for $12 to $15—you’d be better off getting an AmazonBasics Nano or Omaker W4.

CNET’s David Carnoy gave the SoundLink Mini II four stars (out of five), saying it ranks among “the few standout products in the ultracompact wireless speaker category, featuring a top-notch design and very good sound for its tiny size.”

PCMag’s Tim Gideon also gave it a score of four (out of five), concluding, “The tiny Bose SoundLink Mini II delivers the richest bass you’ll find in a portable Bluetooth speaker this size, while managing to stay balanced with crisp highs.” (He also criticizes the speaker because its “[d]igital signal processing changes bass response at different volume levels,” and we can hear what he’s talking about, but almost every Bluetooth speaker does the same to some degree.)

Last time we looked, the SoundLink Mini II had an overall Amazon rating of 4.6 stars (out of five) over more than 2,500 reviews.

Best sound, refined style

portable bluetooth speaker riva turbo x

The controls on the Riva Turbo X illuminate when you pass your hand within an inch or so of the speaker’s top.

Audiophiles tend to deride Bluetooth speakers as little more than plastic junk, but even a picky listener might still want a compact audio system for use in a vacation home, on weeks-long business trips, or in the office. We think the Riva Turbo X will make such people pretty happy. In fact, it might make them very happy, judging from the reaction we’ve seen to the Turbo X at several high-end audio shows where $5,000-a-pair speakers are considered “affordable.”

As of this writing, the Turbo X’s price has been slashed by 43 percent, which puts it in the same price range as the Bose SoundLink Mini II and makes it a fantastic bargain. Riva told us that the new price is not just a holiday offering and will be in effect for the foreseeable future. The Turbo X sounds better and plays louder than the SoundLink Mini II, but it’s four times as large by volume.

It’s obvious when you listen to the Turbo X that it’s playing a whole different game than most other portable Bluetooth speakers. Voices and instruments sound clear and natural, much as they would if you were listening to a good small stereo system. For such a compact speaker, it has plenty of bass, enough that you can crank up bass-heavy music such as EDM or hip-hop and it won’t start to sound strained or distorted.

The Turbo X also offers lots of useful features. On the bottom is a rubber cover that you can place over the rear audio and charging jacks to make the Turbo X splashproof. Riva offers an iOS/Android app that lets you control volume, switch from voice prompts to tones, and activate turbo and surround modes. It includes a speakerphone function, and the turbo mode boosts the volume (at the possible expense of slight distortion and shorter battery life). The battery lasted a whopping 24 hours in our rundown test, so you could probably take it on a long weekend and leave the charger behind. It’s available in black or white. In our tests, Bluetooth range (going through one wall) was about 25 feet, which is quite adequate, even if it isn’t impressive compared with the results from some of our other picks.

The main downside of the Turbo X is that it’s not particularly rugged. The top is made from glossy plastic that scratches easily (a travel bag is available for $30 at the time of writing). Charging it requires the use of a dedicated charger (you can’t charge it via USB), and if you forget to push the BATT button on the back, the battery won’t charge even if the charger is plugged in. Also, the speakerphone, though functional, didn’t impress us. Geoff said he could hear a lot of noise whenever he talked, which he speculated was the Turbo X picking up the sound of his voice after it echoed around the room.

If you need something that’s much more rugged and sounds good (although not quite as good as the Turbo X), and also offers a limited but useful multiroom audio feature, check out the UE Megaboom (discussed in The competition).

Oluv’s Gadgets, a site that does extremely in-depth reviews of Bluetooth speakers, praises the Turbo X, saying, “The RIVA Turbo X gets my strong recommendation for anyone who is longing for a real high performance portable speaker that is still compact but without having to make any compromises on sound or loudness.”

CNET’s David Carnoy gave it 3.5 stars (out of five), subtracting points mainly for its rather high original price but concluding, “While it isn’t a bargain at $350 [its original price], the Riva Audio Turbo X is one of the loudest and best sounding compact Bluetooth speakers available.”

Even high-end audio writers, such as The Absolute Sound’s Robert Harley, tend to rave about the Turbo X: “It brings audiophile values to a product that fits the way in which many non-audiophiles listen to music,” Harley says.

On Amazon, the Turbo X currently has an overall rating of 4.3 stars (out of five) across 272 reviews.

For smaller budgets

portable bluetooth speaker dknight magicbox ii

The DKnight MagicBox II sounds better—and plays much louder—than other bargain models we’ve tried.

For some people and situations, spending even $50 on a Bluetooth speaker may not make sense. Maybe you want to play Pandora or TuneIn Radio in your cubicle at levels low enough to avoid bothering your colleagues. Maybe you want something you can put in your workshop without much concern if it gets damaged. Maybe your daughter wants a speaker for listening to music stored on her tablet. Or maybe you need a Secret Santa gift. For these situations, the DKnight MagicBox II delivers the most bang for the buck.

It’s obvious when you compare the MagicBox II against like-priced models that much effort went into its tuning—something not true of the original MagicBox. The MagicBox II currently sells for more than 150 percent of the original’s price, but we doubt anyone would begrudge paying the premium for the MagicBox II when they hear it. I measured its maximum output at 6 decibels louder than our previous budget pick, the AmazonBasics BTV2. That’s like the difference between a speaker that’s loud enough for a small bedroom and one that’s loud enough to cover a living room.

Many sub-$50 portable Bluetooth speakers sacrifice sound quality for maximum volume, but the MagicBox II sounds surprisingly good at all volume levels. It has a decent amount of bass for a speaker that’s just 6 inches long. The treble is very clear, so instruments such as cymbals and acoustic guitars are easy to pick out of the mix, and voices are easy to understand. When I played the MagicBox II for John and Lauren, they both said they’d choose it over the AmazonBasics BTV2 “without hesitation,” despite the roughly $8 increase in price.

There is a reason the MagicBox II costs less than $35, though: It doesn’t sound as smooth and natural as, for example, the Logitech X300 does. The treble sometimes seems a little exaggerated, which can thin out voices a bit and make a warm-sounding singer like James Taylor seem like he’s got a St. Bernard sleeping across his chest. It also has a tendency to scoot across tabletops, as many small Bluetooth speakers do, although it comes with a “bass pad,” a thin, rubbery mat that stops the scooting. This isn’t really necessary, though, because we found to our delight and amusement that the MagicBox II scoots in a circular pattern and usually stops in 30 seconds or so when it finds a more secure footing.

The MagicBox II won’t win any industrial design awards; in fact, it’s more or less a copy of the Jawbone Jambox, a popular model from about four years ago. However, it is available with blue or red top and bottom pieces for the same price.

A speakerphone function is included. I tried calling Lauren using it, and she said that my voice came through clearly, “especially for something at this price,” although as with most speakerphones she could hear a little bit of the natural reverberance of my room. Her voice sounded clear on my end, too.

Battery life is rated at 10 hours; I got an average of 13 hours in my tests, enough for the speaker to last through one and a half workdays. Bluetooth range is above average for a budget Bluetooth speaker—30 feet with the signal going through one wall.

The MagicBox II isn’t waterproof, but with its rubbery top and bottom pieces, it seems reasonably rugged. Travel cases designed for the MagicBox and MagicBox II are available from co2CREA, Mudder, and others. If you need something affordable that’s a little more outdoors-friendly, get the AmazonBasics Nano (it’s splashproof) or the Polk Boom Swimmer Jr. (it’s rated IPX7). We discuss both in The competition below.

At the time of this writing, we haven’t found many pro reviews of the MagicBox II, but Jason Botha of AndroidGuys rates it 87.8 out of 100 and calls it “a damn fine budget speaker.”

Sadly, we can’t put much stock in the information on Amazon, where the MagicBox II is inexplicably ranked as the top seller in the car subwoofers category, and where at the time of this writing it had earned an overall score of 4.4 stars across an incredible 8,944 user reviews. (When I say “incredible,” I mean it in a literal sense—i.e., “this number is not credible.”) To put that in perspective, 2016’s top-selling album, Adele’s 25, had 6,497 customer reviews last time I checked. I have to wonder if the manufacturer or distributor is—as many companies do—working actively to increase the number of Amazon reviews.

Some Amazon reviews note reliability problems caused by falls and drops, and some complain that the unit stops charging after a few weeks. I used our review sample for about one month, intentionally dropped it twice onto a hardwood floor, and tossed it several times against the carpeted floor of my listening room, and the speaker still works.

The competition

We have tested more than 100 portable Bluetooth speakers specifically for this article (as well as many others in work for other publications). Though we consider our picks the best choices for most people, some of the competitors were very close in performance and value to our picks, and might be worth considering depending on your priorities. Here’s everything else we looked at in alphabetical order:

The 808 Thump costs very little, but if you really need an ultra-low-budget Bluetooth speaker, the AmazonBasics Nano is a better-sounding, more versatile choice.

The 808 XS Sport is a nice-sounding, midsize speaker for its current price of $80, but in our tests the Logitech X300, which costs less, played a little louder and sounded a little fuller.

If we were to expand our top picks to six or seven models, the Altec Lansing Boom Jacket 2 might be a strong contender. It has speaker drivers on both sides so its sound covers a larger area. It has an IP67 waterproof/dustproof rating, and though it’s a stretch to say this model floats—the speaker drivers become submerged, so you can’t use it as a floating pool speaker—at least you won’t have to go diving for it if it falls off the dock. It doesn’t have the versatile, travel-friendly design of the UE Roll 2 or as smooth a sound as the Bose SoundLink Mini II, but it would be a great choice for a beach speaker.

Though we found that the Altec Lansing Super Life Jacket plays extremely loud and has impressive bass for its size, we thought the sound was rather rough and uneven compared with that of the better large portable Bluetooth speakers. It’s a good choice if you need a Bluetooth speaker mainly for blasting at poolside.

The AmazonBasics BTV1 is a great value for a Bluetooth speaker—that’s why we made it one of our budget picks in a previous version of this article. But we’d rather buy (or receive as a gift) the Logitech X300; it’s about $30 more but plays louder, produces more bass, has clearer voice reproduction, offers a more compact design, and looks nicer.

The AmazonBasics BTV2 is another former pick, one that we praised for its class-beating sound quality and low price. It still beats everything in its price range—except for the DKnight MagicBox II, our new favorite for budget-minded listeners.

Although the AmazonBasics Nano doesn’t sound quite as clear and full as our current budget pick, for less than $15 at the time of this writing, it’s a great buy. Unlike most ultracheap Bluetooth speakers, it has a full, balanced sound. It plays as loud as the BTV2, but it does distort a little when cranked up. It has a strap you can use to attach it to all sorts of things, such as a shower faucet or a backpack strap. Amazon lists it as splashproof, and it doesn’t have any exposed jacks, so it should survive outdoor excursions pretty well. It even has a speakerphone function. If you need a cheap stocking stuffer, or want a speaker for backpacking and hiking, it’s a great choice.

The Amazon Tap is the portable version of the Amazon Echo voice-command speaker. It has Bluetooth, but most of its voice-command features work only when it’s connected to a Wi-Fi network. Thus, it’s more like a Wi-Fi speaker that happens to have Bluetooth. We like the Tap a lot because it makes accessing music and Internet radio easy. However, its sound quality doesn’t even come close to that of the UE Roll 2 or the Logitech X300, mainly because the Tap’s bass thins out when you turn up the volume. Also, the Tap doesn’t have a “wake word” like the Echo does; you have to push a button on the front to give it a voice command. Still, the voice-command technology is fantastic, and if you’re not picky about sound quality or you listen only to talk programs, the Tap is lots of fun and a great value. We discuss the Amazon Tap further in our Amazon Alexa guide.

The Aomais Sport II looks like a great value, with solid construction, an IPX7 waterproof rating, and an included pool float, but in our tests its sound was excessively trebly.

The Aukey SK-M4 Mini IPX4 Bluetooth Tire Speaker is a cool, inexpensive little speaker styled like a tire and priced very reasonably. In our test, it played even louder than the much more expensive UE Roll but sounded a little buzzy and distorted at times. A nice stocking stuffer for auto-obsessed kids.

The Aukey SK-M12 might be the loudest Bluetooth speaker we’ve heard in the $50 price range, but we thought its sound was too bright and edgy.

At a paltry under-$15 price on Amazon, the Aukey SK-M15 is probably the least-expensive bike speaker we’ve seen, and for what it is it sounds okay. But the handlebar mount is too flimsy to be useful, and in our experience, the speaker didn’t play loud enough to overcome typical street noise.

The B&O Beoplay A1 looks great, and you can pair two for stereo, but it costs two and a half times as much as the Roll 2 and isn’t waterproof. Although the recently announced Beoplay A2 Active is resistant to splashes and dust, it’s four times as expensive as our pick, and it still isn’t waterproof.

In our tests the Beats Pill played about as loud as the UE Roll 2, but I thought its sound was blarey and thin, making voices sound lispy.

When we saw how much larger and heavier the Beats Pill+ was compared with the original Beats Pill, we had high hopes that the Pill+ would sound a lot better than the loud but harsh and thin-sounding original. Unfortunately, it just sounded like a louder version of the original.

The Bose SoundLink III sounds good, but we think the Riva Turbo X is much better, and now it’s less expensive.

The Bose SoundLink Color is a nicely designed, good-sounding speaker; it used to be one of our top picks. We think most people looking for something in this price range will prefer the UE Roll 2 for its utility, portability, and cool factor, but the SoundLink Color remains one of the better options in its price range.

The Bowers & Wilkins T7 sounds clear and looks nice, but the Riva Turbo X sounds fuller and more satisfying, and now costs much less.

The Braven Balance has a nice, slim design and a reasonable price, but our panelists concluded that though its sound quality was reasonably full, it didn’t play loud enough.

The Braven BRV-1 is a nice, compact, rugged model that sounds pretty good and plays fairly loud for its price, but it doesn’t sound quite as good as our top picks at comparable prices.

Our panelists felt the Braven BRV-1M didn’t play loud enough, emphasized vocals too much, and failed to deliver enough bass.

Geoff and I liked the Braven BRV-Pro for its ability to play loud, and for its waterproof design, but John and Lauren felt it sounded way too bright and trebly. It’s a neat design, though, with a metal case and optional solar panel, backup battery pack, mounts, and other accessories. If you just need a rugged speaker that plays loud (maybe to mount on an ATV), it might be a good choice.

The Braven BRV-X features an outdoor mode intended to deliver better sound in open settings, but to my ears it sounded harsh, sizzly, and lacking in bass. With outdoor mode off, you bring back the bass but it still sounds sizzly.

With its hockey-puck shape and elastic mounting strap, the Braven 105 could be considered a budget UE Roll. It doesn’t play especially loud for its size, and we don’t think it sounds as good as the similarly priced Logitech X300, but if you’re looking for a travel speaker in the $50 range, it’s quite decent.

The treble of the Cambridge Audio Go sounded dull and uninvolving in our tests.

The Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Curve was a former top pick until it disappeared from the company’s website and the company didn’t respond to our inquiries about whether the item was officially discontinued. It’s a very-good-sounding model for its size and price, with a speakerphone function and play/pause and track-skip buttons to control playback, and carrying cases are available for a few bucks from FitSand and Khanka. The DKnight MagicBox II sounds even better, though, and plays much louder. If you prefer the OontZ Curve’s styling to the MagicBox II’s, the Curve is still available on Amazon in three colors, and we still recommend it.

The Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3 sounded a little thin and shrill but above average for units in its very cheap $30 price range. It plays very loud, too—about 9 decibels louder than the OontZ Curve, roughly twice as loud to the ear. If you want the maximum possible volume at this low price range, the Angle 3 will give it to you, but the DKnight MagicBox II sounds much better to our ears and plays almost as loud.

The CB3 Ultra Slim has a travel-friendly, slim design and good sound for its size, but it scoots around a lot when it plays bass notes.

With a built-in MP3 player and microSD card slot plus a USB input for use with computers, the Creative SoundBlaster Free is a nice speaker for its price. We think most people will like the UE Roll 2 better in this price range, and we also think the JBL Flip 3 is a more compact and appealing choice.

The Creative SoundBlaster Roar is priced affordably for a large, feature-laden Bluetooth speaker, and it plays loud and sounds pretty good, but our panelists complained that it had a big dip in the midrange, which is why we preferred the Denon Envaya, our previous pick for a larger portable Bluetooth speaker.

The Creative SoundBlaster Roar 2 came close to being one of our picks. It’s currently about $30 less than the Bose SoundLink Mini II, and it plays even louder. It also has some unusual features, such as a USB input for use with computers, and a built-in microSD music player and voice recorder. However, in our opinion it doesn’t sound as smooth and natural as the SoundLink Mini II. The Roar 2’s lower treble range seems a bit boosted, giving voices a sort of twangy tone. Still, the Roar 2 offers a great combination of sound, features, and price, so it’s a recommendable speaker.

One of the main picks in our previous guide, the Denon Envaya remains a great choice if you want bigger, better sound than a small portable can deliver at a modest price. If we had more product and price categories, we’d probably still include it as a pick.

The Denon Envaya Mini is a much more compact model than the Denon Envaya, one of our previous picks. It sounds very smooth, almost like a set of small conventional speakers. The voice quality is nearly as good as what we heard from the Riva Turbo X. However, it maxes out at about 1 dB less than the much less expensive Logitech X300.

The Divoom Voombox Travel is similar in size to the NudeAudio Move M but considerably less expensive. Its metal chassis makes it rugged but rather heavy, and it doesn’t sound as smooth as the Move M.

The DKnight MagicBox is a best seller on Amazon, but to me it didn’t sound a whole lot better than just playing music through the speaker built into my Samsung smartphone. The MagicBox II, one of our current picks, is a dramatically better model.

The DKnight Big MagicBox plays loud for its low price, but its sound is very midrange-oriented and has a blaring character we didn’t like compared with the Logitech X300.

Although the EcoXGear EcoPebble sounds excellent for such a small and modestly priced speaker, its Bluetooth performance was by far the worst we encountered in our testing. The signal cut out often during our tests, sometimes even when the speaker was in line of sight with the source and only 8 feet away.

The ExoXGear EcoRox came close to being one of our top picks. It has a full, satisfying sound, with especially clear voice reproduction, and it’s not only waterproof but also capable of floating. Its only real downside is that the passive radiator—a vibrating device commonly used to reinforce bass in small wireless speakers—is mounted on top, causing the speaker to jump up and down slightly and rattle against whatever it’s sitting on when it plays bass notes. Obviously, that’s no big problem when the speaker’s floating. “For someone who wants a floating speaker but doesn’t want to mess with the inflatable donut on the UE Roll 2, this one would be a great choice,” Geoff said.

The EcoXGear EcoStone was one of the top picks in our best waterproof Bluetooth speaker guide, specifically for people who want a Bluetooth speaker that floats. It plays loud but sounds just so-so; we’d rather get the UE Roll 2 with its pool float.

The waterproof EcoXGear EcoXBT has a somewhat blaring sound quality that tired our ears out.

The Edifier Extreme Connect is a nice, compact, and affordable small Bluetooth speaker, but the Logitech X300 sounds better and plays a little louder for about the same price.

We thought the Edifier MP700 sounded impressively clear, but it didn’t play as loud as we hoped for its size, and its metal handle made it comparatively heavy to lug around.

The Fugoo Sport XL has a cool waterproof, ruggedized design and extra-long battery life (it’s rated at 35 hours), but I found its sound coarse and glaring in the treble, and it played only about 1 dB louder than the much smaller and less costly UE Boom 2.

The Fugoo Style and its Sport and Tough variants are among the few compact Bluetooth speakers with separate woofer/midrange and tweeter drivers. It has a very clear midrange and treble, but there’s not much bass and it can’t approach the volume levels of the comparably priced Bose SoundLink Mini II or UE Boom 2.

The G-Boom plays loud and has a lot of bass, but it’s very large and has some strange sonic colorations, with what sound like big peaks and dips in the midrange and treble. But it’s currently just $100, so if all you need is lots of volume, it could be what you’re looking for.

The Hercules WAE Outdoor Rush has a cool “oceanproof” design with a built-in FM radio, and is intended for use in outdoor sports. However, our panelists thought its sound was too midrange-heavy and thus emphasized vocals and sounded somewhat thin.

The iHome iBT37 doesn’t sound as loud, clear, and robust as iHome’s only slightly more expensive iBT82.

While the iHome iBT82 doesn’t come across quite as loud or clear as the comparably priced Logitech X300, it does sound better than average for a ruggedized, waterproof speaker in its price range.

The IK Multimedia iLoud lived up to its name, delivering enough output to fill even large rooms. It also sounds good and has an input for musical instruments, too. So what’s not to like? It made an annoying electronic whine whenever the music stopped.

In our tests, the Jam Classic 2.0 sounded a little distorted and a little lacking in treble clarity compared with our faves in the under-$30 range.

The Jam Tag-A-Long has an appealing, travel-friendly design; it’s about the size of three stacked smartphones, and a little kickstand props it up for desktop use. For something so small and inexpensive, it has a full, natural sound. But our first sample didn’t work (it happens, especially with review samples, which are often the first out of the factory), and our second suffered Bluetooth dropouts if the phone was more than about 4 feet away. So we’re skittish about making it a top pick.

The Jam Xterior Plus is a pretty good deal considering its size and its IP67 moisture- and dustproof rating. But we think the similarly priced Logitech X300 sounds clearer.

Even though the JBL Charge 2 fit into our small category, it plays even louder than the Denon Envaya. But it doesn’t have enough bass to balance out its edgy, blaring treble response.

The JBL Charge 3 is a nicely styled, IPX7-rated model that plays very loud and sounds pretty good for its price. We thought the sound of the Bose SoundLink Mini II was smoother and more enjoyable to listen to, but if volume is your priority—maybe for pool parties?—the Charge 3 is a great buy.

The JBL Clip+ delivers excellent sound quality for its size, but many Amazon reviewers complain about problems getting the Clip+ to fully charge. And although it’s billed as splashproof, an open Micro-USB jack makes it vulnerable to moisture.

Thanks in large part to an IPX7-rated waterproof design, the JBL Clip 2 solves the problems we found with the Clip+. Its design is also more practical, with a carabiner-style clip instead of the Clip+’s molded plastic clip. For a compact model, it’s pretty great, although at around $60 as of this writing, it’s pricey for its size. We’d rather spend more for the UE Roll 2, but if you really need something small, such as for hanging from a backpack strap, the Clip 2 is a nice choice.

The splashproof JBL Flip 3 is similar in size to the UE Boom 2 and currently sells for less than half the price. But it lacks bass and sounds somewhat thin, and deep bass notes make it scoot around on a table. And with the extra volume now available with the UE Roll 2, we think the Roll 2 is a more appealing choice overall.

The JBL Pulse features an incredibly cool LED light show that wraps around its cylinder-shaped body. It sounds much smoother than the Charge 2, but not as good as our top picks.

The JBL Xtreme is essentially a bigger, more rugged version of the Infinity One, which came very close to being one of our top picks in last year’s article. It puts out an amazing amount of sound for its price: about 7 dB more than the very loud UE Boom 2. It’s loud enough to power a dance party. Unfortunately, its sound is very trebly, blaring, and fatiguing, and JBL provides no way to adjust the tone. You could do this through a third-party app on your smartphone, but we think you shouldn’t have to.

We initially thought the JLab Crasher Mini sounded surprisingly full and natural for its size, but our test sample soon started distorting badly, and owner reviews on Amazon also note various defects.

The JLab Crasher Slim sounds pretty good considering its slim build, and it’s affordably priced. We prefer the fuller sound of the Logitech X300, which costs just a few dollars more, but if you’re looking for a speaker with a slim design, the Crasher Slim is probably your best buy.

The JLab Crasher XL is a nice-sounding, good-looking, powerful speaker for its price. It actually sounds smoother than our pick in this price range, the UE Roll 2. It also carries an IPX6 water-resistance rating and has an anodized-aluminum shell that seems quite rugged. However, at 8 inches long, it’s not the kind of item you can easily slip into a suitcase. We’re sticking with the UE Roll 2 as our top pick for its design, versatility, and easy portability, but if you want a bit better sound and don’t mind the Crasher XL’s bulk, it’s a great choice.

The KEF Muo looks cool, but it’s expensive, and as PCMag’s Tim Gideon says, “Plenty of speakers in lower price ranges can compete with the Muo.”

The Klipsch GiG got so-so reviews from CNET, Digital Trends, and PCMag.

The Klipsch KMC 1 has a super-clear midrange and treble compared with most other portable Bluetooth speakers. The bass is a little lacking, though, so it sounds thinner and less pleasing than some of the other models in its price and size range.

We strongly considered the Libratone One Click as a top pick in the $200 price range, because it sounds good, plays pretty loud, and has a beautiful, slim design with cool detachable straps. However, compared with the Bose SoundLink Mini II, it sounds a little too trebly and adds too much extra sizzle to cymbals and acoustic guitars.

The Libratone Too sounds very clear and natural and has a beautiful and practical design, but we don’t think it plays loud enough for a model in the $150 price range.

Our panelists thought the Marshall Kilburn was close enough in performance to the Riva Turbo X to necessitate extensive comparisons between the two models. The Kilburn has much of that big, robust sound that made the non-battery-powered Marshall Acton one of our top picks for a home Bluetooth speaker, and it shares the Acton’s guitar-amp look and feel (plus a cool leather carrying handle). Geoff and I were torn between the Kilburn and the Turbo X, but John and Lauren thought the Turbo X had clearer voice reproduction and a more spacious sound. If the Kilburn’s style appeals to you more than the Turbo X’s understated looks, go for the Kilburn.

The Marshall Stockwell is a portable speaker from a brand whose home Bluetooth speakers we’ve loved. Our panel liked the Stockwell’s design and its cool pop-up tone and volume controls, but found its bass sounded somewhat boomy and sloppy. It’s a nice product overall, but in this price range, we prefer the sound and size of the Bose SoundLink Mini II.

The Monoprice 11427 is inexpensive for its size, but it delivered less maximum volume than many of our favorite smaller models, defeating the point of a larger speaker.

We think the Monster Blaster is the best of the new breed of “Bluetooth boomboxes”—large models designed primarily to play loud. It sounds clearer and more natural than the Braven BRV-XXL and the Nyne Rock, but it’s about $50 more than the BRV-XXL and about double the price of the Rock. It doesn’t have as much bass as we’d like, and the bass section doesn’t blend well with the other speaker drivers. If you need a super-loud Bluetooth speaker and can handle the Blaster’s rather high price, it’s a good choice.

The Ministry of Sound Audio S Plus sounds pretty good overall, but we found its maximum volume low considering the price.

I often travel with the NudeAudio Move M, a cute, compact speaker. But the Polk Boom Swimmer Jr. is a more rugged alternative.

The NudeAudio Super M doesn’t sound as good as the brand’s less expensive (and cuter) Move M.

The Nyne Bass was one of our previous picks for its terrific ratio of dollars to decibels. If you want the highest volume for the least money, this is the speaker you want. Many competing speakers sound better, and almost all rechargeable Bluetooth speakers are more portable, but the Bass is still a great choice if you need an affordable little sound system to power your next pool party.

Although the Nyne Multimedia Cruiser comes with a bicycle handlebar mount, it’s rather bulky for a bicycle accessory. The bass is surprisingly full, but I thought voices sounded zippy and unnatural through the Cruiser.

A large model designed to play loud enough for big parties, the Nyne Rock was one of the first models in the “Bluetooth boombox” category. It plays a whopping 10 decibels louder than the Riva Turbo X. That’s loud enough to fill a small club with sound, but that sound is pretty crude; I found that with some of my favorite recordings, the Rock buzzed and distorted to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the result. The bass is also one-notey, more a boom than individual notes. Still, if you want the maximum decibels per dollar and aren’t really concerned about sound quality, the Rock is the best choice.

The marketing materials for the Omaker W4 claim that it is the “most powerful pocket size Bluetooth speaker ever,” and it might be. Predictably for a 2-inch-high speaker, it has no real bass and doesn’t play real loud, but voices do sound surprisingly clear through it. An included carabiner lets you hang the speaker from a backpack strap. Our current and past budget-priced favorites clearly outperform the W4, but if you just want a very inexpensive, very tiny Bluetooth speaker for traveling, you can’t go wrong with this one.

The Om/One is a novelty Bluetooth speaker that uses magnetic repulsion to float above its base. Considering its high price, its 1.5-star overall rating (out of five stars) across 158 reviews on Amazon at this writing, and comments likening the sound to “listening to music through a walkie talkie,” we saw little point in evaluating it.

We came close to making the Polk Boom Bit our pick for the best budget Bluetooth speaker. The Bit is one of the most flexible and useful Bluetooth speakers ever. Its integral clip and tiny size allow you to attach it to the straps of a backpack or bike helmet, or even to hook it securely to a key ring. The Bit is splash resistant enough to shower with, and it includes an integral USB plug for easy charging without a cable. It also sounds amazingly good for its tiny size, enough for hikes and bike rides, and maybe background listening in a hotel room. What’s not to like? The battery life is rated at just three hours, a figure that we confirmed in our tests. Still, the Bit’s surprisingly low price makes it a great impulse buy if you already have a larger, louder Bluetooth speaker, and it’s a perfect stocking stuffer, too.

The Polk Boom Swimmer Duo is a larger, more capable version of the Boom Swimmer Jr. discussed below. Unlike with the Jr., you can swap out the Duo’s bendable tail hook with a suction cup that lets the unit play atop a table or shelf without scooting around. You can also pair two Duos for stereo sound. However, we like the Jr.’s sound better. It sounds to us like the volume limiter inside the Duo is too aggressively tuned, so the peaks in the music are clamped down—almost as if someone keeps turning the volume down briefly. We think the Swimmer Jr. is a more appealing choice, and it’s typically priced about $20 less.

We recommend the Polk Boom Swimmer Jr. if you want a waterproof alternative to the AmazonBasics BTV2; the Swimmer Jr.’s IPX7 waterproof rating means it’ll survive splashes and even dunkings. The reason we didn’t make the Swimmer Jr. a main pick is that its design, though delightful, isn’t all that practical. You have to hang it from something; if you put it on a table, deep bass notes make it scoot around like a caffeinated hamster. Compounding the issue is that its bendable hanging hook isn’t stiff enough to secure it reliably to a backpack or bike. Still, it’s a good option for outdoorsy types who need a tiny, tough speaker.

The Razer Leviathan Mini gets great reviews on Amazon, but our panelists thought it lacked bass and sounded too bright.

The Riva S is a smaller version of the Riva Turbo X, and it shares the X’s refined, smooth sound. The S doesn’t play quite as loud as the UE Roll 2 and Logitech X300, though, so it’s harder to justify the S’s price. Still, if you need something compact, great-sounding, and elegant (perhaps for an executive office or a designer living room), the S has a lot of appeal.

Given our generally high opinion of Marshall’s guitar-amp-styled Bluetooth speakers, we were excited to hear the Roland JC-01, which mimics the look of Roland’s classic Jazz Chorus guitar amp. However, the JC-01 is not in the Marshalls’ league. Its volume is substandard for its size and price, and I found the sound too distorted to enjoy, particularly with bass notes.

I reviewed the Samsung Level Box for Mashable and found that its sound was pleasingly full, but it lacked treble response and sounded rather lifeless as a result.

The Scosche BoomBottle+ has a neat design that’s built to fit in the water-bottle rack of a bicycle or perhaps the cup holder of a golf cart. It has a midrange-heavy sound that emphasizes voices and helps make its sound loud enough to carry outdoors, but I didn’t find it pleasant to listen to.

The Scosche BoomBottle H2O plays pretty loud for its size, but I felt its sound was too buzzy and somewhat distorted. It does fit in a bicycle water-bottle cage, though, so cyclists might like it.

The Sharkk Boombox is a best seller on Amazon, and it plays surprisingly loud for its relatively low price, but our panelists ranked it near the bottom in sound quality.

The Soen Transit doesn’t sound as good as the smaller, less expensive Transit XS.

The Soen Transit XS has a slim, travel-friendly design, plus a socket in the back that lets you attach it to tripods and bike mounts. We think it sounds pretty good, although its bass is rather pumped up and its treble isn’t as smooth as that of some competitors.

The waterproof Sol Republic Deck has a cool, flat design, but we prefer the sound and style of the UE Roll 2.

A similar, smaller waterproof speaker, the Sol Republic Punk, has a nice, full sound for its size, but outside its ¼-inch threaded mounting hole, it doesn’t give you any way to attach it to anything, as the UE Roll 2 and Braven 105 do. We’d suggest the Braven 105 if you need a rugged speaker in the Punk’s price range, but the Punk is a nice speaker nonetheless, and some versions are available at very low prices on Amazon.

The Sony SRS-HG1 H.ear Go offers built-in Spotify Connect and Google Cast, and it sounds okay with its XBass mode turned on, but I found its tonal balance too inconsistent; the bass seemed bloated and boomy on some tunes, and the unit sometimes sounded distorted and harsh. We prefer the sound of the less expensive SRS-XB3.

Though the Sony SRS-X2 sounded good enough to me to make it into our blind-testing session, Lauren found the treble too edgy when the sound button was pushed, and too dull when it wasn’t. This is a well-made unit that plays loud for its size and price, but we prefer the UE Roll and Logitech X300.

I wasn’t super-impressed with the Sony SRS-X3 when I heard it; I thought it sounded coarse when turned up. For the price, I’d prefer the Bose SoundLink Color.

Sony’s SRS-X5 sounds pretty good, but according to Oluv’s Gadgets, the similarly priced Denon Envaya has a fuller sound.

In my initial tests, I found the Sony SRS-XB2 had a harsh sound whether its XBass feature was employed or not.

The Sony SRS-XB3 came close to being a top pick, because with its XBass feature on, it offered a satisfyingly loud and full sound that three of our four panelists liked. Its balance of bass to midrange to treble sounded rather uneven, though; panelists complained of a little too much sizzle in the treble, making voices come across as somewhat lispy. We’d rather get the Bose SoundLink Mini II or the UE Boom 2. However, we have seen the SRS-XB3 selling for as little as $120 or so on Amazon, and at that price it’s kind of a steal.

The Sony SRS-X11 is a nicely designed 2½-inch cube, but we think it doesn’t play very loud or sound very clear, and it’s priced about twice as high as many similar competitors.

While the Soundcast VG1 sounds very clean and clear, it doesn’t play particularly loud for its price, which at the time of this update was just a few dollars less than the cost of the more capable and full-featured UE Boom 2.

The Soundfreaq Pocket Kick is about the same size as the Jawbone Mini Jambox, and a little less expensive, but our panelists criticized it for tinny sound.

The Soundmatters Dash-7 has some of the clearest treble of any portable Bluetooth speaker we’ve heard, partly because its drivers are built much like high-end tweeters. It also has a super-slim, travel-friendly design. But it’s expensive for the performance it delivers. Ditto for the Soundmatters FoxL Platinum v2.

The Sticky Sounds Bluetooth speaker has a flat, triangular design that mounts to all sorts of objects (think snowboards and surfboards), but I found its sound distorted and its Bluetooth reception dicey.

We hoped to make the Targus TA-2000 a budget pick, because as of this writing it costs just $13 and its 2-inch speaker driver puts out a much fuller sound than the 1-inch or 1¼-inch drivers found in most under-$30 Bluetooth speakers. We picked it up while browsing the aisles of our local Fry’s store, but it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere else and it’s not mentioned on the Targus site—and we can’t recommend a product if we’re not sure you’ll be able to buy it.

The Tayogo Magic Cube might be the best-sounding under-$20 portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy as of this writing. It has a cool Borg-cube-inspired design and a large driver that allows it to play surprisingly loud. But the 4-inch cube is too bulky for easy portability. We think the DKnight MagicBox II is a worthwhile step up for its more natural and spacious sound and its more compact design, but if your budget is especially limited, the Magic Cube is a solid choice.

The TDK Trek Max A34 plays nice and loud, but it sounded too bright and trebly for us to enjoy it.

Compared with the best of its similarly sized competitors, the TDK Trek Micro doesn’t play quite as loud or sound quite as smooth.

The Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 is a large and fairly powerful unit for its modest price. Voices sounded clear through it, but its bass distorted a little too often for our taste.

The Turcom Titan TS-455 has an appealing, slim design, and it’s priced $10 to $20 lower than similar competitors. But to our ears, the sound was too heavily focused on bringing out the vocals; we didn’t hear enough bass and treble to remain entertained.

The Turcom AcoustoShock Mini TS-456 has a cool, ruggedized design and plays loud for its size, but we thought it sounded blaring and coarse.

We had a tough time deciding between the UE Boom 2 and the Bose SoundLink Mini II when we wanted a pick in the $200 range. The Boom 2 plays loud enough to cover a suburban backyard or to drown out voices at a dinner party, but we think voices sound a little more natural and smooth through the SoundLink Mini II. The Boom 2 now has a nice Party Up feature, which lets you play the same audio source through as many Boom 2 and UE Megaboom units as you like. It’s a great way to do multiroom sound on the cheap, but you’re still limited by Bluetooth’s relatively short range. Party Up works well if you want to put Boom 2 units in a few rooms of an apartment or small home; in our tests, however, if the extra speakers were more than about 25 feet away, or separated by two or three walls, from the speaker mated with the Bluetooth source, the sound tended to drop out. The recent firmware update that gives Siri and Google Now voice-command capability to the Boom 2 is nice, but the feature doesn’t respond as quickly as on the Amazon Tap and Echo, and you can get much of the same functionality through your phone no matter what Bluetooth speaker you use. The Boom 2 is IPX7 rated, so you can safely submerge it in water, and it has an iOS/Android app that gives it stereo pairing and EQ features much like the Roll 2’s. It also has a function where you can pause or resume playback or skip tracks by picking up the unit and tapping its top. Anyone who needs something more portable, rugged, and waterproof than the SoundLink Mini II should get the Boom 2.

The UE Megaboom was our top pick when we had a separate article for waterproof Bluetooth speakers. It’s a great product because it plays very loud, sounds very good, and has the same great features found on the UE Roll 2 and Boom 2, including an IPX7 rating, which means it can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for half an hour without damage. As with the Roll 2 and Boom 2, you can pair a couple of Megabooms for stereo or multiroom use, as long as both speakers are within wireless range of the source device (i.e., phone). The Megaboom also provides the same multiroom feature and Siri and Google Now functions as the Boom 2 (see the discussion above). We don’t think the Megaboom sounds as good as the Riva Turbo X, but if you’re looking for something that plays loud and is more rugged, portable, and waterproof than the Turbo X—and gives you voice-command capabilities—the Megaboom is a great way to go.

The Vava Voom 20 is an appealing alternative to our runner-up, the Logitech X300. It sounds, looks, and feels much more expensive than its mid-two-figures price. It has an IPX5 splashproof rating, too. Its sound quality with voices is smoother than that of the X300; in comparison, the X300 makes singers sound a little rough, as if they had stayed up a couple of hours too late. However, the X300 sounds louder and fills a room more easily. Also, the Voom 20 is 25 percent longer and 89 percent heavier, making it much less pleasant to lug on a trip. But if you want a handsome, great-sounding speaker for the bedroom or office, and value sound quality over volume, the Voom 20 is a better choice for you than the X300.

On the surface, the Vava Voom 21 looks like a great value, with a low price, an appealing design, and three sound modes. I liked it fairly well, but our panelists didn’t agree with me, complaining that none of the sound modes really sounded right and that the bass sounded “thuddy” and “one-notey.”

The Venstar S404 has a nice, bike-friendly design, but I found its sound very unnatural and crude.

The cutely named Venstar Taco sounds quite good for its low price. It doesn’t sound as smooth as the Logitech X300, but it’s less than half the price; if you’re looking to spend the absolute minimum on a Bluetooth speaker, the Taco is okay, but we’d go for the DKnight MagicBox II instead.

I thought the Venstar Tempo sounded a little harsh compared with the lower-priced Venstar Taco.

Considering the Ye!! BTS700 cost just $9 at the time of this writing, we feel bad criticizing it, but it produces little volume, and we thought its sound wasn’t clear enough to make it worth carrying around.

The Vifa Oslo is one of the most expensive portable Bluetooth speakers available, but it’s easily one of the best. We can’t include it as a main pick here because very few people are interested in spending more than $500 for a wireless speaker. But if you’re fortunate enough to have that kind of disposable income, the Oslo is worth considering. It plays about 4 dB louder than the Riva Turbo X—definitely loud enough to annoy the people in the next apartment, and powerful enough for a large party. It also sounds fuller than the Turbo X, with a lot more bass but not too much bass.

What to look forward to

Manufacturers pitch us new portable Bluetooth speakers a couple of times a week, so we expect to add many more models in the coming months. As of this writing, we know of no pending introductions from the big names like Beats, Bose, and JBL, but we’ll get them in for testing and add them to this guide as soon as we hear about them.

Ultimate Ears has released a new $100 speaker called the Wonderboom. The Wonderboom eschews the flying-saucer design of the UE Roll and Roll 2; it looks like a squat version of UE’s Boom and Megaboom speakers. We have one in for testing now, and we will update this piece with our full thoughts soon. But since UE has assured us that the Wonderboom is not replacing the Roll 2, judging from our first impressions, the Roll 2 will remain our top pick.

We have spent a bit of time listening to an early sample of the Soundmatters Moment, a unique, travel-friendly mini speaker based on the company’s Dash-7 design; its coolest feature is that the back is magnetic, so it sticks to a refrigerator. It wasn’t available for purchase by the time we finished this update. We also received the new Creative Labs iRoarGo, essentially an IPX6-rated version of the company’s Roar 2 speaker, as we wrapped up this article, but we haven’t had a chance to evaluate it yet.

We’re looking into testing the Altec Lansing Sonic Boom, the Braven Ready Outdoor Series, HDMX Audio’s Jam Session, the JBL Pulse 3 and Flip 4, the Kickstarter-backed Lemon California Roll, the Indiegogo-funded Mass Fidelity Rad, and the MVMT S4, as well as the Samsung Level Box Slim, and Sony’s SRS line of Bluetooth speakers. Though some speakers will ship in March and April, others won’t be available until later this year. We’ll evaluate them as they are released and update this guide with our thoughts.

Wrapping it up

We think that for the average listener who wants a convenient way to play music, podcasts, and such from a smartphone or tablet, the UE Roll 2 is the best choice. If you want a little better sound quality plus a speakerphone function at some sacrifice in portability, we recommend the Logitech X300. If you want louder, higher-quality sound at a middling price, get the Bose SoundLink Mini II. For the best-quality Bluetooth sound in a more elegant, reserved design, we suggest the Riva Turbo X. And if your budget is low, try the DKnight MagicBox II.

(Photos by Brent Butterworth.)

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  1. David Carnoy, UE Roll 2 review, CNET, June 6, 2016
  2. Ultimate Ears Roll 2 review, What Hi-Fi?, May 26, 2016
  3. David Carnoy, Logitech X300 Mobile Wireless Stereo speaker review, CNET, July 8, 2014
  4. Alex Colon, Logitech X300 Mobile Wireless Speaker, PCMag, July 29, 2014
  5. David Carnoy, Bose SoundLink Mini II review, CNET, June 23, 2015
  6. Tim Gideon, Bose SoundLink Mini II, PCMag, June 29, 2015
  7. Review: RIVA Turbo X - Vrrooommmm!!!, Oluv's Gadgets, May 2, 2015
  8. David Carnoy, Riva Audio Turbo X review, CNET, August 10, 2015
  9. Robert Harley, Riva Turbo X Wireless Music System, The Absolute Sound, May 2, 2016
  10. Jason Botha, DKnight Magicbox 2 Review: A damn fine budget speaker, AndroidGuys
  11. Brent Butterworth, Top 8 Under $50: The Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers of 2014,
  12. Apple Recalls Beats Pill XL Portable Wireless Speakers Due to Fire Hazard, United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, June 3, 2015
  13. Tim Gideon, KEF Muo, PCMag, October 15, 2015
  14. Review: Sony SRS-X5 vs. Denon Envaya - priced small like a Soundlink Mini, sound big like a Soundlink III?, Oluv’s Gadgets, July 8, 2014

Originally published: November 23, 2016

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