Scroll in exclusive partnership with

Wirecutter

This guide was written by the editorial staff of Wirecutter (A New York Times Company). The products in it are independently reviewed. Scroll.in may earn a commission when any of the products are purchased online through the links below.

After listening to more than 230 portable Bluetooth speakers over the past three years, we think the Tribit X-Boom is the best all-around choice. Its big, full sound made it the unanimous pick among the portable speakers in our blind listening test, and its IPX7 waterproof rating, floating design and decent battery life make it a safe choice for outdoor use.

our pick

Tribit X-Boom

Tribit X-Boom

The best all-around choice

The X-Boom is compact, portable and rugged and it sounds better than anything else we’ve heard in its class.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 12,994.

The Tribit X-Boom has almost everything most people would want in a portable Bluetooth speaker. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles – no app, tone controls, lighting or alarm function – but it offers longer Bluetooth range than most of its competitors, you can pair two X-Booms for stereo, the speakerphone is usable and it runs off of its rechargeable battery for more than nine hours. Plus, it’s small enough to take almost anywhere you’d want to go.

upgrade pick

Sony SRS-XB41

Sony SRS-XB41

The biggest and best sound

The Sony SRS-XB41 delivers a big, powerful sound in a rugged, water-resistant cabinet and it’s packed with special features.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 13,485.

The Sony SRS-XB41 is a powerhouse of a portable speaker. It plays very loudly and sounds great doing it. It was the unanimous performance pick of our most recent listening panel. With an IP67 ingress protection rating, it should be tough enough to handle outdoor use. It has many useful features, including stereo pairing and a speakerphone function – as well as some silly but kind of fun features, such as built-in party lights, DJ-style digital sound effects and electronic drum sounds that trigger when you tap the speaker’s cabinet. The battery runs for 16½ hours. However, at 3.3 pounds and 11½ inches long, it’s not something you’d want to take backpacking.

budget pick

Tribit XSound Go

Tribit XSound Go

Very good sound for the price

The Tribit XSound Go is the best speaker we’ve heard in its price range and it’s compact and waterproof, to boot.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 4,344.

If you want a good all-around portable Bluetooth speaker and don’t want to spend a lot, the Tribit XSound Go is a great choice. The sound is a notch above that of our previous budget pick (which was itself an obvious standout), with clearer voices and more tuneful and realistic bass. It’s also small enough to slip into a laptop bag or an already stuffed suitcase, and it will run 10½ hours on a charge. Plus, it’s IPX7-rated, which means it’s sufficiently waterproof to survive a half-hour dunking in one metre of water.

also great

UE Roll 2

UE Roll 2

Best for travel and adventuring

The Roll 2 offers an irresistible combination of sound quality, ruggedness, water resistance, portability, cool features and a reasonable price.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 4,999.

The UE Roll 2 and its predecessor, the UE Roll, have been our top picks in this article for three years running. We still can’t find a better alternative for a Bluetooth speaker that slips easily into a laptop bag, straps onto or hangs from practically anything, is tough enough to withstand punishing treatment and also sounds quite good for its size. We’ve demoted it only because its availability can sometimes be spotty, and UE is planning to move to a new model at some point. If you’re looking for a great speaker to take with you everywhere you go, we highly recommend you get one while you can.

also great

EcoXGear EcoBoulder+

EcoXGear EcoBoulder+

For pool parties

The EcoBoulder+ plays amazingly loud, sounds very good, is built to survive the outdoors and also opens bottles.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 39,892.

The EcoXGear EcoBoulder+ is a completely different kind of portable Bluetooth speaker than our other picks, intended to pump out maximum volume for pool parties and picnics. Yet although it can blast, it can also soothe...not only with its full, natural sound, but also with a built-in bottle opener and cupholders. Weighing 29 pounds and sized like a roll-aboard suitcase, it’s not something you’ll take on business trips, but a retractable handle and wheels make it easy to lug around. It also has a built-in AM/FM radio.

Who should buy a portable Bluetooth speaker

Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet would probably enjoy owning a portable Bluetooth speaker, which can improve the listening experience anywhere. Bluetooth is available in every current smartphone and tablet, as well as in most laptop computers, so you don’t need additional equipment. Portable Bluetooth speakers have a rechargeable battery and are frequently waterproof or splash-proof, so you can easily take them around the house or to the park or beach. We’ve found that they make hotel rooms feel more like home.

The best of these speakers deliver sound quality that’s good enough for casual music listening, podcasts and Internet radio. Although Bluetooth does degrade sound quality slightly, you’re unlikely to hear the effects through relatively low-quality speakers such as these. If you’re worried about it, take the online blind test on my website and see what you think.

If sound quality and volume are your top priorities and you don’t plan to take the speaker out of your house, you might want to check out the larger, more powerful speakers featured in our best home Bluetooth speaker, best Chromecast speaker, and best multiroom wireless speaker system guides. For true high-fidelity sound, get a pair of decent speakers and a stereo 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.

Voice control of the sort popularised by the Amazon Echo and Google Home is uncommon in portable Bluetooth speakers, because almost all voice-command technologies require a Wi-Fi connection to function. Some Bluetooth speakers provide a button that activates your smartphone’s voice-command technology (such as Google Assistant), but because you can access those features straight from your phone, this isn’t a big advantage.

How we picked

Some of the portable Bluetooth speakers we tested in late 2017. Photo credit: Brent Butterworth.
Some of the portable Bluetooth speakers we tested in late 2017. Photo credit: Brent Butterworth.

New portable Bluetooth speakers come out so quickly that no one could possibly test them all, but we’ve listened to most of the major models. Most Bluetooth speakers stand little chance of making their way to the top of this guide because getting good sound generally takes careful design and the willingness to spend lots of time and money on product development.

To help us determine what we should focus on, we had to come up with some criteria to figure out what matters to our readers and what doesn’t. So we asked readers, through a survey that received more than 1,000 responses.

  • About 82% of the respondents ranked good sound highest on their list of concerns when buying a Bluetooth speaker.
  • That desire was followed by long battery life at 65%. Although six hours might be enough for a short beach trip or picnic, we think about 10 hours is ideal if you’re planning an all-day picnic or camping trip.
  • People in our survey also said they wanted something that plays loudly enough to fill a room, with the “lots of volume” option getting 35% of the vote.
  • About 73% of survey participants told us they were looking to keep the cost between $50 and $150 (approximately between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000).
  • Seventy three per cent also said they wanted “something I can throw in a backpack or purse”.
  • About 15% told us they expected to use it in the park, for camping, or at the beach, which implied that some degree of water resistance would be helpful.
  • Although we didn’t ask about this topic in the survey, we also think most people would prefer speakers that can charge via USB cords they already own instead of relying on proprietary connectors.
Some of the portable Bluetooth speakers we tested for our autumn 2018 update. Photo credit: Brent Butterworth.
Some of the portable Bluetooth speakers we tested for our autumn 2018 update. Photo credit: Brent Butterworth.

We also made note of, but didn’t put too much weight into, a number of lesser features:

  • Some people need speakerphone functionality, but we didn’t exclude any contenders for lacking it. Furthermore, many of the speakerphones built into these devices are of low quality, they often mangle the sound of voices and add echo.
  • NFC support 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 such as an iPod Classic.
  • Some 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.

After considering all of the criteria, we ended up evaluating 23 new models for the most recent update, including recent releases from Aomais, Doss, EcoXGear, Jam, JBL, Harman Kardon, Marley, Minirig, Muve Acoustics, Nyne, Oontz, Origaudio, Sbode, Sony, Tribit, UE and Vava.

How we tested

Our top picks, sitting together so you can gauge their relative sizes. Clockwise from top left: EcoXGear EcoBoulder+, Sony SRS-XB41, Tribit X-Boom, UE Roll 2 and Tribit XSound Go. Photo credit: Rozette Rago.
Our top picks, sitting together so you can gauge their relative sizes. Clockwise from top left: EcoXGear EcoBoulder+, Sony SRS-XB41, Tribit X-Boom, UE Roll 2 and Tribit XSound Go. Photo credit: Rozette Rago.

As has become my standard practice for updates of this guide, I started by giving all of the new models a long listen, connecting them via Bluetooth through my Samsung Galaxy S9 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 also with some of our previous picks. I measured the maximum output of each speaker using an NTi Minilyser audio analyser and a calibrated NTi MiniSPL test microphone.

I narrowed the contestants to the models that I thought had a real chance to impress our listening panel, and I included a couple of past picks. I then set up blind tests for Lauren and Daniel – one test for larger models, a separate test for smaller models. I played whatever tunes they requested from Spotify at a moderate volume (about 75 decibels on average), then ran the volume for each speaker up to maximum. (Normally I would take pains to level-match the speakers for all tests, but considering the widely varying performance of these speakers, this wasn’t practical and wouldn’t have given a full portrayal of each speaker’s performance.) I also insisted they listen to Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, which the scientists at Harman Research showed is the most revealing piece of music they’ve used in their testing over the years. After the listeners gave me their opinions of the sound, I unveiled the speakers and got their comments about the designs and features.

I checked the battery life of our top picks by repeating Steely Dan’s Aja at an average level of 75 decibels (measured at one metre) over and over until the power ran out. Note that our results may not agree with the manufacturers’ stated battery life, likely because their testing methodology – which they almost never publish – varies from ours.

For models that offer speakerphone functionality, I tried placing a call with each model to headphone editor Lauren Dragan, who has helped me evaluate speakerphone quality for years. I speak to her from the same place in my living room, starting with my mouth two feet from the speaker, then I note how she sounds to me, and she tells me how my voice sounds.

Other features weren’t a major consideration in this test, but we evaluated them where applicable. 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.

In addition, many models offer 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, but in our experience, it’s rarely useful and sometimes annoying.

Our pick: Tribit X-Boom

Photo credit: Rozette Rago.
Photo credit: Rozette Rago.

Our pick

Tribit X-Boom

Tribit X-Boom

The best all-around choice

The X-Boom is compact, portable, and rugged and it sounds better than anything else we’ve heard in its class.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 12,994.

Eighty-two per cent of Wirecutter readers say that good sound is their number-one priority in a Bluetooth speaker, and Tribit seems to have the same idea – because there’s nothing fancy about the Tribit X-Boom except the sound. Among the speakers in its price and size class, the X-Boom was the unanimous favourite in our blind test. Although it may not have a lot of bells and whistles, the X-Boom has the features that matter: it’s portable, it’s waterproof and it has good battery life and Bluetooth range.

Lauren Dragan and Wirecutter junior staff writer Daniel Varghese both liked the X-Boom’s full, balanced sound, complimenting it for replicating all of the music’s various frequencies pretty well. “There was nothing that made me want to turn it off,” Lauren said, which counts as high praise.

The X-Boom also includes the features we most want to see in a portable Bluetooth speaker. First and foremost, it’s quite portable, measuring 7 by 2.6 by 2.6 inches and weighing just 1.3 pounds, so it’s easy to slip into a suitcase. It’s IPX7-rated, meaning it can be submerged up to 1 metre deep in water for 30 minutes without damage. It floats, so it’ll survive being dropped in a pool or off the side of a boat. Two X-Booms can be paired to get stereo sound.

By our measurements, the X-Boom doesn’t play any louder than our budget pick, the Tribit XSound Go, but it has a fuller sound, so it seems louder. It has a decent amount of bass on its own, and you can add a little more by pressing the XBass button on the back. It can’t shake a shelf, but it doesn’t choke on bass-heavy hip-hop tunes such as Kanye West’s Love Lockdown.

The X-Boom didn’t present any of the various dysfunctions that we so often find in these portable Bluetooth speakers. Its battery ran for 9¾ hours in our tests, long enough to last a full workday. I measured Bluetooth range at 50 feet through one wall, which is better than most of the competition managed. The speakerphone function works about as expected, I was able to hear the person on the other end clearly, and vice versa.

Richard Gao of Android Police called the X-Boom “a fantastic-sounding Bluetooth speaker”. It had earned an average of 4.5 stars (out of five) across 74 Amazon owner reviews. Fakespot gives these reviews a D for reliability, but we’ve read through Fakespot’s report and the Amazon reviews and don’t see any red flags.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The only real downside to the X-Boom is that it lacks some of the features found on some competitors (most of which are more expensive). It doesn’t have an app to access tone controls, sound modes and alarms, for example. We’re confident that most buyers will not consider the X-Boom’s lack of flashing, multicoloured LED lights to be a crushing disadvantage.

Upgrade pick: Sony SRS-XB41

Photo credit: Rozette Rago.
Photo credit: Rozette Rago.

upgrade pick

Sony SRS-XB41

Sony SRS-XB41

The biggest and best sound

The Sony SRS-XB41 delivers a big, powerful sound in a rugged, water-resistant cabinet and it’s packed with special features.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 13,485.

The Sony SRS-XB41 is a tricked-out muscle car of a Bluetooth speaker. Although its 11.3-inch, 3.2-pound chassis is way too bulky to carry on business trips, it’s powerful enough to fill a backyard with sound. Its big, full, unrestrained sound made it the unanimous favourite in our shootout of larger portable Bluetooth speakers. Our panellists found it to be a more appealing option for outdoor sound than the large, luggable Bluetooth models we tested for our Best Outdoor Speakers guide, and it works great indoors, too.

I love that no matter how loud the SRS-XB41 is playing, and no matter how intense the music, voices always sound clear. “It has a good balance,” Daniel said. “Unlike all of the others, there’s no part of the sound spectrum where it sounds bad.” Lauren praised the SRS-XB41 speaker’s solid bass and agreed that it didn’t make any particular instruments sound bad. It also plays very loud – a whopping 10 decibels louder than our main pick, which is the difference between “just loud enough to fill a room” and “loud enough to cover a backyard.” This is at the factory settings, Sony offers a Music Centre app that lets you access bass, midrange and treble controls, as well as the useful Extra Bass mode and the bizarre-sounding Live Mode.

Play

The SRS-XB41 is built to survive regular outdoor use. It’s IP67-rated, which means it’s dust-proof and sand-proof, and it can be immersed up to 1 metre deep in water for as long as 30 minutes without damage. Unlike last year’s XB models, you can charge the XB41 using a standard Micro-USB cable, it’s faster to charge it using the supplied wall wart, but at least you don’t have to go without music if you forget the wall wart. We measured battery life at 16½ hours.

Sony’s Music Centre app also lets you control the SRS-XB41 speaker’s many added features. As with last year’s models, it has a user-controllable light show with multicoloured LEDs and strobes, if you’d prefer to listen to your Sinatra albums without rave-inspired lighting, the lights are easy to douse. DJ-style sound effects such as Jet and Isolator can be added, our panellists found this feature utterly useless yet immensely amusing. It also has a Party Booster feature that activates various percussion sounds by slapping different sides of the SRS-XB41 – although it seems to us that any party lame enough to be boosted by this feature is probably best avoided.

Play

You can mate the SRS-XB41 with another XB41 to create a stereo pair, and Sony’s Wireless Party Chain allows as many as 10 Sony XB-series speakers to play the same music simultaneously. The XB41 also incorporates Sony’s LDAC technology, which is said to deliver three times as much data (and presumably better sound) from Bluetooth, but at present it works only if you use a Sony phone or portable music player. We measured Bluetooth range at 55 feet through one wall.

The only downside to the SRS-XB41 is its unusable speakerphone function. Lauren told me that it made my voice sound like it was coming from a tin-can phone, and her voice sounded no better to me. When I switched to using the speakerphone function built into my Samsung Galaxy S9 phone, the sound improved considerably for both of us.

SoundGuys’ Adam Molina generally liked the SRS-XB41, saying, “If you have a budget around $250 and want a durable speaker that gets loud, sounds good, and gets the job done, this is easy to recommend.” Komal Mohan of Gadgets Now also liked the SRS-XB41, saying, “With crisp audio and punchy bass levels, it is certainly one of the best speakers available at this price point.” Unfortunately, Amazon reviews provide little information because reviews of all the XB-series speakers are lumped together, and only a few comment on the SRS-XB41, for what it’s worth, the average rating is 4.1 stars (out of five) across 398 customer reviews on Amazon, with a Fakespot grade of F.

Budget pick: Tribit XSound Go

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

Budget pick

Tribit XSound Go

Tribit XSound Go

Very good sound for the price

The Tribit XSound Go is the best speaker we’ve heard in its price range and it’s compact and waterproof, to boot.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 4,344.

If you want a great all-around portable Bluetooth speaker which isn’t very expensive, the Tribit XSound Go is a terrific choice. Sonically, it’s a step up from anything else we’ve heard in this price range, with clearer sound and more bass than most competitors can muster. It’s easy to travel with, too: small enough to slip into a laptop bag or any suitcase. Plus, it’s IPX7-rated, which means it’s sufficiently waterproof to survive a half-hour swim in 1 metre of water.

When the XSound Go accompanied me through four weeks of travel, I continued to be surprised by how clear and full its sound is. Voices sound natural and distinct, never bloated or hoarse as they can through most inexpensive Bluetooth speakers. Despite its size, the XSound Go delivers ample bass for its size and a clean sound that could compete with the very best compact Bluetooth speakers of just two years ago. All of the panellists thought it delivered amazing sound quality for its price. Although its measured maximum volume is about average for a Bluetooth speaker in this price range, it’s only about two decibels quieter than the UE Roll 2, and it can actually seem about as loud because the sound is so full and even.

The XSound Go has play/pause and volume buttons, but it lacks track-skip controls. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
The XSound Go has play/pause and volume buttons, but it lacks track-skip controls. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

There’s nothing flashy about the XSound Go, but it doesn’t have that cheap, plasticky look that many budget Bluetooth speakers have. Although it has a play/pause button on the top, it doesn’t have track-skip buttons, which would come in handy if you use the XSound Go in the shower. The battery is rated for 24 hours of life; we got only about 10½ hours, but for a cheap Bluetooth speaker that’s fine.

The XSound Go’s speakerphone function is good, especially for the price, I could hear Lauren very clearly, although she complained that my voice sounded slightly muffled. In our tests, Bluetooth range was about 25 feet through one wall, which is good for a speaker of this size.

Many professional reviews of the XSound Go have appeared since we initially featured this speaker in early 2018. It’s the first Bluetooth speaker that Steve Guttenberg of CNET, probably the world’s most relentless and unforgiving critic of Bluetooth speakers, has praised. David Carnoy, also of CNET, said, “For the money, it’s certainly one of the better ones I’ve tested.” MacSources’s Jon Walters writes, “You will not find a better speaker for the price.” At last check, 1,105 Amazon reviewers had rated the XSound Go an average of 4.6 out of five stars, with a Fakespot grade of A.

Also great: UE Roll 2

Photo credit: Kyle Fitzgerald.
Photo credit: Kyle Fitzgerald.

Also Great

UE Roll 2

UE Roll 2

Best for travel and adventuring

The Roll 2 offers an irresistible combination of sound quality, ruggedness, water resistance, portability, cool features and a reasonable price.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 4,999.

The UE Roll 2 and its predecessor, the UE Roll, have been top picks in this article for more than three years. That’s because, in our opinion, no one has created a more appealing and useful Bluetooth speaker. Consider it the Toyota Camry of portable Bluetooth speakers – if the Camry were styled like a Corvette, that is. Unfortunately, we have noticed that the Roll 2 goes in and out of stock often, and UE has told us that the model will, in the not-too-distant future, be replaced or updated, which is why it’s no longer our top pick.

The Roll 2 speaker’s flat, saucer shape makes it easier to slip into a laptop bag or suitcase. The integrated bungee strap on the back provides a secure, simple way to attach the Roll 2 to a shower head, a bicycle handlebar stem, or a beach chair. Plus, the strap keeps the speaker from scooting or vibrating along a tabletop when it’s playing deep bass notes. Because the Roll 2 is IPX7-rated, it can tolerate being submerged to a depth of one metre, so it’s safe for outdoor adventures. The bungee also attaches the Roll 2 to an included inflatable pool float, eliminating the need to buy a dedicated floating speaker.

None of that would matter if the Roll 2 speaker’s sound quality weren’t good – but for its size, it is. The speaker 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 small parties. It doesn’t have much bass, but the sound isn’t thin or harsh as it is with many Bluetooth speakers. Voices sound especially clear, and 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 and Android app that provides a Bass Jump setting plus a custom setting with a five-band audio equaliser that allowed me to get the Roll 2 to sound even better. The app also has an alarm function that turns the unit on at a preset time and plays the tune of your choice from your phone or tablet. Plus, it allows you to pair two Roll 2 speakers so that they both play from the same source.

With the Roll 2 we got an average of 11½ hours of run time in our tests, which is enough to last through a typical weekend getaway. We measured a roughly 60-foot Bluetooth range with the Roll 2, which makes its Bluetooth reception among the most reliable of any speaker available.

The UE Roll 2 speaker’s integrated bungee cord lets you easily hang the speaker from a shower faucet and lots of other places, too. Photo credit: Kyle Fitzgerald.
The UE Roll 2 speaker’s integrated bungee cord lets you easily hang the speaker from a shower faucet and lots of other places, too. Photo credit: Kyle Fitzgerald.
Play
Here’s how the Bluetooth pairing process for the Roll 2 looks and sounds.

The only glaring flaw of the UE Roll 2 is its lack of a speakerphone function. 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 either virtual assistant from your phone). It also lacks playback controls that would let you start, stop, and skip tracks while in the shower.

Our assessment is shared by CNET’s David Carnoy, who calls the Roll 2 “clearly one of the top mini Bluetooth speakers on the market”. Last time we checked, the UE Roll averaged 4.4 out of five stars across 918 Amazon reviews, with a Fakespot grade of A.

Also great: EcoXGear EcoBoulder+

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

Also great

EcoXGear EcoBoulder+

EcoXGear EcoBoulder+

For pool parties

The EcoBoulder+ plays amazingly loud, sounds very good, is built to survive the outdoors and also opens bottles.

*At the time of publishing, the price was Rs 39,892.

About a year ago, the “pool blaster” Bluetooth speaker category emerged – large models boasting high volume levels and a waterproof design. Many people would love having a product like this for pool parties but the EcoXGear EcoBoulder+ is the first we’ve found that delivers the combination of volume and sound quality we’ve been hoping for.

This is easily the best-sounding pool blaster we’ve heard to date, with an even balance of bass, midrange and treble that presents all instruments and vocalists naturally without calling attention to (or mangling) any one element of the music. The EcoBoulder+ is built much like a good home stereo speaker, with an eight-inch woofer below a three-inch tweeter, and an eight-inch passive radiator in the back to reinforce the bass. The big speaker drivers and the built-in amp rated at 100 watts allowed the EcoBoulder+ to hit 103.7 decibels in our tests, more than seven decibels louder than the Sony SRS-XB41 and about 15 decibels louder than a typical Bluetooth speaker. That’s loud enough to cover a typical suburban backyard. If the sound isn’t quite to your liking, bass and treble controls let you fine-tune it, but we never felt the need.

With wheels and a retractable handle, the EcoBoulder+ scoots around as easily as a roll-aboard suitcase.	Video: Kyle Fitzgerald.
With wheels and a retractable handle, the EcoBoulder+ scoots around as easily as a roll-aboard suitcase. Video: Kyle Fitzgerald.

The EcoBoulder+ is also easy to cart around. With a retractable handle and built-in wheels, it scoots around just like a roll-aboard suitcase. Sturdy handles on top allow two-handed lifting. It’s IP67-rated, which means it’s waterproof and dustproof, and it also has a waterproof pocket on the side for a smartphone. A bottle opener on the side and two cupholders on top facilitate consumption of beer or a bottle of Coca-Cola. It also has a built-in AM/FM radio. A ¼-inch jack on the side lets you connect a microphone (not included), so you can use the EcoBoulder+ as a little PA system. In the unlikely event you need more volume, you can pair two EcoBoulder+ speakers for stereo sound.

Surprisingly, it even has a speakerphone function, so if you ever need to do a conference call with 30 people sitting poolside at a resort, you’re good to go. Even more surprisingly, the speakerphone function is one of the best we’ve tested, with excellent voice quality at both ends.

A power socket lets you connect a standard AC cord for charging. Battery life is rated at 10 hours at full volume. Considering that few will buy the EcoBoulder+ to play music at normal indoor levels, we ran our battery-life test with the volume set six decibels louder than we did with the other models we tested, which in a normal living room sounds pretty loud. Even at this higher volume, the EcoBoulder+ ran for 24 hours on a charge. Bluetooth range in our tests was about 43 feet through one wall, enough that you could probably leave your phone indoors while the EcoBoulder+ plays out by the pool.

Geoff summed up the EcoBoulder+ nicely when he said, “They obviously took a hard look at what a person wanting a speaker like this would need, and they put it all in there. And it sounds way better than anything similar we’ve tested.”

The EcoBoulder+ speaker’s top-mounted buttons let you skip tracks, mix in the signal from a microphone, and set and access tone presets. Photo credit: Kyle Fitzgerald.
The EcoBoulder+ speaker’s top-mounted buttons let you skip tracks, mix in the signal from a microphone, and set and access tone presets. Photo credit: Kyle Fitzgerald.

We couldn’t find any professional reviews of the EcoBoulder+, but we found two for the original EcoBoulder, which seems to vary only slightly from the newer model. Philip Chung at Digital Trends lauds the EcoBoulder as a “fantastic value”, and Rad Bennett of SoundStage Xperience calls it “beautifully designed and solidly built”. As of this writing, it had 65 owner reviews on Amazon, where it had averaged 4.5 out of five stars, and a Fakespot grade of C.

What to look forward to

We have tested more than 230 portable Bluetooth speakers specifically for this article. Some competitors came very close in performance and value to our top picks, and they might be worth considering depending on your priorities. Here’s a list of some of the more recent models we’ve considered, in alphabetical order.

The 808 XS Sport is a nice-sounding mid-sized speaker, but in our tests other models that cost less played a little louder and sounded a little fuller.

Although we found that the Altec Lansing Super Life Jacket played loud and had impressive bass for its size, we thought the sound was rather rough and uneven.

Although the AmazonBasics Nano doesn’t sound as clear and full as our budget pick, it’s a great buy. It has a balanced sound and an integral hanging strap.

Our panellists thought the Aomais Go had a nice, full sound and a reasonable price, but they thought it was rather bulky for the volume it delivers.

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

The Aukey SK-M30 Eclipse plays very loud for its price, but our panellists thought it needed more bass.

Our panellists loved the sound of the B&O Beoplay A1, but lost their enthusiasm when they saw its high price.

We like the Bose SoundLink Colour II a lot, but we think the Sony SRS-XB31 is more useful and sounds more powerful.

The Bose SoundLink Micro sounds surprisingly full for its size, but for its price it doesn’t play all that loud.

The Bowers & Wilkins T7 sounds clear and looks nice, but several competitors sound fuller and more satisfying, and cost much less.

The Braven 105 could be considered a budget UE Roll 2. It doesn’t play as loud, but it’s similarly portable and versatile.

The Braven Balance has a nice, slim design and a reasonable price, but our panellists thought it didn’t play loud enough.

The Creative SoundBlaster Roar 2 has a USB input, a built-in microSD music player and a voice recorder. However, in our opinion it didn’t sound as smooth as the SRS-XB31.

The Doss SoundBox Touch is our former pick for best budget Bluetooth speaker, but our budget pick delivers comparable sound in a smaller chassis.

Our panellists thought the Fender Newport sounds great, but it’s not convenient for portable use. If you like the Newport’s guitar-amp styling, we strongly recommend it.

The JBL Charge 3 is a nicely styled, IPX7-rated model that plays very loud and sounds pretty good for its price, but we prefer our picks.

JBL’s Flip Bluetooth speakers are practical, powerful and reasonably priced. But as with past Flips, our panellists thought the JBL Flip 4 sounded too thin and needed more bass.

The JLab Crasher XL is competitive with the Sony SRS-XB31, we prefer the Sony’s sound, but the Crasher XL would be a good alternative.

We considered the Libratone One Click as a top pick because it plays pretty loud and has a beautiful design, but it sounds a little too trebly to us.

The Libratone Too sounds very clear and natural and has a beautiful design, but we don’t think it plays loud enough for its price.

We considered making the House of Marley No Bounds Sport a pick because we love the design and the sound is good for the price, but we got only about six hours of run time.

The Marshall Kilburn sounds good, but like the Fender Newport, it’s not all that portable and its guitar-amp styling has limited appeal.

The Monoprice Harmony Capsule has sound quality similar to that of our top pick, but it’s bulkier and we got only about 6½ hours of battery life from it.

The Nyne Bass was a previous pick, but many newer speakers sound better.

The tiny Polk Boom Bit is one of the most flexible and useful Bluetooth speakers ever. We love it for hiking, but its three-hour battery life limits its utility.

The Sony SRS-XB31 is the new version of a previous pick, the SRS-XB30. Our panellists generally liked it, the sound is full for its size, and the features and rugged design are great. If we could have added another pick, this might have been it.

The UE Boom 3 sounds good, plays loud, and has lots of great features, but our panellists would liked to have heard a little more bass for the price. If you’re looking for a step up from our top pick, it’s a great choice.