5 Best Bluetooth Speakers (2023): Portable, Waterproof, and More

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about today’s Bluetooth speakers, it’s that for general consumers, the options are pretty good. However, that doesn’t make the process of sifting through the dozens of choices any easier. So I set out to test out some of the most popular models in different price ranges. Most of the speakers I tried sounded good on first listen; it was only through side-by-side comparisons that I began to suss out the nuances. Just reading the spec sheets only goes so far. As such, we’re focusing a bit more on audio quality and dynamic range, while also taking into consideration other factors like utility and price. Ultimately, there isn’t one best portable Bluetooth speaker out there, but we’ve found plenty of good options that will fit a range of use cases and price points

What to consider


IP ratings (Ingress Protection) are the alphanumeric indicators you often see in a product’s spec sheet that define the tested resistance of a product to both solid objects (dirt, dust, fingers?) and water. It’s usually a combo of two numbers with the first indicating solid object ingress and the second being water. The former goes from 0 (no protection) to 6 (dust tight). The waterproof rating goes from 0 (no protection) to 9 (protected against immersion and high pressure jets). When an X is used instead of a number, that means the product wasn’t tested for resistance. If it’s waterproof, it may have some innate resistance to solids, but there’s no guarantee.

IP67 is a common rating these days indicating highly resistant and potentially rugged speakers. These are safe for quick dunks in the pool or tub and should be more than OK in the rain or in the shower. They’re also good options for the beach, playground and other rough environs.

Additionally, speakers with ports and a high rating will often include a tight-fitting cover over the charging or auxiliary ports. If you plan on using the ports, that may limit the product’s rated ability to fend off the elements.

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Consider the IP rating and also how you plan to use your Bluetooth speaker when making your decision. It may be worth splurging on a better sounding model with a lower IP rating if you’ll mostly be using it indoors, for instance.

Battery life

The focus of this guide is on portable Bluetooth speakers, and while “portable” can be a relative term, these devices are generally for people who are likely to find themselves far from a power outlet. These days, around 12 hours of runtime seems to be the baseline but obviously, the more battery life you can get out of a speaker, the better.

That said, be careful when looking at battery specs, as they frequently list a maximum runtime (“up to” x amount of hours). This usually means they tested at a low to mid volume. If you like your tunes loud, it can often end up cutting the expected usage time in half or more. Luckily, some manufacturers also list the expected battery life when used at full volume and that transparency is appreciated.

Additionally, if your Bluetooth speaker also happens to have WiFi connectivity, they’re usually designed for always-on functionality. Unlike normal Bluetooth speakers that go to sleep after a short period without use, these will usually stay awake (to listen for your commands) and slowly run down the battery. If you’re out and about, you’ll want to to turn these speakers off manually when not in use to maximize battery life.


Bluetooth range is tricky business. Some companies list their product’s longest possible range, usually outdoors and in an unobstructed line-of-sight test environment. Other companies stick with a 30-foot range on the spec sheet and leave it at that, even though they may be running Bluetooth 4.x or 5.x. That’s likely underselling the speaker’s potential, but unpredictable environments can affect range and there’s little point in promising the moon only to get complaints.

I’ve seen signal drop issues when crouching down, with my phone in the front pocket of my jeans, and barely 30 feet away from a speaker inside my apartment. I ran into this issue across several devices regardless of their listed Bluetooth connectivity range.

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If you’re hosting a patio party and duck inside, it’s wise to have the source device remain close by just in case. It’s hard to gauge what aspects of any environment may interfere with a Bluetooth signal. In general, take range specs around 100 feet or more as a perfect-world scenario.


This is a minor mention for those out there who use a speaker for their computer output, or as a mini soundbar solution for setups like a and streaming box. It’s annoying to find that your speaker’s latency isn’t low enough to avoid lip sync issues. Luckily, it seems that most speakers these days don’t often have these problems. Only a handful of the few dozen speakers I tried had persistent, noticeable lip-sync issues. Aside from occasional blips, all of our picks worked well in this regard.

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If you plan to frequently use a speaker for video playback, look for devices with the most recent Bluetooth versions (4.x or 5.x) and lower latency codecs like aptX. Also make sure the speaker is close to the source device as distance can be a factor. To avoid the issue altogether, though, consider getting one with a wired auxiliary input.

JBL Flip 6 ($130)

5 Best Bluetooth Speakers (2023): Portable, Waterproof, and More

Bluetooth: 5.1
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
IP Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: 63Hz – 20kHz
App: Yes

JBL’s Flip 6 deserves high marks for overall sound quality, durability and volume considering its size. As with most JBL speakers, it has a good dynamic range from solid lows to crisp highs with volume tipped towards higher registers. The cylindrical shape works well on its side or even standing on its end to save desk space. It has a capable carrying (or hanging) strap and raised buttons you can discern in the dark.

The JBL Portable app gives you a 3-band EQ to customize the sound profile if desired and if you have two Flip 6 speakers, you can run them in stereo mode. If you happen to have a mix-and-match assortment of different PartyBoost-enabled JBL devices, you can connect multiple speakers for a bigger sound.

Tribit StormBox Micro 2 ($60)

Tribit StormBox Micro 2

Bluetooth: 5.3
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
IP Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: 70Hz – 20kHz
App: No

If you’re just looking for an ultra-portable speaker that can kick out some decent volume, the Tribit StormBox Micro 2 fits the bill. The audio quality here is fine; it doesn’t stand out in terms of fidelity, but the volume you get from this affordable little speaker is what makes it a good choice. If you’re bopping about outdoors on your bike or chilling in the park, it’s usually more about portability and volume anyway. The rubbery rear strap works well on relatively thin things like belts, backpacks and bike handlebars.

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While it’s small and affordable, the speaker doubles as a USB-C powerbank to charge your devices in a pinch and you can wirelessly connect two of them for party mode or stereo sound. It also supports voice assistants for both iOS and Android users.

Bose Portable Smart ($399)

Bose Portable Smart Speaker

Bluetooth: 4.2
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
IP Rating: IPX4
Aux inputs: N/A
Frequency range: Undisclosed
App: Yes

We did test a couple smart home speakers, including the Bose Portable Smart and I decided to compare it with its closest Bluetooth equivalent: the Revolve+ II. While that’s best suited for portability, has a loud bright sound that will carry outdoors and long battery life, its low end is a little less pronounced than its smart companion. If you’re willing to spend more and appreciate bass, the Bose Portable Smart speaker is a big improvement. It has a well-rounded low end and a bright dynamic sound with plenty of nuance that makes for a great listening experience.

This 360-degree portable comes as a combo WiFi/Bluetooth speaker primarily geared toward smart home use with the occasional outing. It’s rated IPX4, so not the most weatherproof, but good for casual outdoor listening. The battery is rated for up to 12 hours, but since this is an always-on smart device, you’ll need to be more attentive at keeping it topped up. There’s a charging dock accessory for use around the house, but as an away-from-home portable, you should power it down when not in use.

JBL Xtreme 3 ($380)

JBL Xtreme 3

Bluetooth: 5.1
Battery life: Up to 15 hours
IP Rating: IP67
Aux inputs: 3.5mm
Frequency range: 53.5Hz – 20kHz
App: Yes

If you’ve enjoyed any of the smaller JBL speakers out there and are willing to spend a bit more, the Xtreme 3 is a good all-around choice. It’s big enough to warrant a shoulder strap, but still only about the size of a football. There’s a pleasant dynamic sound here with hefty lows and a lively high end that seems slightly better balanced at this size than the smaller options from JBL in this range.

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This is easily a favorite if you want something under $400 with a little more gusto than your average portable, but still being IP67 weatherproof. It has enough output to breathe life into a small soiree or backyard hang, although while it’s quite loud, it’s best when it’s close by or indoors where the bass can resonate to its fullest.

Sony SRS-XP700 ($548)

Sony SRS-XP700 X-Series Speaker

Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery life: Up to 20 hours
IP Rating: IPX4
Aux inputs: 3.5mm, USB thumb drive listening, Guitar, Mic
Frequency range: N/A
App: Yes

Sony’s big SRS-XP700 Bluetooth speaker is a good option for fans of loud, thumping beats. The unit has the look of a futuristic stereo speaker at 2.25 feet tall and about 37 pounds, with pleasing lighting effects on the inside of both top and bottom grab bars. You’ll also find USB charging ports and LDAC support, while the app offers customization including light controls.

The XP700 remains portable enough for many people to shuffle around locally without too much effort and its IPX4 rating means it can handle spills and splashes. The exterior is hard plastic with some rubberized feet, but it’s not the type of speaker you want to treat carelessly. It’s mostly a homebody that can fire up parties in lofts, garages, basements or backyards. You can also wirelessly pair two for a more powerful experience.

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While the sound is big and bassy, it comes up short on handling the lowest registers well. Also, the high end isn’t as pronounced as it could be, so it may not be for everyone. It’s more of a loudspeaker style, so it’s better in bigger rooms and shines at louder volumes.

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