A Guide to Selecting a Portable Speaker
The amazing achievements in miniaturizing electronics products have brought us gaming laptops and state-of-the-art smartphones. It’s no surprise that you can find portable speakers that can produce powerful mono and stereo sound. Using Bluetooth or WiFi technology, these portable speakers can amplify sound from your smartphone, tablet, or Mp3 player without any cable connection. And some allow you to select playlists and toggle between songs as well!
We’ll go through some of the more recent portable speakers to appear on the market. There are compact units that are about the size of a bottle of Coca-Cola, and more powerful speakers, like Ultimate Ears’ Wonderboom, Megaboom, and Hyperboom Speakers, that you can carry around for music at a party or other event. Many of them are waterproof, so you can even take them with you into the pool!
Let’s look at some of the different portable speakers around nowadays. You’ll be amazed at how such high-quality acoustics can fit in such a compact package!
What is the difference between a Bluetooth speaker and a WiFi speaker?
A Bluetooth speaker receives digital audio signals sent over radio frequency (RF) waves. As opposed to an infrared signal as in a TV remote control, using radio frequency means that you don’t have to have a direct line of sight between the Bluetooth speaker and the device sending it audio content. But a Bluetooth device is usually limited in range to around 30 feet, although there are constant improvements in Bluetooth range.
WiFi is also a wireless connection, and also uses radio waves. But, a WiFi connection will allow you to connect to the Internet. More devices can pick up the WiFi signal simultaneously than with a Bluetooth connection. WiFi also provides more range than a Bluetooth device.
Types of Portable Speakers
Looking at the Best Reviews Guide list of the best portable speakers, we can classify them by solely Bluetooth speakers, and speakers that also can receive audio via WiFi:
Bluetooth speakers: There are portable speakers that can only receive audio from a Bluetooth device. An example is the JBL Charge 5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker. It has a range of around 10 meters (= 32.8 feet). However, there are other portable speakers with an exceptional Bluetooth range, such as the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, with 45 meters (= 150 ft).
JBL Charge 5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Bluetooth and WiFi speakers: There are speakers that can receive input from WiFi as well as Bluetooth. An example is the Sonos Move Smart Speaker. You can connect it to WiFi in areas with WiFi access, and switch to Bluetooth if you find yourself offline.
Sonos Move Smart Speaker
Other connectivity options: When you look for a portable speaker, you probably don’t want a wired connection. But maybe you want to improve your listening pleasure at home as well. For that purpose, there are portable speakers that can take inputs via a cable. An example is the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom Portable & Home Wireless Speaker. Besides Bluetooth connectivity, it can also take inputs via an AUX input (a 3.5 mm jack), an optical cable, or a USB cable. This allows you to use the speaker as a sort of soundbar, together with your TV set, if you want.
Inputs on the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom Portable & Home Wireless Speaker
What reviewers say
We went over some customers’ impressions of the portable speakers that they bought:
Great for your car: One customer thought that the Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetooth Portable Speaker was perfect for his car, even though it’s an older car without Bluetooth capability. The material and shape of the speaker allow it to sit on the dashboard without any fear that it will slide off.
Pairs up quickly: Customers were pleased with the Ultimate Ears Megaboom, in that it takes only seconds to pair it up to any Bluetooth device. Some customers use it while working in the kitchen, while others enjoy it at the beach!
Here are some features that are worth looking for when selecting portable speakers:
Can take phone calls as well: Let’s say you’re streaming content from your smartphone to a portable speaker, and you get a phone call. If you want to use a portable speaker for accepting calls as well, look for a speaker which has a microphone as well. The Sony X-Series Wireless Portable Bluetooth Party Speaker has a microphone with echo-canceling technology so that you won’t experience any feedback when talking.
Waterproof ratings: You’ll notice that portable speakers differ widely in their IP ratings. “IP” stands for “Ingress Protection”, with the first number from 1 to 6 telling you how safe the device is against dust penetration, and the second number tells you how resistant the device is against water seeping in. The Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker has an IP67 rating, meaning that it’s impervious to dust or sand, and can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. It also floats, so you can feel free to use it in your pool!
Works as a power bank as well: These portable speakers run on rechargeable batteries. Many of them function as a power bank as well. If you notice that your smartphone is running low, you can connect your phone to the speaker, to juice it up again!
Pairing: Some of these portable speakers don’t provide stereo. But they also offer a simple solution. If you buy two of them, you can pair both of them to a Bluetooth or WiFi device. That way, one speaker can play bass and one speaker can play treble. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom series and JBL’s Charge 5 speakers both offer this feature!
Battery life: You’ll notice that these portable speakers will differ greatly in their battery life. You should also consider whether you use the speaker as a power bank since that will also drain the battery. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 charges up in 2.6 hours and provides 13 hours of music. But their Ultimate Ears Hyperboom provides 24 hours of music!
We sent through some of the features of the best portable speakers around nowadays. Besides Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, you’ll see models that will still allow you to hook up the speaker with a 3.5 mm jack, or even an optical cable. If you purchase a portable speaker, you too can enjoy the freedom of a wireless connection, together with quality sound!