Portable tunes use to be simple: boombox or bust. Now? There’s are a staggering number of wireless audio choices. And while many use Wi-Fi, AirPlay, or NCF to stream music, Bluetooth remains the go-to technology. Not only have there been major improvements in audio quality (can you hear those crisp clean highs?), range (most allow you to walk 100 feet away), and battery life (want to listen for 12 hours straight? No problem), but there are also speakers to satisfy every type of listener. Want a sledgehammer-proof speaker to toss in your truck bed? An easy-to-control, rugged model for the kids? How about a pool-friendly model that floats beside you in the water? Done, done, done. We checked out the contenders and arrived at these eight outstanding models.
Best Overall: Bose SoundLink Revolve
The name of the game when it comes to high-end audio, Bose doesn’t disappoint with its newest wireless speaker — the handheld Revolve’s 360-degree design that ensures everybody at the party hears tunes loud and clear. Bose isn’t usually known for its tough gear, but the Resolve’s built to withstand both drops from cliffs (thanks to integrated bumpers) and clouds (it’s IPX4-rated splash resistant). The speaker, which lasts 12 hours on a single charge, can also access Google Now and Siri at the touch of a button, so with or without a phone nearby, you can easily queue up the tunes.
Best For The Beach: UE Roll2
Most waterproof speakers don’t play well in the deep end. But the UE Roll 2 comes packing an inflatable life preserver that actually lets it float. Bonus: it can also be pulled along by its built-in bungee cord. Cannonball-splashes and epic submersions are no match, as it can play for a solid 30 minutes in up to three feet of water. It’s powerful despite the deceptive, compact size and 15-percent louder than its predecessor. Not only that, but it has a range of 100 ft. and a 10-hour battery life.
Best For The Most Rugged Conditions: The ION Audio Pathfinder
The ION Audio Pathfinder is a beast. Built specifically to weather a storm (go ahead and leave it in the rain, see if it cares), the 100-watt speaker rocks an eight-inch woofer, three-inch tweeter, and IPX4-rated water-resistant case. The beefy 31-pound ION is surprisingly portable thanks to an integrated telescoping handle, wheels, and a side carrying handle, plus the battery can run for more than 75 hours on a single charge. So it’s ready for an entire weekend getaway. If that weekend happens to call for flashing LED dance lights and a Karaoke microphone, then all the better ⏤ the ION has those too.
Best For Stylish Audiophiles: Luciano Ceramic
Handmade out of ceramic, these horn-shaped Italian imports look more like art than electronics. But don’t let the striking aesthetic fool you, the three-inch, 15-watt speakers sound amazing too. It’s all about that trumpet shape. While you’re probably not throwing one in the trunk for Junior’s birthday party at the park (you know, since it’s ceramic and all), the 11-inch by 14-inch Luciano is still portable enough to take on the go. And they come in six different colors ⏤ including 24K gold if you roll like the President.
Best For A Kid’s Room: Sol Republic Punk
The pint-sized Sol Republic’s refreshingly simple design and fat buttons for power and volume make it ideal for kids. Also, while the sound reportedly stays crisp at max volume, it tends to distort when it’s cranked high, meaning it’s better for bedroom use. That said, the puck-shaped speaker is easy to take to a friend’s house too. It’s got a range of up to 60 feet and lasts about eight hours per charge.
The Best For A Basement Dance Party: JBL Pulse 2
Talk about trippy: once the music starts, Pulse 2’s metallic grill that morphs into an interactive light show that syncs with the music. Even cooler, that light show can include any color you want ⏤ simply point and shoot the speaker’s “prism sensor lens” at the color and it registers. The splash-proof speaker’s room-filling sound is enough to keep a basement party bouncing and it rocks a 10-hour rechargeable battery. A noise and echo canceling speakerphone lets you can call the kids between sets.
Best For Camping: Braven XXL
Fondly reminiscent of a good old boom box, the Braven XXL weighs a whopping 18 lbs. and measures almost 2 feet in length. But … it comes with a shoulder strap so you can lug it around town while blasting the jams. The speaker is built like a tank for the outdoors ⏤ perfect for a weekend camping trip or Saturday afternoon tailgate outside the game. As for actual audio, there are four HD drivers so music blasts from both sides, and a down-firing subwoofer “pushes earth-shaking bass from the bottom.” And not only does the battery get 14 hours of uninterrupted play on a single charge, but it’ll charge a phone in the process.
Best Budget Buy: bem Wireless Mobile Speaker
This tiny cube looks more like a STEM building block than an actual Bluetooth speaker, but for $20, you can’t beat it. It’s light, easy to toss in a diaper bag, and when not on, you’re likely to forget you even brought it. The bem’s sold in an array of colors, and it includes an actual AC adapter rather than just USB charging cable. #oldschool.