Portable Bluetooth speakers let you play music while keeping your smartphone or music player close at hand. We test and review more than 30 wireless Bluetooth speakers, priced from $78 to $899, from Bowers & Wilkins, Bang & Olufsen, Sony, Bose, Marshall, and more. We rate sound quality, ease of use and wireless range.
Our expert testers take to the CHOICE sound room to find the speakers that:
Our interactive comparison tool helps you easily find the models that have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (or both), which speakers are 'ruggedised' for outdoor use, and which speakers come in under a kilo so you can comfortably carry them in a day pack. Our Recommended list will let you see at a glance which models come out on top.
List of brands we tested in this review.
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Recommended speakers have earned overall scores of 70% or above, as well as listening scores of 80% or above. Speakers with listening scores above 70% may also be worth considering if the price is right.
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Excluding power lead, rounded to nearest 100g.
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The overall score is made up of listening performance (70%), wireless range (15%) and ease of use (15%) scores.
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Performance tests are based on our listening panel's appraisal of two pieces of music (classical, rock/pop and electronic). The speaker is positioned about two metres away from the listener, with the panel assessing overall quality.
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We place each speaker in an identical position to assess the point at which musical signal is lost or the audio quality drops. Three measurements are taken including an unobstructed straight line test, obstructed test with up to three solid doors, and a test through a brick wall. The results are averaged to calculate an overall range score.
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Ease of use is important for a wireless speaker, particularly with some of the more fully featured models that can take some time to learn the controls and options available. Our tester looks at initial setup, how the phone deals with an incoming phone call while the music is playing and any physical controls on the speaker.
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Speakers with this feature allow you to take a call using the speaker to hear the call and an onboard mic to talk to the caller. Once the call is finished, the music will continue to play.
3.5mm aux-in port.
Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to connect a number of devices over a wireless network. It can also stream an uncompressed audio file which may help deliver better sound quality for some high-end speakers, although the improved quality may not be evident with most wireless speakers.
The big advantage with Wi-Fi over Bluetooth is the range, with Wi-Fi networks often able to project well over 30 metres.
Near field communication chips make connection to the speaker a simple tap and connect procedure.
Playing a song over Bluetooth requires a file to be compressed before it is transferred wirelessly, but compressing a file can lead to a degradation in quality. aptx gets around this, claims its owners Qualcomm, by "reducing the bit rate without affecting audio quality or introducing latency issues". Both devices need to support aptX in order to reap the benefits of CD-like audio, such as the smartphone and the speaker to which the track is being streamed.
A Similar model is identical in most aspects except for a few. This means that a majority of its test results are identical so you can reasonably expect to get the same results from the model we tested, but for those aspects which aren't identical, we'll note these as "Not Tested" in the Compare tables.
A Tested model refers to a model that is still current and available in the Australian market. You should be able to order this model through your local retailer, or find it online.
These models can't be found in retailers or online or are no longer manufactured. You may still find these models on second hand websites, or in second hand dealers. Test methods may change over time, so criteria which can't be directly compared will contain an N/A.
An Identical model is exactly that. Performance characteristics will be identical and the only difference will be something trivial such as colour, which won't have an impact on performance.
These are models we haven't yet tested but that are available.