Best Bluetooth Speakers in 2024 compared
What should you look out for when buying a Bluetooth speaker?
Whether blasting Bluetooth speakers at insane volumes at an evening garden party or while riding an e-bike in the city (have you seen our best e-bike list?), you cannot deny that Bluetooth speakers have become an integral part of our everyday life. Back then, you still had to use an amplifier, speakers, and a suitable playback device to listen to music. Fast-forward to 2024, you can do this conveniently via Bluetooth and streamed content from Spotify, Apple Music, and other similar streaming services.
Even though old-school music listening has a charm all of its own, we want to take a closer look, sorry, listen to Bluetooth speakers in this overview. In other words, portable speakers that primarily receive their content via Bluetooth from external devices such as notebooks, smartphones, or tablets. This sets them apart from smart speakers, which are often wired and can play music independently over Wi-Fi.
This article also marks the beginning of a new review series on nextpit. We will review the devices we feature in this market overview for you over the next few weeks. Just in time for the summer, too, when BT speakers are really fun, and you can then base your purchase decision on our reviews. Before that, we’ll let you know what you need to look out for when buying.
Performance and technology
Just how powerful a Bluetooth speaker is can be assessed before you buy it. Although Bluetooth speakers look very different from the music systems of our parents and grandparents, there are always amplifiers and speakers fitted in the tiny chassis. Manufacturers normally specify their performance based on the output power in watts and speaker size.
As a general rule of thumb, the higher the number of watts, the more power it carries, and the larger the speakers are, which might logically lead to the conclusion that the Bluetooth speakers will sound better. It can also be fun when manufacturers incorporate 2- or 3-way systems in their Bluetooth speakers. In this case, woofers and tweeters, i.e. speakers for bass and treble, are shared.
Even if the performance of Bluetooth speakers can be estimated based on the technical specifications, other factors also play a role in the music quality. It is therefore always advisable to include empirical values in the purchase decision. It can be based on either your own experience via a trial listening experience at the nearest technology store or professional assessments such as here at nextpit.
Dimensions and weight
Do you want to keep your Bluetooth speaker at home or bring it with you on your bike on weekends? Depending on the intended use, you should pay attention to the size and weight before making a purchase. For smaller Bluetooth speakers, carabiners to attach it to a rucksack can be practical. As for large and heavy models, these should come with carrying handles or even wheels. Think about what you need beforehand!
Water and dust protection
The same applies to protection against dust and water. Bluetooth speakers are meant to be used outdoors, even if some people are bothered by “nudist music listening”. Most Bluetooth speakers now have basic splash protection. However, there are even models such as the JBL Boombox, which floats on water and can also be operated out in an open body of water. You can find out more about the standardized specifications for dust and water resistance in the linked article.
Battery and power bank
How long does the battery last and what is the charging time? Manufacturers provide an estimate for battery life, most of which are tested in the laboratory at medium volume. This is exactly how you should interpret the data. After all, the runtime ultimately depends heavily on factors such as the ambient temperature or volume.
However, there are Bluetooth speakers that have enough juice to last an entire party. You will, of course, find information on the runtime in the table above and later in our reviews. We also indicate whether the manufacturers have considered quick-charging functions.
Some Bluetooth speakers also have a useful advantage: they take on a dual role as a power bank. This means you can use them to charge smartphones or tablets. Of course, this comes at the expense of battery life, but it’s really practical when you’re out and about.
Connectivity and special functions
As the name suggests, most Bluetooth speakers work via, well, Bluetooth. The connection quality of the wireless transmission standard has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Hence, the more up-to-date and advanced the Bluetooth version is, the better! In addition to Bluetooth, it can be convenient if manufacturers also offer a wired connection option.
Although there are no longer many devices that can only be connected by cable, being able to do so has one major advantage: there is no lag. Hence, if you want to connect your Bluetooth speaker to a mini projector (comparison list) or to your laptop to watch a movie, the sound will perfectly synchronize with the picture.
Even though we steered clear of this matter at first, we would like to point out the existence of hybrids such as the Sonos Roam at this point. This is because it has Wi-Fi and can double up as a WLAN speaker. Such hybrids are now more common, and there is not much to complain about in terms of additional functions.
Special and convenient functions such as colorful, flashing lights, support for voice assistants, or a karaoke mode are nice, but they are not essential since they only cater to more specific tastes. Of course, we still point this out in our reviews. One really practical thing to consider when it comes to connectivity:
Some Bluetooth speakers can be connected to similar models in a daisy-chain format. If all your friends have the same Bluetooth speakers, you can make a real party loud on the weekend! Alternatively, connecting two of them can deliver stereo sound, making it especially useful for movie buffs!
Our Bluetooth speaker recommendations in 2024
Bose SoundLink Flex: Good all-rounder from the premium manufacturer
The SoundLink Flex from Bose is actually the unofficial successor to the SoundLink Mini 2. If you’ve often listened to music with friends via Bluetooth speakers, you may be familiar with the latter. The SoundLink Flex offers you a 2-way audio system that should provide up to 12 hours of music thanks to the integrated rechargeable battery. Unfortunately, Bose does not reveal how much power the Bluetooth speaker offers, so we’ll have to wait for our findings in the upcoming review.
What makes the SoundLink Flex exciting, however, are its rather small dimensions, its light weight of 600 grams, and the carrying strap with which you can attach the speaker to backpacks. Thanks to IP67 certification, you don’t need to worry about rain showers or puddles. There is also a stereo mode for two speakers – the price here is $149.
JBL Charge 5: Alternative with plenty of power
Tipping the scales at just under 1 kg, the Charge 5 is a more powerful alternative. The Bluetooth speaker offers an output power of 40 W and is equipped with two JBL bass radiators. The frequencies are shared with a tweeter. As JBL has included a more powerful battery, the running time is said to be up to 20 hours. However, let’s not count our chickens before they hatch and wait for our review to see if the speaker really lasts that long.
Experience has shown that the Charge 5 is already recommended for parties, but you can also connect several speakers together. IP67 certification is also on board, and you can also use the Charge 5 as a power bank and charge your smartphone. If you would like to try out this Bluetooth speaker, the MSRP is $179.95. The customization option is exciting thanks to nine color variants.
Sonos Roam: Smart speaker with Wi-Fi
Sonos has a slightly different target group in mind with the “Roam”. In addition to Bluetooth, the Bluetooth speaker also has a Wi-Fi mode, allowing it to connect to your home network independently. You can then select the speaker as a destination for music streaming in your music app. The Sonos Roam also supports both Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants.
Like Bose, Sonos also kept secret how many watts the two internal amplifiers produce. However, a midrange driver and a tweeter share the frequencies of your songs. With a weight of 0.42 kg, the Roam is particularly portable and remains protected against rain and temporary submersion thanks to IP67 certification. According to the MSRP, you’ll have to budget $173 for this.
Teufel Rockster Air 2: The party speaker
Let’s take a look at another special case: weighing in at 14.15 kg, a battery life of up to 58 hours, an output power of 80 W, and a woofer with a diameter of 25 cm. The Teufel Rockster Air 2 is a Bluetooth party speaker that simply rocks and can even be carried on the back as a rucksack using an optional holder. Such a powerful Bluetooth speaker also offers an input for guitars, an XLR output, and many other connections that are not available elsewhere.
We are extremely excited to hear how good the Rockster Air 2 sounds because the Teufel Boomster impressed us with its high sound quality in 2017. Since Teufel usually offers very high-quality products, the price is also high: €599.99 a pop. It is unavailable in the US.
JBL Xtreme 4: The brand-new party alternative
Do you want a flexible Bluetooth speaker that’s also good enough for parties and doesn’t cost more than $500? If so, take a look at the Xtreme 4 from JBL. Although a successor has already been announced, the price of the Xtreme 4 is still particularly exciting considering how it was spotted at CES 2024. Amazon will sell this speaker for $379.95, which boasts a total of four integrated speakers.
The exciting thing about the Xtreme 4 is that the manufacturer wants to improve the sound using artificial intelligence. As the Bluetooth speaker was only unveiled at CES 2024 this year, not much is known about its performance. However, the battery should last a whole day. We’ll find out more when the speaker arrives at our office!
Marshall Willen: Stylish value-for-money recommendation
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a Bluetooth speaker, the Marshall Willen could be right up your alley. The speaker is already available for a discounted price of $94.10, but you don’t have to compromise on build quality and a pretty design. With its iconic guitar amp design, the tiny speaker delivers 10 W via an internal speaker. Two passive radiators were designed to ensure high sound quality.
The Willen also has a battery life of over ten hours and, as with all the models mentioned, the chassis is IP67-certified. Another exciting feature is how Marshall wants to make the Willen flexible enough to bring it with you wherever you go. There is a strap on the back of the 300 gram BT speaker, allowing you to attach the Willen to just about anywhere.
What do you look for when buying a Bluetooth speaker, and what are your recommendations? Please let us know in the comments!