Bluetooth Speaker Reviews:

Get the Wireless Party Started!

Look, as much as I like (even love) my iPad, it isn’t perfect. One of the biggest flaws has to be the built-in speakers. We’ve come a long way from that mono atrocity the first iPad was cursed with, but even the latest quad-speaker iPad Pro still sounds “just OK” but not something you want to play music on for guests.

I’m not blaming Apple in any way though. At the moment there is just no way to get good, full-range sound out of speakers that are small enough to fit inside a razor-thin iPad Air.

Luckily there are now literally hundreds of dedicated portable speakers with a surprising amount of clarity and power to offer. While you could go with a generally cheaper wired speaker I think that in this day and age we need to get with the times and make use of wireless Bluetooth.

I feel the same way about headphones too, and you can go read my review page on those if you want a more personal audio experience.

Wireless is just so much more versatile and convenient. Modern Bluetooth is also now so power efficient that it really has no impact on the battery life of either the speaker or the iPad itself, so why sit with the ball and chain of a wired connection?

So let us find something to pump up those jams. I’ve put the speakers I think are the best at the top and sort of left the rest below them without putting them in any order.

Top Pick: Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3

It’s been a while since I have personally seen anything from Cambridge Soundworks. The company has changed hands several times over the last few years and really isn’t the same one we knew mostly as a maker of pretty good PC speakers back in the day.

This is why I was fairly surprised to learn that this OontZ is one of the best-selling Bluetooth speakers on the online market today.

The design of the OontZ is one we’ve seen with quite a few speakers like this before. The triangle design makes sense since it provides a good stable foot and plenty of surface area for the speakers.

Cambridge has done the right thing here and has a separate subwoofer and two drivers dedicated to mids and highs. This frequency separation is audio 101 if you want clear and powerful sound. It’s the same reason that the quad-speaker iPad Pro plays bass and mid-highs through separate pairs of speakers.

The speaker is powerful enough to give decent audio for a living room or kitchen – background music while you and the gang hang out.

Or the beach, as it turns out. This speaker is also IPX5 water resistant. Which also means it’s not an issue in the shower, and is sandproof and dustproof.

The internal battery will give you seven hours of playback, which is more than enough for most people.

You can also still use it as a wired speaker too, since there is an included AUX-in connection.

Owners of this speaker seem very happy with the sound quality indeed, especially in terms of the bass response. So it seems this proprietary speaker has paid off in spades. The fact that this is also basically a take-anywhere speaker makes it very compelling. I can understand why it is a #1 seller.

Midrange Magic Choice: Anker SoundCore Dual-Driver

I’ve really come to respect the Anker brand. They have been steadfastly mid-range in almost every product category I have seen them in; providing us with stuff that is “not junk” at a price that is reasonable to most people who are not trust-fund babies.

Anker gives us a sub-$100 speaker that has quite a bit of thought put into it. Two drivers provide 6W of mid-high frequency while a dedicated subwoofer provides the rumbles.

It also has an outstanding 24-hour battery life, so Anker went all-out on the battery itself.

The Anker looks pretty good and comes in black, blue, and red. It has big chunky controls and a simple interface, which is a sign of good design. Thanks to the simple layout, pairing is easy. Anker stuff all comes with an 18-month warranty and, thanks to BT 4.0, you can get a range of up to 66 feet. Luckily there is also an AUX IN that uses 3.5mm jacks, so even non-BT stuff is compatible.

Users commend the flat, neutral sound of the speaker, which is a good thing. The main criticism comes from the bass. Although there is a dedicated subwoofer, it just doesn’t seem to be up to the task. Unfortunately, if you must have excellent bass you’ll have to start looking up to products like the Bose.

Other than that this Anker speaker comes highly recommended.

The Very Best Moneybags Choice: Bose SoundLink Mini

Oh Bose, you are the darling of the average person who likes good sound, and you are also the favorite punching bag of audiophiles who spend way too much time obsessing about cable gauges.

I have always found Bose’s stuff to be great to my non-professional ear and definitely better in a clear way when compared to other products of a similar price. This SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker is one of the most expensive that I looked at, but right from the start I could tell that it wasn’t going to disappoint me.

First of all, you may find that the pictures fool you as to the size of the speaker. Look for a picture of a human being holding the device and you’ll notice that it really is quite small.

The Bose looks the part of expensive audio equipment and comes in either a carbon or pearl finish. As usual my vote goes with carbon, but it is nice to have the choice. This is Bose, so if you want bright primary colors and pastels you’d better look elsewhere or paint it yourself.

The main selling point of any Bose product is the sound quality, and in the case of the SoundLink Mini it’s (ironically) go big or go home in this department. According to people who have bought it, the bass response is peerless when compared to other Bluetooth speakers, bested only by speaker systems with a separate dedicated subwoofer. The full range of audio is represented with crisp, full, and clear sound.

The other thing that really stands out is the battery life. At 10 hours you’d be hard pressed to find something with this much punch that could best it.

I know this is a pricey choice, but if you want “dat bass” you need to pay “dat cash”.

Altec Lansing IMW580 Lifejacket Jolt Rugged Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Altec Lansing is a highly respected name in the audio world, but everyone has to get with the times. So it’s nice to see the company branching out into the world of portable Bluetooth speakers.

In terms of design, not everyone is going to like this. Personally I think it’s pretty cool, but it’s certainly not something that goes with the Apple aesthetic. That being said, this is meant to be a rugged outdoor speaker, so in that sense it does look appropriate.

It’s waterproof, dustproof, and sandproof – and the speaker floats. At this point I almost don’t care how it sounds! It works with any Bluetooth device, which includes all the Apple devices. The speaker will go for 30 hours, with a 100 foot range. It even has Siri integration.

The only downside is sound quality, which is by all reports pretty good but not as good as you’d get if you spent a bit more. The sound quality is good, just not the best. Taking everything else into account, including the price, this is the outdoor speaker I would buy with my own money.

JBL Clip 3 Portable Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

For me, shower time is when I come up with my best ideas. OK, they seem like good ideas until I get out of the shower. So maybe I should just get a shower speaker like this one and use my shower time more constructively?

The JBL Clip 3 has a pretty cool design. It has a secure clip that lets you attach it to a showerhead, faucet, rail, or any other tube that fits within its diameter. It comes in a variety of colors, so you can get one that fits the color scheme of your bathroom.

It’s IPX7 waterproof, which is what you’d expect from something designed to be in a shower! It works as a speakerphone, but please don’t take calls while showering. We can hear that you’re naked.

It’s got 10 hours of battery life and sound quality that’s OK for the few minutes you want some tunes in the background. However, it’s probably more useful for getting your podcast fix while taking care of ablutions. JBL is also marketing it as a waterproof outdoor speaker that you can hook to your backpack, but honestly I would rather buy something specific to that purpose. If a shower (or other wet-area) speaker is what you are looking for, the JBLs fit the bill nicely.


The LG PK5 Xboom Go speaker looks absolutely amazing, in my opinion. It’s like the face of an 80sw sci-fi robot, with color changing speakers and that classic boombox aesthetic. The lighting changes to the beat, so it really is like a portable party machine. Handles make it easy to cart around and an IPX 5 rating means you can take it to the waterside without worrying about the odd splash. Just don’t immerse it.

This model promises 18 hours of battery life although not, I expect, at full volume. The sound is reportedly thumping, but you can make it even better by buying two of these guys. It’s got an awesome “Dual Play” mode where two PK5 speakers sync to each other and play the same audio stream. If it’s two PK5s, that doubles the power to 40W of uhn tiss, uhn tiss.

You may need it too. These speakers are universally praised for the quality of the audio, but in terms of sheer audio power they seem to lack some volume. You could opt for the more powerful PK7s, but if total volume isn’t your main concern the PK5 model offers the best mix of looks, features, and price for a portable party speaker.

NUTK Bluetooth Speaker

I don’t know who you are marketing your product to when you have a picture of it actually falling into water. Clumsy people? Mermaids? In any case, the last thing you want to do with the NUTK is to drop it in water as it is only “waterproof” up to IPX4 standard, which means splash only. Not immersion. Not a strong stream of water. Just some splashing. Way to falsely advertise, guys.

So, OK, we are off on a bad foot. Let’s see if there is anything to redeem the product past the “waterproof” stuff.

It has a detachable suction cup, which means that it’s actually one of those shower speakers, but they also show it stuck to the inside of a car windscreen, which makes zero sense since I’m pretty sure they don’t even make cars without stereos in them anymore.

The shape of the speaker is actually pretty attractive, but the control face looks like a first-gen iPod which these days is just ugly, if I have to be honest.

I can’t find too many impressions of the sound on this little guy and those who have given their view were given free products, so take that as you will. For what it is worth, they say that the sound is “OK”. Not the amazing, overhyped “Hi-Def Studio” sound the NUTK promises.

Maybe buy something else.

Boom Boxes

That’s it for these popular speaker choices. I think there are really some great choices at every price point on the market today. Of course, you may not have found what you are looking for here, so be sure to check out my Bluetooth speaker buyer’s guide for a better idea of what to look for when out hunting for your next party starter.