6 Best Bluetooth Speakers 2016

3
2030
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Wireless speakers have many advantages.

  • You can carry them anywhere.
  • They are lightweight.
  • They are lightweight.
  • And last but not the least, they are..."wire-less".

Why am I saying this about wireless speakers when this article should be all about Bluetooth speakers?

Because many people among us consider wireless speaker as Bluetooth speaker and vice versa. They use both of these terms interchangeably. So first I am going to clear both of these concepts for you.

 Wikipedia says: Wireless speakers are, speakers which receive audio signals using radio frequency (RF) waves rather than over audio cables

Therefore, any speaker without wires is a wireless speaker. Apart from Bluetooth, Wireless speakers may also use other protocols such as Apple-backed AirPlay and, to some extent, WiFi etc. Each of this protocols has merits and demerits. So now you may have realized that Bluetooth speakers are a subcategory of a broader category (wireless speakers). While Bluetooth Speakers are praised for its extended battery life and being cheaper than AirPlay speakers, they are panned for being less loud and not as feature-rich as their AirPlay cousins. And most ordinary Bluetooth speakers tend to give you less-than-stellar sound.

You know what is worse -- bad audio or no audio?

My answer: crappy audio.

Average Tom may live up happily with those ordinary speakers sub-$50 speakers. But an audiophile (like me)? No way. Because I prefer spending a little more to buy a little expensive thing rather than comprising for those cheap ones and then spend money again after a year or so. Because those cheap speakers would have been breathed their last, till then. But there are some important things you must consider when buying one for yourself

Things to look while choosing a Portable Bluetooth Speaker


             Portability - A Bluetooth speaker must be light enough to compact so that you can carry it                                                        anywhere you want.

             Battery life - Battery life is a very important factor - much important than you think because                                                     you don't want it to ruin your dance party in a mid way.

             Sound Quality - Well, for sound quality you have a sacrifice some portability. Because as small a                                                   as a speaker goes, it'll be difficult for it t maintain good sound -- due to lack of                                                                 stereo separation.

            Bluetooth Range - This one is important too. Since you want to roam in your house freely while                                                            listening to music.


6. Bose SoundLink Color

Bose SoundLink Color is a more affordable brother of Bose SoundLink Mini. Now many of you will wonder why I haven't the latter?

The reason was simple.

SoundLink Color nearly gives you all the specs and features found in SoundLink Mini in nearly half of that price.

So there is no point spending a lot of money to get a very few extra goodies.

Now, first tell me what you'd expect from a speaker which has word color in its name?

Yeah, you've got it right. It comes in five different color options. It is also Bose' lightest and least expensive speaker till now. The reason is that Bose is trying to break its conservative hoodoo and do something innovative.

Design

According to Bose, SoundLink Color is designed to fit easily into a handbag, knapsack or the palm of your hand". Such compact design it has. Earlier I said, it is Bose' least-expensive speaker. And this 'least-expensiveness' can be seen on its building material - same old' plastic.

Though its rubber edges are durable and its plastic body feels solid, it certainly lacks that elegance you want in a premium speaker. But to be honest, it certainly isn't a deal breaker. Tell me what do you want more - Looks or Performance? (I'd go for performance with closed eyes.)

Features:

On the top side of SoundLink Color, you'll find a row of rubber-raised controls. They are volume, pause/play, Aux, Bluetooth and Power button from right to left. On its back, there is power port and 3.5 mm Aux input. SoundLink Color is charged through USB-mini Cable - A massive improvement from Bose' proprietary cable. Bose has also included a spare cable in case you've broken/lost original.

Connectivity through Bluetooth (pairing/repairing) is not any problem for both IOS and Android devices.

Performance:

A crispy treble, deep bass, and no exaggeration whatsoever. A perfect combo to deliver an impressive and best-in-its-class sound. Its gives you heavy bass without any distortion.It also gives strong clarity in midrange and treble. But it doesn't mean it is perfect.

It can mess things a bit when playing-music have multiple instruments at the same time. And also, its compact design left very little left-right stereo separation (necessary for melodious sound). Anyways it still delivers excellent loud sound without any distortion. Bose says that it is 8-hour battery life - not so impressive nut no so bad either.

Final Verdict:

Superb battery life, impressive sound and compact design. All that in an affordable price. Its looks may let you down. But that's a very little issue compared to what its gives you -

Best Sound Quality

in its Price range

Our Rating

5. Sony SRS-X5

Review:

SRS-X5 is the little cousin of SRS-X7, which was described as "good but no so great" by Cnet. Other critics also had mixed feeling for X7. Therefore, I didn't expect anything special from it - before reviewing. I must say this speaker from Sony literally shocked me - in a good way.​

Design

It has sleek and minimalist design which echoes Xperia smartphones design' influence on it (By the way, Sony smartphones are praised for their premium design - at least). Its different color choices for speaker grille (rest is black matte plastic) and glossy finish will remind you of SRS-X9 - if you've ever had it. There isn't much to say about its design other than its glossy finish - which tends to attract a lot of fingerprints.

Features

Its top panel has all of its buttons like Audio source switching, Bluetooth pairing and volume up/down etc. All are touch sensitive. Two physical buttons are there too for power and speakerphone. Its other functionalities include NFC tap-to-pair features for supported phones, AptX (And AptX2) for better Bluetooth streaming and an audio input - in case you have a non-Bluetooth device. Just hold your NFC device against NFC logo of X5 and pairing is done. AptX is a good addition but you won't be able to notice a difference in such a small package.

And yeah, it CAN charge your phones/tablets too.

But there is a small hiccup in tablets' case. Since it is rated at 1.5 amp, it may take ages for your empty iPad to charge 100%. One thing that I expected (but didn't get) is waterproof rating. Since it owns very much from Xperia smartphones, I thought that they would put water-proof capability in it too.

Performance

X5's battery life is rated at about 8 hours (maybe less if you listen on high volume), not so great but still marginally better than the 7-hour life of SoundLink Mini's from Bose, even though it's $75 cheaper approx. than Mini. Its sound quality also matches equally to Mini's.

Depending on your personal choice, you may found this speaker's sound, even more, pleasant with a refined sound and extra bass. While other speakers rely on bass radiators for Bass, it is the only speaker to have a dedicated sub-woofer driver for this purpose. Add two higher frequency and mid-range drivers and two passive radiators, you'll realize what's in that box waiting for ya!

For most genres, I found it, doing its job pretty decently. Be it a sparkly treble, beefy bass and detailed music - everything is there. It would be loud enough to fill your room with music, but not that enough to rock your party floor. One more thing I've noticed that you can actually get better sound if/when it is connected to AC adapter - about 25-30% more volume.

One downside about its loudness is that while it can play sound at a high volume, it performs optimally at 65-75% volume.

Final Verdict:

Well, I am not saying it is the Best speaker for sound quality, nor they have a giant battery life. But all things combined (including very a cheap price), you'll get a pretty good option for a decent speaker. Particularly if you own an Xperia smartphone or tablet etc.

Our Rating


​4. Harman Infinity One

According to Infinity Inc., it is a 'portable' speaker but to be honest, I doubt its "portability". While it is compact and wireless but also somewhat heavier than normal speakers. And its shell is also pronged to scratches. So it means that while can make it move around your house, the same can't be said if you decide to go out on a road trip. But the good thing about it, is that much of the negative points about this speaker end right here. Because won't be able to find a single major downside in its design and performance.

Design

If you've previously owned JBL speakers, you'll find them pretty similar to JBL pulse and JBL charge 2. For new owners, it may look like a heavy-duty thermos laying on a floor. Its similarities with Pulse and Charge 2 are much more than this.

Infinity one has a grill which protects internal parts by using black brushed-aluminium coating. Both of its cylindrical ends are crowded with passive radiators (A type of speaker which - unlike a normal speaker -- is without magnet and any electronic circuit, it just has suspension and frame etc).

These radiators increases the low-frequency response aka Bass that give you the performance of a comparably large sound system. These radiators can be seen bouncing with the Bass' response and are some inches inside the speaker.

One little complaint I have in this speaker is its lack of multiple orientations. It only supports horizontal orientation. Many speakers such as Dell AD211 gives you vertical orientation option in case you want to make it stand vertically. But Infinity one has rubberized feet on its bottom and controls on its top, making it virtually impossible for vertical orientation.One bottom line you can take from three above paragraphs is that it's definitely NOT for outdoor/travel. Because you can get its ceramic coating can scrapped while moving it here and there. Everything else is OK (almost).

Features

No shortage of features here. Wanna play some music? Just press its Bluetooth button to find your Bluetooth-enabled device and that's it. You're done. Tap in case you have an NFC-enabled phone. But what if you don't have a Bluetooth (or NFC) device that time? Don't worry because all you need then, is a 1/8″ audio output wire to plug into an auxiliary input in the back, alongside DC power, mini-USB and USB ports. There is one more issue many of us face. Continuous Bluetooth use sucks our phone' battery juice.

Infinity one has a solution for this problem too. It can charge your device. An average completely drained out smartphone can be fully charged in less than two hours - thanks to its 5V2.1A output.

Performance

Its four 1.75″ Active drivers (A speaker with passive radiators has two main components. One is passive radiator while other is Active Driver) and the passive radiators take care of its performance. They combined up to produce a powerful-yet-not-brute Rich and vibrant sound that you'll fill up your car and room etc. Infinity one also has a built-in Microphone due to which you can make/receive calls through it. Its Bluetooth connectivity is strong too - 20+ feet - but can be lost if take both (it and your device) at extreme ends of your house.

 Usually, good-sound Bluetooth speakers have a 2 or 3 hours battery life.  Or the ones with better battery life compromises with  the sound.

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​But that's not the case with Infinity one. It has a battery life of 10 hours which is quite good.

Final Verdict:

Well, I am not saying that this speaker is perfect or anything like that. There are some obvious cons like No vertical orientation, scratch-vulnerable coating etc. But its features like internal mic, impressive Bluetooth range and capability to charge a device almost hides these cons.

Its price is a little high - no doubt about that. But for a perfect high-fidelity experience, you have to shed some bucks.

Our Rating​

3. Bowers & Wilkins T7


You might be surprised that Bowers & Wilkins ( a well-known name in audio-gadgets industry) hadn't a single Bluetooth speaker till T7. It is B&W's first attempt to make a portable Bluetooth speaker. The one which will rock the floors and picnic parties. It has opened new audience of speaker-users for B&W to deal with.

Design

Giving an elegant design to its hardware isn't an alien concept to B&W. Its C5 S2 earbuds also got praise for their premium looks. T7 is not an exception. The speaker is enclosed in a transparent polycarbonate inside which, there is a Bees' hive-like hexagonal structure.

The reason behind the matrix-like design is to make a solid, resonance-free sound. The transparent material reduces speaker vibrations. Its polycarbonate plastic weights at 940 g. Noticeably heavier than most portable speakers. But doesn't mean it'll look like a brick in your hand. This whole structure is wrapped around a rubber band - apparently, to make it shock-proof.

Features

On top of its rubber band, you'll find out media controls like Bluetooth discovery, pause/play and volume up/down etc. Tap twice on Play button and current track will be skipped. Long pressing power button will activate LED lights telling how much battery has left. It also has Bluetooth AptX codec, which can play high-quality sound more efficiently.

Connectivity through Bluetooth isn't any problem, be it your mac, iPhone or Galaxy etc. All you need is a Bluetooth-enabled device. It also has  Digital Sound Processing (DSP) - in which sound waves are altered - which may annoy purists.

Performance:

The performance of a Bluetooth speaker varies with respect to place size. Even your Galaxy S6's built-in speaker can sound awesome in your room. But real test when speakers are tested in outdoors. On testing, I found T7 to give me one of the most detailed music I've ever listened.

Everything is present treble, bass, crispness, and loudness - All the things, neither more nor less. There isn't a single major issue I've found in its sound quality. Its battery life is its main selling point. According to B&W, you can play it for 16 hours. But if you kept sound a little lower, you'll get more than 24 hours of battery juice.

Final Verdict

It's expensive. So casual listeners can go for somewhere else like Bose SoundLink Color, but if you're a true sound enthusiast you'll love its all-round sound performance. Not to forget about its day-long battery life

Our Rating​

2. Riva Audio Turbo X


Review:

I bet that you haven't heard a lot about Riva audio. Even I didn't know about it. My friend actually recommended for review. And I am very grateful for what he did. You know, I actually hate those people who care more-than-enough about brands rather than specs. I personally don't spend a single second on caring about brands( For me, Galaxy, Xperia, Moto and Xaomi smartphones are equal, the difference comes only on performance basis). Anyways, it is arguably the best high-end Portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy in 2016. Let's dive headfirst on its review, by discussing design first.

Design

Honestly speaking, its design probably won't make it feel like a flagship device. Pretty compact, it comes in two color options -- black and white. Its rubber-made gasket can protect its back from your poolside water, which obviously have all of its ports.

Features:

Riva has some goodies for you here. The first thing you'll notice in it is its proximity sensor. Due to which, you just wave your hand in front of it - and all touch button will light up (can become a handy feature in the night). Its USB port lets you charge your Galaxy smartphone/iPad etc. Want to connect a turntable? Don't worry, Turbo X has a special phone mode for this.

In addition to these, here is also a speakerphone -- with an echo cancelation/noise management microphone. AptX is also included (not necessary to describe it again and again). To give its best shot, there is a combo of three full range proprietary drivers + four custom dual piston bass radiators.

Performance:

Most compact speakers mess things a bit when music is played at high volume -- Bass, Distortion etc. In my testing, I kept the volume at full-scale but it still retain its minimum distortion and well-balanced sound. There is Riva's free Ground Control app -- for both IOS and Android, sorry WP users -- through which you can activate Turbo mode - to increase the volume a little more. Through this app, you can check its remaining battery too.

Then, we have another mode called "surround" mode which promises of providing a large sound stage -- courtesy of Riva' ADX's own proprietary audio technology which prevents excessive compression of sound signals. But as the case with other small speakers like SoundLink Color, its compact design actually works against it. Since it has no real stereo separation, you can't get much out of that technology.

Its battery life is rated at 26 hours - more than a full day of usage. But it can reduce at an alarming rate if you continuously use Turbo mode. Well, its battery can reduce a little bit, even if you're not using it at all. But I'm pretty sure this issue will be solved with next firmware update.

Final Verdict:

Other than its battery life and a relatively 'high-end tag', I don't see a reason why you shouldn't go for it.

Our Rating​

1. UE Megaboom


Say hello to it. A beefier and bigger brother of an already impressive UE boom.

While the original Boom was a success in itself -- it checked all the boxes(durable battery life, water + stain resistance and suitability for outdoor environments) except a little fuller base. As David Carnoy from Cnet notes "The $200 UE Boom is a versatile and durable wireless Bluetooth speaker that plays loud and is great for on-the-go use." So the question arises that why Logitech decided to update Ultimate Ears' lineup which was a hit.

The answer is simple. Nothing lasts forever. Original Boom is more than three years old. Industry standards have been raised. And now products like Riva's Turbo X and Sony' SRS-x5 have started to grab more eyeballs. That's why UE wanted to go regain its share. And I must admit they have done quite a good work. Without done anything messy (for no reason) they just gave small touch-ups to the previous model and produced new Megaboom.

Design

UE named it Megaboom rightly. Because it's two times larger than the original. While te original one might have surprised you for its big sound/small size proportion, Megaboom has done full justice to its size, with respect to its sound. Its shape will remind you, your favorite cold drink can rather than any speaker. Design wise it looks more or less identical to boom. Its cylindrical shape (which also borrowed from the previous model) is slowly become UE's trademark design. Apart from its bottom side where we now have dedicated rubber doors to protect the micro USB and 3.5mm ports.

Features:

In terms of features, Megaboom has over-shadowed original boom is every single aspect. A bigger size, an updated app, and an improved Bluetooth range - see, everything has been updated.

Not water-resistant, But water proof.

If you think water-resistance of portable speakers is enough for you, think again. Because it is not water-resistant, it is water-proof. It has an IPX7 rating. Now need to worry if/when you have speakers at poolside. Even if you've dropped it, it can possibly survive for half an hour (seemingly enough to find and take it out).

Its updated app has some good features for you. It works for Android and IOS (No racism!). It can turn the speaker on/off (it's called Smart Bluetooth), set up two Megabooms for a stereo (though you might not be able to afford two of these) and use many equalizer presets. Bluetooth range of 100 ft. means not to worry while roaming across your house with cell-phone, while the speaker is at another end. Its built quality is pretty strong. I hope that it'll bear a drop or two.

Performance:

And now is the real test. No matter how great features a speaker (or any other gadget) has, if it can't live up to its performance. Its not worth your money.

Megaboom delivers quite balanced and solid sound, much like its predecessor. While it may feel stuck on some rare tracks -- those tracks are few and far between. It gives you more bass than original one, louder sound with clarity and even less distortion (if it so). There are many portable speakers who give a less-than-ideal performance in outdoors.

But Megaboom is just seemed to be powerful in outdoor situations. Another pro-outdoor feature is its 360-degree design which spreads sound in all directions -- making it even more suitable in parties/beaches. Its battery life is 20 hours which will, of course, depend on how you use it. It charges at a much faster rate through its AC adapter. Though you can use any other charger.

Final Verdict:

Well, it's probably not for purists. They can go for something else like B&W T7. But if outdoors are main spots for sound-play, you must buy it.

Our Rating​

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Muhammad Asfand Yar, or Asfand as his friends call, is Author cum Owner of List Enthusiast. Blogging is his old new-found love. He writes to boost his Knowledge - and yours too. He usually remains in front of computer screen - even when he isn't writing any Blog post - doing computer programming. C++ is his passion. Catch him on twitter @asfandyar12.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I have Bose Soundlink color and Bose mini bluetooth speaker and I definitely advise them. Great quality for the price for both.

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