Looking for a lightweight speaker to take your music on the go? Then you’ve arrived at the right article. We deep dive into the best portable Bluetooth speakers of 2018 covering everything from budget to premium.
The portable Bluetooth speaker market grows by the month with so many new products entering the market it’s hard to know which is right for you. If you’re still uncertain after reading this article, then check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ section at the end.
What is a Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Portable Bluetooth speakers are compact and lightweight, most of which be held in the palm of your hand and easily fit in a backpack or laptop bag. These are not necessarily party speakers but more for some easy listening background music. Having said that, we have a couple options pushing the boundaries of what a typical portable Bluetooth speaker should look and sound like.
What to Expect For My Money
For most of us, the number one consideration when it comes to any electronics product is cost. As competition among brands increases, portable speakers are getting cheaper with more features. Here is what you can expect from a portable Bluetooth speaker in your price range.
I’ve focused on audio quality and speakerphone quality which are essentially audio features and since this is an audio product, would be the reason you purchase a Bluetooth speaker. Another important factor is of course Bluetooth. Since portable speakers have upgraded to Bluetooth version 4, connectivity and range has improved significantly. Rule of thumb, if the manufacturer doesn’t specify the Bluetooth version or, if it’s earlier than version 4, don’t buy it.
The market is absolutely flooded with Bluetooth speakers under $30. While there are some good options in the price range, as featured in this article, it’s important to be aware of what to look out for. More features don’t mean a better Bluetooth speaker.
|Sound Quality:||Decent enough for background listening. Usually starts to distort when the volume gets above 80%. Most of the time speakers in this price range will lack bass, however, with the improvements in bass radiators, this is getting better.|
|Speakerphone:||Average sounding at best. Portable speakers in this price range will not have great microphones so your voice will sound muffled and may echo as the microphone borders on feeding back from the speaker.|
|Battery Life:||Typically between 8-15 hours on average.|
$30 – $100
If you’re planning to spend this amount of money, try purchase a name brand speaker like JBL, Bose or Sony. Often these will be the cheapest model these premium brands offer, like the Sony XB10 for example, but you’ll experience better sound quality and aftersales support if something goes wrong.
|Sound Quality:||Usually better sound quality than the under $30 speakers. The mids and highs will be clearer and you’ll have a better bass response, especially if you go with a premium brand.|
|Speakerphone:||Still not great although, in some cases better than the cheaper models. This is a difficult technology to get right and only the Sony XB10 achieves this in the under $100 price range, however, even with the Sony, your voice is not 100% clear to the other caller.|
|Battery Life:||Typically between 10-20 hours on average.|
If your budget is $100 or more, go with a premium brand like Sony, JBL, Bose, Altec Lansing or Marshall. Don’t be fooled by cheap brands with loads of features. You’ll often notice the premium brands will have fewer features and rather focus on parts which deliver better sound quality. If it’s a brand you’re unfamiliar but has loads of cool features, chances are it sounds poor. Check the reviews on Amazon to gauge the product better.
|Sound Quality:||Sound quality in this price range should be excellent. For speakers over $200, you shouldn’t be getting any distortion or break up at high volumes. The full frequency range will be present with a good balance.|
|Speakerphone:||Speakers in this price range, especially premium brands, have internal processing to handle the feedback and echo in your voice. In some cases, your voice might sound a little distant but not muffled.|
|Battery Life:||In the $100 to $200 price range you’re typically going to experience between 10 - 20 hours. $200 and above you can expect 20 hours plus.|
At a Glance
One of the most popular Bluetooth speakers on the market at the moment is the OontZ Angle 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker. On first impressions, you might find yourself wondering why? That’s until you fire up this bad boy. For its size, The OontZ Angle 3 is surprisingly loud! Not only is it loud but also produces a significant amount of bass for such a small speaker. For those who owned an OontZ Angle 2, the Angle 3 is said to be 30% louder according to OontZ.
The OontZ Angle 3 is a triangular wedge with the speakers angled and firing directly at head height delivering 10W of power. There are two speakers located behind the speaker grille coupled with a powerful downward firing bass radiator. The bass radiator is so powerful that if you turn the volume up full on a bass-heavy track, the little speaker will move around slightly. This is even with the Angle 3 none slip rubber feet.
The speaker is 5 inches long, stands 2.8” high and weighs just 9oz, making it easy to pick up with only two fingers. That’s lighter than most over-ear headphones.
The Bluetooth speaker can be played either on its side or standing upright. If you have the speaker on a table that’s lower than head-height, it would make sense to have it on its side firing up towards you. If you have the speaker higher up, you can turn the speaker upright so the sound is still directed towards your ears. The volume and controls can still be accessed without picking up the speaker in both positions. So, it would seem, some thought went into the design and functionality of the Angle 3.
The OontZ Angle 3 has two inputs, a standard ⅛-inch AUX and Bluetooth. On one side of the speaker, you also have the usual Bluetooth and volume controls. There is a Bluetooth pairing button with LED so you know when the Angle 3 is turned on and paired. Below that is your volume and play/pause control. Bluetooth connects quickly and seamlessly. After pairing the first time, the Angle 3 will auto-pair to the same device when powered up.
The Angle 3 also has a built-in microphone so the speaker can be used as a speakerphone for hands-free calling.
The sides of the Angle 3 are rubberized waterproofing and damage protection. The input ports for the AUX and micro-USB charger is protected by a waterproof rubber cover to prevent water and debris from getting into the connectors.
The OontZ Angle 3 carries an IPX5 waterproof rating so you can use this Bluetooth speaker near the pool or even in the shower. The IPX5 rating means your Angle 3 will survive getting splashed from any angle but won’t survive submersion.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the OontZ Angle 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- OontZ Angle 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Micro USB cable (6”)
- 5mm Audio Cable (32”)
Carry case sold separately.
OontZ Angle 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker Conclusion
The OontZ Angle 3 is a great portable Bluetooth speaker for any occasion. Because it’s so lightweight and splashproof, you can literally take the OontZ Angle 3 anywhere. At under $30, the OontZ Angle 3 is an affordable choice, especially for students looking for a dorm room speaker. Due to the Angle 3 size and weight, you can put the speaker in your carry on to take on flights. Perfect for travelers looking for something to take on the road. Be sure to purchase the OontZ Angle 3 Carry Case for safe transportation and storage.
At a Glance
The DOSS Touch is another popular portable Bluetooth speaker in 2018. The DOSS Touch has a more stylish and sophisticated aesthetic while still offering solid design features and good sound.
The Bluetooth speaker measures 6.6” wide and stands just 2.9” high weighing just shy of 20oz making it compact lightweight enough to go in a backpack or laptop bag.
The DOSS Touch features two full range speakers delivering 12W of power. There is no bass radiator but the DOSS Touch still manages to produce a good bass sound. The mids and highs are clear while the overall sound quality is good. Not quite as good as the JBL Flip or Sony XB10, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised for a Bluetooth speaker under $30.
The focal point of the DOSS Touch is its touch-sensitive control surface on the top of the Bluetooth speaker. Back-lit LEDs illuminate each element making it easy to see and adjust. In the center is a large blue LED circle. Running your finger in circular motions left and right adjusts the volume up and down. There is a play/pause doubling as call answer/reject, track skip forward/backward and a Mode button to switch between the inputs.
The DOSS Touch features three inputs, ⅛ inch AUX, micro SD and Bluetooth. Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy with voice prompts to inform you when pairing and paired. Once paired, the DOSS Touch will pair automatically to the same device when powered up. A paired Bluetooth device can be controlled via the touch controls as mentioned above. The DOSS Touch has a built-in microphone so it can be used as a speakerphone for making and receiving calls. The speaker has a ringing tone and also alerts you via a voice prompt of the incoming call.
This portable Bluetooth speaker has a built-in rechargeable battery which lasts up to 12 hours at 75% of continuous playing time. This is above average when compared to other compact portable Bluetooth speakers. From flat, the battery will fully recharge between 3-4 hours. The DOSS Touch comes with the micro USB for charging but does not include a socket adapter. So you’ll either need to charge on your laptop or purchase this separately. You can also use your phone adapter. Check the voltage and current specs before plugging in!
What’s in the Box?
Included with the DOSS Touch Bluetooth Portable Speaker:
- DOSS Touch
- Micro USB charging cable
- ⅛ inch AUX cable
Micro SD card and carry case sold separately.
DOSS Touch Bluetooth Portable Speaker Conclusion
The DOSS Touch is a great budget portable Bluetooth speaker. Good sound quality with no distortion, solid design features and appealing aesthetics. You also get premium features like a built-in speakerphone for taking calls. The DOSS Touch is not water or dust proof, so if you need a portable Bluetooth speaker for outdoors, then you might be better off choosing one of the IPX rated options in this article.
At a Glance
The Anker Soundcore 2 is the second edition of the hugely popular Anker Soundcore. In 2018, the Soundcore 2 has become as popular as it’s predecessor with improvements in both design and sound quality. The biggest improvement is the Soundcore 2 is the speaker is now IPX5 rated. Other improvements include improved bass response utilizing Anker BassUp technology as well as better clarity in the mids and highs and a slight bump in volume.
The Anker Soundcore 2 features two full-range drivers delivering a total of 12W of power. Pretty standard for compact portable Bluetooth speakers in 2018. As mentioned, there have been improvements in the Soundcore’s bass which is now more defined without being muddy or distorting. The mids and highs are clear with good intelligibility across all music genres.
Like the original Soundcore, the Soundcore 2 is completely rubberized around the sides and rear to protect against moisture and dust. Behind the front grille, around the speaker drivers, there is further dust and, moisture protection to give the Soundcore 2 an IPX5 rating.
The inputs are covered but a watertight rubber seal where you’ll find the ⅛ inch AUX input and micro USB charging port.
The Soundcore 2 allows for two input connections, Bluetooth and ⅛ inch AUX. Bluetooth pairing is excellent and once paired, will automatically connect to the same device when powered up. Bluetooth range is up to 66ft which is better than most compact portable Bluetooth speakers.
On top of the Bluetooth speaker, you’ll find an identical control panel to the original Soundcore with the power button, volume up/down, play/pause and Bluetooth pairing. Really simple layout with a trendy minimalist design.
The Soundcore 2 features a built-in battery with a 24-hour battery life. This is based on continuous play at about 60% volume which is double the lifespan of other compact portable Bluetooth speakers.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the Anker Soundcore 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- Anker Soundcore 2
- Micro USB charging cable (excludes adapter)
Anker Soundcore 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker Conclusion
The original Anker Soundcore is one of the best budget portable Bluetooth speakers to hit the market in the last 18 months or so. With the improvements made to the Soundcore 2, you’re getting an exceptional portable Bluetooth speaker for under $40. The Soundcore 2 is compact and lightweight making it easy to put in a backpack, laptop bag or even a large pocket on a pair of jeans. The Anker Soundcore 2 offers great sound with a simple, trendy design at an affordable price. Available in black, blue and red.
At a Glance
Another hugely popular compact portable Bluetooth speaker in the last 18 months has been the AOMAIS Sport II. The AOMAIS Sport II measures 7.6” wide by 2.9” high and weighs a little under 20oz which is heavier than most compact Bluetooth speakers but still small enough to be included in the compact range of portable speakers.
The Sport II has rugged design features with a rubberized exterior to protect against water, dust and the occasional bump or drop. The speaker has a good solid feel with a nice weight which seems like it’s built to last. The Sport II carries an IPX7 rating which means it can be submerged to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes. You also get a cool blue floatie with the speaker so it can float around the pool playing music. The Sport II straps on to the floatie so if it flips over, the speaker won’t sink.
The Sport II features dual full range speakers in the front with a bass radiator out the rear producing an impressive 20W. This is close to double other compact Bluetooth speakers on the market. Want even more power? AOMAIS allows you to pair two Sport II speakers to have 40W of stereo sound. That’s the same amount of power as the average TV soundbar! At under $30, you can easily purchase two AOMAIS Sport II and still come out cheaper than most premium brands like JBL, Sony or Altec Lansing.
In terms of sound quality, the AOMAIS Sport II is good for a speaker under $30. There is a decent amount of bass and if you place the speaker on it’s back facing up or with the rear against a wall, the bass is accentuated significantly due to the rear bass radiator. The mids and highs are good but not as clear as premium brands like JBL, Sony or Altec Lansing. Still, at under $30, it’s better than you would expect for sure.
The AOMAIS Sport II features a ⅛ inch AUX and Bluetooth inputs. The Bluetooth is quick and easy to pair and also has the option of NFC pairing for Android devices. Bluetooth range is a standard 33ft with solid connectivity. The Sport II includes a built-in microphone so you can make and receive calls while paired via Bluetooth. The speaker has voice prompts so you know when it’s powered on, pairing, paired etc.
The control panel on the Sport II is extensive but nicely laid out so as not to be cluttered. There is a power button/Bluetooth pairing, play/pause, track skip forward/backward, and volume up/down. There are LED indicators for power, battery life, and Bluetooth so with a quick glance you know what’s going on.
On the bottom of the speaker is a threaded insert for mounting the Sport II on a tripod, or anywhere you choose. This is great if you want to mount the Sport II on your bike using a bike mount.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the AOMAIS Sport II Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- AOMAIS Sport II
- Micro USB charging cable (excludes wall adapter)
- ⅛-Inch aux cable
- Blue inflatable floatie
AOMAIS Sport II Portable Bluetooth Speaker Conclusion
The AOMAIS Sport II takes things up a notch in the budget end of the compact portable Bluetooth speaker range. The Sport II features 20W of sound, built-in speakerphone, IPX7 waterproof rating and can be paired with a second Sport II for double the sound all for under $30. These are features usually found in Bluetooth speakers double or even triple the price. The AOMAIS Sport II offers great features, good sound at an affordable price.
Consider adding the AOMAIS Speaker Sling Cover which has a handle and extra rubberized protection so you can carry the speaker to parties outdoors.
At a Glance
The APIE is another popular portable Bluetooth speaker. The design resembles something you might find issued to you in the Army with its military green color, carabiner clip, and rugged exterior. To add to its outdoor survive features, the APIE is both waterproof and dustproof.
The APIE features two full range speakers in the front with a bass radiator in the rear producing 10W of power. The speaker produces a decent amount of bass with good clarity across the mids and highs. Sound quality is on par with the other portable Bluetooth speakers in the $30 price range.
The speaker is ultra-compact at 5.9” wide by 2.7” high and weighs only 12.4oz making it easy to carry around or for traveling. The carabiner clip can be attached to a backpack, bike or anywhere you want for hands-free transportation with your music on the go. The APIE features a 10-hour battery life which is more than enough for most outdoor adventures. Actual battery life will depend on the volume you operate the speaker at.
The APIE has a waterproof rating of IPX6 which means it can handle sprays from jets from all angles. So safe for the shower or beside the pool, but not in the pool. The AUX and charger inputs are located behind a watertight rubber seal to prevent water or dust from getting in. The entire speaker, except the speaker grille, is covered in rubber to protect against water as well as the odd bump, knock or drop.
With the APIE you have the option of cable connection through the ⅛ inch AUX or wireless with Bluetooth 4.1. Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy with solid connectivity. The Bluetooth range on the APIE is a standard 33ft.
The APIE has a small control panel on the top of the speaker with power on/off, play/pause, volume up/down and a Bluetooth pairing button which doubles as a call answer/reject. The APIE includes a built-in microphone for hands-free calling.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the APIE Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- APIE Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Micro USB charging cable (excludes socket adapter)
- ⅛ inch AUX cable
- Carabiner clip
APIE Portable Bluetooth Speaker Conclusion
If you’re looking for an affordable rugged portable Bluetooth speaker with military looking design features, then the APIE Portable Bluetooth Speaker is going to be your best option. At just over $26, the APIE is the cheapest portable Bluetooth speaker we feature in this article while still holding its own against the under $30 competition. The APIE includes premium features at an affordable price offering you the best value for your money.
At a Glance
The SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II is the second edition of the SoundLink from Bose. There have been significant improvements on both build and sound quality making the SoundLink II significantly better than the original.
The biggest adjustment is a significant improvement in build quality. The original was made of plastic and the grille would flex when some pressure was applied giving it a less than premium feel. Not something you’d expect from a premium brand like Bose. The SoundLink II has a solid outer casing with soft-touch silicone cover in a trendy matte finish giving the speaker a high-quality look and feel.
The SoundLink II is also now IPX4 waterproof rated making it splashproof. The original had no waterproof features.
Another upgrade in the SoundLink II is the addition of a built-in microphone. As well as making and receiving calls, you can also use the SoundLink II for voice commands to Siri or Google Now when paired via Bluetooth.
The SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II features two 1.5” full range drivers (Bose doesn’t specify wattage). Unlike many competing compact portable Bluetooth speakers, SoundLink II doesn’t have a bass radiator. The result is the speaker does lack some bottom end when compared to other models, however, the bass the SoundLink II delivers is more natural with good definition. The mids and highs are exceptionally clear with no distortion or change in audio quality when played at higher volumes.
The SoundLink II features Bluetooth 4.2 with a ⅛ inch AUX input. Pairing the SoundLink II is quick and easy with the ability to store 8 devices for the SoundLink II to switch between. There is also NFC for instant pairing on Android devices. Voice prompts help assist you through powering on and pairing so you know when these actions have been completed.
The SoundLink II control panel offers a lot of functionality and control via the multi-function button. Using this one button, you can play pause, skip tracks, make calls with voice command, answer/end/reject/mute/hold calls as well as switch between active calls. This is an advanced call feature you won’t find on budget models. The call quality on the Bose SoundLink II is also significantly better than cheaper brands.
Other controls on the panel included power on/off, volume +/-, Bluetooth pairing, and input switching.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II:
- Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II
- Micro USB charging cable
Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II Conclusion
The Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II lives up to the quality you would expect from a premium brand. The design, sound quality, and features are all significantly better than what you get with budget portable Bluetooth speaker.
While the Bose SoundLink II might lack bass when compared to the cheaper models, the bass is more refined and natural sounding rather than overly bass heavy. If you prefer listening to music without a bass boost, then you’ll appreciate the audio quality of the SoundLink II.
At a Glance
When it comes to portable Bluetooth speakers, the JBL Xtreme is considered one of the “big boys”. The speaker measures 11.1 inches long and stands 5” high weighing 74.5oz. Not one to fit in the laptop bag! While the Xtreme is bulkier than other portable Bluetooth speakers, JBL has included two carry hooks and a shoulder sling making the Xtreme easier to pick up and carry around.
The JBL Xtreme features two bass radiators paired with two full-range drivers to deliver an impressive 40W of sound. The Xtreme radiators produce a significant amount of bass without sounding muddy or overpowering. The mids and highs are exceptionally clear on the Xtreme with good separation and a clear soundstage. The balance between bass, mids, and highs is just right and better than you’ll hear on most portable Bluetooth speakers. The JBL Xtreme’s audio quality will appeal to all listeners including bass heads.
One of the best features of the JBL Xtreme is the JBL Connect button. This gives you the ability to pair more than one Bluetooth speaker to double your sound. Unlike other brands who require you pair the same model, JBL Connect allows you to pair with another Xtreme as well as Flip or Pulse models with the JBL Connect feature.
Other buttons on the JBL Xtreme include on/off, Bluetooth pairing, volume up/down and pause/play. The play/pause button is a multi-function button allowing you to receive/end/reject calls and skip between tracks.
Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy, however, the Xtreme does not have the NFC feature like many of its competitors.
The Xtreme includes a built-in microphone with echo and feedback limiters allowing you to make and receive calls. The call sound quality is good with the caller’s voice sounding clear, however, my voice sounded slightly muffled to the caller.
The JBL Xtreme features a 15-hour built-in battery. On the bottom of the speaker, behind a splashproof zipper, there are with two USB outputs for charging your other mobile devices. Keep in mind that charging other devices will reduce the amount of playing time you’ll end up getting from your Xtreme. From flat, the Xtreme will fully charge in 3.5 hours.
On the same input panel as the USB outputs, you have an AC power input, ⅛ inch AUX input and micro USB port for firmware updates.
The Xtreme is rated as splashproof, however, JBL doesn’t specify the exact waterproof rating so it’s difficult to describe the dos and don’ts. I would assume this is an IPX4 rating, but don’t put this to the test.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the JBL Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- JBL Xtreme
- AC power adapter
- Shoulder strap
JBL Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker Conclusion
While the JBL Xtreme is bulkier than other portable Bluetooth speakers, it does offer exceptional sound quality with a premium build and aesthetic. The Xtreme delivers a lot more bass than the cheaper models without sounding wooly or distorting. At 40W, the JBL Xtreme is the most powerful and loudest portable Bluetooth speaker we received for this article. If you pair a second Xtreme using the JBL Connect feature you’ll have a whopping 80W of power. That’s more than enough to get a party going!
At a Glance
The XB10 is part of Sony’s hugely popular Extra Bass range which includes portable Bluetooth speakers and headphones. There are several Bluetooth speakers in this range with the XB10 being the most compact and lightweight. The speaker stands just 3.5” high and weighs 9.1oz. To put this in perspective, the Sony XB-950 headphones weigh 9.9oz. So the XB10 is lighter than a pair of over-ear headphones!
Sony doesn’t specify the power output on the XB10 but I can confirm this speaker packs a serious punch for the compact size. When standing upright, the XB10 features a speaker on top with a bass radiator on the bottom. True to the speaker’s name, the XB10 produces some serious bass for a speaker this size. At 100% power, the bass does start to distort, 80% seems to be the sweet spot.
The speaker comes with a nifty miniature strap with a ring which can be used to hang from a backpack. The ring doubles as a stand for the XB10 so you can lie it on its side to face the speaker directly at you. This is very directional so you only want to use this when you want sound directed to a specific area. Standing the speaker upright delivers maximum bass with 360 degrees of audio distribution. Better suited to play when you have 2 or more people. The mids are slightly muddied by the bass boost, which I’ve found to be “normal” for extra bass audio products. The highs, however, are crisp and clear. Overall sound quality is great with a good balance between the bass, mids, and highs.
The XB10 allows for ⅛ inch AUX and Bluetooth inputs. The speaker features Bluetooth 4.2 with NFC for quick pairing and excellent connectivity. A built-in microphone enables the XB10 to be used as a speakerphone. Call quality is good even though your voice sounds slightly distant to the person on the other line. You can also press and hold the play/pause button to use Siri or Google Now voice commands.
There is also the standard volume up/down and an ADD button. The ADD button allows you to connect to second Sony XB10 which you can then choose between running the speakers in mono or stereo.
The Sony XB10 is covered in a premium silicone available in six trendy colors with an IPX5 waterproof rating protecting the speaker from sprays of water from all angles. This will not protect against any form of submersion so don’t try!
What’s in the Box?
Included with the Sony XB10 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- Sony XB10
- Micro USB charging cable (excludes socket adapter)
- Ring strap
Sony XB10 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker Conclusion
At under $60, the Sony XB10 is an absolute steal offering great sound with premium features. The speaker is so light and compact you can pack it in a backpack or laptop bag without feeling the extra weight. Great for travelers and those on the go.
At a Glance
Altec Lansing is well known for producing high-quality professional and consumer audio products. They are an American brand started back in the 1920’s and are most famous for their participation in the original 1969 Woodstock Festival where Altec Lansing speakers were used for the PA. Skip forward to 2018 and they’re still rocking with arguably the best portable Bluetooth speaker on the market, the Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4 (ALP-XP400).
The XPEDITION 4 is an absolute beast, which is fitting since the speaker has a BEAST Mode, which we’ll get to in a bit. The speaker carries an IP67 which means the XPEDITION 4 can be submerged to a depth of 1m for 30 minutes. The XPEDITION 4 is built to float face up so you can still play music while the speaker floats around the pool. You do lose a lot of bass with the speaker floating around the pool so it’s best to have the speaker out of the water.
The XPEDITION 4 features dual 4” woofers, a 1” tweeter and dual bass radiators delivering a staggering 200W of power. That’s 10 – 20 times the power of most of the portable Bluetooth speakers we feature in this article. The bass the XPEDITION 4 delivers is mind-blowing for a speaker of this size. You can actually see the 4” woofers flex back and forward with the bass line and kick drum which is awesome to watch for hip-hop, dubstep and bass especially. The mids and highs are really clean and crisp with good clarity at both low and high volumes.
As mentioned, the XPEDITION 4 features what Altec Lansing call BEAST Mode. There is a small button on the front of the speaker which switches in and out of BEAST. When activated, the XPEDITION 4 comes alive with a serious bass boost. The bass boost on the XPEDITION 4 is much cleaner than any other portable Bluetooth speaker which tend to go a little loose and wooly. The XPEDITION 4’s bass retains a good amount of definition without muddying the mids or highs. The overall sound is amplified and more exciting in BEAST Mode. Not that running the XPEDITION 4 in this mode will eat into your battery life.
The XPEDITION 4 features a 24-hour battery which, again, is more than the majority of portable Bluetooth speakers on the market. The speaker also comes with a USB charging port to top up mobile devices.
The XPEDITION 4 offers the choice of Bluetooth or ⅛ inch AUX inputs. Bluetooth is really quick and easy to pair with solid 33ft range and connectivity. There is also NFC for Android devices.
Aside from producing some incredible sound for the party, the XPEDITION 4 also features two separate light modes. There are color changing LEDs around the speakers as well as strobe lights to the left and right of the speaker grille. Each light can be independently controlled by switching between a fast or slow light pattern. In addition, LEDs light up the buttons and around the volume knob. At night, the XPEDITION 4 looks and sounds like a party starter.
One thing to note is that the XPEDITION 4 is not as portable as most of the other Bluetooth speakers in this article. The speaker won’t fit in a laptop bag or handbag but may fit in some larger backpacks. The XPEDITION 4 comes with a shoulder strap and the speaker has a handle so it’s really easy to pick up and carry around. The speaker weighs a little over 10lbs making it lightweight to carry.
Want even more power? If you have a second XPEDITION 4 you can link them for a stereo pair of speakers with a total of 400W of power!
What’s in the Box?
Included with the Altec Lansing ALP-XP400 XPEDITION 4:
- ALP-XP400 XPEDITION 4
- Shoulder strap
- ⅛ inch AUX cable
- AC power adapter
Altec Lansing ALP-XP400 XPEDITION 4 Conclusion
As you may have picked up from this review, I’m really excited about the Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4. The XPEDITION 4’s audio quality and features put the speaker way ahead of the competition. While the XPEDITION 4 isn’t as compact as most portable Bluetooth speakers, the shoulder strap and handle to make it really easy to carry or move around.
The only thing the XPEDITION 4 is missing is a built-in microphone for taking calls. But then this speaker is made more for pleasure rather than business. At around $250, the XPEDITION 4 is significantly more expensive than most portable Bluetooth speakers. But, is it worth the price tag. Definitely!
At a Glance
Marshall is the leading manufacturer of guitar amps. You’ll often see these on stage behind the guitarist at live music events. Marshall brings a wealth of audio industry knowledge so making a Bluetooth speaker is child’s play compared to manufacturing high-end guitar amps. And Marshall has certainly proved that with the Marshall Kilburn Portable Bluetooth Speaker.
The Kilburn portable Bluetooth speaker is modeled off a Marshall guitar amp with similar leather coating and speaker grille. The control knobs and even on/off switch look and operate in much the same way as a Marshall amp too. Even the coiled ⅛ inch AUX cable is made of premium materials with gold plated connectors for superior connectivity. This design and aesthetic will be especially appealing to those with vintage taste.
The Kilburn features a single 4” full-range driver with two ¾ inch tweeters delivering 25W of power. As to be expected from Marshall, the sound quality on the Kilburn is exceptional. The speaker delivers a deep, smooth bass sound that is far superior to any other portable Bluetooth speaker. The mids are clear and present while the two ¾ inch tweeters deliver excellent intelligibility in the highs. For a portable Bluetooth speaker, you can’t fault the sound of the Kilburn.
At 9.5” wide and standing 5.5” high weighing 6.6lbs, the Kilburn is slightly larger than most portable Bluetooth speakers however, Marshall do supply a detachable leather strap making the Kilburn easy to pick up and move around. The strap is also modeled on a professional guitar strap made of leather with velvet inner lining. The detail and quality on the Kilburn are simply on another level compared to other portable Bluetooth speakers.
The control panel on the Kilburn is tailored to sound adjustment rather than Bluetooth controls like other Bluetooth speakers. There are three large gold and black rotary knobs for volume, bass, and treble. Beside that are two buttons for switch the source or pairing a Bluetooth device. The on/off is a lever switch similar to that on a Marshall guitar amp. On the opposite end is the ⅛ inch AUX cable that, when plugged in, looks like a cable coming off a real Marshall amp into a guitar.
The built-in battery on the Kilburn lasts up to 20 hours playing at 50% volume. If you’re sitting around with a couple of friends chatting, 50% volume is more than sufficient for some background music.
The Kilburn is available in a standard black and gold or the more sexy looking cream and gold. While the cream and gold look incredible, you need to consider this may pick up dirt easily. The cream is also $70 more expensive!
What’s in the Box?
Included with the Marshall Kilburn Portable Bluetooth Speaker:
- Marshall Kilburn
- Coiled ⅛ inch AUX cable
- Power cable
- Carry strap
Marshall Kilburn Portable Bluetooth Speaker Conclusion
The Marshall Kilburn is the closest you’re going to get to audiophile quality in a portable Bluetooth speaker. The speaker is suited to all genres of music with instrumental music like rock, jazz, blues and the like being the most exciting to listen to. The detail in the mids and highs with rich, warm bass delivers good separate and clear soundstage. This is of course when compared to other portable Bluetooth speakers.
The Kilburn is on the large side of portable speakers so if you want something for traveling, you might want to consider one of the more lightweight options we feature in this article. The Kilburn also doesn’t have all the features like Bluetooth controls, hands-free calling, and waterproofing. Marshall has instead focused on building the best sounding portable Bluetooth speaker which I believe they have achieved, and then some.
Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers of 2018 Buyer’s Guide
We hope you found the above reviews on the best portable Bluetooth speakers of 2018 useful. If you need to drill down further, follow the recommendations of this buyer’s guide to help you make the best decision based on your requirements.
Cheapest Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If your choice is based on price, then the OontZ Angle 3 is the cheapest option we reviewed. The OontZ Angle 3 is also ultra-compact and lightweight weighing only 9oz. Even though it’s cheap, the OontZ Angle 3 comes with premium features like speakerphone, bass radiator, and an IPX5 waterproof rating. For its size, the Angle 3 makes some serious noise. Cheap in price but by no means in quality.
Here is the full list ranked in order of price from cheapest to most expensive:
|Under $30||OontZ Angle 3|
|AOMAIS Sport II|
|$30 - $100||Anker Soundcore 2|
|$100 - $200||Bose SoundLink Color II|
|$200 - $300||Marshall Kilburn|
|Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4|
Best Sounding Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re after the best audio quality, then the Marshall Kilburn is way ahead of the competition. The best description of the Kilburn is it sounds like butter. Smooth sounding with rich bass and exceptional clarity in the mids and highs.
Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If you want to get a party going, there’s only one portable speaker for it. The Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4 delivers 200W of power output with some serious bass as well as flashing lights to get a party started. If you pair a second XPEDITION 4, you’ll have 400W of sound. No speaker portable Bluetooth speaker can match the power and sound of the XPEDITION 4.
The Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4 is also our best waterproof and best bass portable Bluetooth speaker of 2018.
Most Compact Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Sometimes size does matter. If you want the most compact portable speaker, it’s a close call between the OontZ Angle 3 and Sony XB10 with almost identical size and weight. While the Angle 3 delivers good sound, the Sony XB10 does a significantly better job. Both speakers have an IPX5 waterproof rating with a built-in speakerphone and bass radiator. The XB10 is, however, $100 more than the Angle 3.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions on portable Bluetooth speakers.
How Waterproof is My Portable Bluetooth Speaker?
There are so many waterproof Bluetooth speakers on the market. I often read reviews and comments from people who have purchased a waterproof speaker complaining that the product bombed out after a few months because of water damage. Even though a speaker is rated IPX7 or IPX8, try to keep the water time to a minimum. Even with the best waterproof features, a speaker can get damaged from extended time in the water. Splashes are one thing, but continuously submerging a speaker is not good.
The weakest point in any waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker is the input panel where the ⅛ inch AUX and power inputs live. Always make sure the cover is sealed to its watertight fit properly before taking the speaker near water.
Quick Guide to Waterproof Ratings
Without going into the topic of waterproofing too much, here is a list of waterproof ratings relevant to portable Bluetooth speakers featured in this article. This is a good resource for an in-depth look at waterproof ratings.
- IPX4 – splash proof
- IPX5 – resistant to water sprays from all angles
- IPX6 – resistant to jets of water from all angles
- IPX7 – waterproof up to 1m of water for 30m
- IPX8 – waterproof to a depth past 1m and time as specified by the manufacturer
What is a Bass Radiator?
A bass or passive radiator is connected to an active speaker to accentuate certain characteristics of that speaker. In the case of a portable Bluetooth speaker, the passive radiator is used to enhance the bass properties of the speaker. The passive radiator is essentially a bass port with a radiator which resonates or “excites” the bass frequencies inside the speaker enclosure produced by the active speaker driver.
If you cup a sheet of paper between your palms and blow through your hands, this is similar to what’s happening to a bass radiator. Pressure from the airflow makes the radiator work to amplify the bass frequencies. So, the radiator is not connected to any electronics or amplifier, its movement is the result of airflow leaving the speaker enclosure.
Why Doesn’t My Speaker Battery Last as Long As Specified?
Manufacturer specifications on battery life can be vague. Most manufacturers base their battery life on running the Bluetooth speaker at 50% volume without using lights, bass boost, charging devices or any other power-hungry features. As soon as you go above 75% volume you start to drain the battery life much quicker. At 100%, with any additional features engaged, your battery life with last 30-50% less than specified, especially on cheaper products.
Why Does My Portable Speaker Distort?
A common misconception is that because a speaker can go to 100%, you should be able to operate at 100% without experiencing distortion or poor audio quality. Even professional audio equipment is void of this issue. For some music, you can go up to 100% and still experience good sound quality. For bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and dance, you generally have an accentuated bass. This means going to 100% will overload the bass driver resulting in distortion. For these genres, 75-80% is generally the sweet spot on a small speaker.
Another issue is having separate volume control between your Bluetooth device and the speaker itself. In this case, turning the volume full on your phone and then full on the speaker will always result in distortion. If you do have separate volume control, set the Bluetooth device to 75% and then only use the speaker to adjust the volume from there.
Generally speaking, any portable Bluetooth speaker under $50 is probably going to distort at high volumes.
Do I Need These Features?
Often buyers are swayed by the number of features a portable Bluetooth speaker includes. What you have to keep in mind is that the more features you have, the cheaper the parts. This is especially true for budget Bluetooth speakers. If you look at the premium speakers like the Marshall Kilburn or Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4, neither has a built-in microphone with speakerphone capability. Both these products focus on build and sound quality.
Does Frequency Response Matter?
When it comes to something as small as a portable Bluetooth speaker, the answer is no, frequency response does not matter and should be ignored. Brands are simply adding this to the description to impress you with fancy professional terms. Yes, a Bluetooth speaker may be able to produce a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, but from 20Hz – 100Hz, most Bluetooth speakers are only capable of producing 12-15dBs lower than the rest of the frequency range. So in simple terms, you won’t hear that sub-bass frequency range even if the speaker is producing it.
Does Speaker Wattage Matter?
Speaker wattage is important but there are other factors involved which affect the power a speaker produces. The biggest factor is how efficient the built-in amplifier of the portable Bluetooth speaker actually is. You’ll often find that a premium 10W portable speaker will outperform a cheap 20W speaker. This is because the premium speaker has a more superior amplifier and processing to amplify the sound better than the cheaper speaker. The result is your premium, less powerful speaker will fill the room better with a cleaner sound at higher volumes.