The 10 Best Tailgate Speakers of 2018

The 8 Best Tailgate Speakers

I don’t know about you, but for me, the tailgate parties before a game are often where I have most of my fun. I’m actually a little sad when we have to go in and watch the game! Tailgate parties are the best – the food, booze, people, and of course… the music. Every decent tailgate needs some music. In this article, we look at the best tailgate speakers so you can make the most noise at the next tailgate party!

Our Pick!

ION Audio Pickup

The Pickup brings everything we loved about the Block Rocker Plus, but with weatherproofing features. The Pickup offers loads of volume, excellent battery life, and is packed with features.

Quick Pick – Our Awards!

Overall Top Pick

The ION Audio Pickup is the new, weatherproofed iteration of the classic Block Rocker Plus, a staple speaker in the tailgating space. The speaker features an intuitive design despite a large number of features and strikes a balance in bringing everything we like to see in a tailgating speaker into one package.

Most Volume

The Soundboks Gen 3 is the winner when it comes to volume. Not only does this beloved Bluetooth speaker bring with it loads of versatility, but it is also extremely well-suited for tailgating purposes. The larger size needed to house the monster-sized drivers in this speaker reduces portability, but you’re guaranteed to turn heads at the next tailgate meet-up with this beast.

Best Durability & Weatherproofing

The Turtlebox Gen 2 is built with the outdoors in mind; it’s an extremely rugged speaker that brings similar levels of volume to the Sounboks. The Turtlebox can easily be tossed into the back of your pick-up or even onto the back seat of a car without any problems and can handle far more than just a few bumps. An IP67 waterproof rating also ensures that rain or spills will never be an issue.

Longest Battery Life

The Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 lives up to its name with its massive 100-hour battery life rating. While the actual battery life is lower in typical tailgating environments where pushing the volume isn’t uncommon, it still provides some incredible battery life.

Easiest Portability

While it doesn’t feature any wheels to help move it, the Turtlebox Gen 2 is light enough to carry with ease, weighing in at around 10 lbs, and includes a carry handle that makes the process even easier.

Budget Choice

The QFX PBX 61081 is a tailgate speaker that also comes in at under $100. Given how affordable this speaker is, you will have to make some sacrifices when compared to the other speakers on this list, but if you’re limited in the budget – this speaker can still hold its own for small gatherings.

The 8 Best Tailgating Speakers

This list was carefully selected to present what we believe are some of the best tailgate speakers on the market. While some are built specifically for tailgating, others are selected because their qualities align with what we look for in a good tailgate speaker.

1. ION Audio Block Rocker Plus

Ion Audio Pickup Tailtgating Speaker

ION Audio has spent years focusing on the production of tailgate speakers and has released a few similar varieties, including the Block Rocker Plus, Game Day, and the ION Audio Pickup. The Pickup is essentially the Block Rocker Plus but with added weather protection. We historically listed the Block Rocker Plus as our top pick, but with the addition of the Pickup, you get everything that makes the Block Rocker Plus such a good speaker, but with the added protection from water.

Features

This range of ION Audio speakers is packed with some impressive features, especially for such a niche speaker type. Firstly, the IPX4 rating that the Pickup provides means that you’ll be protected from light rain and splashes. This isn’t the most rugged weatherproofing we’ve seen in Bluetooth speakers, but it does exactly what it needs to in a tailgating environment.

We also like that this speaker offers an AM/FM radio function, so even if your phone dies, you can still keep the beats going. While a microphone input isn’t always essential in a tailgate speaker, we do find that it’s extremely useful and something we give a fair bit of weight to, the Pickup not only features a microphone input but also includes a microphone.

With a large 8″ woofer and 3″ tweeter, this speaker also provides substantial sound with good bass. In fact, you’ll get 100W of power output and up to 75 hours of battery life thanks to a 12V 5aH lead acid battery, which is really impressive. We find that we tend to crank the volume a bit higher at tailgating events, so expect closer to 40 or 50 hours of realistic use. Nevertheless, this is still a robust battery performance.

You will also get some lighting effects with this speaker, which, while not essential, is nice to have. Finally, the speaker also includes a built-in handle and wheels for easy transport.

Inputs

The ION Audio Pickup offers several connectivity methods, including standard Bluetooth connectivity, microphone input, and 1/8-inch auxiliary input. The microphone input can be used at the same time as the Bluetooth connectivity without having to interrupt it – meaning you can easily speak with/over the music playing on the speaker, meaning it can also be used for karaoke.

What’s in the Box?

ION Pickup Tailgate Speaker
Microphone with Cable
Power Cable 
1/8-inch Auxiliary Cable
QuickStart Guide

ION Audio Pickup Speaker Conclusion 

Seeing ION Audio provide this new iteration of what is essentially the Block Rocker Plus was exciting for us. We had always felt that it was one feature missing from the speaker. The Pickup is a great all-around tailgate speaker that can sustain lengthy listening sessions and even attend multiple events before needing a recharge. While the sound quality falls behind the Soundboks Gen 3 and the Turtlebox, for instance, it does bring a more balanced tailgating speaker at a fraction of the price.

Why The ION Audio Pickup?

ION Audio Pickup has the benefit of being specifically designed as a tailgating speaker. It offers a lot of volume, impressive battery life as well as weatherproofing that we had hoped to see in earlier years on the Block Rocker Plus. While it is a bit on the heavy side, it’s easy to move around thanks to the built-in handle and wheels.

Pros

  • 8″ Woofer brings big volume
  • Huge battery capacity
  • IPX4 Weatherproofing
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • Fairly heavy
  • Sound quality falls behind more expensive alternatives

2. The SOUNDBOKS 3

The New SOUNDBOKS Loudest Portable Speaker

Introducing the absolute beast that is the SOUNDBOKS 3! At 126dB, The SOUNDBOKS 3 is the loudest battery-powered speaker on the market. The sound is impressive, and SOUNDBOKS has certainly improved on the SOUNDBOKS 2. Not only is the SOUNDBOKS 3 loud, but it also looks badass. Put it this way, The SOUNDBOKS gen 3 would not look out of place on the back of a humvee going into battle!

Features

The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the SOUNDBOKS gen 3 is the beautiful, black powder-coated grille. The second thing you’ll notice is behind that grille are two 10” woofers custom-made for the SOUNDBOKS. These large drivers are what make the Soundboks Gen 3 the loudest portable Bluetooth speaker on the market. There is a single 1” tweeter for the highs. The original SOUNDBOKS 1 featured two tweeters and was slightly harsh on the high-end. So this reduction means the SOUNDBOKS 3 delivers a much smoother sound, even at full volume.

Inputs

Inputs for the SOUNDBOKS include ⅛ inch AUX, Bluetooth 5.0, and an XLR combo socket. The control panel is simple, with a selector for Indoor and Outdoor mode and volume control (which goes to 11!). While the 11 is a bit of a gimmick, it works with the badass rebel nature of the SOUNDBOKS.

The different modes for Indoor and Outdoor are simply going to change the speaker’s imaging slightly to offer more bass outdoors.

The SOUNDBOKS produces an impressive frequency response of 40Hz – 20kHz, just about the full range. This enables the SOUNDBOKS to deliver superior clarity and solid, chunky bass.

Design

Another feature that makes the SOUNDBOKS 3 unique from other battery-powered speakers is its ability to operate in extreme temperatures. The SOUNDBOKS is rated to operate between -4F to 122F. No weather will ever stop you from making a noise with the SOUNDBOKS! There are also splash-resistant features for the odd beer spill.

The frame is robust and will survive most bumps and knocks. The aluminum grille is a lot stronger than any tailgater speaker we have seen. SOUNDBOKS also changed the previous Birch plywood to reduce weight for the lighter-weight Poplar plywood.

Battery

The SOUNDBOKS 3 also features an impressive 40-hour battery. SOUNDBOKS provides an additional battery pack so you can double your battery life and always stay powered. Like the previous SOUNDBOKS model, the New SOUNDBOKS allows you to remove the battery pack for charging or to swap for another battery pack. This is great if you’re going camping in a remote location for the weekend. The battery is fully charged in 3.5 hours – another big plus. A five-stage battery meter also allows you to see the remaining battery life.

What’s in the box?

The SOUNDBOKS 3
Power Lead
BATTERYBOKS (Additional Battery Pack)

The SOUNDBOKS 3 Conclusion

The Soundboks 3 has tons of muscle behind it, pushing unbelievably high volumes, but it’s also not the easiest speaker to move around. There are going to be trade-offs when buying a tailgate speaker, but if you’re looking for loudness as your primary focal point, consider the SOUNDBOKS. You can also purchase a SOUNDBOKS Backpack, making it easier to carry for one person. If you are after a tailgate speaker that’s both loud and tough, the SOUNDBOKS will exceed your expectations!

Why The Soundboks Gen 3?

If you’re serious about having the loudest speaker at the event, the Soundboks Gen 3 will flex with its 126dB output. In fact, unless your fellow party-goers have an AC outlet, you’re guaranteed to have the loudest speaker there. While the Soundboks is a bit heavy and not that easy to move around, the balance of volume and excellent sound quality make it a great choice for those focused on a loud tailgate speaker.

Pros

  • Extremely loud
  • Great sound quality
  • Loads of bass
  • Basic weatherproofing

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not very portable
  • No lighting effects

3. Monster Rockin’ Roller 270

Monster Rockin' Roller 270

The Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 is another of our favorite tailgate and party speakers. It’s a fairly large speaker, but the integrated telescopic handle and built-in wheels make it easy enough to transport, and the fact that it’s absolutely packed full of amazing features makes the hassle worthwhile. 

Features 

The Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 is a monstrous 200-Watt speaker that’s made to be played loud. Sending full-bodied sound in a 270-degree manner, the Monster can also pair with another of its kind using the companion app, which can also be used for a variety of other features. The Monster Rockin’ Roller is one of our favorites for holding the most powerful battery we’re aware of on the Bluetooth audio market- which can run for up to 100 hours while charging a USB device via cabled or QI wireless charging. The Monster is also IPX4 splash-proof and fairly well-built, allowing for outdoor use. 

Inputs

The Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 supports a wide range of connectivity options ranging from Bluetooth pairings, 1/8-inch auxiliary input, microphone/guitar input (with built-in effects and gain staging), or radio signals, where several presets can be saved. There’s also a line out if you want to pair it with another speaker that isn’t TWS-supported. 

What’s in the Box?

Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 Tailgate Speaker
8’ AC Power Cable
6’ 1/8-inch Auxiliary Cable 
User Manual

Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 Conclusion

The Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 is an incredibly versatile, interactive, and tailgate-friendly Bluetooth speaker. It’s one of the loudest speakers on the market, and its connectivity options are absolutely stunning while holding the monstrous 100-hour battery and smart wireless charging. It isn’t the most attractive speaker, but if you’re searching for a reliable, functional, and fun speaker for your next tailgate, look no further. 

Why The Monster Rockin’ Roller 270?

On paper, the Monster Rockin’ Roller 270 is quite similar to the ION Pickup, but lacks some of the flashy lighting features and offers a different design aesthetic. While we can recommend both products for similar reasons, your choice may come down to personal design preference.

Pros

  • Loud and bassy
  • Impressive battery life
  • IPX4 weatherproofing
  • QI wireless charging

Cons

  • No lighting effects
  • Quite heavy

4. Aiwa Exos-9 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The Aiwa Exos-9 may look unassuming, but with a 200W power output, it certainly packs a punch. With a 1-year warranty and 60-day money-back guarantee, there is no reason why you wouldn’t want to give the Aiwa Exos-9 a try.

Features

The Aiwa Exos-9 features a total of 5 speaker drivers. 2 x 1” tweeters, 2 x 3” mid-range drivers, and 1 x 6,5” subwoofer delivering a total of 200W of power and 100+ dBs. This speaker configuration gives the Exos-9 stereo imaging, something you don’t often find in portable Bluetooth speakers. The frequency response of 40Hz – 20kHz is also impressive.

A truly unique feature is the ability to pair two Aiwa Exos-9 speakers together to create a left/right PA system. Something you won’t find on many tailgate speakers. With two Exos-9’s paired, you can choose between dual stereo or stereo-separated. Dual stereo means each Exos-9 will retain its own internal left/right processing. This is useful if you have two speakers facing opposite directions. You’ll still want the stereo image from the single speaker. If the speakers are in a left/right configuration, you can put them in stereo-separated, and then one Exos-9 will act as the left and the other right. Imagine a 400W stereo sound system on the back of your pick-up. You’ll certainly attract some attention.

Pairing

The Aiwa Exos-9 is a Bluetooth speaker, and pairing is as easy as turning the unit on. The Exos-9 will show up on your Bluetooth device within seconds, and pairing is completed in less than 5 seconds, simple. Once paired, the volume control on the Exos-9 controls the volume on your device and vice versa. This makes the Exos-9 almost an extension of your Bluetooth device, which is pretty neat. NFC devices can tap the NFC sensor on top of the Exos-9 for even quicker Bluetooth pairing.

By holding down the right arrow and the LINK button, you can lock the Exos-9 to the current Bluetooth device. If you’ve ever had Bluetooth pairing wars, you’ll know this is a fantastic feature to ward off Bluetooth speaker pairing thieves.

There is also a ⅛ inch AUX input on the rear for non-Bluetooth connections.

Battery

The 18-hour battery pack is removable, so you can swap it out for a fully charged battery. Additional battery packs can be purchased separately from Awia. The Exos-9 also incorporates a power saving mode which shuts down the subwoofer and saves battery life. Even without the subwoofer, the Exos-9 sounds impressive.

On the rear of the Exos-9 is a USB output for charging phones, tablets, and other devices.

Additional Features

The Exos-9 incorporates a 5-band graphic equalizer controlled via the touch panel on top of the speaker. There are four pre-programmed presets, and you also have the option of creating your own by adjusting each of the five bands.

What’s in the box?

Exos-9 Speaker
Power Lead
Battery Pack

Aiwa Exos-9 Conclusion

The Aiwa Exos-9 will make an excellent tailgate speaker, and I’m sure you’ll find many other uses for the speaker too. It’s lightweight at only 13 lbs and can easily be picked up using the single handle at the back of the unit. Having the ability to swap out the battery pack is great for times when you don’t have access to power for extended periods.

The Aiwa Exos-9 is a classy choice as a tailgate speaker, and if you purchase two and link them, you’ll possibly become the tailgate rock star.

Why The Aiwa Exos-9?

The Aiwa Exos-9 is not designed to be a tailgate speaker, but it offers most of the features we look for in a tailgate speaker sans the large battery life. Though this speaker features a removable battery pack so that you can extend the battery life. This speaker performs very well with the bass and is well renowned for its low-end response. This one is for the bass heads who aren’t looking to spend the same amount as the Soundboks 3. Also, keep in mind that this speaker does not feature a microphone input.

Pros

  • Deep bass response
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Loudness

Cons

  • No microphone inputs
  • No waterproofing

5. Turtlebox Gen 2

turtlebox 2 with orange handle

The Turtlebox Gen 2 is known to be the most durable Bluetooth speaker on the market while also being one of the loudest. The Turtlebox is well-suited to a tailgate in any condition and is fairly portable compared to some others on this list. It’s not the most versatile when it comes to connectivity options, but as a speaker that simply plays your music well and loud, it does a fantastic job. 

Design & Build

The Turtlebox Gen 2 is an IP67-rated everything-proof Bluetooth speaker that’s small enough to be carried in one hand. The hard enclosure is also incredibly well-made and could survive being thrown in any truck or vehicle in any weather conditions. The battery is also rather impressive, running for around 25 hours while being capable of charging a USB-powered device.  

The Turtlebox Gen 2 is made from mostly titanium, with stainless steel hardware to resist corrosion, while the buttons are coated in a high-grade rubber to allow for environmental protection while remaining easy to control. The Turtlebox Gen 2 is primarily a Bluetooth speaker, running on the 5.0 codec, and supports two pairings at a time, but it also supports a 1/8-inch auxiliary input. 

Sound Quality

Pushing 120dB of pressure from a 6-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter, the Turtlebox is among the top 5 loudest Bluetooth speakers on the market, despite its small size compared to the rest. The Turtlebox Gen 2 is also one of the best-sounding models we’ve ever heard, delivering thundering low-end while remaining tight and clear, along with crisp highs that never become harsh or distorted, even at the maximum output level.  

What’s in the Box?

Turtlebox Gen 2 Bluetooth speaker
AC power cable
1/8-inch Auxiliary cable 
User manual

Turtlebox Gen 2 Conclusion 

The Turtlebox Gen 2 is one of our favorite portable Bluetooth speakers to use for any occasion, though it performs exceptionally well as a tailgate speaker due to its ruggedness, powerful battery, and incredible volume capabilities. It’s not very fancy, compared to some of the other options on this list, since it excludes alternative connectivity options, onboard lights, and LED screens and exchanges it for a powerful battery, extraordinary loud sound, and incredible durability.  

Why The Turtlebox Gen 2?

When it comes to dynamite and small packages, the Turtlebox Gen 2 illustrates this best. Despite this speaker being lightweight and easily portable, it is able to boast over 120dB of volume. In addition, this is one of the most rugged Bluetooth speakers on the market. If you’re into an outdoors lifestyle, this speaker would also double as a brilliant camping/outdoors speaker. Sounds quality is impressive, to say the least, and an IP67 waterproof rating means it is also extra protected from the elements, including rain and dust.

Pros

  • Extremely durable
  • Massive sound
  • Rich bass
  • IP67 weatherproofing
  • Easily portable

Cons

  • A bit on the pricy side
  • No lighting effects

6. JBL PartyBox Encore Essential

JBL Partybox Essential

The Encore Essential is the portable version of JBL’s legendary PartyBox speakers, which span various sizes and styles. The PartyBox Encore Essential is a little pricier, though the sound quality, build and design, and features are absolutely worth every cent. 

Features

Housed in a well-made, portable enclosure, the PartyBox Encore Essential is easy enough to carry around with its integrated handle next to the control panel, which also doubles as a bass reflex port. The Encore Essential has an LED light ring surrounding the driver, which can sync to the beat of your music, and is controllable using the JBL companion app. 

The JBL PartyBox Encore Essential is rated IPX4 water resistant, which provides protection against splashes or light rain, making it an ideal tailgate speaker which can also be taken to the beach, poolside, or be used in any other outdoor environment. The battery is the only real let-down here, as it only lasts around 6 hours at moderate listening levels. 

Inputs

Aside from supporting two Bluetooth pairings at a time, the JBL PartyBox Encore Essential accepts a 1/8-inch auxiliary cable for wired playback, a USB A-type disk with pre-loaded tunes, as well as a 1/8-inch microphone input for karaoke or party games. 

Sound Quality

As you can expect, the PartyBox Encore Essential carries JBL’s Harman Curve signature, which guarantees tight, deep bass, crunchy mids, and crisp high-end definition across all listening levels. The JBL PartyBox Encore Essential sounds amazing for all styles of music, as well as for karaoke uses. 

What’s in the Box?

JBL PartyBox Encore Essential 
AC Power cable
QuickStart Guide
Safety sheet

JBL PartyBox Encore Essential Conclusion 

We’re big fans of JBL’s offerings, particularly the PartyBox range, when it comes to outdoor and party applications. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t a very cheap option, but the quality is most certainly guaranteed in terms of build and design, general operation, and sound quality. The PartyBox Encore Essential functions well as a tailgate speaker but is also perfectly capable of running other party-like environments or casual listening at home.

Why The JBL Partybox Essential?

The JBL Partybox Essential has a lot to offer in the sound department and has one of the best sound signatures on this list. While the battery life is a drawback, if your tailgating parties tend to be short-lived, this speaker can bring lots of vocal clarity and rich bass to your listening experience, along with lighting effects.

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Microphone input
  • IPX4 waterproof

Cons

  • Limited battery life
  • A bit pricy

7. QFX PBX 61081 Tailgate Speaker

QFX-PBX-61081

The QFX PBX 61081 tailgate speaker is a great budget-friendly option for those looking to spend under $100.00 on an outdoor-friendly, versatile Bluetooth speaker for tailgate parties. The QFX speaker is available in silver, red, or blue and comes with built-in wheels and a handle for easy transport. The speaker itself is fairly unique in design, adopting an almost circular shape with a bit of a Sci-Fi influence. 

Features

The QFX BPX 61081 tailgate speaker is an incredibly versatile outdoor speaker, perfect for tailgates. The battery isn’t the best, but it still lasts around 6 hours at full volume or closer to 10 hours at more moderate listening levels. It’s fairly lightweight for its size, weighing 12 pounds. However, there is no weather-resistance rating stated, so I can’t say for certain whether this speaker can withstand splashes or gentle rain, or more extreme exposure if any. 

As for sound quality, the 8-inch driver can produce some serious low frequencies and sounds good at all listening levels. It, unfortunately, doesn’t get very loud, though it can reach levels powerful enough for a small gathering. 

I’m not a big fan of the control panel behind the speaker, as this can be a slight pain when you want to skip tracks on a USB drive or TF card, for example. There is a remote control, which does solve this issue and is certainly unique, but to me seems a bit pointless. 

Inputs

The QFX BPX 61081 tailgate speaker is incredibly versatile when it comes to input options. Aside from Bluetooth pairings, which are supported over a long distance, the QFX speaker supports a wide range of other connectivity options. These include USB and TF card playback, as well as 1/8-inch auxiliary connections. You can also connect to AM/FM radio stations, heard loud and clear, thanks to the onboard extendable antenna. There is also a ¼-inch microphone input with a dedicated channel strip with controls over input gain, echo, bass, treble, and master output. 

What’s in the Box?

QFX BPX 61081 tailgate speaker
Wireless remote control

QFX PBX 61081 Tailgate Speaker Conclusion

The QFX tailgate speaker is a great budget-friendly, entry-level option for tailgate parties or general outdoor use. The connectivity options are excellent, and the sound quality is decent, though it doesn’t get very loud. The remote control is an interesting choice, though I personally would prefer onboard controls in an accessible part of the speaker. For a unit under $100.00, the QFX tailgate speaker offers incredible value for your money.

Why The QFX PBX 61081?

The QFX PBX 61081 is strictly a budget speaker, it will have a tough time competing with other speakers on this list from a performance perspective, but if you need a tailgating speaker and you’re working with a very limited budget, this is one of the best options out there.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Lacks volume
  • Sound quality falls behind more expensive alternatives
  • Modest battery life

8. ION Audio iPA 125C Pathfinder Tailgate Speaker

ION Audio 125C Pathfinder

The ION Audio iPA 125C Pathfinder is another all-in-one style speaker that’s perfect for tailgates and parties as well as general at-home use. The Pathfinder is a little different from the rest of ION Audio’s products but keeps a few key features intact. 

Design and Features

The ION Audio iPA 125C Pathfinder is a powerful 120-Watt portable tailgate speaker consisting of an 8-inch woofer and three 3-inch tweeters, delivering a frequency response ranging from 65Hz to 16kHz. This gives you the bone-shaking bass you want but doesn’t ignore the clarity you need in the midrange and delicate high-end. The Pathfinder can get rather loud and maintains its stunning sound quality at all listening levels. 

The Pathfinder has a built-in LED light strip that runs along the edges of the speaker, which can be activated using the ‘Boom’ button, which also engages a bass enhancement mode and pushes the volume up a touch. 

Sound is sent in a 280-degree pattern, ensuring everyone at your tailgate will hear the music loud and clear, with minimal muffling. The Pathfinder has built-in wheels and a handle for easy transportation, and a bottle opener attached to the speaker as an extra party gimmick. There’s also a flap-style compartment on top of the speaker for you to store small items such as your cell phone, car keys, or wallet.

Lastly, the battery is quite impressive- providing around 100 hours of possible playtime on a single charge while being capable of fast-charging your USB-powered devices.

Inputs

The ION Audio iPA 125C Pathfinder tailgate speaker supports Bluetooth 5.0 PAIRINGS over a 100-foot range, as well as several other connectivity options. 

You can connect to FM radio frequencies and save your favorite stations as presets, and the Pathfinder also accepts 1/8-inch auxiliary connections and a ¼-inch microphone/instrument cable for karaoke or party games. 

What’s in the Box?

ION Audio Pathfinder
AC Power Cable
QuickStart Guide
Safety & Warranty Manual

ION Audio IPA 125C Pathfinder Conclusion

The ION Audio iPA 125C Pathfinder tailgate speaker is undoubtedly one of our favorite party/tailgate speakers on the market. It’s a loud, good-sounding speaker that’s built incredibly well and supports a wide range of connectivity options while holding one of the best batteries on the market. The Pathfinder is the ultimate tailgate party speaker for its interactive qualities, durable build, and stunning sound quality. 

Why The ION Audio IPA 125C Pathfinder?

The ION Audio IPA 125C Pathfinder is another great tailgating speaker from ION that offers similar features to the Pickup, listed further above. If you’re going to nit-pick, there could be a little more low-end response, with the response range spanning from 65Hz to 16kHz, but that’s not to say this speaker sounds bad. If the Pickup is out of stock, this is a very good alternative option.

Pros

  • IPX4 waterproof
  • 120W of volume
  • Lengthy battery life

Cons

  • Quite heavy
  • It could have a touch more low-end

How We Selected These Products

Tailgate speakers are a unique type of speaker in that they have a very specific purpose and, in turn, have essential qualities and others which are nice-to-haves. When putting together this list of tailgating speakers, we looked for speakers that offer enough power to entertain a group of people in an open-air environment. Because they are used outdoors, weatherproofing was also something we took into consideration.

Battery life is another important point with tailgate speakers, and we made sure to exclude products that didn’t offer what we’d consider a viable battery performance for a tailgate speaker. While not essential, we also gave preference to speakers that offer microphone input for the MCs.

In order to cater to those with a limited budget and lower needs, we have included a budget option where we were more liberal in what we accept as reaching the benchmark to make this list.

Buyer’s Guide – What To Know When Buying Tailgate Speakers

While we provide a list of our top recommendations, the best way to go into purchasing a tailgate speaker is to understand what you need to look for. Tailgating speakers often follow a similar formula and look somewhat similar, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Battery life, volume, and portability – these are just a few of the variables that exist between models, and depending on which is most important to you, you may want to give additional preference to one particular feature.

Volume

Because tailgating is a party, you’re going to want enough volume to compete with the other music being played around you. We wouldn’t recommend anything under 100dB unless you’re going to be using your tailgate speaker for your own personal use and not at a tailgating event.

Sound Quality

While volume is important, sound quality is just as vital. There’s no point in having a speaker that can push a ton of volume when it’s primarily distortion from low-quality drivers. I’d recommend focusing on an impressive bass as well as a clear high-end. The bass is a nice flex to have at a tailgate party, while a crisp high-end response will mean the vocals are more intelligible, which becomes very important if you also have a microphone input. A V-shaped sound signature is my own preferred sound signature when it comes to tailgating.

Portability

Because tailgating is something that involves a lot of traveling, having a speaker that caters to portability is something to consider. If you’ve got the muscles and a pickup, you’re going to have more freedom of choice when it comes to portability. But for the average buyer, you’re going to want to take into consideration the size of your trunk or back seat, as well as the weight you’re comfortable carrying around.

You’ll notice that some tailgating speakers will even have wheels attached. This is great for moving the speaker from the home to your car or moving it around at the tailgate party, but in most cases is just a nice-to-have. If you’re limited with what you can carry, this may prove very useful for you, though.

Durability & Waterproofing

Similarly, since you’re going to be lugging this speaker back and forth between events, you want something with sufficient ruggedness, a speaker that can take a few bashes without breaking. The waterproof rating of the speaker should also weigh into your purchase decision. While tailgating is not something that’s frequently done in the rain, having a speaker that can withstand a few spills of beer is never a bad idea.

Daisy-Chain

One trend more and more manufacturers are adopting is the link feature. Some portable Bluetooth speakers can link to another speaker of the same make and model. This gives you a stereo PA system with separate left and right speakers. Imagine a stereo PA system on the back of your pick or truck with the BBQ going and the dance floor out the back. That’s taking the tailgate game to the next level!

Battery Life

Batteries are also improving, with an average battery life of around 40-50 hours and some as much as 100 hours. This is more than enough for a tailgate BBQ or camping weekend. Some manufacturers are even selling extra battery packs so you can purchase an extra pack and swap the battery when it runs out. A much-needed and appreciated feature.

Best Tailgate Speakers

Taking Care of Your Tailgate Speakers

These days, tailgate speakers are built tough, but they’re still soft on the inside, so you need to take care of your speaker. With costs ranging from $150 to $400 and above, you want to ensure your speakers last. Here are some ways to prolong the life of your tailgate speakers.

Cleaning

Even though most portable speakers have some form of weather or waterproofing, you still want to make sure you clean off any spills or dust regularly. Leaving your speakers dirty can wear down any weather coating leaving your tailgate speakers at risk.

Use a damp cloth (wring it out properly to ensure the cloth isn’t dripping) and whip down the exterior of your speaker. You can also use a PC or electronics cleaner instead of a damp cloth. If your speaker isn’t waterproof, this is probably a better option. You can also use a can of compressed air (also used for cleaning PCs) to blow any dust and debris out from behind the speaker grille.

Charging

Some rechargeable batteries can become damaged if they are left for a few months while completely flat. This will lead to a significant loss in battery life. It’s also good to use your portable speaker until it goes flat from time to time. As long as you charge it soon after, running an electronics battery down to flat can help prolong the battery’s life. If your battery has an indicator, running down to 5% or red is just as good.

Although some manufacturers put a charge protector on for overcharging, many batteries, especially in cheaper portable speakers, don’t like overcharging. So always make sure you unplug your portable speaker once 100% charged.

Overdriving

Overdriving a tailgate speaker is the most common way people kill their speakers. Just because the volume can go to full, and in some cases with some sort of boost mode, doesn’t mean it can be run like that all the time. The speaker drivers will overheat and eventually tear, or the tweeters will burst, more commonly known as blowing a speaker. Portable speakers are not built to be able to change the drivers, so you have to purchase a new one.

If you find you are always driving your tailgate speaker too hard, maybe you need to think about an upgrade to something with more power.

Tie Down

One of the quickest ways to end the life of your speaker is for it to fall off the back of the tailgate, usually knocked off by one of your drunk, clumsy buddies. It’s always the same guy! The best way around this is to secure the speaker to the back of the pickup using a cable lock. This will also prevent your tailgate speaker from being stolen. You can buy them on Amazon for ten bucks which could save you hundreds. Wrap the cable lock around the handle on the speaker and then use a fastener or lock to secure the other end of your vehicle. You could also use a piece of rope as a cheap alternative.


Avatar photo
Written by
Bryn De Kocks

Bryn learned of the importance of quality audio through competitive gaming. Since then he's expanded his interest in the audio sphere, focusing primarily on the headphone market.

View all articles
Leave a reply