The 10 Best Tailgate Speakers of 2018

The 10 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!

We hope you enjoy reading our list of the best tailgate speakers as much as we did putting it together. Don’t forget to check out our buyers guide at the end of the reviews. We’ve also included a useful guide to looking after your speakers, as well as some fun tips on how you can become a better tailgate!

Our Pick!

ION Audio Tailgater

ION Audio Tailgater

With one of the best batteries in any Bluetooth speaker on the market today, the Tailgater is definitely the ultimate tailgate speaker!

Quick Pick – Our Awards!

Interesting Trends

Last year was an interesting year for portable Bluetooth speakers. Some manufacturers have gone out of their way to create products and features specifically geared toward tailgating. One of the most impressive is a speaker which includes cup holders and a bottle opener!

Quality Improvements

The overall quality of the portable speaker is improving. There are some new startups entering the market with products which are slightly more expensive but significantly higher quality. We are seeing more sturdy, robust tailgate speakers with manufacturers getting creative with new features and parts.

Daisy-Chain

One trend more and more manufacturers are adopting is the link feature. Some portable Bluetooth speakers have the ability to link to another speaker of the same make and model. This then 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 dance floor out the back. That’s taking the tailgate game to the next level!

Battery Life

Batteries are also improving with the average battery life around 40-50 hours and some as much as 100 hours. This is more than enough for a tailgate BBQ or, even a weekend away camping. A couple 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.

USB Charging

USB charging is pretty standard on most tailgate speakers now and some even offer two outputs.

Pairing

Bluetooth pairing is quicker and easier in newer portable speaker models and most have an auto-pair feature now. NFC pairing is also pretty standard now which makes Bluetooth pairing instantaneous.

Future Predictions

While microphone inputs aren’t new to tailgate speakers, we are starting to see vocal effects like echo being added to tailgate speakers. This adds to the fun, especially for karaoke. I predict, within the next couple of years, we’ll see more vocal effects added as manufacturers incorporate digital processing.

Microphone Integration

Portable Bluetooth speakers are starting to improve microphone pick up so we could also see some speakerphone integrations in tailgate speakers.

Waterproofing

Speaker manufacturers realize their speakers are being used in some pretty brutal conditions with spilling beer and splashes from the pool often killing portable speakers. More and more tailgate speakers are coming out with waterproof ratings to protect against liquids and dust. The trend seems to be going towards high waterproof ratings like IP67 and IPX5. I think these waterproof ratings will be standard within the next few years.

Essential Tailgating Features

As mentioned, two of our speakers in this article feature cup holders and a bottle opener (I’m surprised it took them this long!). I think other manufacturers will follow suit and we could see more creative tailgate speakers in the future.

Power and Volume Improvements

Portable speaker technology is evolving fast and the speakers are getting louder and more powerful. Some of the more powerful speakers are producing around 200W with one speaker banging out an incredible 122 dBs! Don’t be surprised if they start banning certain tailgate speakers in the future for excessive noise levels.

1. ION Audio Tailgater (iPA77)

ION Audio Tailgater (iPA77)

Our top pick for the best tailgate speaker goes to the ION Audio Tailgater. This versatile speaker is extremely popular and for a good reason! 50W of power output, 50-hour battery life, Bluetooth and an AM/FM radio are just some of the great features the Tailgater has to offer. Not to mention, the product is called Tailgater, how could it not be the top pick!

Features

The tailgater is packed with the latest technology you’d expect from a modern tailgate speaker. Most important – Bluetooth. The Bluetooth connection with the Tailgater is quick and simple to use. No waiting for a device to pair. If your device has NFC technology, pairing the Tailgater to your Bluetooth device is as simple as touching the NFC sensor on top of the Tailgater. There is a USB output to charge a phone, tablet, iPod, etc from the Tailgaters built-in battery. The Tailgater also features a recessed area on top of the speaker for placing your phone or microphone which ensures that it won’t slide off.

The AM/FM radio is another great feature, especially for pre-game tailgating where you might want to catch pre-match analysis and commentary. There is a telescopic antenna on the top of the Tailgater to pick up a better signal.

Inputs

Aside from Bluetooth, you also have a ⅛ inch AUX input and ¼ inch jack input. The ¼ inch input is primarily for the cable microphone which comes with the Tailgater. This is great for announcements or even some pre-game karaoke.

On the front panel of the Tailgater is an LED display panel and controls for any paired Bluetooth device. From the Tailgater you can play/pause, skip/search. There is a Radio button for selecting the AM/FM radio and a Bluetooth button for pairing. When a device is paired, a Bluetooth icon appears on the display, which I find useful. The display will also show the AM/FM frequency and any info from a paired Bluetooth device.

Also worth mentioning is the ION Audio Tailgater Flash and ION Audio Tailgater Express. The two alternatives to the standard Tailgater:

ION Audio Tailgater Express

ION Audio Tailgater Express


The ION Audio Tailgater Express is the mini version of the standard Tailgater. The Express is around a 3rd of the size and delivers 20W of power. The Express is also splash proof with an IPX4 waterproof rating. This is good enough for the odd splash from the pool or the accidental spill of a drink.
At 30-hours, the battery life is slightly less but this is still more than most Bluetooth or tailgate speakers feature these days.

ION Audio Tailgater Flash

ION Audio Tailgater Flash

The Tailgater flash is identical to the standard Tailgater except it has an LED light display behind the speaker grille. Great at night to add a little extra vibe but gets lost during the day. It’s a fun addition if you want to pimp your tailgate!

What’s in the box?

  • Tailgater iPA77
  • Microphone with mic cable
  • ⅛ inch to ⅛ inch AUX cable
  • Power Cable (standard IEC)

ION Audio Tailgater Conclusion

The ION Audio Tailgater is built tough and ready for the outdoors. The outer casing is rugged and will survive many bumps and scratches. There are only two weak areas I can identify:  firstly, the LED display area may crack if something falls on it and secondly, the AM/FM antenna is a little flimsy so you would want to keep an eye on it when it’s extended.

Other than that I can’t fault the ION Audio Tailgater. It’s only 16.3lbs so it’s easy to lift and move around, it’s fairly compact (easily able to fit in a truck or even on the back seat), it makes a decent noise and you have one of the best batteries in any Bluetooth speaker on the market today. I think it’s safe to say, the ION Audio Tailgater is the ultimate tailgate speaker!


2. The New SOUNDBOKS

The New SOUNDBOKS Loudest Portable Speaker

Introducing the absolute beast that is the New SOUNDBOKS! At 126dB, The New SOUNDBOKS 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 New SOUNDBOKS loud but it also looks badass! Put it this way, The SOUNDBOKS 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 New SOUNDBOKS 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. There is a single 1” tweeter for the highs. The original SOUNDBOKS 1 features two tweeters and was a little harsh on the high-end. So this reduction means the New SOUNDBOKS delivers a much smoother sound, even when 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 full range. This enables the SOUNDBOKS to deliver superior clarity and solid, chunky bass.

Design

Another feature that makes the New SOUNDBOKS 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.

Battery

The New SOUNDBOKS also features an impressive 40-hour battery. While this is slightly less than the ION Audio Tailgater, 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 New SOUNDBOKS
  • Power Lead
  • BATTERYBOKS (Additional Battery Pack)

The New SOUNDBOKS Conclusion

The New SOUNDBOKS comes a very close second to the ION Audio Tailgater. Where the Tailgater wins is versatility, while the SOUNDBOKS wins in power and muscle! This power does, however, come with 34-lbs of weight. Not an easy speaker to carry on your own. SOUNDBOKS have included two great handles either side for a two-man lift. 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!


3. ECOXGEAR EcoBoulder+ Waterproof Portable Speaker

ECOXGEAR EcoBoulder+ Waterproof Portable Speaker

The ECOXGEAR EcoBoulder+ is a tough, rugged portable speaker built for the outdoorsman. The EcoBoulder+ is the newer, improved model of the original EcoBuilder with many great new features like the dual cup holders and bottle opener, to name just a few.

Features

The waterproof features of ECOXGEAR’s EcoBoulder+ are some of the best you’ll find on a portable speaker! All the buttons are rubberized and sealed so no dust or moisture can get inside. The EcoBoulder+ carries an IP67 waterproof rating which allows the speaker to be submerged in water up to 1m (3.3ft) and you can even drop it into the deepest part of the lake without any worry – because it floats!  The connectors are located on the side of the speaker behind a water-tight cap. There is a USB charger with ⅛ inch AUX input and power connection below in a separate cap. On the opposite side is a bottle opener as well as a removable waterproof bag for your phone or other accessories.

The EcoBoulder+ features a full range 8” driver on the front with a 3” tweeter. On the rear is an additional 8” subwoofer for some extra bass. The EcoBoulder+ also features a built-in equalizer, offering adjustable bass and treble and 5 music genre presents.

Inputs

The EcoBoulder+ features an EcoConnect button to connect two EcoBoulders together to create a stereo PA system and now also features an EcoTalk button too. The EcoTalk feature allows direct access to Siri or Ok Google on your smartphone, allowing voice control of music volume and track selection ( a feature only the EcoBoulder+ can boast!). Another feature exclusive to the Ecoboulder+ is that it features both an external microphone jack as well as a built-in microphone. The microphone can be used for the Eco Connect feature, to talk to OK Google/ Siri, or even to make conference calls.

The control panel has a button for everything – 18 to be exact. The buttons are also back-lit so you can still operate the controls in poor light. The LED display indicates selected mode, battery level, radio frequency, Bluetooth pairing status, EcoConnect status display, and charging status.

Design

On top of the EcoBoulder+ are two cupholders, as well as a built-in stand to keep your phone or tablet upright. This makes it easier to see what song is playing and change tracks or settings without picking up your phone. A handy feature if you’re working the BBQ grill and playing DJ at the same time.

What’s in the box?

  • ECOXGEAR EcoBoulder+ Speaker
  • Removable waterproof pouch
  • Power cable

ECOXGEAR EcoBoulder+ Conclusion

If you plan to use your tailgate speaker where it may be exposed to the elements like dust or water, then the EcoBoulder+ is going to be your best choice. With an exceptional 50 hours of play time, the addition of cupholders and bottle opener, as well as the EcoConnect/ EcoTalk functions – ECOXGEAR’s EcoBuilder+ is a great speaker to purchase and pimp your tailgate.


4. Aiwa Exos-9 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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 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 the 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 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 visa 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 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 5 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 13lbs 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.


5. ION Explorer Outback 2

ION Explorer Outback 2

The ION Explorer Outback 2 with its futuristic features should be called the Outer Space. This portable speaker with multi-colored LED lighting will certainly attract some attention to your tailgate party. The Outback 2 was released as the upgrade to the Outback 1. The upgrades are targeted at tailgate enthusiasts so we HAD to include this in our best tailgate speakers.

Features

The most noticeable difference between the Outback 1 and 2 are the two cup holders on top of the Outback 2. If you think cup holders are cool, there’s also a bottle opener on one of the handles! This is a great feature and shows ION Audio has actually researched the market to provide features specific to the needs of professional tailgaters.

The Outback 1 had an IPX4 waterproof rating compared to the Outback 2’s IPX5 rating. This basically means the Outback 2 is more waterproof and can handle jets of water rather than splashes. Since there are cup holders on top of the speaker, this isn’t a bad idea.

Like the Outback 1, the Outback 2 features an 8” subwoofer with 3” tweeter delivering 100W of power output. There’s a 100-hour battery so if you’re away for the weekend, you shouldn’t need to recharge the Outback 2. There are two USB charge ports so you can charge a couple of devices at the same time.

Inputs

The Outback 2 comes with a cable microphone that plugs into the ¼ inch input. There is a separate volume control for the microphone input. There is also a ⅛ inch AUX input for non-Bluetooth devices and a link out if you want to link the Outback 2 to a second Outback 2 or another powered speaker.

Pairing

The Bluetooth is auto-pairing and extremely fast. One of the fastest Bluetooth speakers on the market. Pair it once and your Outback 2 will auto-pair to that device every time it turns on. There is also a Bluetooth button on the Outback 2 if you need to refresh the signal. Everything is voice prompted so you know exactly when the Outback 2 is paired.

Additional Features

There is a built-in FM radio with 6 programmable buttons so you can save your favorite stations. Much the same a car stereo system.

Also, on the control panel is a Bass Boost button, another new feature for the Outback 2. As the name suggests, the Bass Boost amplifies the bass and volume of the Outback 2. This feature will eat away at your battery a lot faster so it’s not advisable to run it in this mode if you are trying to conserve battery life.

What’s in the box?

  • Explorer Outback 2
  • Power lead
  • Microphone with mic cable

ION Explorer Outback 2 Conclusion

With its telescopic handle, sturdy wheels, and an IPX5 waterproof rating, the Outback 2 is built to take a punishing. Not only will the Outback 2 make a good tailgate speaker, but a great music companion for camping, the beach, pool parties and a host of other outdoor activities normal Bluetooth speakers are afraid of. The cup holders and bottle-opener are a perfect touch for a respectable tailgate speaker.


6. Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4 (ALP-XP400)

Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4 (ALP-XP400)

The expression “dynamite comes in small packages” definitely applies to the Altec Lansing XPEDITION 4. The XPEDITION 4 is the smallest tailgate speaker we are featuring in this article but competes with the biggest when it comes to power. Altec Lansing is a well respected professional audio brand so you can guarantee you are getting the best parts and technology when you purchase the XPEDITION 4. This speaker is a beast, apt since it has a BEAST MODE!

Features

The XPEDITION 4 is an absolute powerhouse of a portable speaker. It’s amazing something so small can produce 200W of power. There are two 4” speaker drivers with a 1” tweeter. At only 10lbs the XPEDITION 4 is light enough to carry with one hand. The speaker has an integrated handle on the top so it’s easy to pick up and carry. You also get a shoulder strap with the XPEDITION 4 so you can go fully mobile and take the party with you.

Altec Lansing state the XPEDITION 4 is everything proof, and it almost certainly is! The outer casing is made of a robust plastic which could take being dropped. The entire unit is sealed making the XPEDITION 4 100% waterproof with a rating of IP67. This means you can submerge the speaker to a depth of 1m (40”) for around 30 minutes. The speaker is also protected against dust and other small debris. If you drop the XPEDITION 4 in water, it faces up with the woofer and tweeters out of the water and the music keeps playing. Possibly the coolest feature of any Bluetooth speaker. Altec Lansing is changing the game!

Pairing

The XPEDITION 4’s Bluetooth is quick and easy to pair and voice activated to let you know when pairing is complete. If your device is NFC enabled, you can simply tap your phone on the NFC sensor and Bluetooth pairing is instant.

Additional Features

The XPEDITION 4 is a true party speaker with strobe lights on either ends and circular LED lights around the speaker drivers. Both of these light effects are easily activated on the front panel with clearly labeled buttons. In the center of the speaker is a large volume know which also lights up in red. With all the lights illuminated, the XPEDITION 4 looks like a beast!

In BEAST MODE the XPEDITION 4 drives the 4” subwoofers even harder for more bass and volume. There is also a LINK button that allows you to link two XPEDITION 4 speakers to make a stereo PA system. With two XPEDITION 4’s in BEAST MODE, delivering 400W of power and lighting effects, your tailgate is going to the next level. You’re going into BEAST MODE for sure!

Expedition 8

If you’re after the Altec Lansing sound but wanting something bigger, then the XPEDITION 8 (ALP-XP800) might be a better choice for you.

What’s in the box?

  • XPEDITION 4 Speaker
  • Power cable
  • ⅛ inch to ⅛ inch AUX cable
  • Shoulder strap

XPEDITION 4 Conclusion

If you are looking for something small, but you also want something powerful, the XPEDITION 4 is exactly what you need. Simple features, 100% waterproof, 200W of sound, lighting effects, and BEAST MODE, what more could you ask for from a tailgate speaker. The XPEDITION 4 is ready to party, hard!


7. Sylvania Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Sylvania Portable Bluetooth Speaker

If you’re after a more compact tailgate speaker then the Sylvania Portable Bluetooth Speaker is your best choice. While the Sylvania looks big in pictures, it’s actually pretty small at only 15 inches high. This makes the Sylvania ultra-portable enabling you to take this Bluetooth speaker just about anywhere. It will even fit in a large backpack. With a price tag under $30, the Sylvania is also our most affordable tailgate speaker.

Features

Although small, the Sylvania looks great. There are four color options, black, purple, silver and red. Each has the same white speaker driver which illuminates a cool blue when turned on. The layout and feel of the speaker resemble a 90’s Hi-Fi which may leave you reminiscing about the good old days (this is assuming you had a Hi-Fi in the 90s or you were even alive yet).

Inputs

The Sylvania is extremely basic and only offers two inputs, a ⅛ inch AUX input and Bluetooth. So if you like to plug in your mic and bust out the karaoke at your tailgate party, the Sylvania probably isn’t for you.

Additional Features

With 2 x 4” speakers and 6W of power output, the Sylvania isn’t going to win any speaker battles with your neighboring tailgaters.

There are separate bass and treble controls so you can adjust these separately on the front panel. There is also a control panel for any paired Bluetooth device. The Sylvania has an auto-pairing feature for Bluetooth so as soon as you switch the speaker on it is ready to pair. The first time you pair the speaker you will need to search for the Sylvania on your phone and connect. After you have paired once, the Sylvania will automatically pair to your Bluetooth device every time you turn it on.

What’s in the box?

  • Sylvania Portable Bluetooth Speaker
  • Charger cable (USB type charging cable so you can charge off a laptop or socket)
  • ⅛ inch to ⅛ inch AUX cable

Sylvania Conclusion

If you’re looking for an affordable Bluetooth speaker which isn’t going to cost much, ultra-compact and lightweight, then the Sylvania is going to do the job. For background music with you and a few friends around a tailgate BBQ, the Sylvania is a great choice. At under $30 if you break the Sylvania (tends to happen at tailgate parties), it gets lost or stolen, it won’t hurt the pocket too much.


7. Sharper Image On-The-Go (SBT1009BK)

Sharper Image On-The-Go (SBT1009BK)

And now, something for the ladies or, something to attract the ladies. With a multi-colored disco ball on top of the On-The-Go, you’ll be putting out some serious party vibes at your tailgate BBQ. The On-The-Go is relatively light and compact with a telescopic handle and wheels so it’s easy to transport and move about.

Features

The On-The-Go disco ball looks pretty at night with all the colors. It’s not very bright so don’t expect an overly impressive light show. It will, however, light up your tailgate party and grab some attention from passers-by. If you want to go mobile, the On-The-Go has a set of wheels and telescopic handle so you can wheel the On-The-Go around while playing music. You might even start a conga line and attract some new friends.

Inputs

The speaker delivers 60W of power. This is impressive given the On-The-Go’s unassuming look and size. There are two ¼ inch inputs, one for microphone and one for guitar. Each input has a separate volume control and the microphone input has an echo effect. The speaker comes with a cable microphone so you’re ready to go. Great for karaoke or a one-man band set up at the tailgate. The On-The-Go also has a ⅛ AUX  input and Bluetooth input.

On the control panel, you can control any paired Bluetooth device. There is a USB power output for charging phones and other devices. The On-The-Go rechargeable battery only provides for 4 hours of battery life so you might want to save this for the music.

What’s in the box?

  • On-The-Go Speaker
  • ⅛ inch to ⅛ inch AUX cable
  • AC Power Cable
  • Microphone with mic cable

 Sharper Image On-The-Go Conclusion

The On-The-Go is a portable tailgate speaker with a disco ball for some fun. It isn’t going to compete with most of the tailgate speakers in this article but it’s affordable, compact, and easy to transport.


9. Monster Rockin’ Roller 3

Monster Rockin’ Roller 3

Rockin’ Roller is the perfect name for a rockin’ tailgate speaker on wheels. The Monster Rockin’ Roller 3 is packed full of features including an IPX4 waterproof rating. This means the Rockin’ Roller 3 will handle a few splashes and some drizzle. The Rockin’ Roller 3 looks like something from outer space with enough buttons and dials to fly a spaceship.

Inputs

Starting on the front panel you’ll notice each input is covered with a plastic lid to prevent moisture and dust from entering the connectors. This is in line with the Rockin’ Roller 3’s IPX4 waterproof rating.

There are two ¼ inch microphone inputs, each with its own volume control and echo effect. Something you won’t find on many tailgate speakers. The second ¼ inch input could also be used for a guitar if you want to take your tailgate party to the next level!

There is a ⅛ inch AUX input as well as a ⅛ inch line out which could be used for headphones. There are two USB outputs so you can charge a couple devices at the same time off of the Rockin’ Roller 3’s 100-hour battery.

Pairing

The Rockin’ Roller 3 is an “auto-pair” Bluetooth speaker which means it is ready to pair the moment you turn the speaker on. If you need to refresh the pairing, there is a Bluetooth button on the front panel. Pairing takes up to 30 seconds which isn’t too bad. A blue LED illuminates on the front panel to indicate a device is paired. Devices with NFC can pair to the speaker simply by tapping the NFC sensor on top of the speaker.

Controls

There is a source button to select between the AUX, Bluetooth and FM radio. You can scan FM frequencies using the left and right arrow on the control panel and there is a telescopic antenna to ensure you receive a decent FM signal. The antenna folds away into a recessed hole so won’t get damaged in transit. You also receive NOAA Radio (National Weather Service warning system) which can be useful when you are planning a trip outdoors. This feature can be disabled by holding down the volume button. A voice prompt will let you know the NOAA feature is off.

6 pre-programmed EQ presets which can be easily accessed via the 6 buttons on the control panel. There is also a bass/treble button which allows you to adjust either bass or treble using the master volume control.

On your first inspection, the Rockin’ Roller looks like it has a lot going on in terms of connections, buttons, and knobs but everything is well laid out and easy to understand.

If you want a stereo tailgate sound system, purchase two Monster Rockin’ Roller 3’s. If you have two Rockin’ Roller 3’s you can press the TWS (True Wireless System) button and the two speakers will turn into a stereo left/right PA system.

What’s in the box?

  • Monster Rockin’ Roller 3 Speaker
  • ⅛ inch to ⅛ inch AUX cable
  • AC Power Cable
  • Microphone with mic cable

Monster Rockin’ Roller 3 Conclusion

The Rockin’ Roller is a true outdoor portable speaker with excellent battery life, IPX4 weather rating, NOAA reports, and a rugged outer casing with rubber to prevent damage. The Rockin’ Roller is sure to be admired by your fellow tailgaters.


10. ION Audio Road Rider

ION Audio Road Rider

The ION Audio Road Rider was designed with tailgaters in mind. The wedge shape aims the speaker up towards ear level from your trunk or tailgate. Rubber feet on the bottom of the Road Rider prevents the speaker from sliding and protect your vehicle or surface from scratches. Another road-ready feature is the 12V car charger so you can charge the Road Rider from your vehicle’s charger output.

Features

From the outside, the Road Rider looks like a basic speaker but it’s actually feature packed and ready for the road. The first thing you’ll notice is the Road Rider is a chunky, solid little speaker. The out casing is a high-grade plastic with no LED or displays exposed to possible damage. Even the antenna for the FM radio is a flexible plastic to prevent it from snapping off or kinking.

The Road Rider features a 10” subwoofer with a 1” tweeter producing an impressive 120W of power. The frequency response is 70 Hz – 20 kHz so it does lack a little bottom-end but this will not be noticeable to the average listener.

Battery

The 25-hour battery life is more than enough for a tailgate speaker and, if you need more juice, simply plug the Road Rider into your vehicle’s 12V charger using the cable provided. The Road Rider has a built-in mechanism to detect when your car battery starts to get low at which point it stops drawing power. This is a great feature as I’m sure we’ve all had to push or jump a car with a flat battery from leaving the radio playing at a tailgate party.

Inputs

Inputs include Bluetooth, ⅛ inch AUX, and ¼ inch microphone. Unfortunately, ION Audio doesn’t provide a microphone with the Road Rider so you’ll need to purchase this separately. There is a USB charger output on the top of the Road Rider so you can charge your phone and other devices.

Bluetooth is easy to sync simply by pressing the pair button on the front of the Road Rider. Devices with NFC can simply tap the sensor on top of the speaker for a quick and easy Bluetooth connection.

What’s in the box?

  • ION Audio Road Rider Speaker
  • ⅛ inch to ⅛ inch AUX cable
  • AC Power Cable
  • DC 12V Power Cable

ION Audio Road Rider Conclusion

The Road Rider is an excellent choice if you are after something compact, powerful tailgate speaker. A big plus for tailgating is the ability to charge the Road Rider via your vehicle’s 12V outlet. With the flexible antenna, recessed LED display and rugged outer casing makes the Road Rider ready to take on the bumps and scratches of being out at a tailgate party.

If you want something with a little extra power, the Road Rider’s big brother the ION Audio Road Warrior features 2 x 10” woofers delivering a whopping 500W of sound.


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 make sure 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 make sure it 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 10 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 to your vehicle. You could also use a piece of rope as a cheap alternative.

The speaker is safe from falling and your drunk mate is only going to get a scolding instead of a beating.

Weatherproofing

Some tailgate speakers aren’t weatherproof and even if they are, you generally don’t want them left in the rain. If it is raining and you want the party to continue, use a plastic trash can liner to prevent your speaker from getting wet. To stop the bag from vibrating, tape the excess up but leave enough at the front of the speaker grille so that air can move around the speaker driver. This is a trick most professional sound companies use when doing outdoor events.

Best Tailgate Speakers

Draw a Crowd With Your Tailgate Speakers!

If you’re looking to improve your tailgate game, here are some useful tips:

Tip 1 – Bring the Noise

Most of the tailgate speakers we have featured in this article are pretty loud. If you want to draw a crowd and get some attention, make sure you have some decent tailgate speakers.

Tip 2 – Charge ‘Em Up

Make sure you have charged up your tailgate speaker the night before. With the extended batteries, we often seem to think they go on forever. They don’t, so make sure your speaker battery is full and if your tailgate speaker has an extra battery, make sure that one is ready to go too. You don’t want to go from hero to zero because your battery dies.

Tip 3 – Go Stereo

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, more and more portable speakers give you the option to link to the same make and model to create a stereo PA system. We don’t all have the money to buy 2 so convince your tailgate buddy to purchase the second one and when you go to the game together you can link them up for a stereo PA system with double the power.

Tip 4 – Don’t Blow it Up

If your tailgate speakers start distorting, turn it down or you might blow it up. Like running out of batteries, you don’t want to go from hero (loud speakers) to zero (no speakers) because you blew your tailgate speakers. Some portable speakers have a clip light which turns red. This lets you know when there is too much volume and you need to pull back a bit.

Tip 5 – Raise it Up

Not all portable speakers are waterproof, but even if they are, getting beer and soda on your tailgate speakers isn’t great. They get sticky and stained. Try raising the speaker off the table, tailgate or wherever with a box or something a few inches think. If anything spills, it’s less likely to hit your speaker.

Tip 6 – Entertain

What could be cooler than a DJ or one-man-band with an acoustic guitar? For a DJ set up, the best speaker would be the SOUNDBOKS 2. If you want to go for a one-man band, the ION Audio Tailgater, Explorer Outback 2, Road Rider, Block Rocker Plus, or Monster Rockin’ Roller 3 are all good options.

You can also add some LED lights to turn your space into a dance floor and create the ultimate tailgate experience for you and your friends.

Our Pick!

ION Audio Tailgater

ION Audio Tailgater

With one of the best batteries in any Bluetooth speaker on the market today, the Tailgater is definitely the ultimate tailgate speaker!


Matt
Written by
Matt

Matt is a sound engineer and self-confessed vinyl-junkie! His work as a sound engineer includes both live production and venue installations. While traveling the world, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise with us!

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