Bluetooth speakers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. If you’re looking for a speaker that’s truly travel friendly, you’re going to want one of the top mini Bluetooth speaker options. But if you’re looking for something with big sound that packs some real punch, a larger Bluetooth boom box or party speaker is the way to go.
The speakers on this list all have rechargeable batteries and are considered portable speakers, though you may get a workout lugging some of these around. They weigh a minimum of 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms), and some weigh a lot more than that. All feature a built-in strap or handle that makes them easier to lug around. And they all have excellent battery life if you keep the volume at moderate levels, but if you really crank things up, you’re looking at much-reduced battery life numbers.
Most are ready to go for whatever event you have in mind. From camping trips to beach parties, they’re all fairly rugged. Most offer a good degree of water resistance and a few are fully waterproof and dustproof. I’ve personally listened to all of these (or, in the case of the Soundcore Trance Go, I’ve listened to its nearly identical sibling speaker).
Anker’s original Soundcore Motion Boom speaker (see below) has been on this list for a while and is still a decent value at a little more than $100. But the new-for-2022 Motion Boom Plus is significantly improved, particularly in terms of sound quality. It’s easily one of the best new Bluetooth speakers of 2022.
Weighing 5.29 pounds (almost a pound more than the Motion Boom), it uses Bluetooth 5.3 and is equipped with upgraded dual 3.5-inch woofers and newly added dual 1-inch tweeters, delivering up to 80 watts of audio output (60W for the woofers and 20W for the tweeters). Battery life is rated for 20 hours at moderate volume levels. It’s also IP67 waterproof and dustproof and floats if you happen to drop it in a body of water.
I was impressed with the sound quality, which measures up well against a few more expensive — and some larger — speakers on this list. You can tweak the sound profile (with EQ settings) and upgrade the speaker’s firmware in Anker’s Soundcore companion app for iOS and Android. I tended to go with the bass boost engaged — there’s a button on the speaker to activate it — and found that the speaker delivers full sound with good clarity in the mids and highs and good bass definition. For its size, the speaker is able to put out a lot of sound and mostly manages to avoid distorting at higher volumes (I tended to keep the volume in the 50-75% range).
If you’re sitting within a few feet of the speaker, there’s a bit of stereo separation. But if you really want to up the sound quality, you can wirelessly pair two Soundcore Motion Boom Plus speakers to create a real stereo pair. Be sure to apply the $20 instant coupon when purchasing with Amazon to get the $160 price.
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Tribit is known for its affordable smaller Bluetooth speakers that deliver very good sound quality and features for the price. Its new Stormbox Blast speaker is its first Bluetooth boom box speaker, and it delivers mostly impressive sound for its size and also has a built-in light show and USB-out charging.
Weighing in at 12 pounds (5.45 kg) with two 30-watt midwoofers and two 15W tweeters, it’s basically twice as heavy as Anker’s Motion Boom Plus (see above) and pumps out more volume and bass compared to that speaker, but lacks a bit of clarity. Also, the midrange — where vocals live — is a bit recessed at its XBass default setting (I preferred the Music EQ setting in the companion app, which is a bit more balanced). The speaker’s firmware is upgradeable, and you can pair two Stormbox Blasts to create a stereo pair, which would improve the sound considerably.
Battery life is very good. It’s rated at up 30 hours at moderate volume levels. And the speaker has an IPX7 rating, which means it’s fully waterproof. Again, like the Soundcore by Anker Motion Boom Plus, the Tribit Stormbox Blast is a good value that measures up well from a sound standpoint against more expensive JBL boom box speakers that arguably offer superior styling. Apply the $20 instant coupon when purchasing with Amazon, to ensure you get the $180 price.
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Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET
The Soundcore by Anker Rave Party 2 can be stood up vertically or laid down horizontally and features a built-in light show and handle. Like other larger speakers that boast higher power ratings (in this case, 120 watts), this speaker needs to be charged with its own AC adapter rather than a USB-cable and has a USB-A out port on the back for charging your smartphone or any other devices that need some juice.
Though it costs more than Tribit’s Stormbox Blast, the 11.7-pound Rave Party 2 is a more attractively designed speaker and arguably sounds slightly better. Its two 4-inch woofers and two 2-inch tweeters deliver aggressive, punchy sound with enough volume to fill larger rooms (the Tribit’s bass goes a little deeper, but I was pretty satisfied with this speaker’s low-end capabilities). For even bigger sound, you can wirelessly link multiple Rave Party 2 and other Soundcore speakers that support the company’s PartyCast 2.0 feature.
While this speaker isn’t fully waterproof and can’t float like some speakers can, it’s splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating, and has a microphone input with discrete gain and reverb controls (no microphone is included). In the companion app for iOS and Android, you can customize the sound profile and light show. Battery life is rated at up to 16 hours, but that number will drop if you crank the volume.
I did think the sound held together pretty well at higher volumes — it mostly avoided distorting — and the speaker is designed to play loudly outdoors. That said, indoors the speaker sounds best below 75 percent volume, unless you’re having a party, in which case all critical listening goes out the door.
JBL’s third-generation Boombox 3 features some design changes from its predecessor’s, including a new swankier handle and a new three-way driver system that delivers clearer more detailed sound and similar impressive bass performance, creating bigger, richer sound overall. I could easily hear the difference when comparing this model to the Boombox 2.
While the battery life rating remains the same (up to 24 hours at moderate volume levels), this Gen 3 model includes Bluetooth 5.3 instead of Bluetooth 5.1. Also, the speaker weighs about 1.7 pounds more (14.7 pounds or 6.7 kg) and just feels that much more substantial.
Like the UE Hyperboom (see below), this has a USB-out port that allows you to charge external devices like your phone, and there’s also an analog audio input if you want to go wired and connect a device without using Bluetooth connectivity (the Hyperboom adds an optical digital input).
For outdoor use, I like the design of the Boombox 3 better than UE Hyperboom. The portable Bluetooth speaker is easier to carry around and just looks more like an outdoor speaker. It’s also fully waterproof and dustproof with an IPX67 rating (the previous model was waterproof but didn’t have a dustproof rating).
With the JBL Boombox 2, I felt that the speaker, while well-designed, didn’t quite live up to its expensive price tag from a sound quality standpoint. The Boombox 3 is still pricey, but its sound now has a more premium quality to it — for portable boomboxes anyway. And if you have really deep pockets, you can link two together to create a stereo pair (or link several together to cover a wider area with sound).
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The JBL Partybox Encore Essential is the company’s smallest PartyBox speaker to date but it’s still got some heft to it, weighing in at 13 pounds (5.9 kg). It’s a 11.54 by 10.87 by 12.87-inch cube that has a ring of light over the driver that pulsates and syncs to the beat of your music as it changes colors. The Essential is IPX4 splash-proof and has an integrated handle for easy toting.
Rated for 100 watts of power (we always take power ratings with a grain of salt), the speaker doesn’t have quite the volume or sound quality of the step-up PartyBox 110 (see below). But it has a 5.25-inch woofer and two 1.75-inch tweeters and has plenty of kick to it, and it’s easier to carry around. In that sense, it offers a nice balance between size and power.
Battery life is rated at 6 hours at moderate volume levels, and this speaker charges with an included AC adapter. It also has a charge-out port on the back along with a microphone port if you want to talk or sing to a crowd (microphone not included).
To be clear, this is a mono speaker that’s designed to put out a lot of sound (there’s a bass boost mode) from a reasonably sized design. You can wirelessly pair two of these speakers and get significantly better sound (in stereo). But that would get a little pricey.
Released in 2021, the PartyBox 110 packs some serious punch and delivers bigger sound than some of the portable boombox speakers on this list, including JBL’s own Boombox 2 (see below). There’s an integrated handle for toting the speaker, but the PartyBox 110 is pretty hefty, weighing in at 23 pounds and measuring slightly more than 22 inches tall. You can put this bluetooth boom box up vertically as shown in the picture above or place it horizontally, as it has rubber feet on both sides of the speaker.
It’s rated for up to 12 hours of playback time at moderate volume levels and has a redesigned light show that syncs to the beat of your music (you can customize the light show from the speaker itself or use the JBL PartyBox companion app).
The speaker has Bluetooth or a wired USB connection and there are guitar and mic inputs. It’s also worth noting that the speaker is IPX4 splash-proof and you can wirelessly link two PartyBox 110 speakers together for stereo sound. I didn’t test the stereo mode, but I was impressed with the sound of a single PartyBox 110 — this bluetooth device puts out lots of well-defined bass with good overall clarity in the highs and mids — and I suspect that pairing two of these together would be pretty awesome.
I also liked how the speaker has no external AC adapter brick and only requires a cord for charging (the power adapter is in the speaker). For longer parties during which you’re really cranking the tunes, you’d want to plug the speaker in if possible. But it does deliver enough volume to fill a spacious living room with sound and also plays loud enough for a small pool or beach party.
The PartyBox 710 ($800) is a massive party speaker that has integrated wheels and requires a power source to operate; it does not have an integrated rechargeable battery. This is your best bet if you want a portable speaker that can deliver big, quality sound and operates on battery power. To be clear, this offers bigger and better sound than the JBL Boombox 2 — but it is harder to carry around.
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Anker’s Soundcore Motion Boom is what I’d call a mini portable boombox speaker. It’s kind of a poor man’s version of JBL’s well-regarded Xtreme 3 speaker, which lists for $350. Equipped with a handle and weighing a little over 4 pounds, the speaker reminds me of one of those giant flashlights or “floating lanterns” that were in vogue about 30 years ago. For the record, the Motion Boom actually does float and it’s got an IPX7 waterproof rating.
Anker says the Motion Boom delivers “huge stereo sound” and, yes, this portable bluetooth speaker plays pretty loud and has a decent amount of bass with reasonable clarity — but I wouldn’t call it huge and there’s not much stereo separation (I kept the bass boost on at all times because the speaker sounds better that way.) It can’t compete against bigger and more expensive speakers like JBL’s Boombox 2 ($500) and Ultimate Ears’ Hyperboom ($400), but it packs a lot more volume and punch than more compact Bluetooth speakers like JBL’s Flip 5 that cost around the same. It also travels well, so it’s ideal for a beach excursion or a little tailgating. It also can be used as a backup battery to charge your smartphone or other mobile device.
The newer Motion Boom Plus (see above) does offer a significant bump in sound quality for about $65 to $75 more, depending on pricing fluctuations. If you can afford it, the Motion Boom Plus is the better option. If you want to go smaller, the Anker Soundcore Motion Plus Bluetooth speaker delivers very good sound for its size. It’s not a Bluetooth boombox, however, and doesn’t feature an integrated handle like the Motion Boom and Motion Boom Plus.
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Sony’s SRS-XG500 is the most direct competitor to the JBL Boombox 2. They’re similarly priced and sized, with both featuring an integrated handle. The Sony is a little larger but weighs slightly less at 12.34 pounds (5.6 kg).
I went back and forth comparing the sound of the two speakers. While I liked the JBL’s sound a bit more because it came across as sounding a little clearer with better detail, the Sony pumps out a lot of bass — it has a warmer, boomier sound quality that some people may prefer.
It’s IP66 water-resistant and dustproof, meaning it can take a sustained spray of water but it can’t be fully submerged. You also get a mic/guitar rear input and dual USB-out ports for charging your devices. (The speaker has its own power adapter; you can’t charge it via USB-C.) Battery life is rated at 30 hours at moderate volume levels, which is very good. Crank your tunes and that number drops substantially.
At night, you can light up the speaker with the LED light strips that ring the inside of the bass ports and use the Fiestable app to control the LEDs. The Sony Music app allows you to tweak the sound profile. Additionally, you can link the speaker with other Sony Bluetooth speakers to augment the sound.
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The UE Hyperboom has a few things going for it over the Boombox 2. For starters, the price: It’s $450 while the Boombox 2 is $500. And right now you can get $22 off, when you apply the coupon on Amazon.
For outdoor use, I give the nod to the JBL’s design. Both of these weigh 13 pounds, but the JBL is a little more natural to carry around. It’s got the handle, the tubular design — it looks like it belongs outdoors. The Hyperboom’s got a thick rubber strap and it kind of feels like you’re carrying a big pitcher of something really solid. It’s boxy and understated, and it looks a little more at home indoors.
The Hyperboom is splashproof with an IPX4 rating while the Boombox 2 is fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. (I put them out in the rain and they both survived without issues.) Like the Boombox 2, this has a USB-out port that allows you to charge devices like your phone and it also has analog audio input if you want to go wired and connect a device without using Bluetooth. However, the Hyperboom adds an optical digital input. That means you can connect it to a TV, PC or game console with an optical output. You can also toggle between two Bluetooth connections and it has a built-in microphone that calibrates the speaker’s sound to wherever it is, inside or outside.
The Hyperboom also is the better-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker overall. It has a wider soundstage with slightly more bass and clarity. It also sounds a little more natural.
If you can afford it, you can link up two Hyperbooms and create a stereo pair. You can also link it wirelessly to the latest UE Bluetooth speakers to spread out the sound across a wider area.
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Last year I reviewed Anker’s Soundcore Rave Neo party speaker and gave it high marks. The Trance Go is essentially that speaker without the integrated LEDs that allow you to create a mini light show. It costs right around $100, plays loud for its size (it’s a medium-size speaker that weighs about 6 pounds) and has a built-in handle that makes it easy to tote around. The speaker is fully waterproof and can get up to 24 hours on a single charge at moderate levels. A USB port allows you to charge devices. Also worth noting: For those who want more expansive sound for streaming music, you can link multiple Trance Go speakers.
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If you don’t want to get something quite as big as the JBL Boombox 2, the Xtreme 3 weighs a good deal less but is still large by Bluetooth speaker standards and puts out a lot of sound (though not as much as the Boombox 2). Instead of a built-in handle, a detachable shoulder strap is included.
Like JBL’s smaller Bluetooth speakers, the Xtreme 3 is a versatile boom box that can be stood up vertically or placed horizontally. Though a tad bigger than the Xtreme 2, at first glance it doesn’t look much different from the previous model, but it does have upgraded sound with slightly better bass and clarity while actually weighing slightly less. Here are the key differences between the two speakers, according to JBL:
- Plays slightly louder: The Xtreme 3’s rated output power is 2 x 25W versus the Xtreme 2’s 2 x 20W.
- The Xtreme 3 is IPX67 (waterproof/dustproof) versus the Xtreme 2’s IPX7 (waterproof).
- The Xtreme 3 offers JBL PartyBoost while the Xtreme 2 has JBL Connected Plus syncing technologies.
- The Xtreme 3 improves charge time to just 2.5 hours, down from 3.5 hours for the Xtreme 2 (both have 15 hours of battery life)
- The Xtreme 3 has Bluetooth 5.1, the Xtreme 2 has Bluetooth 4.2 .
- The Xtreme 3 is slightly larger but at 4.3 pounds weighs less than the Xtreme 2, which is 5.3 pounds.
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