The 9 Best Budget Bluetooth Speakers to Buy in 2017
The best portable Bluetooth speakers for under £100 you can get in 2017 - ideal for the beach, barbecues, camping and general outdoor listening
Once upon a time, portable Bluetooth speakers were the problem child of the audio world. Derided for their appalling sound quality, poor battery life and flaky connections they were often rated as no better – and in many situations, quite a lot worse – than an old school transistor radio.
But times have most definitely changed.
The 2017 portable Bluetooth speaker market is booming, both literally and commercially. Improvements in the Bluetooth protocol have helped make giant strides for battery life, audio quality and connectivity. Bluetooth pairing is no longer aggravatingly fiddly and unreliable, and NFC makes it easier still.
Meanwhile advances in digital sound processing and industrial design have achieved the miraculous conjunction of smaller units and better sound quality – which means that these speakers can get turned up louder than before without distorting. And though these Bluetooth speakers will struggle to fit in your pocket – unless you’re a clown – they will easily stow away in a backpack or a cycle bag and not weigh you down at all.
So whether you’re on a beach, at a barbecue, on a swimming pool or trekking cross country, these are 9 of the best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy for the great outdoors.
The 9 Best Budget Bluetooth Speakers to Buy in 2017
House of Marley Chant Speaker
House of Marley has always been a company that keeps the environment in mind, and as a result the Chant has been built from ‘earth-friendly’ materials including recycled plastic and bamboo.
Despite this, the easy-to-carry Bluetooth speaker looks particularly stylish sat on your desk, and it’s clear that no corners have been cut in terms of design, despite the materials used.
Arriving in its own carry bag with a carabiner and storage pocket for cables, the Chant speaker has been made with portability in mind, featuring a two inch speaker with a passive radiator on the top of the device.
Whilst we wouldn’t recommend the gadget for audiophiles with a heavy wallet, the Chant does produce some great sounds, and bass levels are strong.
House of Marley’s Chant is super portable and capable of producing some impressive beats, all whilst remaining the most stylish gadget in your backpack.Compare on Shopomo
i-Box Trax Bluetooth Speaker
The Trax speaker is certainly a good-looking product and it’ll sit nicely on your desk.
We’re big fans of the black and orange colour scheme chosen by i-Box, and the rubber edging to the speaker keeps it still on flat surfaces.
The top of the speaker looks great too, with a polished finish complimented by touch-sensitive buttons that’ll help you adjust the volume of the speaker and also answer calls made to a paired smartphone.
The Trax Bluetooth 2.1 speaker by i-Box has a nice, solid weight to it and feels like an expensive accessory.
This portable speaker isn’t the cheapest in our list, but you’re paying for fantastic build quality and a good-looking speaker that is capable of producing some impressive sound for a total of 10 hours at a time.Shop now on Amazon
Ultimate Ears UE Boom 2
The UE Boom 2 is the long awaited follow up to the much-loved Boom and United Ears has provided a textbook case study in how to update an electronics product successfully. In other words it has kept all the things that made the original so popular and incrementally improved the Bluetooth speaker with useful enhancements. So the solid, tubular case is pretty much unchanged, although now you can tap it to change tracks. The splashproof IPX4 has been upgraded to the fully waterproof IPX7 certificate, which allows it to boom along under 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes. Best of all, the field-filling 360-degree sound and 15-hour battery life remain blissfully intact. A great all-rounder has just got slightly greater.Compare on Shopomo
JBL Flip 3
The JBL Flip is the Pepsi to the UE Boom’s Coca-Cola. A very similar product that doesn’t quite step out of its rival’s shadow. The Flip 3 has obviously modelled itself on the the shape and texture of the Boom, and embraced a can-like shape that fits in with the cola metaphor. The Flip 3 is splash-proof rather than waterproof but otherwise it matches up feature for feature with the Boom 2 – down to the smartphone amp that lets you run multiple speakers in stereo or multiroom settings. What it can’t quite match is the well balanced, multi-directional sound that makes the Boom so distinctive. The Flip 3 audio quality is perfectly pleasant, but lacks a little substance – particularly at the lower end. But the Flip 3 is £30 cheaper than the Boom 2 – so it may well be worth auditioning them both first hand before you make the choice.Compare on Shopomo
Sony SRS XB2
The ‘XB’ in SRS-XB2 stands for ‘extra bass’ – or what our older readers may fondly recall as the ‘Dixons Button’. This was the button salesmen pressed on portable stereos to pump up the bass and close the deal. Thankfully these days the signal processing has progressed so that the sound isn’t so distortingly awful, but the principle remains the same. Portable audio, by its nature, tends to be bass light, and the XB2 compensates with an ‘extra bass mode’ that delivers through digital circuitry for what the device lacks in actual speaker size. In practice, the SRS-XB2 does perform well and delivers noticeably better bass response than the other speakers we reviewed – but it cannot change the laws of physics. If you’re expecting your diaphragm and inner organs to shift in time to the beat, you’ll be disappointed. In all other respects the Sony speaker ticks the right buttons – it has a water resistant case, can be paired with another Sony speaker for stereo sound or more overall ‘welly’ and up to 12 hours battery life. All very much par for the course at this price range, but nice to have all the same.Shop now on Amazon
Despite having the dumbest name we’ve come across for a long while – 2Ks in Sharkk, really? – the Sharkk Commando packs quite a punch in its small but distinctive chassis. It has an IP65 rating which makes it convincingly dustproof and water resistant. The dual 5 watt speaker produces a crisp and melodic sound that competes well with speakers costing twice as much. And probably best of all, the Sharkk has an integrated power bank with 6600mAh of emergency power for your smartphone or tablet. Very useful – or it can power the Sharkk for a party-tastic 24 hours if you want it too. The downside is that the Sharkk takes a long, long time to charge up – we’re talking a full night plugged in at least. But that’s a small price to pay for a speaker that delivers both sound quality and staying power.Shop now on Amazon
Ultimate Ears UE Roll 2 Bluetooth Speaker
The Ultimate Ears Roll 2 Bluetooth speaker is the 2016 update to the original Roll, and at first glance it looks identical to its predecessor. You get the same same distinctive, light, saucer shape complete with lanyard and an inflatable pillow to float it on. (Yes the Roll 2 is fully IPX7 waterproof and can hang out with you on the swimming pool – and its array of 5 snazzy fabric covers will help you look good while you chillax.) In other words, it’s the perfect Bluetooth speaker for small parties and outdoor hikes.
The upgrade brings a modest bump in the wireless range – from 20m to 30m – and sound quality, although the overall volume is still some way short of UE’s claim that ‘you’ll have to shout to be heard’. Indeed if the original Roll was on sale at a big discount we’d be hard put to recommend shelling much more for the Roll 2, but the new version is available at the same price or even cheaper. Which makes it an insanely good deal.Shop now on Amazon
Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker
Unlike many of the Bluetooth speakers reviewed here, the Logitech X300 doesn’t have IP waterproofing or dust proofing, and doesn’t offer an array of kaleidoscopic colour options. Instead you get a solidly build speaker which looks a little like the JBL Flip, that puts out surprisingly good sound even when pushed to the limit. Naturally for with a speaker this size and weight (15.2cm x 6.9cn x 7.1cm, 335g), the bass will be limited, but it was definitely present and there was an overall balance to the sound that made it easy to listen to for extended sessions. Unusually, the X300 can be used as a speakerphone, although you’ll need to stay close to the built-in mike if you’re outside. Factor in the sub-£60 price point, and the X300 becomes a very attractive proposition, as long as you don’t plan to take it swimming.Compare on Shopomo
Ultimate Ears UE Mini Boom
The Mini BOOM is a wireless Bluetooth speaker made by Logitech’s Ultimate Ears, a brand specialising in making some of the funkiest looking speakers money can buy.
The dimensions of the Mini Boom mean that it’s easy to tuck away in a bag and the build quality ensures it will survive bumps and scrapes. Small size doesn’t mean small sound, though.
This is a mini speaker with a big voice and during our time with the Boom we were particularly impressed with its ability to produce deep, strong notes in the lower registers.
The folk over at UE promise that the Mini Boom offers up to 10 hours of battery life between charges through a Micro USB, although real life results will depend on how loud you push it and if you have a wired or wireless connection.
This Bluetooth speaker is a sturdy and good-looking product capable of filling a room with booming bass at the touch of a button. If you’re looking for a low-priced wireless speaker and don’t mind sacrificing audio quality at particularly high volumes, the BOOM seems like a fantastic choice.Compare on Shopomo