Recommendations on a small bluetooth speaker?
May 19, 2016 6:18 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to get a little bluetooth speaker that I can keep in my bag, for all-purpose music listening. What can you recommend?

I'd like to get a little bluetooth speaker that I can take around with me and use both on my desk at work and when I'm out and about in the world. Researching this seems to reveal a mass of garbage content-farm review sites and mystery-brand electronic doodads of uncertain build quality, so I'm coming to you helpful folks to see what you can recommend.

What I'm looking for is something that can sit in a corner of my desk at work, hang from the handlebar of a bike, get strapped to the deck of a kayak, sit on a blanket at the beach, and hang out at a campsite on an overnight. Something that's small and rugged (should be at least splash-proof, waterproof would be better), with good-for-its-class sound quality, a decent battery life, and ideally some kind of clip or carabiner that I can use to secure it to things. I don't need (or want) any "smart" features; a dumb speaker with an on/off switch, a couple of volume buttons, and the ability to pair over bluetooth would suit me perfectly.

It doesn't need to be especially loud; it's more important that it be able to sound non-tinny at low and moderate volumes than that it be able to fill a room or be heard over a lot of background noise. It should definitely be bluetooth, so that I can easily connect it to both my laptop and my phone without having to worry about wires getting in the way. Something that's small enough that it can fit comfortably in a jacket pocket or cargo pocket would also be good.

I'd be willing to spend up to about $150 for this if it's really worth it, but I'd be happier if it cost more like $50-$75 and might be willing to make some compromises to keep the price down. I'd be especially willing to pay more (as in closer to the top of my range) if it gets me better build quality. Ideally I'm looking for recommendations based on personal experience, as in the past I've not found a lot of value in online reviews of consumer electronics/mobile audio type stuff, so "I have this and it totally does everything you want" is more useful for me than "I found this online and it looks like it fits the bill," although of course I'm willing to look at whatever y'all can come up with for me.

Thanks so much! I'm already looking forward to waving goodbye to the misery of tinny laptop and cellphone speakers.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Shopping (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
We give out Jamboxes at work as prizes for things, and they sound most excellent.
posted by xingcat at 6:28 AM on May 19, 2016

The UE Roll should tick everything here. Linking to the wirecutter, but I own one and it's great. Not quite as much bass as the mini boom but still has good sound.

If you watch Kinja Deals/etc for a while you can get one in an ugly color for $50.
posted by ftm at 6:29 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

The JBL Clip+! I have one and absolutely love it. The sound quality and build quality are both great. There's also a newer model that has a bigger clip on top.
posted by neushoorn at 6:30 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a KAKKOii one that is pretty good. They do a little one called loop'd.
posted by asok at 6:30 AM on May 19, 2016

Here is one attached to a bicycle handlebar by the loop, so they approve of that idea! If it is like the bigger one then the shell is soft plastic.
posted by asok at 7:30 AM on May 19, 2016

I have an Anker Soundcore Sport, which is small, waterproof/dustproof, plays for 10 hours, sounds amazing for the size/price, has a loop that and is only $30. It sounds much, much better than you'd expect. I use it instead of my Boom all the time.
posted by Huck500 at 7:31 AM on May 19, 2016

Came in to also recommend the UE Roll. Got it because of the Wirecutter recommendation, and it sounds amazing for such a small thing.
posted by General Malaise at 8:15 AM on May 19, 2016

I have a OTC Buckshot that I use on my bike and sometimes out in the yard. It's water resistant (I use it in the rain pretty regularly) and has pretty good sound, though since you're willing to spend more I'm sure you can do better. But I'm very happy with it. The sound is relatively directional, though - I can really tell whether the speaker is pointing at me or away, and if I'm riding with other cyclists they can't really hear it.
posted by mskyle at 8:16 AM on May 19, 2016

Another vote for the UE Roll - I recently tested out all the portable bluetooth speakers on display in Best Buy and it sounded the best by far.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 8:29 AM on May 19, 2016

I just got this Aukey Bluetooth Speaker, and I like it quite a bit. It's pretty rugged with a removable soft outer shell, and has a hanging loop so you can clip it to a carabiner & hook it to things. I don't think it's totally waterproof but is definitely splash resistant. Sound is excellent, connects easily to the phone. I chose this one because of its long battery life and have been pretty happy with it.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 8:47 AM on May 19, 2016

We have two of the UE Booms, which are bigger than you want, I think, but are really really great. Durable, reliable, good sound, nice looking...we've had them for three or four years I think, and they're great.

Based on our experience with the UE Boom, I would feel confident buying their smaller speakers.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here are some top rated reasonably priced options on Amazon.
posted by bearwife at 9:25 AM on May 19, 2016

Ridiculously overpriced, the Soundmatters FoxLv2 is outstanding.
posted by EnsignLunchmeat at 12:03 PM on May 19, 2016

I have one of the discontinued UE Mini Boom speakers, which isn't water/splashproof, but is pretty much the best portable speaker I've ever used for its size and convenience. I think the UE Roll is probably the better fit for you, and I've already decided if that the Mini Boom ends up not working for my needs at some point in the future, that'd be my next choice.
posted by Aleyn at 1:27 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bought a blue UE Roll for $70 on Amazon. The thing that pushed me over the edge is they come with a free mini pool float. (Silly, I know.) That and the fact that it's well reviewed both on and off Amazon, and of course the fact that people here have repeatedly recommended it. Thanks everyone!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:45 PM on May 19, 2016

First day with the Roll, seems great. Build quality looks good, design is good, I like that it's IPX8 waterproof. It's a little bigger than I was expecting (it's 5 1/2" in diameter, if anybody ever wants to know) but not too big for my purposes. The sound is definitely a big step up from my laptop speakers, which is all I was looking for. It didn't come with a free pool float and the included USB cable has a larger-than-average connector that doesn't fit well into the little recess on the back of the speaker, but those are minor quibbles and I'm still quite happy with it. Thanks again to all of you for the recommendations.

For any future readers, it plays well with my iPhone and laptop out of the box, but it also comes with an app that gives it some additional functionality. The app gives it an equalizer, tells you the battery status, and lets you pair it with a second Roll (if you have one) for stereo functionality. I haven't needed to use it (like I said, the basic bluetooth functionality on my phone works fine—it pairs easily, stops playing automatically when I take a call, resumes automatically when I hang up, etc.) but it looks like it's actually potentially a useful app to have.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:13 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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