What is the best bluetooth speaker for sound quality? We assess speakers from Bose, JBL, Ruark and more
Convenient and stylish, a good set of bluetooth speakers is a must for any music lover - and these days you can even listen in the bathroom
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Bluetooth speakers come in many shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common – a built-in amplifier.
This means you don’t need any other electronic boxes other than just the speaker (or speakers) and your smartphone, tablet or other digital music-playing device.
Stereo or mono?
There are two types of active Bluetooth speaker – stereo and mono. Stereo BT speakers come in pairs and usually require at least one cable to the mains and, in many instances, another thin cable that connects the two speakers together.
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Stereo speakers are better suited to home use and are ideal for locating on book shelves.
One-box mono BT speakers have just one set of drivers (tweeter and mini woofer) and require no wires at all, though many of them still provide the wherewithal to use an auxiliary cable from the music source device.
True, some manufacturers do produce one-box stereo speakers with two speaker drivers but unless you have your head right up against them, chances are you won’t be able to detect any stereo at all.
To enjoy the convenient wonders of Bluetooth, simply link your music player to the speaker using your device’s Bluetooth settings and enjoy wire-free music from at least 10 metres away – or up to 50 metres away if using the latest Bluetooth 4.2 and 5 codecs.
Here are some of the very best Bluetooth speakers currently available to buy
Bose SoundLink Mini II
This brilliant-sounding travel-sized speaker is admittedly a few years old now but it’s still well worth investigation, especially as the price has dropped quite considerably.
The aluminium-clad Soundlink Mini II adopts an elegant, minimalist design approach and impresses the listener with a level of sonic excellence that truly belies its petite dimensions.
This very musical speaker develops oodles of rich bottom end, a remarkably smooth treble and pleasant midrange without ever breaking into a sweat. It tackles even the most complex recordings with aplomb and its ample soundstage fills a room superbly well. True, the battery only provides around seven hours of play time, but that’s more than enough for most situations.
Bose equipment rarely fails to impress but their products always seem a little overpriced. This product bucks the trend by being both sonically spot on and great value for money. Highly recommended.
Ruark MR1 Mk2
Ruark produces some of the best small audio systems on the market and these two Bluetooth belters are a case in point. The walnut-clad MR1 Mk2s measure just 17cm x 13cm apiece and can be connected via either wireless aptX Bluetooth or optical and line-in audio cables.
Tested using a variety of musical styles from the Spotify and Tidal portals, these handsome speakers performed superbly well, delivering a very neutral, uncluttered room-filling stereo soundstage with excellent midrange, a silky top end and deep naturalistic bass from their 75mm bass drivers.
Being of the ‘active’ variety, the amplifier is built into just one of the speakers and the other one serves as a slave. You simply plug the master speaker into the mains and connect the two speakers together using the supplied 2m braided interconnect cable. This is a really tidy way to enjoy room-filling sound without loads of wires and boxes.
You can easily control the volume from the large knob atop the master speaker or use the supplied remote control. And if you’re prepared to spend another £60 on the excellent BackPack II battery, you can turn these speakers into fully portable units for use in the garden or anywhere without a mains source.
A top choice for discerning ears.
House of Marley Get Together Duo
With its connections to reggae star Bob Marley, House of Marley is one of the most eco-conscious audio companies around, with proceeds from its sales going towards Project Marley’s reforestation projects.
This fine pair of active Bluetooth 5.0 speakers is crafted from sustainable products, in this case bamboo and recycled REWIND fabric - they look wonderfully organic on a book shelf or table.
Crucially, they sound blooming marvellous, too, with very decent bass response and bright, crisp treble that, while a little sibilant, is nonetheless easy on the ear.
The Get Together falls under the True Wireless banner which means it requires just one one mains cable and no interconnect cable between the speakers to operate.
What this means is that you can place both speakers a wide distance apart and use them as your main indoor audio system and, when you feel like chilling in the sun, take the wireless battery speaker outdoors with you.
You can even take the battery speaker on holiday because it works completely independently: you’ll just need to charge the battery speaker after every 20 hours of use.
This is one of the most versatile models on the market.
JBL Flip 5
This attractively designed cylindrical contender from JBL produces an uncluttered soundstage of exceptional quality for its size and price.
The highs sing, the midrange frequencies are beautifully balanced and the bass kicks like an ass on steroids.
Since it’s equipped with Bluetooth 4.2, this speaker will maintain a rocksteady connection up to 40 metres away from your music device. A 2.5-hour charge will give it enough juice for 12 hours of racket-making splendour.
At just 18cm in height, 7cm in width and 540g in weight, this What Hi-Fi award-winning speaker is an ideal size for travel.
It’s IPX7 rated, too, so it can be submerged in three feet of water and still survive – and that makes it the perfect poolside and beach companion. Like the Muvo Play, you can also pair two Flip 5s together for home or party use.
Available in 11 funky colours, the cloth-covered Flip 5 is unquestionably one of the best sounding small speakers you can buy right now.
Creative Muvo Play
This palm-sized, water-proof Bluetooth travel-mate punches way above its weight.
Sound quality is remarkable given its diminutive egg-shaped dimensions (just 11cm x 8cm) and ultra low asking price: treble and mid-range frequencies are perfectly tuned to be easy on the ear and the twin passive bass radiators on either side produce oodles of bottom-end oomph. It goes surprisingly loud, too, without distorting.
The Muvo Play comes with Bluetooth 5.0 for rock-solid connection and a range of up to 50 metres indoors or a massive 240m with direct line of sight. An auxiliary port is included for those who still like wires.
Amazingly, this speaker is also IPX7-certified, which means it can be fully submerged in up to one metre of water for up to 30 minutes. You can even link two of these speakers together for a wider soundstage. Expect around 10 hours of playback on a single charge.
Available in three colours (black, blue and orange), this little sonic titan is perfect for travel and an ideal choice for both poolside and bathroom use. Warmly recommended.