High among the inevitabilities of summer – including noticing who’s fond of sunblock and who’s neglectful – are the cookouts, get-togethers, and backyard bonfire bashes. Festivities, that is. And no function — be it a tailgate or a rooftop tanning session — is complete without a sound system. And while the market (and likely your Instagram ads, too) does not lack for portable speaker suggestions, thankfully, we’ve got you covered.
Our survey of the best portable speakers for purchase right now (budget inclusive) reveals that the once-clunky, duly-unimpressive tech has come a long way. Although allergies may be reminding us that it’s definitely still spring outside, these brands are keen to get ahead of consumer demand; and, let’s be honest, with Memorial Day (the unofficial start of summer) around the corner, the following lineup of 6 portable speakers will be the centerpiece of your festivities long after the dog days are over.
This is your Goldilocks option dressed in cool black with flashes of white. More functional than fanciful, this portable Bluetooth speaker offers 9-hour rechargeable battery life, speakerphone setting, full sound, an IPX7 waterproof rating, floating design, and the compatibility to pair with another X-Boom device for stereo. For what it lacks in alarm, smartphone app, or lighting it makes up for with its considerable Bluetooth range, compactness, and portability. All that for $70 makes it just right indeed.
Loud and proud, the rugged and water-resistant Sony SRS-XB41 is not to be trifled with. Its IP67 ingress protection rating means it’ll roar when used en plein air. The practical features: stereo pairing and speakerphone function. The still sorta practical but mostly silly features: DJ-style digital sound effects, electronic drum sounds triggered by tapping the speaker, and, of course, built-in party lights. The 16 and a half hour battery life allows this device to go from a day to a night party seamlessly, but it does weigh 3.3 pounds and is almost a foot long, so it isn’t exactly something you’ll want to lug around on a hike.
Like the Tribit X-Boom, the Roll 2 offers water resistance, quality sound, and ruggedness — three qualities worth any speaker enthusiasts time. This device, however, is truly portable and, while it comes at a slightly higher price, boasts some cool features as well. Since it can be strapped to or hung from nearly anything, it’s no surprise the Roll 2 can take a few bumps and hits. Rumor is that Ultimate Ears is rolling out the third version sometime soon, but in terms of portability, this is the speaker to pocket.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: The EcoBoulder+ comes equipped with cup holders and a built-in bottle opener. That, on its own, does not merit “best portable speaker” pronouncement, but with its very loud but also very full, natural sound, all-weather utility, and AM/FM radio feature, this device becomes very intriguing indeed. If the cupholders weren’t a dead giveaway, at $250 and 29 pounds, this is the ultimate pool party, tailgating, and family reunion sound machine. Plus, the retractable handle and wheels make transporting the EcoBoulder+ far from a burden.
If you’re looking to capital-P Party, then may I introduce to you the JBL Boombox. With four active transducers and two bass radiators, the Boombox is guaranteed the loudest person at the party. The IPX7 waterproof rating means it’s available for pool parties as much as it is tailgates, and, it comes in a cool camouflage colorway in case having the hardest hitting bass do so in a forest setting is your absolute jam. Also extremely useful, seeing as you’ll be outdoors a lot with this speaker: its 20,000mAh battery and dual charge allows you to charge your external devices anytime without sapping the Boombox’s 24-hour playtime. Get it now for $320.
While other notable portable speakers may be rugged and have a 16-hour battery life, none (yet) beside the SoundLink Revolve+ put into words exactly what we’re all looking for: a Party Mode. This may just be its ability to pair function, but still. Also, it’s shaped like a lantern, which has a lot going for it a world of ovoids and rolly suitcases. For $300 you too can party on. Its omnidirectional acoustic deflector stymies no-sound dead zones, and its dual-passive radiators turn that annoying vibrating effect from too much bass by feeding it back into the acoustics. Sleekly designed and vaguely Pixar-ish this speaker is cute enough looking that you’ll want to sit within eye (ear?) shot of it at the party.
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