Portable Speakers Buying Tips –
What To Look For

Portable speakers are the best way to listen and enjoy music, your favorite songs and radio stations when mobile - anywhere and anytime. When it comes to portability, price, and convenience, mobile wireless speakers can be a perfect solution, despite the difference in audio quality and battery life when comparing to traditional speaker systems. Although technology has taken care of those issues lately.

Here are some tips or a buying guide you might use when it comes to buying portable speakers.

What to look for when buying a portable speak?

Hand-held, backpack or wheeled? 

It’s important to take into account the kind of situations in which we could use a portable speaker device. Usually, they are for fun, improvised, unadvised moments like a friendly gathering, a small party, by the pool or a day out at the beach. So let’s name a few of the features before buying a perfect portable speaker.

Robustness

Fugoo Tough

A portable speaker must be resistant enough to knock and fall. It’s not only about the strength of the surface, but also about the ruggedness of the whole system, because you want to bring your favorite music when camping, on the trail, biking, to the park, by the pool, beach...

Sound systems nowadays are designed to be resistant to different conditions, like dust, moisture, harsh weather and heat. Some brands offer nice-looking, waterproof, resistant devices while others focus on longer battery life and better quality sound. It would be appropriate to look for a balanced combination of durability and quality.

Water resistant speakers are more popular now than before because they are used at the beach, lake, by the pool... The Fugoo Tough, for example, can even float on the surface of the water, even resist when fully submerged into the water. So look for the waterproof and shockproof model.

Battery life

One of the features that make a portable speaker very useful is the longevity of their built-in battery. The battery should charge either via the wall outlet or USB port from a computer or laptop. It’s important to keep that in mind when picking up the new ones.

There are several sets of batteries, and speakers’ operation time will depend on that specific feature. Most of the common models come with 10 to 15 hours of battery life, but there are some models (like the Fugoo Style) that can last up to 40 hours. Be aware of that variation when making a portable speaker choice.

Power/Sound

For me, a good quality sound is the most important feature. One of the parameters that you should look at is the output power in Watts, or how loud you can play the music. Higher the wattage, louder the speaker is, but for home use between 15 and 20 Watts is enough. Another factor that is also important, at least to me, is if the device can also play bass and stereo sound.

Smart features

Some of the speakers are wired (less portable) and some of them are wireless (portable). Most models nowadays come with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity options and some of them even left traditional aux-input behind. So if you’re still attached to wires and cable mode, remember that technology has advanced a whole lot, it might surprise you. According to some experts, the Wi-Fi speakers offer a better quality sound than Bluetooth.

Portable speakers with smart features are trending. The best examples are Google Home and Amazon Echo (Alexa). New models in the market are also supporting smart-home features like a voice-controlled hands-free system, YouTube connectivity via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and smartphone syncing, and you can even pick-up incoming calls from your speaker device.

The availability of the Near-Field Communication (NFC) allows the portable speaker to establish peer-to-peer communications, but they have to be close to each other to make a connection and pass data. The NFC even allows you to pair more speaker together for the even greater sound experience.

The hands-free speaker allows you to take phone calls on your speaker without using the phone at all, but as long as they are Bluetooth connected.

If the speaker has the built-in FM transmitter you can listen to FM radio.

Wireless range

When it comes to wireless speakers, it’s always important to think about the range of distance they support. You never know how far away you’ll be from the speaker.

The standard speakers reach a 10-30 ft. range, but some of the most powerful models (like the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom) can get to reach up to 100 ft. It will all depend on the size, audio quality, volume levels and usage thinking of the product. Wi-Fi allows you to stream to multiple speakers at once, while Bluetooth does not. The signal is also stronger.

Design

Sometimes, the most beautiful design is not the most practical and vice versa. Maybe the model with the most attractive colors has the less audio-quality, or the most modern ones don’t support aux-in traditional connectivity, or the most rugged is too big or too heavy; some might be charged via USB and some will only support their charger. The important thing is to pick the one with the most versatile design.

Size

Portability means easy to carry. That doesn’t mean to look those with the lightweight design, but small dimensions too. Some companies are selling ultra-light and compact speakers that can literally fit into your pocket, the small compartment in the backpack and fit on your palm.

Price

Everything starts at the right price. How much are you willing to spend? My Monster portable speaker was close to $100. I like the design, quality of the sound, and the price was ok. The only complaint was the battery life. Now, my kid got the Google Home, and we are all using it… because it is “smart”.

Keep in mind that some manufacturers are charging a lot, just because of the brand name, while with others you know what are your getting. A good example is the Bose, great quality and even better sound, but you have to pay for it.

The best portable speaker is the one that brings a nice design combined with good technical and physical features.

Top sellers

Advantages and disadvantages of portable speakers

Advantages

  • Portability. This might sound redundant, but the main advantage of portable speakers is the possibility to take them out wherever you go. People need portable sound systems when they want to use their laptops or mobile devices outdoors. Their low energy consumption makes them ideal for such use.

  • Most of them are energy saving devices. Portable speakers generally consume very low power. Many popular brands use disposable AA batteries, but modern-day devices use built-in batteries to put hefty external power adapter aside.

  • No installation required. Portable devices connection with different devices (smartphones, laptops, audio players) is automatically established. The need for adaptability makes them really useful and versatile.

Disadvantages

  • Power. Even though it’s one of their main features, it’s still a necessary disadvantage. Portable devices have a delimited battery life and, at some point, they’ll need to be connected to their charger to keep them running.

  • Range. One condition for portable speaker usage is to keep them close. The quality of connection will depend on the range of distance they’re able to reach. No matter if their range can support up to 100 ft., it will always be a condition to never go too far.

  • Compatibility. Though most modern devices support almost every portable speaker connection, many music players don’t (especially those old-school but very good quality ones). 

Types and brands

A big variety of models can be found today in the market. There’s one for every type of person or usage. Here is our list of the best brands by category.

Classic design

One of the most popular types of cordless speakers is the classic, stereo, square, radio-like design. They are usually centered on audio-quality and functionality more than practicality and versatility. Brands like Marshall, Bose, and Fugoo have the most powerful and classically designed portable stereo sound systems on the market. Recommended devices: Fugo Style, Bose Soundlink Mini II, Marshall Kilburn.

Waterproof and 360° design

When it comes to summertime, fun days at the pool or the beach, portable devices need to be waterproof. It’s almost the new standard; most modern brands have added this feature to their newest models. Brands like UE, JBL and Anker have added both 360° audio display and waterproof design to their products. Recommended devices: UE Wonderboom, JBL Charge 3, Anker Soundcore Flare.

Super portable design

Some devices are designed to be easily portable, focusing in size as a priority feature. Those are perfect for short walks, sports sessions and busy days. Brands like Bose, UE, and JBL also offer these types of portable devices. Recommended devices: JBL Adventure Time, Bose Bike Rock, UE Wonderboom.

Conclusion

A portable speaker is a must-have gadget nowadays. They’re perfect if you want to listen to some music while outdoors and many of them are adaptable for home use. It will all depend on what kind of music person you are.

And remember! If planning to use the portable speaker outdoors mostly, buy one that is waterproof and shockproof. For traveling, get one that is small and easy to carry. For a home use buy one with the great sound and smart features as mentioned above.

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