Skip to main content

Best Bluetooth speakers 2021: From portable pocket rockets to sound system replacements, these are the speakers to beat

Huawei Sound X
(Image credit: Huawei)

From go anywhere portables to home Hi-Fi systems, the choice when it comes to the best Bluetooth speakers is extensive. Trying to shortlist the top options will have your head spinning like a weekend spent in a circle pit.

To make life easier, we’ve chosen our current favourites, determined by a playlist of metal, classic rock, punk and prog. Some are cheap, others a little more premium, but all of them look cool.

The best Bluetooth speakers: Louder’s Choice

When it comes to value and performance, it’s difficult to beat Amazon’s 4th gen Echo Dot. This smart Bluetooth speaker is a ball to use, playing loud and proud with all genres, for a modest outlay. It may be compact but it doesn’t diminish Iron Maiden in full flight and offers the clarity Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work deserves.

If you demand a little more style, consider the Marshall Uxbridge, a Bluetooth speaker designed for dive bar rock... and for everyday Bluetooth speaker portability, our top recommendation is the JBL Clip 3. This rugged, rowdy mini sounds great and is blessed with brilliant battery life.

The best Bluetooth speakers: Buying advice

The simplest wireless speakers offer a basic Bluetooth connection and nothing more. They partner with your device so you can stream direct from your preferred music streaming service. More often than not, Bluetooth-only speakers are designed with portability in mind.

Key factors to look out for when choosing the best Bluetooth speaker for you are battery life and build quality. You want to be sure the speaker looks like it could survive a weekend at Download without running out of power.

When it comes to home use, Bluetooth speaker options are a little smarter. The majority now come with digital assistants built-in, typically Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, so you can control your domain with your voice.

These smart models can also partner with your mobile over Bluetooth, but will also stream from the Internet over Wi-Fi using voice control. There’s nothing better than barking at your speaker, demanding it to play Powerwolf just because you can.

The best Bluetooth speakers: Full round-up

Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen

You’ll have a blast with this latest Alexa Bluetooth speaker

Price: £89 | Features: Bluetooth | Portable: No | Smart connectivity: Yes, Amazon Alexa

Big, ballsy sound
Alexa digital assistant
3.5mm input
Rocks but doesn’t roll

Alexa has had a change of image with this 4th gen version. Out goes the familiar cylinder and in comes an orb design. That circle of lights, familiar from previous Echos, has moved to the flat base, and looks rather funky. This new shape has also led to a change in driver arrangement, with 76mm woofer and dual 20mm tweeters facing forward.

In addition to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, there’s also a 3.5mm jack so you can hook up a physical device if required. 

For a compact speaker, this Echo globe makes a big, fulsome noise, and boasts a surprisingly prodigious bass. The Miley Cyrus/Joan Jett collab Bad Karma, throbs like a beating heart.

While the speaker won’t take up too much room on your desktop, it sounds reassuring wide. Iron Maiden’s classic Can I Play With Madness makes a mighty noise. In all, this 4th gen Echo speaker is impossible to resist.

Marshall Uxbridge

(Image credit: Marshall)

2. Marshall Uxbridge

This compact wireless speaker looks the part and has Amazon Alexa

Price: £170 | Features: Bluetooth | Wi-Fi: Airplay 2 | Smart connectivity: Yes, built-in Alexa

Distinctive Marshall amp design
Punchy mid-range performance
Lacks bass
Can distort at full volume

If Motorhead were a Bluetooth speaker, it would probably be the Marshall Uxbridge – unpretentious, gutsy, unapologetically rough.

Resplendent in Marshall’s trademark guitar amp livery, the Uxbridge is a Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t look like it’ll cock a snook when you ask built-in Alexa to play Norwegian Black Metal. 

While the enclosure itself is a little plasticky, it plays loud and hard. It’s easy to use too, taking just a few minutes to set up. In addition to Bluetooth 4.2 you can stream over Wi-Fi and there’s also support for Airplay 2 and Spotify Connect.

Up top are individual controls for bass, treble and volume. There’s no physical input connection option, so it’s wireless all the way. Inside lurks a gutsy 30W digital amp. The driver array is forward facing, and the soundstage mono. Deep bass is limited, but the midrange is fulsome and it rocks with gusto. 

Huawei Sound X

(Image credit: Huawei)

3. Huawei Sound X

This collaboration with French Hi-Fi brand Devialet is a premium performer

Price: £299 | Features: Bluetooth | Smart connectivity: No

Superb build quality
Refined, musical performer
No smart functionality
Too big for the desktop

With its piano gloss finish and innovative design, this collaboration from controversial smartphone maker Huawei and audio French brand Devialet is nothing if not surprising.

Its lack of smarts shouldn’t really surprise, given the hassles Huawei’s faces Stateside with its smartphone division, but that doesn’t prevent this sound system from being quite the performer.

It’s expensive admittedly, with a price premium over rivals like the Apple Homepod and second gen Sonos One, but when you consider it has genuine audiophile DNA, it’s actually decent value. Inside is Devialet’s distinctive low distortion Push-Push woofer design, and SAM (Speaker Active Matching) optimisation technology. You’d normally expect to find both these proprietary treats on Devialet products selling for more than twice the price. 

The speaker employs dual subwoofers, visible via cabinet cutaways on each side, and six full-range drivers/tweeters that encircle the bass. This creates a 360 degree soundstage, so that it sounds the same regardless where you listen in a room.

A touch sensitive control offers on-body volume and pairing buttons, illuminating only when you alert the proximity sensor. Power output is rated at 65W, with a formidable 144W in overall transient power. The bass output of this speaker is massive. Those Push-Push subs drop to a convincing 40Hz. No other wireless speaker in its price range sounds quite so heavy.

It’s midrange is high grade too. Coheed And Cambria’s Jessie’s Girl 2 proves a great showcase for the speaker, power pop guitar with a tight backbeat and melodious vocals. But we did notice a disconnect between subs and drivers that occasionally undermines performance. 

Crank the volume on Napalm Death’s Amoral, and the soundstage starts to collapse, but we’re comparing it with traditional Hi-Fi systems here, not rival Bluetooth speakers.

Undeniably a musical performer, the Sound X proves perfect for prog and classic rock. It’s a refined and classy performer.

Amazon Echo Studio

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. Amazon Echo Studio

The King Kong of the Echo family features an armoury of drivers and even supports Dolby Atmos Music 

Price: £180 | Features: Bluetooth** Wi-Fi | Smart connectivity: Yes, Amazon Alexa

Thumping performer
Dolby Atmos Music compatible
Looks like it's eaten the rest of the Echo family for breakfast

The Amazon Echo Studio is the ultimate evolution of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled smart speaker family. A brawny performer that’s both high-res audio capable and Dolby Atmos enabled (Amazon Music HD subscription required), it’s in a league of its own.

Wrapped in grey fabric, with physical volume and mic buttons up top, plus the usual light ring, the Studio is significantly bigger than previous Echoes. It employs a trio of 51mm mid-range drivers (one of which is up-firing), a downward-firing 5.25-inch bass woofer and a 25mm tweeter.

Although designed for wireless operation, via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, there is a 3.5mm aux/mini optical line input if you want one. The Studio sounds huge compared to other Echo speakers. On-board amplification is rated at a humongous 300W and it exercises its bass woofer with enthusiasm.

A run through of Amazon’s Best of 3D music’ playlist quickly confirms that Atmos tracks play with delightful height and width. Free classic All Right Now elevates Paul Rodgers on to a pedestal, while bass and guitar rock at his feet. 

We reckon the Studio is the most exciting smart Bluetooth speaker you can buy for less than  £200.

Pure DiscovR

(Image credit: Pure)

5. Pure DiscovR

This best Bluetooth speaker for portability is powered by Alexa

Price: £179 | Features: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Portable: Yes | Smart connectivity: Yes, Amazon Alexa

Custom presets 
Decent battery life
Not the most musical Bluetooth speaker on the block

The DiscovR is a portable Alexa-enabled smart speaker with some unusual touch sensitive user controls and a Mic Drop privacy mode that enables you to shut your virtual assistant down with a gratifying thud.

Push down hard on the top plate and a central column rises to reveal the speaker grille. Pushing this down switches the unit off and disconnects the microphones.  

The driver array in this compact pod comprises one 3-inch woofer, and two 31mm tweeters. Together they create a semi omnidirectional soundfield. The enclosure is made of aluminium, with a non-slip polymer base, probably useful for when you’re yachting off the coast of Monaco.

Battery life runs to 15-hours and wireless support covers Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth. There’s also a 3.5mm aux input.

The DiscovR offers all the usual Amazon Alexa interoperability, but adds four colour-coded (green, yellow, blue and pink) Quick Corners. These can be assigned to radio stations or playlists, and can also be reserved for specific Alexa commands - “Alexa play Ghost!” Definitely useful!

Power output is rated at 45W, not bad given how compact the speaker is. It’s monophonic, which makes it ideal for listening to the Ramones in the park. 

JBL Clip 3

(Image credit: JBL)

6. JBL Clip 3

This diminutive Bluetooth portable has a go anywhere attitude and we love it

Price: £49 | Features: Bluetooth | Portable: Yes | Smart connectivity: No

Supremely portable
Outstanding battery life
Integrated carabiner
Offers functionality not fidelity

The Clip 3 from JBL is a portable Bluetooth speaker designed to go anywhere. It’s small enough to pop in a pocket, and comes with an integrated carabiner which allows you to hang it from a bag or belt.

JBL has enormous cred when it comes to audio gear, being well regarded for both its stadium speakers to home Hi-Fi; it’s also a big supporter of the festival scene. All of which makes us feel warm and cosy about the Clip 3. 

And it’s cute too, with moulded Play buttons and a rugged exterior - and as the Clip 3 has an IPX7 waterproof rating, it should survive the muddy hell of Download.

While most users will stream music via Bluetooth from their smartphones, the Clip 3 has a 3.5mm minijack, so you can connect a music player directly if you prefer. Battery life is great, lasting 10 hours when fully charged. It features a dual USB charging hub too. We think it’s brilliant value.

Steve May

Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist who contributes to a variety of UK websites and mags, including Louder Sound, Yahoo UK, Trusted Reviews, T3, The Luxe Review and Home Cinema Choice. Steve began his career as a music journo, writing for legendary rock weekly Sounds, under the nom de plume Steve Keaton. His coverage of post punk music was cited in the 2015 British Library exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, as a seminal influence on the Goth music scene.