Smartphones and portable MP3 players have given music lovers the freedom to listen to music wherever we want, whether it’s in the car, on a blustery hill or even the toilet. The world is our oyster.
And now Bluetooth speakers have opened our horizons even further, giving us the option of having home stereo sound but with added portability... and no cables!
We've worked with the experts on our sister site TechRadar to bring you the crème de la crème for all your listening needs. Whether you want a cheap speaker or something flashy for your living room, these are the best options for you.
Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2
The look of the original Ruark Audio MR1s have been given a stylish overhaul – in classic Rich Walnut or the new Soft Grey finish – and is guaranteed to make them the talking point of any room they’re in.
But to single these particular wireless speakers out for their looks alone would be superficial.
The Mk2s are even more versatile than its predecessor. Bluetooth with the apt-X add-on lets you play audio without sacrificing sound quality. And, with a handy optical input, you can connect Chromecast Audio and a range of flat-screen TVs, allowing audiophiles to give their viewing experience an added wallop. Similarly, an auxiliary input will allow you to connect your turntable and enjoy the rich, deep sound vinyl provides – unless you’re listening to demo recordings of any crust punk band.
If you’re wondering if the Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2s' power needs will simply confine them to indoor use, get this: if you want to soundtrack your barbecues or listen to some classics in the sunshine with your morning cup of coffee, then a BackPack II rechargeable power supply will give you sufficient portability.
And guess what? Your neighbours will thank you for it.
Bowers And Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
With its beautiful, iconic design, the latest model from Bowers And Wilkins sounds just as good as it looks.
First of all, it has a similar build to Bowers And Wilkins’ 800 Series loudspeakers; the bottom line is it sounds great, has a crisp mid-range and a bass performance which will will tickle your sternum.
The Zeppelin Wireless boasts Bluetooth AptX, supports Apple Airplay and Spotify Connect and even has an AUX input if you’re in a hurry to plug in and play.
This may not suit everyone’s budget, but if you’ve got some cash to splash, this wireless speaker is the one.
Bose SoundLink Mini II
Wrapped in a sturdy aluminium case, this wireless speaker is built to last. It might not be overburdened with fancy features, but it still does the job.
It’s one of the smaller Bluetooth speakers on the market, but its size doesn’t compromise its performance and can easily cope with metal at earsplitting volume, sub-bass driven tracks or quieter, acoustic songs at a lower setting. It also doubles as a charging dock, has a useful 3.5mm aux input for legacy devices and can be set up to take calls, too.
This Bose model proves that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3
The Oontz Angle 3 weighs just 10 ounces – similar to an iPhone 7 – but its playback is perfect for small gatherings; its Passive Bass Radiator gives it a bit of oomph without sacrificing quality.
It’s durable too, thanks to the rubber bookends and boasts a IPX5 rating. This means that, while you can’t stick it in the bath like some of the other Bluetooth speakers on the market, it can withstand a little rain or a careless drinker. So, unless you’re a fisherman or a deep sea diver, consider this model. Note the current price on Amazon. If you can do without buying vinyl for a week, this Bluetooth speaker could be yours.
Anker Soundcore Flare
Another tough, waterproof wireless speaker making it an essential purchase for those who love the outdoors. And there’s even a built-in LED light show for those who wish to recreate the heady days of the '70s disco scene.
Its small, yet perfectly formed. Don’t be put off by the minimalist design; its EQ settings can be easily controlled by using a user-friendly app.
At a touch under 70 quid, the Soundcore Flare offers a great user experience that’s also easy on the pocket.
You might not be able to take calls on this small beast of a speaker, but who wants to speak when you’ve got some serious power lurking in a 6.6lb construction? It’ll cope with whatever genre you choose to play.
It has AUX inputs so you can connect it to your turntable and a nifty button to pair it with your Bluetooth devices as well.
While its competitors offer easy portability, waterproof casings and rugged durability, this Bluetooth speaker sounds fantastic and has the classic look of a Marshall guitar cabs, down to its brushed metal finish, rubberised cabinet casing and that iconic logo fixed to the fabric grille. What’s not to like?
Bang And Olufsen Beoplay P2
Bang And Olufsen is the first word in sleek Danish design. The Beoplay P2 is portable, weighs 9.7 ounces – that’s a fraction lighter than the human heart – and is available in three colours: black, beige and blue.
Connectivity is easy, too. You can set it up like you would any other Bluetooth-enabled device or you can control it using their Beoplay app, which also indicates the speaker’s battery life. Handy then, if you’re deciding to play Sleep’s one-track Jerusalem album in its entirety in a bid to impress your friends.
Despite its diminutive size, the audio performance is good, offering a good mid-range and an impressive bass range. While it’s not loud enough to trouble your neighbours several streets away, it’s perfectly adequate for barbecues or large rooms.
And you can fit it in your pocket, perfect, then for those who have an unexplained fear of bags.
This beautifully designed piece of kit comes with a hefty price-tag, but make a note of this wireless speaker system should that long-awaited lottery win come in.
The Naim Mu-So boasts six speaker drivers with a 450W power output and its warm sound will satisfy anyone with a discerning ear. But then, it should offer nothing less for its price.
The Mu-So supports Tidal, Spotify Connect, AirPlay Bluetooth with apt-X, UPnP streaming and vTuner radio and can be easily connected with other Naim wireless speakers around your home; it can also be hooked up to your TV to give your viewing habits an extra audio bite.
Worth getting that lottery ticket at the weekend. You never know.
JBL Charge 3
From the house of James B. Lansing comes the Charge 3. It’s tough, waterproof and offers a lot of bang from your buck. Or if you’re reading this in the UK, sound for your sterling.
It offers a 20-hour battery life – handy if you’re at a really long party or barbecue – Bluetooth connectivity, a 3.5mm AUX input and a USB charging output. You can also use Siri or Android’s Google Assistant should you heart desire such digital delegation. And, if you happen to have friends with a similar taste in wireless speakers, you can connect them all to up the volume to serious levels.
It’s around the size of a fat pack of biscuits – say 15 Wagon Wheels – but its design ensures it won’t roll off the table. If a palette of colours excites you, the Charge 3 is available in black, blue, red, grey or mint green.
At a penny shy of £120, it really is a sound investment. We’ll be here all week.
UE Boom 2
This wireless speaker, as the name will suggest, is the sequel of sorts to the the UE Boom. So what’s different?
The bold, colourful design is basically the same. Good job. If it ain’t broke and all that. The material, however, feels a little more durable. But your ears won’t know about this, so let’s move on to the actual performance.
The Boom 2 offers a marked improvement to its 360-degree sound and if you’ve got another Boom 2 in the vicinity, you can pair them up. Got some neighbours who want to get in on the action? They can stream tracks via Bluetooth – and this is the good bit – if their music choices aren’t to your liking, you can always cut them out and resume play with your own playlist.
Like many of their rivals, you can take calls and dunk it in a bath or hot tub for up to 30 minutes. Why you’d want to do that is up to you, moneybags.
At around £100, the UE Boom seems like the smart choice for those on a budget and a penchant for water.