For most people, Bluetooth speakers are compact gadgets that sit on the kitchen worktop or bookshelf, churning out tunes at just enough volume to drown out the kids. It doesn't have to be that way, though, and if you require something with a bit more oomph, then our guide to the loudest Bluetooth speakers is full of great choices. All of the products on that list have the potential to annoy the neighbours/burst your eardrums, but one in particular will – as Michael Caine once said – blow the bloody doors off. That speaker is the Soundboks (Gen. 3).
Described as “the first and only Bluetooth performance speaker”, the original Soundboks was launched in 2016 by three Danish high-school friends in an attempt to “break through the noise of Roskilde Festival with the loudest music and the best parties”. What made it a “performance speaker”? Well, not only did it pack enough power to fill a field with sound, it also contained a specially designed amplifier that featured a Class D output stage, along with instrument/DJ mixer/microphone inputs, meaning you could indulge in a bit of impromptu gigging, record playing or karaoke if you felt like it.
The third iteration of this ground-breaking, floor-shaking speaker went on sale earlier this year, costing around £720/$999. In this Soundboks (Gen. 3) review, we're going to explore why you might (or might not) want to buy one.
Soundboks (Gen. 3) review: Design
Make no mistake, this is a big old unit. If the average Bluetooth speaker is about the size of a brick, then the third-generation Soundboks is the full house, measuring 66 x 43 x 32cm (25.6 x 17 x 13 inches) and weighing 15.4kg (34 pounds). It'll probably take two of you to haul it from car boot to park/beach/rave – but to help you out, there's a carry handle on either side, next to the bass reflex ports. (If you don't mind spending an extra £93/$129, there's an optional backpack available that makes it easier for one person to carry the speaker on their own.) The poplar plywood cabinet is pleasingly robust, but for added protection there's a silicone stopper on each corner.
Would we say the Soundboks is a stylish bit of kit? Not really – with its black, boxy shape and removable steel honeycomb grille, it looks more like a stage amp than a Bluetooth speaker. But then, it's not really intended to be positioned in the home alongside your Mary Berry cookbooks and your fake Fabergé egg, so who cares? If you do want to spruce it up a bit, you could always remove the standard grille and replace it with one of the more colourful options.
At the back are your connections – two XLR inputs (channels one and two) and two auxiliary sockets (in and out) – while the right side of the speaker hosts the on/off button, volume knob and a switch for selecting between the different pairing modes. Turning the volume up or down results in a circle of LEDs being illuminated or extinguished, which is a nice touch – though if you're planning on blasting out your music to the max, we wouldn't recommend getting close enough that you can actually see them. Finally, the bottom of the Soundboks features a connection for mounting the speaker on a stand.
Soundboks (Gen. 3) review: Features
The whole point of this speaker is to let people play their music loud, and the Soundboks (Gen. 3) really does get loud. Indeed, with a 126dB maximum volume, it's even more ear-splitting than its predecessor (122dB). To give you an idea of how much power that is, the average rock concert blares out at between 120 and 129dB. Generating all this noise are three 72W RMS Class D amplifiers, two 10-inch 96dB woofers and a 104dB compression driver tweeter. The Soundboks (Gen. 3) can handle a frequency range of 40Hz-20kHz, and there's also an advanced bass DSP built in for extra clout at the low end.
As for pairing, you can connect your smartphone (check out our pick of the best phones for music) or tablet using the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology (an upgrade on the previous model's Bluetooth 3.0). And it's also possible to pair with up to four other Soundboks speakers using the Host/Join function. For this, the company has installed the latest SKAA wireless technology, which enables multiple speakers to work together with no loss in audio quality. Cleverly, you can even have each speaker playing at a different volume – easily adjustable via the app – which would come in handy if your party had a dance area and a chill-out zone, for example.
This speaker is tailor-made for outdoor events – and not just because of its audio wallop. You'll get around 40 hours of battery life when playing music at mid-volume (going down to five hours at full volume). And with the ability to swap battery packs, you can simply pop a fresh one in if you need more time – just bear in mind that additional packs cost £108/$149 each. What's more, the speaker boasts an IP65 rating, meaning it's protected against rain and dust.
Soundboks (Gen. 3) review: Sound
To avoid upsetting our next-door neighbour – and indeed everyone else in our street – we took the Soundboks (Gen. 3) down to some nearby fields for our soundcheck. After pairing it with our smartphone (which took a matter of seconds), we selected a remastered version of Iron Maiden's classic Run To The Hills and pressed play.
At mid-volume, this speaker started to show hints of its power potential, but it was only when we cranked it up to the three-quarter point that it really started to lift us off our feet. At that level and above, the Soundboks (Gen. 3) is a truly emphatic proposition, its V-shaped sound profile delivering the kind of bass that could cause a tidal wave. It was easy to see why Soundboks speakers have become so popular with houseparty DJs and rave organisers.
The third-gen model is also not shy when it comes to mid and treble, with Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson's rasping vox and Dave Murray's high-speed guitar work sounding full of vitriolic energy. At really high volumes, it almost became too much for us, but with the Soundboks app coming with an EQ, you can adjust the levels to your personal taste.
Soundboks (Gen. 3) review: The alternatives
If you're looking for something a little more surreptitious than the Soundboks (Gen. 3), but that still offers sufficient power for large outdoor parties, take a look at the JBL Boombox 2 (£365/$499). With its curved handle and canvas cladding, it's a classy, compact boombox; but with 100dB of volume at its disposal, it'll still keep the community awake.
Planning to use your Bluetooth speaker indoors only? The Amazon Echo Studio is a speaker that combines power with panache. Offering the ability to play lossless tracks, support for Dolby Atmos and, of course, Alexa voice activation, it's a ludicrously good package for the money (£190/$262).