What was the first record you bought? Can you remember the thrill of getting it home, taking it out of its dainty sleeve, slipping it onto the turntable and listening to that familiar crackle as the needle made contact with the vinyl? Of course, you’ll only know what I’m talking about if you’re of a certain age (or, if you are one of the many vinyl enthusiasts who are currently giving 45’s and 33’s a second life)! Then there were cassette tapes; yes, kids, we didn’t always have CD’s – let alone MP3 players – and we were a nation of youngsters glued to radio 1 on a Sunday night for the top 40 chart show, fingers on the record button waiting for the songs we wanted to record.
But less of this nostalgia, we’re here to talk about music and sound systems today. Whether your preference is for music from the 1960’s or the current charts, how you play it is your choice. With smartphones offering MP3 capability, many people choose to stream music via their hand-held devices, and perhaps via a Bluetooth-enabled device. That’s what we’re talking about today: travel speakers, brilliant devices that, when coupled with a phone, allow you to play music anywhere, and with quality sound. Are you interested? Of course you are, but before we begin our list, here’s a look at what they are, and what they are all about.
How It Works
Bluetooth is, in many ways, underused, but it is a vital part of the game when it comes to these brilliant travel speakers. It is used to wirelessly transmit the music from your phone to the speaker, so you get the full sound. After all, while your phone does have a speaker, you will know from experience that it is not capable of Hi-Fi type sound, so you need a speaker if you are to get the best out of your listening. The speakers are portable so they can be carried around – great for camping, for example – but can also be used in the home, so you can do away with those messy wires connecting your speakers to your stereo.
Some of these speakers can also be used to make calls, as they have a built-in microphone, and there are many that are specially designed for travel purposes. In fact, some of them are even waterproof, so you can have music in the pool, at the beach, or in the hot tub. These inexpensive devices will change the way you listen to music, have a great bass response so you don’t get the tinny sound you find with some such speakers, and are great for taking on holiday, so what are you waiting for? Let’s have a look at the top 10 best travel speakers on the market right now.
The Top 10
1: Anker SoundCore Portable Bluetooth Speaker
We begin with a speaker from one of the leading names in the world of Hi-Fi; Anker specialises in high quality sound systems, and is respected for great products at sensible prices. This speaker comes with 6-watts of dual driver sound, plus a low level bass port, so you get the full scope of the sound, and it is presented in a neat, fuss-free case that is unobtrusive and compact. The sound quality is excellent, thanks to low distortion, and it gives enough volume for use at parties and outdoors.
We like the fact that this speaker, on one charge, can give you as much as 24-hours of play – or 500 songs – so you have a full day’s worth of sound at your fingertips. It works with Bluetooth 4.0 so is bang up to date, and comes with a Micro USB charging cable, so you can charge from your phone or tablet anywhere you might be. This is a well-designed model and weighs not much more than 400g, so is very portable, and at £30 is also good value.
2: Betron JRS40 Pop-up Speaker
If clever and quirky design is your thing, this very neat speaker from Betron is going to impress you. It is extremely compact, so small that it could slot in a pocket – and is designed with a very clever concertina style case, that you open out before use. This gives it a surprisingly large cavity for providing the sound, which enables amazing bass levels for such a very small device. It can be used with your laptop, tablet or phone – and charged via either for 6-hours of sound – and is very capable for its size.
This is a speaker that will impress more for its design than its sound, however; it’s not that it doesn’t sound good – it’s perfectly adequate – but that it is not big enough to provide the sort of depth of sound that others here give easily. It is very clever, however, and if you are looking for something to carry around for occasional use, is perhaps the one for you. The price? It’s about ten quid, so would make an affordable, cheap but usable gift for a mate.
3: EasyAcc Mini Bluetooth Speaker
This one is a very stylish design with its shiny, black casing and circular shape, and is another pocket-sized device with some excellent features. It can be used wirelessly via a Bluetooth connection, or may be plugged in via a standard 3.5mm jack, and it is designed for carrying around in a pocket or bag. It is compatible with all devices and has a range of around 8-metres when used wirelessly, so is perfectly capable of providing wireless sound in the home or anywhere you may be.
It can play music off a MicroSD card, too, and also offers FM radio access, and the sound is perfectly decent, although perhaps not as impressive as some of the bigger models reviewed here. It offers up to 5-hours play on a full charge – again, not as impressive as some – and at a little more than 300g, is very light and portable. We would buy this one if we wanted a very small, very portable device, but not if the best quality audio was our aim, but again, you can find it for around £11, so it’s cheap enough to buy for occasional use.
4: Betron KBS08 Wireless
Another from Betron, who are regarded as specialists in very small, capable speakers, if we didn’t know better we’d swear this one is identical to the one above! It is a practically identical design, and has very similar attributes. It’s another circular model, so you place it on a hard surface for enhances bass sound, and is also very light and compact. It comes with 3-watts of output power, weighs less than 300g, and is small enough to slot into your pocket. It is Bluetooth or 3.5mm jack compatible, with a 10-metre wireless range.
What we do like about this one is that it pairs easily with any nearby Bluetooth device, and will automatically choose the last one that it paired with. It has up to 5-hours of play time on a full charge, and comes with built-in microphone for hands-free calls. All in all, at 6cmx6cmx6cm it is a very compact, very usable device for occasional use, and at £10 is very good value however you look at it.
5: UE Roll 2 Ultraportable
If you want something very clever, highly original and brilliant in concept, this could be it: it’s the UE Roll 2, and it is very, very different indeed. What’s so special about this one? Well, to begin with, it offers 9-watts of sound power in a very clever design; that’s perfectly adequate for any use. Also, it has a specially designed casing for deep bass, so you get the full sound you would expect from a quality audio system, in a device weighing just 330g. That is very, very light in deed! But there’s more – this one has us impressed!
It is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible, has a wireless range of an amazing 30-metres, and can be connected using NFC, so is simple to use, and it has a 9-hour battery life. Here’s the best bit – it’s also waterproof, and comes with a floatie so you can take it in the pool, the hot tub or even the bath, and it’s great for the beach. Make no mistake, this is a very clever, high quality, powerful and great-sounding portable speaker, but it comes at a price: It’s a whisker less than £60, which is far more than those reviewed so far, but we recommend you give it a very close look before making your decision.
6: Tecevo S15 Bluetooth Portable
If you want small, it doesn’t get much smaller than the Tecevo S15, a very clever design that has many attractive features. That it weighs a mere 150g is quite amazing – you barely know it’s there – and it is also shockproof and waterproof, for added versatility. You can use it in the shower, the hot tub, at the pool, and get 5-watts of power and up to 10-hours playing time from one charge. It is fully compatible with all devices, and connects via Bluetooth in a matter of a few seconds, so is very simple to use.
A wireless range of over 30-feet is perfectly adequate for any use – either in the home or outdoors – and it is designed to be rugged, so you can take it on your bike, boat or whatever and it will still work. It also has a built-in microphone for taking calls via Bluetooth, and the sound is very good for such a small design, with deep bass resonance and a clear delivery. In short, we like this one, and at just £20 it is a very attractive price – definitely one for the shortlist.
7: Roberts Travel Pad
Roberts is a brand associated with high quality radio and audio products, so you are immediately reassured of the best quality with this device, the very clever Travel Pad. It is surprisingly compact, to begin with, and designed in a no-frills manner for practicality, and weighs just 350g, so is very light. There are smaller items, but there are few that can provide the clarity of sound this one promises, and delivers. It very cleverly memorises as many as eight different Bluetooth devices, so you get instant connection whichever of yours you are using to stream music.
Further benefits are an impressive 12-hours of music on one charge, NFC support for quick pairing, and a very neat and stylish look that exudes quality. It can be used hands-free with your phone, so you will never miss a call, and it is easy to use and comes with a full manufacturer guarantee. Now, we said at the beginning that this is a Roberts product, so is guaranteed quality; that’s also reflected in the price, but we reckon a little more than £40 is fair for such a quality, capable item.
8: Betron MC500 Mini
Among these devices, portable travel speakers, there are small devices, and then there is this one, the Betron MC500. For the record, it weighs less than 60g – that’s barely existing! – and comes in the shape of a 5cm sized cube, which is genuinely pocket-sized. Yet, we were amazed by the sound quality, which has decent base for something so utterly tiny, and the 3-watt power output is equivalent to some of the bigger devices here. It has up to 10-metre range and is fully Bluetooth compatible, and also comes with a 3.5mm jack option.
Made from a sturdy case, this is probably the most genuinely portable of the speakers so far, and Betron is a brand with a reputation for quality products at sensible prices. This one is no exception, with a metallic, quality feel when handled, and it weighs in – excuse the pun – at around £13. If you are looking for the smallest of all, we have no hesitation in recommending you check out this charming, tiny device, and it would make a great present too.
9: Einker Mini Bluetooth Speaker
Back to a more conventional design, this one – from electronics experts Einker – is still very small; it is a circular design that is 8.5cm in diameter, and only 2.5cm deep, and it weighs around 160g, so is small and light enough to slot into a pocket. It’s an attractive design, and feels like a quality item, and promises excellent sound from a clever set-up. It has a high-definition sound system that is specially developed for portable devices, so you get clear and fresh sound wherever you use it.
As with all of these, this one is fully Bluetooth compatible, and is designed fortravel use with a 3-hour charge time giving 6-hours of playback; that’s not the best we’ve seen, but it is around the average across all of these. It’s easy to use and very neat, and the touch screen design makes it very easy to select music, fast-forward, change volume and more. It also has the hands-free capability, so can be used via Bluetooth to take and make calls. At £12.50 we reckon it’s good value, too.
10: UE Boom 2 Wireless Speaker
We have already featured one from the UE brand, and we were suitably impressed with it, too. This one, the Boom 2, is another waterproof model – you can submerge it up to 0ne metre for as much as half an hour with no ill-effects – and is equally impressive. This model connects with as many as eight Bluetooth devices for seamless streaming, and you can use a special app to control a built-in equalizer for perfect control of sound output. Technically, it’s a very impressive device indeed, and will impress your friends endlessly.
It’s not the smallest device – at 7x7x18cm it may be a little big for some pockets – and it weighs around 550g so is the heaviest here, but it can still be considered portable. An impressive 15-hours of battery life from a 2.5-hour charge is to be noted, as is 9-watts of high quality sound output with wonderful bass delivery, and it is a very sleek and stylish design the feels like a well-built item. Make no mistake, UE – it stands for Ultimate Ears – is an innovative, technically advanced, high-end brand, and this model really does the business. However, so it should at a little less than £100, making it by far the most expensive here.
So, there you have it; ten great items that are portable and capable, each with its own fine attributes, and covering a price range from a tenner to a hundred quid. Before we go on to sum up, let’s remind ourselves of some of the features you need to look out for.
Important Features to Consider
If you are buying a wireless travel speaker there are certain things to look out for: in truth, most are obvious, so let’s have a quick recap:
Power output – these vary from between 3W to 9W output and, as usual, the more the better. However, be careful not to sacrifice quality for power, which brings us to…
Sound quality – the sound quality across this selection varies from Ok to excellent; if you want great bass sound, you have to pay for it, so consider your options carefully.
Battery life – you don’t want to be charging up every few hours, so the longer the battery life, the better. Check the specs for the best options.
Size and weight – if used for travelling, you want a small, light speaker, and some of these are heavier and bigger than others, so choose carefully.
That’s a few important features for you to look out for when considering buying a wireless travel speaker, and we hope we’ve listed one that you like, so all that remains to wrap this up!
Let’s Wrap It Up!
Well, we think these are great little devices, and most are cheap enough to make fun, usable and welcome gifts. They all have a purpose, but it’s up to the individual to decide what they are looking for in a portable wireless speaker. If it’s top quality sound you want, nothing beats the final one, number 10, the UE Boom 2. It is, quite simply, far and away the best product here, with stunning sound and more features, but it’s also far and away the most expensive. Mark our words when we say you won’t get quality sound like this elsewhere.
If it’s ultimate compactness you want, you won’t beat the tiny, stylish cube that is the Betron MC500. This is truly minute and, for the size, provides perfectly decent sound for occasional and outdoor use. It’s very cheap, too, and would make a great gift.
It’s difficult to recommend one that we like the best, but although number 10 is the most impressive, perhaps the best value model is the Roberts, reviewed here as number 7; it’s a top-quality model, a stylish design, with excellent sound quality, and ranks in the middle of the prices range. For such a quality brand, we think it’s great value, so make your choice, and enjoy CD-quality music wherever you are!