Best portable Bluetooth speakers for outdoor party people
There's one time when Bluetooth speakers that are battery-powered, rugged and water-resistant enough to resist horseplay come into their own: summer time.
Now, as the weather gets warmer, our thoughts turn once again to al fresco partying, perhaps around the pool, or maybe whilst burning a sausage on a barbecue as a light drizzle starts, and your parasol blows over.
Bluetooth speakers can receive music from just about any phone, tablet or laptop in existence, and although the audio may not be lossless, the best ones do deliver decent sonics, as well as portability, versatility and toughness.
Ideally, you want Apt-X support for better audio but to be honest, outdoor sounds are generally more about volume than refinement, and any kind of Bluetooth delivers perfectly adequate audio for that. Or you could always just go mad and get a Soundboks…
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What is the best battery-powered Bluetooth speaker for outdoors?
There are plenty of candidates, but the best Bluetooth speaker for outdoor partying is almost certainly made by Logitech offshoot Ultimate Ears.
This little sonic orb is under 90 quid (okay, it's £89.99 RRP), comes in a range of dope colours, puts out massive volume for its size and can easily be paired with a second Wonderboom.
It's waterproof, it's shockproof, it looks like a hand grenade, and it's the bomb.
Now pick through that and the rest of our favourite battery-powered Bluetooth speakers, ranked in order of preference.
While the UE Boom 2 is undeniably a very strong product, it requires an app to use more than one of them at once, and is a little less portable than this cheap and loud, sonic hand grenade.
The 360 degree audio is better than it has any right to be at the price, especially with EDM, bro rock and other Spring Break, outdoor party-friendly sounds.
The Wonderboom doesn't really try to straddle home and outdoors: it's clearly meant to be taken to wherever the party is. It's fully waterproof – in fact not only does it also float, but if you push it under the water for whatever reason, it'll even survive that as it's IPX7 rated.
As well as trying to drown the Wonderboom, you can also chuck it at the wall if you like. It'll survive that too.
With up to 10 hours of battery life, a 100m Bluetooth range, and the ability to pair a second Wonderboom with just the press of a button (and a bit of an awkward pause while it does its thing, but it gets there eventually), the Wonderboom is the current state of the art in outdoor party speakers.
UE Boom 2
The Boom 2 is a little more refined than the Wonderboom, a little pricier, and you'd be a little more worried if you broke or lost it.
As such, I prefer the Wonder for outdoor use. However the Boom 2 is more suited to being taken indoors, and via the UE app you can link together dozens of them, if you wish – although that is not a process I'd ever want to have to go through again, having tried it once. It's okay for pairing two, though.
More usefully, you can also link multiple mobile devices to the Boom 2, for total DJ wars. It's a great, waterproof speaker, with 15 hours of battery life.
Libratone One Click
There is only one name that everyone knows when it comes to Danish hi-fi products with an effortlessly chic, Scandiwegian-style vibe. And that name is not Libratone.
However, while the One Click is inferior to Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay A1 sonically, that's not by a huge margin.
And arguably it's the match of its more glamorous blonde cousin in terms of look, plus being more practical to carry around and hang on things, thanks to its brace of interchangeable handles. It's also cheaper, and for a speaker you're going to be taking into the wild, that's indubitably better.
We admit we may have been slightly swayed, as well as the VFM, by the extreme good-lookingness of the models Libratone has employed to artfully photograph lounging langorously in the vicinity of its speaker.
As well as that, the addition of NFC pairing, the abliity to have two phones connected to it at once - bring the soundclash! - a 3.5mm jack for whatever people use that for, splash proofing sufficient to survive the rain and a choice of three colours, this is a textbook portable speaker.
Now Libratone has sorted its damn app out, you can also pair two One Clicks in stereo. Bonus.
Monster SuperStar Blaster
Powerful enough to shake the foundations of your shed, yet refined enough to be sold by John Lewis, Monster's latest is the 80s 'ghetto blaster' reimagined for the 2016. All that's missing is a big button marked 'Bass BOOST'.
To be frank, no such button is required, given the brutal bottom-end assault that fires from this thing when you push the volume up. Look how enthused these guys are!
Actually, there is one button that has no apparent purpose. You can switch between 'indoor' and 'outdoor' modes, but the latter just appears to add volume at the expense of greater distortion and less tight bass. Possibly it helps the battery last longer – eight hours is the quoted duration.
With NFC for even easier pairing, the SuperStar Blaster also has a 3.5mm input for those who like to truly rock it old school.
If you want party rocking rather than background music, this Monster throws down like an original bad bwoy and will leave its foes feeling bugged out by its electric boogaloo. Bring it.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1
You could argue that this looks like something you'd buy in an artisan gift shop in Chelsea, to hang from your shower rail, but you can't argue that this Bluetooth speaker doesn't sound superb, or justify its high-ish price.
The audio and style are unimpeachable, and you also get a lengthy, 'up to 24 hours' battery life, it's lightweight (600g) and compact enough to take anywhere, and while we wouldn't advise chucking it in a ravine, it will stand up to a bit of rain and moisture.
Clearly, a leather thong is not the most practical means of carrying a speaker around or attaching it to your hand-made, small-batch man-bag, but whatever.
It also sounds and looks good enough to use indoors, in smaller rooms and at quieter volumes.
We can't really overstate what great performers Marshall's speakers and headphones are for the price. It obviously just buys the same Chinese components as everyone else, but it really does seem to applying some kind of expertise from its concert app range that means they real blast out music.
No, there's not a lot of finesse, but it's undeniably musical, and if you want to fill your garden or your 'squad''s area fo the park with sound, that's a secondary consideration anyway.
So, if you're looking for something with oomph and snazz, the Marshall Kilburn produces a lot of power and bass for its compact dimensions, giving meaty results with rock and electronic sounds alike. It's probably less good if you like light classical (but Wagner should work).
The power is all the more impressive when you consider that on paper, it's only putting out 2x5W of mid and treble - it's the 15W sub that does the heavy lifting here, presumably.
Despite the authentically rockin' appearance of the Kilburn, we seriously doubt this is made in the same factories with the same components as Marshall's legendary concert amplifiers. However, it certainly doesn't disgrace the brand in terms of volume and fidelity.
The rugged construction and 20-hour battery life make it hugely capable as an outdoor performer. Although as it's not waterproof, check the weather forecast, and please don't drop it in the pool, as people WILL die.
Ultimate Ears UE Megaboom
The largest and loudest member of the UE Boom tings clan is a very impressive performer indoors, and although less portable than its siblings, well suited to playing outside, too.
Packing the same durable cylindrical design and two-tone colour palette as its little brother, the Megaboom takes things up a notch with a whopping 20 hours of battery life.
That means the party need not stop until the police arrive, while the Bluetooth connection has a decent 30m range.
As with the UE Boom, huge numbers of Megabooms can be linked via the UE app, although again this is a fiddly and unreliable process.
Multiple phones/tablets/whatever can also be connected at once, so everyone can have a turn as DJ.
Audio is fantastic. The Wonderboom handles the majority of music types with ease and there's plenty of bass and if pushed, the volume will go really high without leading to any distortion. It's IPX7 rated too, so it can join you in the shower or the pool.
These days, the Megaboom is also drastically lower in price than when launched. Thank you, god, for tech product price entropy!
Bowers & Wilkins T7
Clearly, this is more for indoor use than for standing next to a barbecue as a torrential downpour unfurls. However, with an 18-hour battery life, it is very suitable for outdoor musical entertainment so long as it's protected from the elements.
At the more "hi-fi" end of the Bluetooth speaker spectrum, this doesn't push the bass - though there is definitely some low-end presence - but instead goes for a more refined sound, as befits a speaker brand of B&W's standing. It can play loud or soft and sounds equally impressive in either mode.
The compact, attractive T7 supports Apt-X for the maximum sound quality you can wring out of Bluetooth. The honeycomb structure around the outside helps reduce vibration and distortion, and there are simple controls on top.
It's a little on the 'tasteful' side, sure, but for soundtracking your Champagne breakfast while hunkered down in the glamping section of Glastonbury, it's just the thing.