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.
Now pick through our favourite Bluetooth speakers, ranked in order of preference, with the very best all-round package at number one.
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 devices 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.
Once Libratone sorts its damn app out, you'll also be able to pair two One Clicks in stereo. So that'll be nice.
From £137 | Buy Libratone One Click
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!
Like the 80s originals, there IS one button that has no apparent purpose. You can switch between 'indoor' and 'outdoor' modes, but the latter just appars 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. For those who are looking for 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 stream, 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/at quieter volumes.
T3 rating 4/5
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, and the rugged construction and 20-hour battery life make it hugely capable as an outdoor performer.
Admittedly, the look won't be to everyone's taste. Oh well.
From £206 | Buy Marshall Kilburn
Monster SuperStar Backfloat
Built for the pool, bath or shower, Monster's SuperStar Backfloat lacks the power of the SuperStar Blaster.
However, unlike that monster, it's fully waterproof and highly shock-proof, too. The only reason you'd throw the Blaster in a pool would be if you were trying to kill the people in it, but the Float will just do exactly what its name suggests.
With a noise cancelling mic for hands-free calling as you lather yourself down, and Monster's characteristic, meaty, beaty, big and bouncy sound, it's something like a bargain at its new price.
From £99 | Buy Monster SuperStar Backfloat
Ultimate Ears UE Megaboom
We also love the UE Boom 2, but the slightly larger and majorly louder Megaboom is an even more handy Bluetooth speaker, especially outdoors.
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 battery life that lasted us many days of office listening.
With 20 hours of juice, the party need not stop until the police arrive, while the Bluetooth connection has a decent 30m range. Multiple phones/tablets/whatever can be connected at once, so everyone can have a turn as DJ and if you're lucky enough to own two Megaboom speakers (or one Megaboom and one Boom) you can join them together as a stereo pair. The set-up for this was a little tricky and it often failed to connect, but when it did it was pretty impressive.
It's safe to say that it sounds fantastic. It 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.
Like the Monster above, the Megaboom is also drastically lower in price than when launched. Thank you, god, for tech product price entropy!
T3 rating 4
From £180 | Buy Ultimate Ears Megaboom
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.
One of the most "hi-fi" Buetooth docks we've run across to date, 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 aptX Bluetooth for the maximum sound quality you can wring out of that particular wireless codec. 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 before settling down to watch the equestrian section of the Rio Olympics, it's quite the thing, darling.
Nixon The Blaster
When it comes to 'Blasting', this has its ass handed to it in no uncertain terms by Monster's SuperStar Blaster.
That said, 'The Blaster' slips more easily into a backpack than that beast, is properly waterproof as opposed to 'resistant', and puts up a decent sonic fight.
Its minimalist design and impressive 12-hour battery life also score points in its favour.
Bluetooth setup is easy, although the heartbeat that sounds through the speaker during pairing is mildly unnerving, as is the cheery “see you later!” sign-off when powering down. Sound quality isn't bad if you're sat squarely in front of the speaker, but it is very linear. Step to the side and the sound drops off instantly. A party for one, then.
£105 | Buy Nixon The Blaster
Skullcandy Air Raid
Boasting a durable, water-resistant build, up to 14 hours of battery life and Bluetooth connectivity, Skullcandy looks to have a winning portable music system here, now the price is down south of 100 notes.
The '360 degree' sound system does do a reasonable job of pumping music in all directions, and it goes neighbour-irritatingy loud, without excessive distortion, although it's hardy gonna rupture anyone's eardrums.
The Otone is a perfect compromise between size and sound quality, it's small and lightweight which make it perfect for transporting, and uses two small 5-watt drivers for decent sound quality.
It features NFC for quick pairing which is useful, and comes with a carry case and clip for a caribena.It's also pleasantly cheap, costing only £49.99.
Those looking for serious bass performance will want to stay clear of this speaker though, as there isn't any.
£40 | Buy Otone Blufiniti