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Last Updated: September 10th, 2012

Bluetooth speakers are rapidly becoming a thing that people, you know, buy. And because of that, a lot of companies have started making them. One of those companies has become the unabashed leader of the pack with a little device called the Jambox. But the Jambox is over a year and a half old. Competitors have started springing up, and some of them are actually quite awesome. And we know Bluetooth speakers aren't a "one size fits all" affair, so we're going to give you some of favorites in a variety shapes, sizes, and styles.

The Scoring System

Unlike some numerical scores, these scores are not cumulative - they're meant to compare multiple aspects of similar products on an absolute scale (battery life gets its own measurement, for obvious reasons). For example, while the Satechi Swift may get a 3/10 for sound (not horrible, but not great), keep in mind, it's being compared to a full-on 2.1 speaker system that still only gets an 8/10. Here's how I would benchmark the Jambox, as a point of reference.

JAMBOX REFERENCE SCORES
  • Audio: 4/10 (especially for $200, pretty bad, lots of distortion and quite tinny)
  • Portability: 8/10 (it's Jambox-sized)
  • Value: 4/10 ($200. Enough said)
  • Functionality: 7/10 (Best controls I've used, nifty software suite, but no daisy-chaining or device-charging)
  • Battery life: 10 hours.

The Ultra-Portables

Satechi Swift

Overview
  • $30 (buy here)
  • Our Review
  • Does it charge your phone? No.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? No.

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The Satechi Swift is the SmartCar of portable Bluetooth speakers. Well, if the SmartCar didn't suck. I guess that was a bad analogy. Anyway, my point is that the Satechi Swift is tiny. Like, really tiny. Smaller than your closed fist tiny. In fact, I'm not aware of a smaller Bluetooth speaker (that is actually a speaker, not a way to reverberate noise off a surface) on the market.

But that's not all that makes it special - it sounds awesome given its diminutive size. When Aaron reviewed it, he said the fidelity was comparable to a Jambox. And it costs thirty effing dollars! Thirty! If you want a good little speaker you don't have to worry about dropping or scuffing up, and that can fit virtually anywhere, look no further. It does phone calls, too, and charges via USB. Other than that, it's pretty no-frills - I don't even think it has volume controls.

Did I mention it's THIRTY DOLLARS?

SCORES: SATECHI SWIFT
  • Audio: 3/10 (keep in mind, that's what I'd give the Jambox if it had less low-end oomph and volume)
  • Portability: 10/10
  • Value: 10/10
  • Functionality: 3/10
  • Battery life: 3 hours

The bottom line: If you need something ultra-portable, ultra-cheap, and at very least decent-sounding, you can't go wrong here.

Beacon Audio Phoenix

Overview
  • $100 (buy here)
  • Our Review
  • Does it charge your phone? No.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? Yes.

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I like the Phoenix. Not only is it undeniably adorable, it's also a pretty great speaker. Audio? Better than the Jambox, period. Better clarity, far less distortion at high output, and less muddling of sound. It's not as bass-forward, but it really isn't meant to be. The controls kind of suck, though. And it is a little pricey when you consider Satechi sells / sold a comparable product (on which the Phoenix is based) at about half the price. Still, a hundred bucks ain't bad.

But the sound. The sound is so great. The clarity really is unbelievable for something so small, and its ability to fill a room despite being the size of a big Rubik's Cube is downright impressive, and I think I know why. The stereo speakers on the Phoenix are positioned to put out sound in opposite directions (one to the left, one to the right), which gives channel delineation you just won't find on anything else out there in this segment.

SCORES: BEACON AUDIO PHOENIX
  • Audio: 6/10
  • Portability: 9/10
  • Value: 7/10
  • Functionality: 5/10
  • Battery Life: 6 hours

The bottom line: Truly portable with legitimate audio chops, though some seriously clunky controls. Regardless, the Phoenix really does blow away anything else in its class.

The Very Portables

Braven 600

Overview
  • $150 (buy here)
  • Our Review
  • Does it charge your phone? Yes.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? Yes (and 3.5mm stereo-out for daisy-chaining action).

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The Braven is the speaker that really showed me great sound does not always mean a higher price when it comes to Bluetooth portables. At $150, it's not cheap, but it handily undercuts its obvious competitor (if not its very inspiration). The Braven is a little taller and wider than the Jambox, but I find neither dimension is enough to place it significantly outside the Jambox's size class.

The sound is quite good. You get substantially more bass than you do with the Phoenix, though I'd say clarity isn't quite up to that level. When you have two very closely positioned speakers firing in the same direction, the channel delineation just isn't there. At maximum volume, you'll hear a bit of bass distortion, but no where near the Jambox's. Output is pretty high, and the Braven 600 can easily fill a small room - just don't expect a replacement for your stereo in terms of loudness or fidelity. Overall, when compared to the Jambox, the Braven gives you a fuller sound, minimal distortion, and very good battery life.

You can also daisy-chain multiple Bravens together, and use them to charge your phone with the included USB port.

SCORES: BRAVEN 600
  • Audio: 6/10
  • Portability: 8/10
  • Value: 7/10
  • Functionality: 7/10
  • Battery life: 15 hours

The bottom line: if you're looking for something that's Jamboxy, but better-sounding, and cheaper, this is probably your best bet.

Braven 650

Overview
  • $190 (buy here)
  • See Braven 600 review.
  • Does it charge your phone? Yes.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? Yes (and 3.5mm stereo-out for daisy-chaining action).

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The Braven 650 is the big brother to the 600, but it's only bigger in one sense: the battery pack. The 650 has all the wonderful sound of its cheaper sibling, but weighs a bit more. It also has an estimated 20 hours of playback time. The one other difference is its support of apt-X audio compression for devices out there that utilize the standard (usually only Bluetooth 4.0+ hardware), but frankly, I didn't find it made much of an audible difference. If anything, clarity at high volumes might have been better, but the possibility of placebo effect makes me wary even of giving it such a conservative accolade.

The 650 is really only there for people that find the 600 lacks enough battery capacity, which is to say, those who want a robust speaker / phone charger combination device. At a $40 premium, I can't say I'm particularly convinced the markup is worthwhile. It's not a ripoff or anything, but that $150 price point for the 600 is just a lot more appealing. Then again, the 650 still ends up being less than the MSRP of the J-box.

SCORES: BRAVEN 650
  • Audio: 6/10
  • Portability: 8/10
  • Value: 6/10
  • Functionality: 7/10 (I don't think the apt-X support and extra battery capacity warrant a full extra point)
  • Battery Life: 20 hours

The bottom line: It's the Braven 600 with a bigger battery and support for a codec whose real-world value is questionable at best - but it's still a great speaker, and the enlarged lithium ion pack ensures it will last for ages.

The Larger Portables

Soundfreaq Sound Kick

Overview
  • $100 (buy here)
  • Our Review
  • Does it charge your phone? Yes.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? Yes.

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If you're looking for the best portable bang for your buck, just stop right here. This is what you want. Yep, it's that good. The Sound Kick looks awesome, it sounds awesome, and it's priced awesomely. You can even buy it at Target. I was seriously floored when I tried it out. For $100, the Kick just decimates anything else at this price point. Sure, it's a little bigger (about the size of a slightly fat carton of cigarettes), but it has a kickstand! That means it actually sends sound toward your head, instead of your stomach.

Battery life is estimated at 7 hours, it can charge your phone, supports 3.5mm stereo-in, and the controls are great. While the Sound Kick does not get incredibly loud (in fact, I'd say it only gets as loud as the Braven), what it lacks in volume it more than makes up for in fidelity. Audio sounds full and warm, with satisfying (not overblown) bass - much more natural than what you'll get out of a smaller speaker. It's a real pleasure to listen to the Sound Kick. It also has a button that will increase channel delineation, which is useful if you're trying to get a more "surrounding" experience (like the Jambox's Live Audio mode). If you buy one, I'll tell you right now: you won't be disappointed. I love this thing.

SCORES: SOUNDFREAQ SOUND KICK
  • Audio: 7/10
  • Portability: 6/10
  • Value: 9/10
  • Functionality: 8/10
  • Battery Life: 7 hours

The bottom line: Best value for money in its segment, hands-down. While the sound is more about quality than quantity, and it's definitely on the larger side, I think it's a pretty ideal speaker for most people.

SuperTooth Disco

Overview
  • $110 (buy here)
  • Our Review
  • Does it charge your phone? No.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? Yes.

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I reviewed the SuperTooth Disco what seems like an age ago. But it's still one of my favorites. No, it doesn't sound as good as the Sound Kick. And it doesn't charge your phone. And it uses a proprietary wall charger. And the subwoofer rattles like a diamondback on meth when you max out the volume. But the Disco is a tool of raw power. It's like a big 'ol 80's boombox (not that big, of course): you use it to bring the noise. And bring it the Disco does. 28 watts of total output places it way ahead of anything else in this class. It's incredible just how much speaker is crammed into this thing. You can feel it, too - the Disco weighs in at a hefty 2.5lbs.

The downsides? Fidelity isn't perfect, but at low to medium volumes, it's definitely passable. You don't buy the Disco as an audiophile device, you buy it because the thing can fill a room like nothing else for around $100. And it can do it without wires. It's a crude instrument in some ways, but there's one more thing that I absolutely love about it: it has a volume knob. A big, beefy, obvious one that you can adjust without looking at. That's a huge deal to me if you're using this thing in a party / get-together scenario. You don't want to have to reach for your phone (or worse yet, give your phone to someone else) to adjust the volume - you just want to be able to crank and un-crank the tunes as needed. Anyone can figure out a knob.

SCORES: SUPERTOOTH DISCO
  • Audio: 7/10 (if only for the sheer volume, I'd give it a 6 for quality)
  • Portability: 5/10
  • Value: 9/10
  • Functionality: 7/10
  • Battery Life: 11 hours

The bottom line: Do you want a portable Bluetooth speaker that gets crazily loud, is at least travel-friendly (it comes with a soft carrying case), and won't break the bank? Here it is.

Stationary / Multi-Speaker

Edifier Prisma 2.1 BT

Overview

  • $130 (buy here)
  • Our Review
  • Does it charge your phone? No.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? Yes, 2 of them, and one 3.5mm stereo-out.

nexusae0_wm_IMG_2857 nexusae0_wm_IMG_2873

I'll be frank, the market for something like the Prismas is probably narrow. Think of them like a hybrid PC / general Bluetooth speaker system. They're composed of a powered subwoofer and two satellite speakers. They also come with a wired volume knob controller thing, so that's kind of neat. That knob has two 3.5mm jacks, one in, one out. Convenient. There's an addition 3.5mm in jack on the back of the subwoofer, as well as a separate volume control for the subwoofer itself (an absolutely necessity for a 2.1 system). So, these really are a legitimate set of speakers - aside from the lack of RCA or optical jacks.

As for audio performance, Edifier seems to know what they're doing. The Prismas sound quite fantastic for something at this price. They're easily miles ahead of anything in the smaller size classes in this comparison. The subwoofer isn't particularly powerful, at 30 watts (satellites are 9 watts each), but if you crank it a little, it definitely gets the job done. The crispness and flatness of the audio produced is very impressive, too, though may not match some of the better non-Bluetooth 2.1 systems in this price bracket. But if you want a more dedicated Bluetooth audio setup for your office or bedroom, the Prismas will blow away any portable system.

SCORES: EDIFIER PRISMA 2.1 BT
  • Audio: 8/10
  • Portability: 0/10 (practically N/A)
  • Value: 8/10
  • Functionality: 7/10
  • Battery Life: N/A

The bottom line: An effective way to take your entire gadget collection's audio wireless, without sacrificing on sonic quality or paying out the nose.

Edifier Spinnaker

Overview

  • $350 (buy here)
  • I haven't had a chance to write a review of these yet, but I will soon!
  • Does it charge your phone? No.
  • Does it have 3.5mm stereo-in? Yes, and optical audio-in.

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This is the daddy of Bluetooth speakers. Beyond this point, you're getting into Wi-Fi dongles and various other messy, not-as-easy business. Not to say that more expensive wireless systems won't pay off in terms of sonic quality, but the Spinnakers are no slouches. They're among the best speakers I've heard generally. The only thing I could even compare them to are my Klipsch RB-61 bookshelf behemoths, and those are the size of big cinderblocks (and about as heavy).

Now, at 90 watts total RMS output, they aren't going to bring the earth-shattering volume $350 might otherwise buy you, but loudness really isn't the selling point. The Spinnakers, in all their freaky, horn-shaped glory, aren't just a crazy design experiment. These speaker are tri-amped (subwoofer, midrange, tweeter), meaning each horn contains three separate speaker drivers. The midrange driver and tweeter require require less room than the subwoofer, so this made the "horn" shape something of a natural result of form following function.

And that sound. Wow. Let me put it this way: there's a reason the Spinnakers cost $350, and it's not because they're shaped like something that came off a really evil bull / the devil's Ikea showroom. They sound truly brilliant.

One of the key characteristics of a great speaker is not needing to turn up the volume to get great sound, but when you do turn it up, that it does not become uncomfortable to listen to. Fully cranked, the Spinnakers are shameless musical bliss, trumpeting a full, deep, and balanced soundscape into your ears. It's almost impossible to make them too loud. They're extremely clear, and I can't hear any distortion out of them. The enclosures rattle a little when you max the volume on bass-heavy tracks, but it's by no means a big deal.

The one caveat is that setting them up is a royal pain in the ass because of the cable guides / various jacks, but once you do that, there's not much to complain about (other than being out $350). The wireless RF volume / multi-function remote works perfectly, and you can hook up via Bluetooth, 3.5mm stereo, or optical. Oh, and you can even plug in an external subwoofer, too, if you have one. If you want a legitimate stereo system that also happens to be very Bluetooth-friendly, there is literally nothing else on the market that's going to come close to these. The Spinnakers are simply brilliant.

SCORES: EDIFIER SPINNAKER
  • Audio: 10/10
  • Portability: 0/10 (practically N/A)
  • Value: 8/10 (you have to consider just how great these sound - they really are a bargain in that sense)
  • Functionality: 8/10
  • Battery Life: N/A

The Bottom Line: This may very well be the best Bluetooth speaker system on the market, and while the price is steep, remember this: you're paying just $50 more than you would for a Jambox Big - and that's not going to sound anywhere near as good as this. It's not even a contest. This a serious audio product, and a seriously great one.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • hyperbolic
    • jdomann

      It's the reference at the top.....

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I have 2 of them, and while I love the portability, the sound is very subpar. It seems nice at first, but it really shows its weaknesses once you start using it on a day-to-day basis.

  • http://www.androidradar.de/ Leif

    Got the Creative D3x here for a while and I'm loving them. Good price for their size, wonderful bluetooth signal and you can connect multiple speaker of them via wifi together. They even offer a separate subwoofer. Fantastic system for it's price which didn't got much attention.

  • TwilightStorm

    So, you show us your review of the Jambox, but not the Big Jambox? JB is riddled with problems, whereas the BJB is actually really nice. Pricey, but nice.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      We don't have the Big Jambox yet, but once we get it, we'll definitely review it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I used a Jambox Big (albeit in a store) and I was pretty impressed. Hopefully when we get the Big to review, I can do a more thorough comparison. $300 is steap for any portable, though - they're getting into Bose SoundLink territory.

  • TonyArcher

    apt-x or no go

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      The argument for apt-X's benefits on devices with modern Bluetooth SBC codec support is increasingly weak. The fact of the matter is that apt-X was an amazing technology when laptops and smartphones were stuck with Bluetooth 1.5-2.0, or really crappy Bluetooth SBC support, but that just isn't the case anymore. And even then, the benefits were only there when you had an external USB decoder dongle for the transmitting device.

      Modern smartphones and tablets with BT4.0 chips support the full bandwidth for SBC as far as I'm aware, and the difference between that and standard apt-X so far as I can tell is negligible. I tested two identical speakers - one supporting apt-X, and one not - and I couldn't hear a difference (and yes, I had apt-X support on my transmitting device). For headphones, maybe you can hear more of the nuances, but for portable speakers, the benefit just doesn't seem to be there.

  • aceofhearts24

    So I read this article as I was listening to some skrillex through my satechi swift and what a great decision to buy this unbelievable little speaker. Cheap yet amazing, all thanks to you guys :)

    • chinda

      Hey dude im from uk & here ive got similar bluetooth speaker to satechi swift, is just bit bigger but can guarantee its alot louder & bass blow it away! Its called azatom droid, only available in uk. They also do larger speaker homehub which is better than any of speakers reviewed here. £25 & £55 respectively, also is another speaker called kitsound boom evolution that has down firing subwoofer build in that blows all these spealers away for sound bass & volume! You's americans are unlucky compared to us brits.

      • that dude

        Go eat some fish and chips, chip chip cherio, and wash it down w/ some tea, bloody hell

        • chinda

          No need to be rude! I was just saying theres better bluetooth speakers around. And im from scotland not england lol

  • Daniel Wiggins

    Awesome, the last one, Spinnaker, sounds great.

  • triangle8

    Got the Satechi swift based on your review and I love it. For the price, it is an amazing device. Thanks!

  • 4wdaaron

    What about Bose?

  • Deltaechoe

    No logitech wireless boombox that actually sounds decent at it's price point?

    • http://profiles.google.com/rcastles Robert Castles

      Yeah, Logitech is missed here, I think. Strong options for super portability, decent sound, strong battery life.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        We have reviews fourthcoming for the newest Logitech Boomboxes, so hold tight. Cameron's doing those, and from what I've heard, he quite likes them.

        As for the Bose, I don't like to dish on a company for this kind of thing, but let me be frank: Bose won't give us the time of day. I've asked to review the SoundLink nearly half a dozen times. I'm sure it's a great product (if, like most things Bose, a little overpriced), but I doubt if we'll ever get the chance to review one.

    • Kernschatten

      Agreed, good bang for the buck.

  • MPSPR

    you forgot the HMDX Jam Bluetooth Speakers, that speaker is super portable :)

  • http://twitter.com/dynomike666 Mike

    I have a Bose Bluetooth Soundlink. Fairly portable and amazing sound. Much better than the normal Jambox, which I've been able to directly compare it with. Worth 300? Eh, dunno..but the sound quality is significantly better than the 100-200 dollar options.

  • hahahi20

    I use my Nokia Play 360 wit my Android tablet, tja Play 360 is An amazing speaker, toe bad you havent tested it het.

  • Droosh

    What about the foxLv2 bluetooth? Shouldn't that be the reference?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      The FoxLv2 is getting to be rather ancient. Maybe I'll hit SoundMatters up and ask for one, though, if only to use it as a benchmark.

      • Droosh

        Thanks. FYI - they have a platinum one that uses APT-x. Might as well get that one. I think the guy that invented it sold his tech to jawbone for the jambox and that the jambox, although similar, doesn't sound as good.

  • ChumbleSpuzz

    FYI, it you desire more depth from your Satechi, they also sell a model with a expandable resonance chamber (like the X-Mini) for about $10 more. I upgraded to this one after reading Aaron's review.

  • reevester

    Would've been nice to see all the info in one big excel styled chart! Kinda hard to compare here!!

  • Tze Tuo Cheung Vivas

    Have you tested the Samsung DA-E570? Would like to know how you would compare it to these other bluetooth speakers.

  • oluv

    There are some new models missing in this comparison:

    Ultraportable:

    JBL On Tour micro wireless/II

    Jambox-sized and slightly larger:

    JBL Flip, Jabra Solemate, Logitech UE mobile Boombox, Philips Shoqbox.

    But interestingly at normal listening levels the FoxL still blows them all away regarding fidelity, bass-power etc.

  • Ganesh

    No foxL v2 !!!? This list is a crap.

  • raptorfactor

    As a little F-U to any companies that wouldn't let you review their products, I'm buying one on your list for a Christmas gift thanks to your reviews. Bose & Creative, who I wanted to see compared, can suck it.

  • Digger

    I agree, what about Bose?...

  • Earl

    Hi how are you doing ? Will you please review two units that may sound better and play louder than any of the battery capable portables that you reviewed ? They are the Klipsch KMC 3 and the Sharp GX-M10 !

    Thank You,
    Earl

  • Clydesdale_

    I bought the Xtreme Cube Speaker http://www.xtremecables.net/wirelessbluetoothcubespeaker.aspx and it doesn't work with my Galaxy S3 but works fine with my wife's iphone. It connects etc... but doesn't work; it actually kills the extrernal phone speaker. GRRRRRRrrrrrr

  • Me

    Jongo Bluetooth speakers look to be the most bang for the buck at x2 50watts for a total of 100Watts. They have been criticized fo r not having enough bass but I find most speakers have to much bass and not enough mid range and highs. I also like tha fact that I can add on to to Pure Jongo T6s and do my home and garden up and control everything with my tablet or cell phone. PS: Bose was great 30 years ago but they truly do suck in sound quality and volume... Bose is like cheap whisky... it may get the job done but there is no point in expecting any quality to speak of... Bose and those crapy beat pills by dr dry are both as low as you can get :(

  • Me