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Best Overall: Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell 3.0 at Amazon
"Broadcasts your music evenly no matter what surface the speaker is sitting on."
Best Budget: JBL GO 2 at Amazon
"Weighing only 6.5 ounces, this affordable speaker plays louder than its modest weight might suggest."
Best for Backpacking: Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro Ultra at Amazon
"Comes with backpacker-friendly features, including a 100-lumen flashlight and a USB power out port."
Best for Tailgating: LG Xboom Go PK5 at Amazon
"Has a built-in LED light that can strobe to the rhythm of the music."
Best for the Pool: Ultimate Ears Megablast at Best Buy
"This speaker is waterproof, so it will survive if someone accidentally knocks it into the pool."
Best for Travel: Bose SoundLink Micro at Amazon
"Attach the speaker to a bike handlebar or backpack using the tear-resistant silicone strap."
Most Durable: Demerbox DB1 at Amazon
"Housed in a crush-proof Pelican 1150 case."
Best Waterproof: Ultimate Ears Blast at Amazon
"Can survive full submersion in water for up to 30 minutes."
Best Battery Life: Anker SoundCore 2 at Amazon
"Boasts one of the longest-lasting batteries in a light, portable speaker."
Best for Dance Parties: Sony XB31 Extra Bass at B&H Photo Video
"Has a strobe light that pulses to the beat to create the perfect ambiance for dancing."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell 3.0
With 20 hours of continuous playback, easy Bluetooth pairing from distances of up to 32 feet, and a rugged waterproof outer layer, it's hard to beat the Turtle Shell 3.0. The third iteration on this model from Outdoor Tech is 20 percent louder than its predecessors, with a patented "Dual-Directional Sound" that broadcasts your music evenly no matter what surface the speaker is sitting on. And you can link other Turtle Shell speakers up to 15 feet away from each other to build a strong wall of sound. A built-in microphone lets the device double as a speakerphone or respond to queries from Siri or Cortana.
There's also a 3.5-mm jack that allows for wired playback if you need it, and the semi-circular shell shape makes it easy to stash the speaker in your day pack. The speaker even floats, so you can take it on your next paddleboard outing or tubing adventure. Choose from up to seven different colors, from standard black to brilliant red to mossy oak camo.
Best Budget: JBL GO 2
Finding a low-cost portable speaker isn’t difficult. Finding one that delivers an optimal sound for a modest price tag, however, can be tricky. JBL’s GO 2 clears that hurdle thanks to its seamless Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and award-winning sound quality. Weighing only 6.5 ounces, this speaker plays louder than its modest size and weight might suggest. The JBL GO 2 offers five hours of playback on a single charge, and an automatic power-off function will help retain the speaker's battery life if you forget to turn it off. It also works with a 3.5-mm jack for wired playback, and is waterproof enough to handle splashes, showers, and quick submissions. This speaker is available in 12 colors, including black, blue, yellow, and pink.
Best for Backpacking: Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro Ultra
Most backpackers head into the wild to get away from the city's sounds, and often don’t want to disturb the natural world by blasting their personal soundtrack. But there’s no denying that your campsite atmosphere can be greatly enhanced by the right album. "Hikers and campers should look for speakers that don't weigh too much and come with longer battery life," advises Toby Gohn, a part-time DJ and avid backpacker. That’s why the Buckshot Pro Ultra is ideal for backpacking. It’s lightweight and provides sound robust enough to fill the void, but not so loud that you'll disturb neighboring campsites. A full charge gives you ten hours of music streaming.
The Buckshot Pro Ultra also comes with a few other backpacker-friendly features, including a 100-lumen flashlight with four light modes (high and low beams, lantern, and SOS strobe) as well as a USB power out port so you can charge your phone, GoPro, or other small electronics. The Bluetooth connectivity is reliable, and the device carries an IP6 rating to fend off water, dust, and dirt.
Best for Tailgating: LG Xboom Go PK5
When it comes to tailgating, sound quality trumps portability—and even though the LG Xboom Go PK5 is still fairly light and easy to move (thanks to twin grab-and-go handles), it still offers high-quality audio. The speaker uses LG’s Meridian technology to deliver clear vocals and reliable mid-range, along with dual action base that acts like mini-base drivers to pulse with the beat. That touch marries nicely with a built-in LED light that can strobe to the rhythm of the music, adding even more ambiance to your celebration.
At full charge the speaker can run for 18 hours—longer than most tailgating parties—and it can be paired with another Xboom Go PK5 to play sound from two speakers. It’s also water-resistant and fairly rugged, which come in handy when hosting outdoor events. An array of controls at the top make it easy to pair, adjust volume, pause/play, and forward tracks wirelessly.
Best for the Pool: Ultimate Ears Megablast
The best portable speaker for poolside events should be waterproof and loud enough to rise over the cacophony of all that water-fueled revelry. “Party organizers and music lovers should look for speakers that come with more than one internal speaker, which helps deliver stereo sound, rather than mono. And if sound quality is paramount, pass on any speakers that use digital base processing and instead consider those with passive radiators," notes Toby. The Megablast uses high-end active drivers, passive radiators, and dedicated tweakers to produce audio that's crisp and clear. The base is also deep thanks to low-frequency drivers that never distorts or muddies your music. Plus, this speaker can stand up to total submersion in water for up to 30 minutes, so it will survive if someone accidentally knocks it into the pool.
You can sync the same device with seven other Ultimate Ears' Megablast and Blast speakers to generate volumes that are sure to resonate with your guests. Tony also suggested looking for speakers that "pair with smart apps that let you tweak the equalizer settings." Luckily, the Megablast is compatible with Alexa and UE's BLAST app, so you can use your phone or voice commands to control digital music players or set customized EQ settings hands-free. You get 16 hours of playback off a full charge, which is long enough to play music during your poolside event without recharging the device.
Best for Travel: Bose SoundLink Micro
Travelers know that size matters—specifically, the bigger the speaker, the less space you have to haul other essentials in your carry-on. Weighing only 10.24 ounces and boasting a thin square package that measures 3.87 inches per side (and only 1.37 inches deep), the SoundLink Mirco from Bose is far from burdensome. And thankfully, its small package doesn't make sacrifices for high-quality sound. It features a custom-designed transducer and silicone passive radiators to deliver audio that’s clear, deep, and as loud as you might need.
Bose has also included loads of other travel-friendly features, including waterproof protection, a tear-resistant silicone strap that lets you attach the speaker to a bike handlebar or backpack, and an outer coating that holds up to dents, scratches, and cracks. A full charge delivers six hours of playback—shorter than other portable speakers, but the sound quality you get makes this potential drawback a worthy sacrifice. You can also control the speaker via the Bose Connect app, including swapping the Bluetooth connections to other devices and syncing your music to other Bose speakers.
Most Durable: Demerbox DB1
The Demerbox DB1 is a great option if you want a speaker that can handle any circumstance. Hand-built in the United States, the single speaker is housed in a crush-proof Pelican 1150 case that can open to store your essentials along with the main speaker. The speaker comes with a Port Plug that installs quickly for 100 percent waterproof protection, along with an internal USB charging port to keep your devices juiced. The Bluetooth-enabled device can also pair with up to six other Demerbox speakers to deliver arena-quality sound, with a line-of-sight range of up to 100 feet. It takes four hours to get the battery to fully charge and runs for 40 hours. But all this ruggedness comes in a heavier-than-usual package; it weighs a hefty 3.81 pounds.
Best Waterproof: Ultimate Ears Blast
Toby also notes that "weatherproof protection is a must" for any speaker you plan to travel with. With a waterproof rating of IP67, the Ultimate Ears Blast can survive full submersion in water for up to 30 minutes, making it your go-to speaker for any beach or lake destination. The casing is also dust/dirt-proof and shock-absorbing. In short, this speaker is ready for any adventure.
“If weight isn’t too big of a concern or if you’re just taking it to the beach or the pool, then you can go with bigger speakers that typically boast more volume, better sound quality, and other features," advises Toby. While the Ultimate Ears Blast is lightweight at 2.25 pounds, it still boasts a high-quality sound that will be loud enough to be heard while you're swimming. Its tubular shape provides 360-degree audio, and it has two 35-mm active drivers and two 81 x 39 mm passive radiators for deep bass. You also have the option of broadcasting the sound to as many as eight other UE Blast or Megablast speakers for an even more immersive experience.
Audiophiles are also sure to appreciate the control they’ll have over the speaker through the BLAST app, which lets you customize EQ settings, check battery levels, and enable Alexa. The UE Blast comes with a wireless charging dock and it can run for 12 hours on a full charge.
Best Battery Life: Anker SoundCore 2
Delivering 24 hours of playback on a full charge, Anker’s SoundCore 2 boasts one of the longest-lasting batteries in a light, portable speaker. Connect easily via Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless streaming from up to 66 feet, or plug your device into it with a 3.5-mm auxiliary cable. Inside, W drivers blast out rich, clear sound, while the brand’s proprietary BassUp technology provides a deep bass with a wide, balanced audio range. The tactile exterior makes it easy to take it with you on any adventure, and water/dirt-proof protection adds assurances that the music will play even if you get caught in inclement weather. This speaker also has a built-in microphone that lets you use it as a hands-free speakerphone. It's available in black, blue, or red.
Best for Dance Parties: Sony XB31 Extra Bass
Speakers should encourage you to get up and move, and Sony's XB31 Extra Bass excels in that area. Not only does the speaker deliver seriously loud audio thanks to dual 1.89-inch speaker units, but it also features an Extra Bass boost option that partners with LIVE SOUND mode to generate a three-dimensional listening experience. The speaker's Light Line technology lights up the perimeter of the speaker to create a light show and a strobe light pulses to the beat. Budding DJs will love the Part Booster feature, which lets you tap the speaker in various locations to add different effects like a scratch, snare, kick, drum, or cowbell sound.
You chain together 100 additional XB31s to the same device via Bluetooth, and everything can be controlled via the Sony Music Center app, which allows you to queue up songs, switch the lighting patterns, and change sound modes. The battery lasts 24 hours, or up to 14 hours while using the Extra Boost feature. The XB31 is also rust-, dust-, and waterproof.