Best Bluetooth speakers: 5 reviewed and rated
15th May 2013 | 14:12
The top Bluetooth speakers out right now
Looking to pump up the jam wherever you may be with a tidy, weeny, wireless sound system?
Try this batch of mobile Bluetooth speakers out for size - just not on public transport, please.
1. Jabra Solemate - £100
Bearing in mind that you're unlikely to be buying a Bluetooth speaker with audiophile sound quality in mind, what should be your metric? How about: does it have a base shaped like sneaker treads? If so, this is for you.
It's a fun little gimmick that the Solemate doesn't really need, but it's also a great-sounding little speaker unit that can whack out a surprising amount of volume, and it coped with most types of audio that we chucked at it. It's particularly well endowed in the bass department (maybe slightly too much) and maybe a bit muddy in the upper ranges, but out of all these speakers, it's the only one we'd choose to listen if all our proper speakers suffered a catastrophic failure.
2. Braven 650 - £160
You can use the full-size USB port on the Braven 650 to charge your iOS device, and that includes an iPad. Such electrical profligacy suggests that the 650's big on batteries, and indeed boasts 20 hours of play time over Bluetooth - more than double that of the other speakers on test - so why not sacrifice some of that impressive play time to keep your device topped up?
It's a smart feature on a compact and lightweight unit, with its swish aluminium unibody and all its controls and ports stashed unobtrusively at either end. Sound-wise? It's fine; a little too quiet for its own good, with sufficient bass and a top end that's a bit crisp for our tastes. This is all about the battery and looks.
3. Beacon Phoenix - £70
We so nearly completely love the dinky little Beacon Phoenix. It's almost completely adorable, coming in at about the size of a Rubik's Cube and weighing just 200 grams. But boy, it makes a lot of noise for something so tiny and light.
Its tone isn't brilliant; somewhat moist and airy and ever so slightly muddy-sounding across the board, but the volume is astonishing without ever being too shrill for its own good. It'd do a jolly good job of providing sounds for an impromptu party in a hotel room, and you'd be happy to just have it on for radio or podcasts.
It's the only one here that you can't use for hands-free phone or Skype calls, and it has annoying menu buttons that you press to skip or hold to change the volume.
4. Gear4 Streetparty Wireless - £39
Look: you can get this for a shade under forty quid. You want a little portable speaker, you're not that bothered about the sound quality and you don't want to chuck money around unnecessarily? It's a no-brainer; you should definitely get the StreetParty Wireless.
It's a little bulky and it's all a bit plastic and it won't win any design awards, plus it has hardly anything going on in the bass department and way too much happening up top, but we're not especially bothered.
5. Philips Shoqbox SB7300 - £150
So, it turns out that the Philips Shoqbox has some kind of swipey sensor on the front of it, which led to much confusion when we were sitting in front of it, iPhone in hand and scrolling through our music collection, when the damn thing kept skipping tracks. Thankfully the sensor range isn't all that.
Neither is the big recessed power/volume knob that pops out of the side/top; it's like it wants to be a big heavy knob on an expensive amplifier, but it feels more like twisting a wobbly tooth. A wobbly tooth backlit with blue LEDs.
To be fair, overall, the Shoqbox is the best-looking of this little lot, but you can't help feel that corners have been cut along the way, and that includes the sound; it's fine for volume but lacks in the bottom end.