Bluetooth speakers buying guide of 2024: How to find the best portable speakers

How to find the best Bluetooth speaker

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Bluetooth is one of the greatest innovations of modern times – allowing for a revolution of wireless audio technologies, from the humble AirPod to any number of Bluetooth speakers, soundbars, and headphones available today. And the main marker of its success is just how embedded it is in all those everyday gadgets.

A Bluetooth speaker is now a common sight in many homes, thanks to its wire-free streaming capabilities, often coupled with voice control, Spotify integration, and a medley of other convenient smart features. But for those shopping around for their first Bluetooth speaker, we’ve brought together the most important things to keep in mind before you take the plunge.

How to buy a Bluetooth speaker in the UK

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology standard used for over-the-air transmission of data between devices. It’s how the music, calls or notification sounds from your phone travel through the air into a pair of Bluetooth headphones or Bluetooth speaker, though you can also use it to transfer image and video files, or even pinpoint the location of devices in your proximity.

Bluetooth was invented in the late 90s, and quickly became a go-to technology for audio manufacturers, seduced by its convenience and wireless capability – leading to the billions of Bluetooth-capable devices now being released into the market every year.

Bluetooth transfer isn’t quite as high-quality as a good cable, meaning you’re usually making do with reduced audio quality compared to a ‘lossless’ transfer method – especially if you’re using the Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) standard made for low-power devices.


Sony vs Bose vs JBL: what’s the best Bluetooth speaker brand?

Most audio brands will sell some kind of Bluetooth speaker. Sony, Bose and JBL are some of the most popularly searched brands for Bluetooth audio kit, though they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the options out there.

JBL and Bose are great brands for cheap waterproof models – the kind of compact, colorful Bluetooth speakers you can take to the beach or for a poolside party.

For high-end audio, you may want to look at Sonos, who makes a number of excellent Bluetooth speakers such as the Sonos Roam or Sonos Move. For good audio, and particularly smart features like voice assistant control (Alexa, Google Assistant) or Spotify Connect, you’ll likely be opting for a Sonos or similarly-priced model.

Are Bluetooth speakers portable?

A big benefit of the Bluetooth speaker is that, unlike the average soundbar, it’s usually easy to move them around. Many Bluetooth speakers are wire-free, meaning they need occasional charging but can broadly be carried wherever you need them – between rooms, into the outdoors, or on long journeys away from home.

Some models are explicitly made for indoor use, meaning they’ll need continual access to a mains charging point, so it’s worth checking whether the model you’re buying is truly portable or will be chained into one corner of your home indefinitely.

Bluetooth speaker

Are Bluetooth speakers waterproof?

Yes and no! Waterproof speakers are their own product category, and Bluetooth speakers can vary hugely in the level of water or dust resistance afforded to them.

Some models are designed to sit comfortably on a dry counter or side table, whereas others can survive some light rain – or even float happily in a swimming pool. As ever, you’ll need to check the exact specification on this front. As a general rule, any ‘IP’ resistance rating – like IP67 or IPX4, where the third digit refers to dust resistance and the fourth digit refers to waterproofing – should end in a minimum of ‘4’ to protect against water sprays, and either ‘7’ or ‘8’ for any level of protecting against being fully submerged.

Bluetooth speaker price: how much do they cost?

Common or garden Bluetooth speakers can cost as little as £20, even if you won’t get much quality of audio for that amount of money. That quickly escalates to £40-80 for semi-decent audio, and often the beginnings of waterproofing. For a quality model like the Sonos Roam, you’re likely paying £150-200, and there are plenty of worthwhile models between those price extremes too – though generally we’d recommend close to £100 for audio actually worth paying for.

Where to buy a Bluetooth speaker in the UK

Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen, meaning you can find them at every reputable technology retailer, as well as more general shops, online stores, and supermarkets – even if a proper consumer technology seller will usually stock a wider variety of options.

Here are our recommendations for the best places to find a new Bluetooth speaker, whether you’re after a cheap and cheerful waterproof speaker, or a high-quality audio solution to hold court in your living room.

Shop the best Bluetooth speakers below

Sonos Roam


Elevate their sound experience by introducing Sonos and in particular the brand’s Roam model into their lives. This is the audio aficionado’s latest battery-powered wireless speaker that’s weatherproof, drop resistant and connects via the app to your phone or through voice assistant. It is quick and easy to charge through the provided charging base and gives over 10 hours of playback per charge.

Buy now£179, Sonos

Marshall Emberton Portable Bluetooth Speaker


No holiday is complete without a great soundtrack and we think this retro style Marshall portable Bluetooth speaker is a great way to listen to all of your favourite tunes wherever you are in the world. With 20 hours of charge and Bluetooth 5.0, you don’t have to worry about unstable connections or charging equipment.

A perfect addition to your travel bases, this speaker weighs a mere 0.7kg and measures 68 x 76 x 160 mm. Despite its light weight and small size the Marshall speaker offers high quality, 360° multi-directional audio, meaning you don’t have to compromise on anything with this product.

What’s more is that the solid metal grille of the speaker gives it a tough enough exterior to protect it from inevitable jostling about in luggage. The Marshall is also great for those relaxing pool days as it is waterproof up to one metre.

Buy now£125, Amazon

Sonos Move


Was: £399

Buy now£299, Sonos

JBL Flip 6


Looking for big sound that’s perfect getting the party started? Say hello to the Flip 6, one of the loudest small speakers we tried.

The quality is pitch perfect, thanks to the racetrack-shaped woofer and a separate tweeter. There are plenty of fun colours to choose from, and to get the most out of it, pair it with other JBL products for a sensory delight.

Don’t forget to download the app where you can tailor the audio to your preferences by altering the bass and amplification.

Buy now£129.99, JBL

Anker Soundcore Motion X500


Best for: spatial audio shindig-fodder

This is the next-in-line from Anker’s latest forays into Bluetooth-speakery, the Motion X500 – a bigger, bolder and boomier brother that boasts more of practically everything.

The X500 is a serious graduation from the already-impressive Motion 300, bringing with it a suite of additional features and tricks that make it a viable alternative to other forms of domestic party sound system. As well as a firm chassis and a chunky metal carry handle, the X500 also introduces an additional 10 watts of power, bringing it to a commendable 40 watts (at least, for its size).

Here, Soundcore’s Spatial sound technology shines. For one, the Motion X500 is big enough to throw sound farther and wider, with a much more powerful stereo image appearing almost miraculously from this central audio source. This is with partial thanks to the skyward-pointing speaker nestled in the top of the unit – which also enjoys bright LED illumination, though there are no RGB party-light effects to find here.

There are three preset EQ modes to switch between at the touch of a button, with the Spatial Dynamic mode providing the fullest range of frequencies to this writer’s ears. The Motion X500 also makes use of Soundcore’s proprietary app, which you can use switch EQs and sculpt your own settings, as well as check in on the unit’s charge.

While a straight upgrade from the Motion 300 in many essential ways, the Motion X500 is a different thing entirely. The Spatial audio is a revelation, and the depth and clarity of sound even more visceral.

Again, it won’t compete against full-stack party speaker systems, but it has more than enough oomph to supply some quality sounds to a comfortable shindig.

Buy now£89.99, Amazon

Sony SRS-XG300 Waterproof Bluetooth Portable Speaker with Lights, Black


Turn up the volume of any celebration with this small but mighty portable speaker from Sony. It boasts the room-filling eardrum-booming sound that the label is known for packed within a waterproof exterior and set alongside lighting that syncs up with the earworm tune of choice.

Buy now£179, John Lewis

Bose Smart Speaker 500


The Bose Smart Speaker 500 sports two custom drivers that deliver room-filling stereo sound, and Alexa support makes it easy to play your favourite music. Thanks to eight microphones, it’ll never struggle to pick up your voice. At the top of the speaker, you’ll find six preset buttons for accessing things like radio stations and playlists. These are touch sensitive, along with the various other controls located on the roof of the speaker. It supports both WiFi and Bluetooth connections. Made from aluminum, this is a premium-looking speaker and will suit any modern home. You can get it in Triple Black or Luxe Silver.

Buy now£334.95, Bose