Headphones are great for private listening, but sometimes you just want to kick out the jams with friends. That's where a portable Bluetooth wireless speaker can come in handy, since they're small enough to take along but hopefully powerful enough to deliver satisfying sound in smaller-sized rooms. Also, they run on batteries instead of AC power, and most can be used as a cell-phone speakerphone, adding to their flexibility.
Among the best-known brands in our recent tests were the Jawbone Jambox, a $180 speaker that helped create the portable category, and a newer entry, the Beats by Dre Pill, a $200 model from the popular headphone brand. What we found might surprise you: Neither did especially well in our just-completed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker system Ratings.
In fact, of the 17 tested models in the portable category, the Beats Pill was in the lower half of the pack. An even bigger disappointment was the Jawbone Jambox, which had the poorest sound of any tested model.
Find information about sound quality, ease of use, and versatility for 23 home and portable wireless speakers in our Wireless speaker system Ratings.
While none of the portable speakers could rival the best AC-powered home models we tested in terms of sound quality, a few portables did do a standout job compared to others. For example, our top choice was the TDK Life On Record Wireless Weatherproof Speaker, which sells for about $150. We also liked models from Bose, Edifier, JBL, Logitech, and Sony, which all had sound quality a notch or two better than the others.
Given the growing popularity of these types of speakers, we'll be adding even more models later in the year.
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