It might sound hard to believe but some of the best budget Bluetooth speakers are capable of taking your music quality and listening pleasure to a whole new level.
After sampling the playback experience offered by budget speakers, you won’t want to go back to hearing your favourite tracks output through even the most feature-rich smartphones and tablets.
With a portable wireless speaker you can not only enjoy decent audio quality, but also give your music the soundstage and extra acoustic space it deserves.
And, of course, it’s a great natural way to share music with your friends too. Let’s look at some of the more affordable options available in today’s competitive portable audio market:
The Anker MP141 is a tiny audio cube with plenty of pleasant surprises on board. Looking neat with its eye-catching rounded corners, the MP141 has a smooth stylish enclosure with a speaker grille occupying its top surface. An uncomplicated control interface sits at the front, with a 3.5-mm line input and USB charging port located at the rear.
Onboard Bluetooth 2.1 functionality, with a range of 33 feet, means the unit is compatible with a broad range of tablets and smartphones, with non-Bluetooth wired audio also available via the rear line input.
Audio power is supplied by a 4-watt, 2-inch driver, and – with the aid of a bass port – the MP141 delivers full-spectrum audio of remarkable clarity with a well-defined bass.
A playback time of 20 hours – astounding for budget speakers – and a built-in microphone for hands-free calls, completes the MP141 feature set. Available for under £30 at time of writing – Check current price here.
Audio Dynamix Mesh 3
Available in a range of bright colours, the Audio Dynamix Mesh 3 has the elfin good looks of a lifestyle music accessory.
The Mesh 3 has been revamped to incorporate significant (internal) upgrades and therefore its cabinet still features a wrap-around speaker grille enclosed by an interlaced framework which, like the rest of the external structure, has an easy-grip rubber feel.
At the top, the chassis incorporates a prominent, touch-sensitive interface with a set of well-marked intuitive controls for accessing playback and connectivity functions.
The audio configuration features two new long-throw Nbfed speakers, now magnetically shielded to reduce interference, which are fitted with lightweight CCAW voice coils for improved high frequency response and reduced distortion.
A digital amplifier delivers a loud 6-watt output and offers a Harmonic Bass Matrix for low-frequency shaping, which is also further enhanced by the Mesh’s redesigned acoustic enclosure.
These improvements boost the Mesh 3’s audio performance, giving a smooth and balanced overall response with plenty of crisp treble and relatively deep bass. Equipped with the latest Bluetooth 4.0 specification and the CSR 8365 chipset, the Mesh 3 can now deliver reliable high-quality streaming with much-reduced latency (audio delay), over an extended range of 20 metres.
And in addition, this speaker now boasts a new lightweight 1,200mah rechargeable lithium-polymer battery for an amazing 14 hours of music playback. Available for £28 at time of writing – Check current price here.
The UK-built Azatom Droid is a powerful portable partner for your mobile audio devices. A futuristic cone shape standing 6.5-cm tall with a slight taper, the Azatom Droid is robustly built with a top-mounted speaker grille, and has playback controls and peripheral connectors located on the sides near the base.
Equipped with the latest Bluetooth 4.0, the Droid can thus deliver high-quality streamed audio whilst also allowing access to the enhanced functionality of the latest smartphones and tablets.
Advanced Azatom audio engineering gives the Droid superior audio qualities, thanks to the combined efforts of a large 52-mm full-range driver, a sub-woofer and dual bass ports, plus the clever manipulation and optimisation of airflow characteristics within the enclosure.
A 3.5-mm stereo audio input also allows access to non-Bluetooth audio sources via a wired connection. Available for under £25 at time of writing – Check current price here.
Featuring a slender profile, distinctive soft-touch finish and a simple push-button control interface, the stylish Kitsound BoomBar offers two possible listening modes: laid on a flat surface, the BoomBar gives omni-directional playback, whilst using its convenient stand feature provides a more focussed performance alternative.
Featuring Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity, the BoomBar pairs easily with any tablet or smartphone for audio streaming, and a 3.5-mm aux-input is also provided for cabled connection allowing access to music from non-Bluetooth audio devices.
There’s also a hands-free speakerphone facility and an incredible extended battery life of up to 20 hours. Sonic performance is efficiently handled by dual 2-watt, full-range drivers with bass frequencies further enhanced by a passive bass radiator.
This considerably extends low-end response, giving the BoomBar a richer and more full-bodied performance than might be expected from all but the best budget Bluetooth speakers. Available for under £25 at time of writing – Check current price here.
The Elf Portable Speaker
The Elf 30 is a diminutive rectangular wireless Bluetooth speaker not much larger than many chocolate bars. Equipped with Bluetooth v3.0 for full connectivity with the latest smartphones and tablets, the Elf’s audio streaming can be controlled either from your paired Bluetooth device or from the control interface on top of the unit.
Featuring two powerful 40-mm speaker drivers and Bass Enhance Technology, the Elf outputs 6 watts of clean full-spectrum audio with a surprisingly sonorous bass, and its onboard rechargeable lithium-ion battery will keep your music in full flow for up to 10 hours – helpfully sounding a warning note whenever another micro-USB charge, via the connector on the rear panel, is nearly due.
An aux-input for easy wired playback from non-Bluetooth devices, and a built-in microphone for taking hands-free calls extend the helpful Elf’s versatility even further. Available for under £15 at time of writing – Check current price here.
HMDX Jam Plus
With its cone-shaped, palm-sized features the Jam Plus continues the quirky jam-pot theme of earlier HMDX offerings. A pink or grey metallic body with plastic seams top and bottom tapers at the top to a plain speaker grille with a centred logo.
At the base, a power switch and control surface is tucked away neatly, and here a short USB charging lead can also be found whenever the speaker needs a recharge after its 4 hours of music playback, as well as an aux-input for connectivity with non-Bluetooth music devices.
Like most portable wireless speakers, the Jam Plus offers universal compatibility with contemporary smartphones, tablets and similar mobile audio devices.
However, without a doubt, the Jam Plus’s major attraction will be its ability to pair two speakers, via dual-streaming Bluetooth, to transform the audio performance of one Jam Plus into a true left-right stereo pairing rivalling even the best portable speakers. Available for under £30 at time of writing – Check current price here.
Though small in size like most of its rivals, the Philips SBT30 portable wireless Bluetooth speaker is not likely to go unnoticed thanks to its military-style, grenade-shape design complete with a ribbed-rubber exterior and caribiner belt clip. Conveniently contoured to be gripped in the palm, the SBT30 is available in a choice of camouflage-khaki, pink, or electric-blue colours.
Apart from its chic visual attributes, the SBT30 is also likely to capture attention thanks to its ability to deliver a much more powerful sound than its compact dimensions might suggest. Bluetooth 2.1 ensures this portable speaker is compatible with audio streaming via the full range of smartphones and tablets, whilst a 3.5-mm stereo audio input also enables playback from non-Bluetooth sources.
To complete its comprehensive connectivity suite, the SBT30 also offers a built-in microphone for hands-free calls. Available for under £30 at time of writing – Check current price here.
The Creative D80 is a well-built wireless speaker with a powerful sound which comes in a bright choice of colours. A pleasingly rounded shape about the size of a medium marrow, the D80 has a large speaker grille at the front, with a small centred control interface. Despite its relatively compact size, the D80 is equipped with twin 3-inch, full-range drivers and a dedicated bass port.
As a result, its clear, balanced and detailed audio performance easily matches that of the best budget Bluetooth speakers. Bluetooth connectivity allows wireless audio streaming via all Bluetooth compatible mobile audio devices, and there is also a convenient aux-input for non-Bluetooth equipment.
Unlike most budget speakers, the Creative D80 is mains-operated and thus lends itself best to indoor audio-streaming. Available for under £40 at time of writing – Check current price here.
At 12.7 x 6.4 x 5.1 cm, and weighing just 245 grams, the Brick will fit into your coat pocket almost as easily as some well-known chocolate bars. The Brick’s cabinet looks smooth and sleek, featuring a cutaway lattice framework on all sides with a speaker grille behind, and a prominent logo.
The top panel has a simple control interface, whilst a 3.5-mm aux input and USB charging port are tucked away at the back.
With its 40-mm full-range drivers and active bass diaphragm, the Brick delivers more than acceptable audio volume and clarity for its size – certainly enough to fill a moderate-sized room.
Owners of the latest smartphones and tablets will appreciate the fact that Bluetooth pairing also includes enhanced one-touch NFC functionality. As with many budget speakers, there’s a hands-free speakerphone, and battery life is rated at 10 hours.
While there are many other budget Bluetooth speakers capable of providing decent sound quality without breaking the bank, these 9 hold the top 9 spots for sound quality on a budget.