Best portable Bluetooth speakers & outdoor AirPlay speaker systems
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You don't have to stick to using your iPhone's speaker to play music aloud while away from home, as these portable speakers can keep the party going wherever you go.
The summer is quickly approaching, and people's thoughts turn towards things like outdoor gatherings, summer nights under the stars, and vacations. All of them can be connected by music, which away from home could be a problem for some people.
If you want to play songs from Apple Music aloud, you're going to have to pipe that audio through a speaker for a nice and loud sound. For the middle of a garden or in an off-the-grid cabin, that means a speaker that can work wirelessly and on a battery.
Sure, it's possible to attach a HomePod mini to a battery pack, but that's not a handy solution. You need one self-contained unit that you can pack away with little worry about needing to cart around a power source.
What follows is a list of highly portable speakers you can use anywhere. With Bluetooth and some with AirPlay support, these pint-sized sound-producing audio accessories can help you hit the perfect party pitch, all driven by music from your iPhone or iPad.
Connected speaker experts Sonos are known for their in-home audio, but they also produce more portable speakers. It produces two ranges that fit the bill, with the Move providing a more premium experience, but we're more interested in the cheaper and smaller Roam.
Roughly wedge-shaped, the Roam is a portable smart speaker that can be part of a Sonos home network. You can use it alongside others you may have in your home, running off Wi-Fi and using the Sonos app.
For outside the home, it includes a 10-hour battery and support for Bluetooth and Apple's AirPlay 2, making it a highly connectable piece of kit to pair with your iPhone.
Aside from app-based control, it also includes a microphone, support for Google Assistant, the built-in Amazon Alexa, and Siri when using AirPlay. At one end of the unit are buttons for manual control, including turning off the microphone.
Able to be stood on end or its side, the Move is made from shock-absorbent materials and has an IP67 dust and water resistance rating. That means it can potentially survive submergence in water to a depth of three feet for up to 30 minutes.
Available in five colors, the Sonos Roam is normally priced at $179, but Sonos is currently offering it for $143.20. It is also available from Amazon, priced at $143.20.
JBL Link Portable
The cylindrical JBL Link Portable is a compact speaker that offers clear highs, sharp mids, and deep bass. It also does so in all directions, using a 360-degree full-range transducer, enabling it to fill a room.
Connecting over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, it can be used to stream from many music services, and while you can use the supplied companion app, you can also take advantage of AirPlay support. It also has smart speaker credentials, with support for Google Assistant.
Offering eight hours of playtime, the speaker can be recharged using the supplied charging cradle or USB-C. Recharging takes 3.5 hours to complete.
It can handle a bit of rain with its IPX7-rated waterproofing to deal with the great outdoors, while its durable construction can take the occasional knock.
Offered in three color options in the United States, the JBL Link Portable is priced at $179.95 from JBL's website.
Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
If size is no object and you want a loud sound, the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom is probably the right option, primarily if you are operating a larger gathering.
At 14.33 inches tall and 7.5 inches deep and wide and weighing in at 13 pounds, the Hyperboom isn't what you would traditionally call mobile. However, its inclusion of a pull-out strap and battery means it can be dragged around to any party you want.
Equipped with up to 24 hours of battery life that can recharge within 2.6 hours, it includes a weather door with a USB port, so you can charge your devices simultaneously. There are also auxiliary connections, including optical, if you don't want to go fully wireless.
Along with precision woofers and passive radiators, the Hyperboom includes an adaptive EQ that uses a microphone to read the room to automatically balance the sound for the environment.
Its support for two Bluetooth devices means you can have up to four devices providing audio to the speaker, with a switch enabling you to change from one to another instantly. The chunky controls on the top are easy to understand while enabling music playback control and one-touch playlists.
It's also splash-proof with an IPX4 rating, which will help from the occasional accidentally dropped drink.
The Ultimate Ears Hyperboom is priced at $449.99 at Best Buy.
Anker Soundcore Flare 2
While known for many accessories, Anker has managed to carve itself a space in the audio market with its Soundcore brand. The Soundcore Flare 2 is a party-oriented speaker, adding a bit of illumination to the mix.
At the top and base of the cylindrical speaker are light elements that pulse and phase to the beat of the music, shining onto the dancefloor and to the ceiling.
The 20W speaker has 360-degree coverage, with its BassUp technology using dual bass radiators and a custom DSP chip for more bass than typical Bluetooth speakers can produce. It's also got a 5,200mAh battery that can last for up to 12 hours, along with USB-C charging in 3.5 hours, and is rated IPX7 waterproof.
To help the party atmosphere, you can choose from one of six light modes using the Soundcore app. You can connect over 100 Flare 2 speakers together using its PartyCast feature so that you can pump music across an extensive area, like throughout a house.
With an MSRP of $79, the Anker Soundcore Flare 2 is available from Amazon for $59.99.
Sony SRS-XB13 Extra Bass Compact Bluetooth Speaker
If space is at a premium, you'll want the smallest speaker you can get that still produces a good sound. The solution to that problem is Sony's SRS-XB13 Bluetooth Speaker.
Measuring 3.4 inches by 3.4 inches by 4.4 inches and weighing 8.9 ounces, the speaker is tiny and easily packed away. It also has a removable multiway strap, so you could hang it off a bag if needed, and it is IP67 water and dust-proof.
While small, it still packs in a passive radiator with a full-range speaker, which enhances low-end tones and boosts the bass, as the name says. Sound is processed using a built-in sound diffusion processor to fill a room as much as possible with sound.
Usable for up to 16 hours from a single charge, it has a USB-C port for charging, and has a built-in battery indicator. Hands-free calling is available using its built-in mic, and if you get two, you can connect them to work as a stereo pair.
The Sony SRS-XB13 Extra Bass Compact Bluetooth Speaker is priced at $58 on Amazon.