How to Choose Your Next Portable Speaker

A good wireless speaker is the perfect solution for traveling and sharing your music with others.

Everybody loves being able to listen to music and podcasts, and while headphones and earbuds are great for traveling on airplanes and commuter trains, it’s nice to be able to listen in your home or outside earbud-free. Portable, wireless speakers allow you to do that and much more. Place one in your office to listen to music while you work and take calls via Bluetooth hands-free. Carry a waterproof model into the bathroom without worrying about steam from the shower wrecking your speakers. And small, lightweight models allow you to bring great sound into the backyard or on any camping trip. Before you make a purchase, however, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. Here’s how to choose great portable speakers that will provide great music for years to come.

Decide on Best Use

Crystal clear sound, enhanced bass, a 100-foot Bluetooth range, and amazing value are what these portable speakers offer. Cambridge Soundworks

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The first step in choosing great wireless speakers is deciding what you want to use them for. Will you be setting them up on your desk at home and never taking them outside? If so, then buying speakers that are waterproof may not be important to you. If you’re going to carry them into the bathroom to listen to music while you shower, then waterproof models are definitely the way to go. Many models allow you to take calls while you’re listening to music. This is great if you’re using them privately in your office, but you might not like this feature if you’re taking them to a party where others may find incoming calls distracting.

Compare Battery Life

These portable speakers have it all—great sound, waterproof security, up to six hours of playtime on the rechargeable battery, plus a built-in speakerphone so you can take calls. Bose

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While some wireless speakers also have built-in jacks to hook into existing AC, comparing battery life is something you’ll want to do—especially if you plan on taking your portable speakers on an overnight trip (and yes, maybe even backpacking if music is something you want to have in camp). While many units offer at least six hours of playing time running wirelessly, some units can run for much longer periods.

Other Considerations

These speakers are waterproof and allow you to connect two smartphones or tablets to them for listening. JBL

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Weight and Size—Weight shouldn’t really be a factor unless you plan to backpack with your portable speakers, but size is a consideration. Generally speaking, the larger the speakers, the better they’ll sound. Audio Quality—While portable speakers can’t rival larger speakers normally associated with home stereo systems, many offer amazing sound quality for their size. If possible, compare the specs for “harmonic distortion” (anything below 1% will be fine) and “frequency response,” which is usually shown in two numbers representing kilohertz (kHz). The smaller number will be the higher frequency and the larger number will be for the low-end (bass) frequency. Since the human ear cannot hear anything above 20 kHz, anything up to that number will be fine. For the lower, bass frequency, the larger the number the better.