Portable Bluetooth speakers are often used outside, where they can be exposed to dust and moisture. If your customers want to take their speakers on camping trips or to beach parties, they will appreciate water resistance and good battery life.
Some speakers like Bose have smart features like voice control and assistant integration. These allow users to pair and control multiple speakers from a mobile app and tailor the sound to suit their room’s ambiance.
Bluetooth is a wireless connectivity technology that lets you stream music from your phone, tablet, or computer to your speaker. It uses the 2.48 GHz ISM band and requires proximity between devices (sometimes called pairing) for data transmission. Bluetooth can also interfere with radio-frequency devices, such as baby monitors and garage door openers.
While any Bluetooth speaker will play your tunes, higher-end models typically offer improved audio quality with lower distortion and better frequency response. Look for a specification that indicates total harmonic distortion below 1% and a frequency response of 100 Hz to 20 kHz.
Many Bluetooth speakers are designed with smart capabilities, letting you connect them to your home WiFi and access streaming music services. These features can add value to your speaker and make it a hub for your digital lifestyle. However, they will often push the price tag, so consider whether these are necessary before purchasing. Other useful Bluetooth features include pairing two speakers for stereo sound and water- and dust resistance.
WiFi speakers connect to a wireless home network via your Internet connection, allowing you to stream music over multiple devices and control them from a single app. Many also support multiroom streaming, which lets you play the same or different music from each speaker simultaneously or set them up to play in stereo by making one speaker the left channel and the other the right.
Unlike Bluetooth, which has a relatively limited bandwidth, WiFi has enough room to support uncompressed audio and higher-resolution audio profiles like aptX HD and LDAC (check the specifications for details). If you’re sourcing high-res FLAC files, then this type of connection is essential.
Most WiFi speakers also use DLNA, an open protocol in everything from photo frames to game consoles. This can be a great choice for Android users, but it’s slower and more reliable than Bluetooth or Bluetooth multiroom, and it requires a router with support for DLNA. Some models offer both WiFi and Bluetooth, but they’re generally pricier. It’s also worth checking whether a speaker has an aux input to enable it to be connected to wire-only devices such as older smartphones or record players with the aid of a cable.
Wireless speakers that work through WiFi and not Bluetooth require a home network to connect, but they can be more convenient as you won’t need to pair the speaker with your phone or music player. These are usually bigger, have more robust builds, and can be used to stream from various sources, including online radio. Some have companion apps that let you control the speaker, check battery life, and more. WiFi speakers also tend to have a greater range than Bluetooth models.
Look for a speaker that supports the aptX HD or lesser-used aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs, as these can significantly improve audio quality by reducing latency, allowing more data to be transmitted over the wireless connection, and increasing the maximum transmission distance compared to standard Bluetooth. It’s also worth checking the version of Bluetooth used – the higher the number, the better, with Bluetooth 5 being the latest and best standard for high-quality wireless transmission.
Look for a waterproof model or one with the Ingress Protection Code classification of IP67, as this means it can be submerged in water up to 1 meter deep for half an hour without damage. This is ideal for outdoor use and pool parties.
Aux is short for auxiliary and is an audio input that can connect wired headphones or speakers. This port type typically has a 3.5mm (1/8″) connector, an analog connection that transmits electrical signals converted into sound waves by the receiver.
In addition to providing an alternative wireless connection, AUX-in can be useful when Bluetooth isn’t working or if you prefer to use wired devices like an old CD player or record player. It can connect a TV to your speaker using an RCA to 3.5mm jack cable.
Many small portable speakers feature aux-in, which can be handy for listening to music while on the go. It can also help improve your battery life, as you won’t have to rely on Bluetooth to play music. However, you should still pay attention to the length of time that it can last before needing to be recharged, as this can vary based on how loudly and how long it’s played. Some speakers also come with a built-in mic for answering calls.
In a speaker, the microphone is important for voice-activated controls and other features that use your voice. This requires a high-quality microphone with an omnidirectional pickup pattern that accepts sound striking the front or back equally but rejects undesired sounds. The best microphones for wireless speakers are dynamic or condenser, built with premium parts, and engineered to minimize electronic noise.
A good microphone also has a flat frequency response that matches human hearing sensitivity. A microphone with a more boosted bass may sound unnatural or be too loud for comfortable listening.
Some models include a microphone that supports speakerphone functionality to make hands-free calls. Some have a speakerphone button on the device, while others require pressing and holding it for a few seconds to initiate a call. This is a nice feature if you can snag a quick phone call. Some speakers also allow you to pair two of them together for stereo separation, which can be useful if one speaker isn’t enough to fill a room with music or if you want to listen outdoors.