What’s the best way to listen to music? We’re not talking about music streaming services – that’s another kettle of fish entirely – or weighing up if vinyl is better than the rest. Rather, we’re talking about which speaker will have the privilege of playing your suspect playlists and favourite throwbacks.
It’s the most important aspect, of course, but the best Bluetooth speakers aren’t just about sound.
With audio technology so good now that sound quality differences are sometimes indiscernible to the layman, brands go the extra mile to make sure your entire listening experience is as good as possible. From clean, Scandi speakers to flashy light shows, the Bluetooth audio game has really gone up a notch.
High-quality speakers have also joined the Bluetooth race, to the extent that the term “Bluetooth speaker” now encapsulates much of the audio market.
On that point, we’ve tried to give you as wide a range of offerings as possible, from super portable poolside devices to boombox party-starters and luxury, desktop setups.
Ultimately, there’s now something for everyone’s tastes in the Bluetooth market. So, whether you’re looking for a backpack-friendly offering, or are ready to invest in something for home, and are after hours of listening and testing, we have you covered.
The best Bluetooth speakers for 2022 are:
Best bluetooth speaker – Transparent small transparent speaker: £450, Transpa.rent
Best for outdoors – Bang & Olufsen beosound A1: £239, Johnlewis.com
Best for clear and loud sound – Naim mu-so Qb second generation: £949, Amazon.co.uk
Best budget garden speaker – KitSound diggit outdoor speaker: £39.99, Very.co.uk
Best for radio lovers – Ruark R1 Mk4 review: £229, Amazon.co.uk
Best for style – Marshall emberton: £129, Currys.co.uk
Best for home use – Sonos move: £399, Argos.co.uk
Best for easy use – Audio Pro BT5: £149.99, Currys.co.uk
Best for travel – Bose portable smart speaker: £379, Currys.co.uk
Best for versatility – JBL charge 5: £129.99, Amazon.co.uk
Best for outdoor parties – Bang & Olufsen beosound explore: £160.11, Amazon.co.uk
Best for cyclists – Tribit stormbox micro: £49.99, Amazon.co.uk
Best for water safety – Sonos roam: £149, Amazon.co.uk
Best for Apple users – Apple homepod mini: £89, Johnlewis.com
Best mid-range high-res streamer – Bluesound pulse mini 2i: £579, Amazon.co.uk
Transparent small transparent speaker
This is a beautiful speaker. Stockholm brand Transparent’s more sustainable, modular set up means you can continue to upgrade your purchase by replacing its constituent parts, instead of having to buy an entirely new speaker. There is, for example, space in the bottom casing for more wireless options alongside the built-in Bluetooth.
The speaker is designed to be fixed in place – it’s mains powered, and the speakers themselves are forward facing – and the clear glass design enhances any setting. Once in position (make sure to use the nifty white gloves provided with each speaker, as it’s a bind to clean off grubby, overly keen fingerprints), the sound is incredibly clear, with a solid bass and impressively full general sound for a compact speaker.
Transparent’s Swedish design and technology means you’re unlikely to go wrong with this, and modular upgrades will only make it better. Different, refreshing and packed with quality.
Buy now £450.00, Transpa.rent
Bang & Olufsen beosound A1 second generation
There aren’t many audio companies with a stronger design ethic than Bang & Olufsen. A visit to the brand’s headquarters in Struer, Denmark, is an architectural education, so it’s no surprise the A1 second-generation Bluetooth speaker is a stunner.
Available in five colours, it’s waterproof, dust and sand resistant, and is slimmer and sturdier than its much-lauded predecessor. Like other higher-end portable speakers, it has integrated voice assistant and speakerphone, too, with 18-hours of playtime. The sound comfortably outperforms the speaker’s size and provides strong bass and crystal-clear treble, perfect for all the podcasts you’re missing without your morning commute.
Buy now £239.00, Johnlewis.com
Naim Audio mu-so Qb second generation
The Naim Qb has by far the clearest sound on this list. It’s a cliché, but the listening experience is almost as good as having the musicians in the room – a rarity for wireless speakers. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, however, as this second-generation speaker features a multicore digital signal processor, providing more than 13-times the power and accuracy of the previous version, and speaker drivers optimised for refined bass and distortion cancellation.
The controls on the top are intuitive and clean, with the volume dial doubling as a touchscreen for navigating favourite tracks and advanced settings. The Qb can also be linked to other non-Naim speakers through Apple home or chromecast – but that seems a bit like mixing champagne with lemonade.
Buy now £949.00, Amazon.co.uk
KitSound diggit outdoor speaker
This is the budget speaker for the socially distanced generation. Complete with bonus removable stake, this garden-ready model is solid and water-resistant enough to chuck into your bag along with a supermarket bottle of wine for an afternoon of sitting with your friends in the park.
It’s a very capable speaker, especially for the price, with clear sound and good battery life. It perhaps doesn’t quite feature a consistent 360-degree sound, due to quiet points between the four speakers inside, but that’s a minor point and hardly noticeable. If you buy two, pairing is as easy as tapping them together, which is neat, straightforward and adds some more fun to proceedings.
Buy now £39.99, Very.co.uk
Ruark R1 Mk4
Family-owned brand Ruark, based on the south coast of England, has been developing sound systems and radios since the 1980s, so the pedigree is clear to see.
The R1 Mk4 radio is, as the name suggests, the fourth generation of Ruark’s flagship R1 radio. It looks like a classic radio, perfect for the bedside or a coffee table, with a pleasingly old-school look that hides some very modern, class-leading audio and visual tech.
The OLED display shows the time, station or song that’s playing, which is handy if you’re not permanently tied to your phone. This is certainly a radio first, rather than a dedicated speaker, but the sound quality is more than a match for many speakers at this price point, with the treble particularly impressive. It’s a charming product that upgrades the R1 series while retaining its unique spirit.
Buy now £229.00, Amazon.co.uk
A must-have for any Marshall enthusiast, and not just for its looks. This little treasure packs a punch with its sound – a quality you’d expect from the British amp experts. With front and back-facing speakers utilising Marshall’s true stereophonic system and a battery life of almost a full 24-hour day, it’s an impressively versatile product.
We found ourselves using the emberton the most outside our official reviewing (we haven’t damaged it, Marshall, we promise). It also plays a cool guitar lick every time you switch it on or off, which arguably merits a purchase by itself.
Buy now £129.00, Currys.co.uk
One of the big players in the smart speaker revolution, Sonos continues to refine its products, and its “move” device is no exception. Having somewhat been left watching the boom in portable Bluetooth speakers from the sidelines, this is Sonos’s response.
It’s a solid speaker – tall and sturdy – but, importantly, it’s portable. You’re not putting this in the back of the car, but, unlike other Sonos products, the move has an inbuilt battery and the all-important Bluetooth, making it perfect for taking into the garden or another room.
The luxury feel of the charging port is a positive design upgrade, and is markedly different to most chargers on the Bluetooth market. The speaker’s extra size enhances the audio, too, with a full sound compared to rest of the Sonos line, and the upgraded acoustic calibration means making it perform at its best takes zero effort.
Buy now £399.00, Argos.co.uk
Audio Pro BT5
The BT5 is the speaker that your tabletop yearns for. Its subtle design – choose between a driftwood, walnut or black finish – provides a sleek, confident look that holds its own in almost any surrounding. It’s also very simple to use, not overdoing it on the buttons, while the sound is strong and rich for its size, especially in the higher register, and there’s an option for wired listening, too. It’s understated, and that’s a good thing.
Buy now £149.99, Currys.co.uk
Bose portable smart speaker
This is a smart speaker in more ways than one. Its size makes it perfectly portable without conceding any sound quality: clear sound is provided in all directions, it has a deep bass, and there is no distortion at the top end of its volume capacity.
It might not sound as full as other, more expensive speakers on the market, but it makes up for it with a minimalist, sophisticated design and genuinely useful handle – it’s one of the easiest of these speakers to transport.
Its warm audio is great for music and podcasts alike – and the sound of strings when you switch the speaker on and off are the most urbane and elegant on the market, which is somehow an important aspect to us.
Buy now £379.00, Currys.co.uk
JBL charge 5
In our full review of JBL’s previous charge speaker (4, in case you were wondering), we explained how it pays to have a distinctive “look”, and the small speaker champion’s charge range certainly commits to its oblong/pill/can hybrid aesthetic.
The pillcan (as we’re now calling it) always means huge sound in a small package. The charge 5 is a bold, straight-up audio bomb that can take all manner of rough and tumble, has a built-in power bank to charge your phone, and plays your tunes for 20 hours.
It’s a proper upgrade to the charge 4, with extra dust and sand proofing on top of the top-grade waterproof rating, and extra tech inside to create a delicacy that’s surprising even for such a lauded range. It’s bigger, better and thoroughly JBL.
Buy now £129.99, Amazon.co.uk
Bang & Olufsen beosound explore
In our standalone review of the Beosound explore, our writer described Bang & Olufsen’s latest portable speaker as “the Bear Grylls of portable speakers”. He wasn’t wrong: it looks swish and Scandi, but this is a solid speaker, one you wouldn’t worry about dropping down the side of a hill and running after in some sort of comical, tortured chase.
B&O once again has delivered on sound, with a supremely refined balance between frequencies, and for those of you more inclined to the bombastic, bass can very much be bashed through the mix when you use the B&O partner app to change EQ. The battery life is gargantuan too, coming in at around 27 hours. This is B&O with a bit of bite, for a price that belies its design and technical sophistication. We’re not complaining.
Buy now £160.11, Amazon.co.uk
Tribit stormbox micro
The stormbox micro is the smallest dark horse we’ve ever come across. This thing is one diddly speaker, which, along with its shape and style means it works in pretty much any setting, from the shower to your work desk. The waterproof rubber strap on the back is strong and perfect for attaching your tiny hero to a bike or backpack.
Its size is where its small nature ends. The sound coming out of this thing is ludicrous, with great bass capacity for its size and a shockingly clear general audio quality. Its IP67 dust and waterproof rating is the icing on the cake. A truly good-value speaker.
Buy now £49.99, Amazon.co.uk
If the Sonos move is a little too bulky for you (welcome to the majority of the population), the Sonos roam is a no-brainer of a purchase. In fact, we’d say when it comes to outdoor living, the roam is among the very best speakers on the market, and does a stunning job indoors, too.
The roam manages to pack all of the smart capabilities we expect from Sonos into a small, attractive product that fits nicely in your grip and adds another level of durability compared with the rest of the brand’s range. Its sound also comes out favourably, especially for its compact nature: while the bass is a little on the heavy side, this works neatly in outdoor settings, and the speaker’s trueplay tuning does an admirable job of toning it down when you’re in the bath instead of the great outdoors.
The roam is the best waterproof Bluetooth speaker on the market, but in terms of versatility and quality rivals the very best Bluetooth speakers full stop.
Buy now £149.00, Amazon.co.uk
Apple homepod mini
The Apple homepod mini might continue Apple’s slightly annoying product capitalisation format, but that’s something that we can live with when such a neat little speaker pops up. The advantages of using the homepod range with your Apple products are manifold: native Apple Music integration, easy setup, and general symbiosis of products – including Siri – being a few examples.
While the original homepod is decent enough and will continue to do a job for users, the mini produces a great sound, looks great and fits even better in any room than its bigger predecessor. For loyal Apple fans, it’s a safe bet.
Buy now £89.00, Johnlewis.com
Bluesound pulse mini 2i
Bluesound has a phenomenal range when put together in a proper set-up, but the pulse mini 2i is a highlight. For a speaker of its size, it’s unlike anything else we’ve ever heard, with an audio sophistication that would be at home in much more expensive products. The depth of bass is momentous, and the higher registers hold on with ease as you crank up the volume – something you’ll be tempted to push to the limit, as this speaker’s volume capacity is outstanding.
In terms of connectivity, Bluesound’s own operating system, BluOS, is a sleek piece of software, enabling users to connect pretty much any streaming service. On that note, we’d recommend streaming as high-res as possible. You won’t be disappointed.
Buy now £579.00, Amazon.co.uk
The verdict: Bluetooth speakers
For a static speaker that has looks and sound all wrapped up in a neat package, Transparent’s small transparent speaker is the best product on the Bluetooth market. When it comes to wireless, the Sonos roam takes the crown, due to sheer versatility.
Based on pure sound alone, Naim’s audio mu-so second generation takes the title, closely followed by the Bluesound pulse mini 2i. At the more portable end, the beosound A1 second generation from Bang & Olufsen is a stylish accompaniment to any day out.
If you liked this round-up, we think you’ll want to hear all about our best wireless earbuds list