From backyard entertaining to tailgate parties to time working in the garden, the great outdoors feel even greater when there's musical accompaniment. (Seriously, fire up the Mark Ronson album Version at your next pool party and, yes, you'll thank me later.) All you need is a high-quality speaker — or speakers, depending on how much open space you're hoping to fill.
Tribit StormBox Blast Portable Speaker
OSD Audio Patio AP650 Outdoor Speakers
Best for permanent installations
EarFun UBoom L Portable Speaker
Best for taking on the run
iLive Bluetooth Tailgate Speaker
Sonos Move Battery-Powered Smart Speaker
Best for occasional outdoor use
Yes, there's a perfect outdoor speaker system at a reasonable price for every location and occasion, and no they aren’t the rock speakers that blend into your landscaping. The right one for you might be something permanently installed and connected to an AV receiver. Or it might be a wireless connectivity setup that pairs with your phone or home Wi-Fi network. Generally speaking, the former will be the best buy for top sound quality, while the latter will make life easier through portability.
Below I've identified five of the best outdoor speakers based on a number of specs: usage scenario, product features, user ratings, personal experience and, of course, sound quality. (Out of the five, I was able to conduct hands-on testing of four.) They're all great in their own ways, so all you need to do is pick the best outdoor speaker that meets your needs.
Full stop: This is my favorite model in the group. It has everything you want from a portable Bluetooth speaker: it’s easily moved (thanks, '80s-boom-box-style handle), incredible battery life (up to 30 hours, which blows away the competition) and has excellent sound that, if I'm being honest, handily beats Sonos in outdoor environments. Credit that to the two tweeters and two midwoofers that combine to crank out a hefty 90 watts of audio goodness. Everything I played on the StormBox Blast just felt big.
Maybe it's because the actual speaker is physically large as well, weighing in at around 12 pounds. That makes it the heaviest player in the group (by a lot), though there's an added benefit to the arm workout you'll get from carrying it: The Blast's battery has so much capacity, you can use it as a power source to charge your phone or another device. There's a USB-C port tucked away inside the rear panel, which means more battery life for all of your devices.
Unfortunately, that port is for output only; you can't use it to charge the speaker itself. For that, you need Tribit's AC power cord. That's understandable given the size of the battery, but it's one more cable to keep track of.
The StormBox Blast comes ready to party: It's IPX7-rated water-resistant and therefore weather-resistant (meaning you could literally submerge it and it would keep playing) and outfitted with color-changing LEDs that bounce in time with the music. A clearly marked button on the control panel toggles between two lighting modes and no lighting at all.
Speaking of controls, the Blast's functionality is a breeze to use, but it's made even better by Tribit's companion app, which lets you choose lighting modes, check the battery level and apply equalizer settings to tune the music to your liking. There are auto-shutdown modes available as well to help preserve battery life.
If you really want to liven things up, you can pair two of these things for a whopping 180 watts of powerful sound. The only real downside I've found is that the speaker doesn't have a microphone built in, so you can't use it for phone calls.
That aside, I consider the Tribit StormBox Blast one of the best outdoor speakers you can get to stream audio. For half the price of the Sonos Move, this battery-powered speaker can last three times as long on a charge. Plus, it fills outdoor spaces or landscaping better than the Move and looks cooler doing it. Put this party animal on your shortlist for the best portable speaker.
If you have a permanent outdoor space (patio, pool, etc.) and want a great permanent speaker solution, look no further than OSD Audio's AP650. Widely regarded as some of the best outdoor speakers you can get, they're fully weather-resistant and reasonably priced at $195.
Here's the key thing to know: These have an "old-school" patio speaker design, meaning they connect to an amplifier or a stereo receiver with a speaker wire. This presents not only installation challenges — you need to mount the speakers, run wires to the receiver, etc. — but also functional ones: You may find yourself running inside every time you want to change the playlist, adjust volume and so on.
There are solutions to these problems — OSD Audio sells a wireless volume control, for example, and connecting something like an Amazon Echo Dot to your stereo would add voice and app controls — but I suspect the desire for simplicity may drive you to one of the other speakers listed here.
That said, the AP650 setup delivers true stereo sound, which is important to audiophiles. The mounts afford a full 180 degrees of swivel and 60 degrees of tilt, meaning it's easy to point the speakers where you want for outdoor sound even if your mounting options are limited for speaker placement.
OSD Audio provides only a two-page installation guide, but it's clear, easy to follow and nicely illustrated. Worth noting: You can daisy-chain additional pairs if you have a larger outdoor audio system area to cover.
Because I don't have a receiver, I wasn't able to test the OSD Audio AP650. However, over 600 Amazon shoppers collectively rated it 4.5 stars out of 5, a score that suggests a very good product. Assuming you have the indoor hardware needed to sling sound where it needs to go, you can't go wrong with the AP650.
Want something discreet with a portable design that let’s you toss into a tote bag or backpack for easy transport?Look no further than EarFun's 1.4-pound UBoom L portable Bluetooth speaker. Even better, toss in two: You can pair them together for bigger, louder sound and true stereo separation — something that's pretty rare and versatile in any outdoor sound system (and definitely desirable).
Speaking of the outdoors, the UBoom L has a special mode just for those environments. Push a button and the outdoor Bluetooth speakers amplify both the bass and loudness for a balanced sound. Of course, you can use that mode indoors as well, which I found I preferred.
Courtesy of its two 55mm drivers and passive radiators, the UBoom L can crank out 28 watts of power — more than many speakers in this size and price range. This matters most outdoors, where open areas can swallow up your music. You won't be able to hear it well from across a field, but within, say, a 20-foot perimeter, it has the juice.
It has a portable design and sounds quite good too, delivering impressive balance and bass for its size. EarFun promises a solid 16 hours of battery life on a single charge, more than enough to last a day (and night) at the beach. And because it's water-resistant, you don't have to worry about splashes or even dunks. (Real-world test: I plunged this underwater and these waterproof speakers kept right on playing.)
EarFun frequently discounts the UBoom L, but even at an $80 price point it's a great speaker that's incredibly easy to take with you.
A surprisingly good Bluetooth speaker for the money, the iLive ISB380B makes a great first impression with its retro LED display and control knobs and modern color-changing lighting effects. It's also a karaoke machine: Just plug in a microphone (not included) and you can turn your tailgate into a sing-along.
There's unmatched portability here as well: Like a carry-on suitcase, the ISB380B has an extendable handle and a pair of wheels, so it's so it's got a portable design. It's a small speaker that’s surprisingly lightweight (a little over 5 pounds) if you end up needing to carry it, and there's a convenient handle on top for that purpose.
Why so light? Small battery, for one thing: This wireless outdoor speaker runs on a rechargeable that iLive says is good for anywhere from 2.5 to 6 hours depending on volume, with a total charge time of 4-5 hours. That's not great; every other rechargeable model here can play considerably longer. (Note: The ISB380B shown here has a micro-USB charging port; there's a newer version with a USB-C port and slightly different control layout, but otherwise they're identical.) If battery life is your main concern, this speaker won’t cut it.
In addition to pairing via Bluetooth to your phone, the ISB380B can play songs from a USB drive or microSD card. I'm not sure those are widely used options these days, but they're nice to have. There's also an FM tuner built in, though you'll need an audio cable (not included) to serve as the antenna.
Given how light this midrange outdoor speaker is and how low the price, I didn't expect great sound quality. But you know what? It sounds pretty good. There's not a very deep or powerful bass, and it doesn't get super-loud, but it didn't distort at maximum volume (a fairly common issue with budget-priced speakers). I found it a welcome companion during a fall garage clean-out.
My only real complaint is with the warranty, a relatively short 90 days. That aside, the iLive ISB380B is a nifty-looking outdoor speaker that feels like a steal at this price.
Sonos is known for making some of the best-sounding speakers you can buy, and the Move is no exception. It's a sturdy black monolith of a thing, weighing in at well over 6 pounds, with a battery Sonos says is good for up to 10 hours. However, the size and weight make it something not really suited for tote-bag transport, and the handle embedded in the backside is comfortable only for short distances, so I don’t consider it to have a portable design.
Indeed, I'd almost look upon the Move as an indoor speaker first, one that can easily travel from room to room. If there's a patio picnic, by all means grab it. If you're headed to the park, however, I'd consider something else.
Not that this Sonos speaker can't handle outdoor environments: It's IP56-rated against dust and splashes, so a little sand or water won't hurt it. It's just heavy and awkward to carry long distances, and it can't be recharged without its dock (which is cleverly designed but definitely intended for indoor use). Plus, it sort of feels a little too fancy to subject to the rigors of the outdoors.
In addition to Bluetooth connectivity (which is what allows for on-the-go listening), the Move emulates other Sonos speakers by connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. This definitive technology is fairly easy to set up, though it does require installing the Sonos app. What's more, when you roam outside the range of that network and want to switch to Bluetooth, you have to press a rear button to toggle modes. The same is true when you want to return to Wi-Fi. It would be nice if this Sonos outdoor speaker could manage this automatically.
Another Wi-Fi perk: Support for both Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands. (You use the app to choose which platform you want.) That's a great feature, one not found in any other speaker here. Once you get accustomed to barking, "Alexa, play my party playlist," it's hard to go back to tapping on your phone.
The tough pill to swallow, as with many Sonos products, is the price. At $399, the Move costs quite a bit more than other outdoor speakers. But if you want a first-class indoor speaker that can also go outside to play, it's easy to make the case for splurging.