Rock On with the Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers of 2022
Wherever you go, take the music with you.
High-fidelity sound is no longer relegated to the living room. Today you can take powerful speakers anywhere, whether you’re splashing in a mountain swimming hole, racing bicycles through the concrete canyons of Manhattan, or canoeing the labyrinthine marshes of the Everglades. Bluetooth connectivity further amplifies the potential for rugged, quality sound by allowing for cordless connections from your pocket to your speaker. Outdoor speakers come with situational design perks like full waterproofing, drop resistance, and long battery life. Some also offer special sound boosts to make your music pop outside. Many also pair with others of their make to allow you to create mobile multi-speaker outdoor surround sound environments. Whatever your sonic tastes, take them with you wherever you roam.
– Best Overall: JBL Charge 4 – Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
– Best Budget: Sony SRS-XB13
– Best for Audiophiles: Sonos Move
– Best for Parties: JBL Boombox 2
– Best Small-Sized: Bose SoundLink Micro
How We Chose The Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers
When choosing what outdoor Bluetooth speakers to recommend, I used my own experience as an audiophile and outdoor enthusiast. I’ve taken my Bluetooth speakers on untold camping trips, splashed them while boating, and ended so many nights with them on NYC rooftops. I considered over twenty devices from multiple manufacturers, looking for the best quality outdoor Bluetooth speakers from makers both small and large. In deciding on the best, I looked for a few primary criteria:
Sound Quality and Spectrum: Every outdoor Bluetooth speaker has one primary goal: sound quality. However, what we all want when we ask for good sound quality can be different. So many Bluetooth speakers tend to adopt a bass-heavy profile that boosts the low-medium range of the sonic spectrum at the expense of the high. This profile often appeals to hip-hop, dance, and pop fans. There’s also a tendency in these designs to create one smaller sweet spot for high-fidelity upper-range sound, with wider lower-range clarity. I think there’s a degree of quiet intentionality from manufacturers about this tendency to prioritize bass. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi community feeling about the way lower-mids frequencies sound outdoors. Like a bonfire, they have real presence, and that presence brings people together. That said, some Bluetooth speakers go way overboard and seem to compress whole tracks down to a string of boomy bass hits. Some genres of music benefit from heavy bass boosting. Some however do not. For this list I prioritized speakers that have good full-spectrum delivery and wide sound stages while still bringing the bass.
Portability: Outdoor Bluetooth speakers come in many makes, and the best ones are easy to transport. Portability, sound quality, and battery power are always in dialogue, as the power system within a device competes with its speaker framework. However, there are some ultra-portable speakers that clip onto a backpack strap and still retain great battery life. Devices with larger battery banks and higher sonic output are heavier, but some Bluetooth arrays work around this limitation quite well. I factored portability in and made sure to offer an ultra-portable clip-on speaker, a heavier (yet still road-ready) long-lasting boom-box style pick, and all the portable options in between.
Battery: Long-lasting batteries are essential when you’re taking a device into the field for the day (or longer). That’s why I looked for devices that keep the charge as long as possible. Some of the devices on this list offer a lasting charge up to 30 hours or longer.
Waterproofing and Ruggedness: Water doesn’t have to be kryptonite to your electronic goods. Any person who loves the outdoors will confirm that the more waterproof a piece of gear is, the better. Happily, rugged builds and great waterproofing are easily found in the Bluetooth speaker market. I highlighted speakers with strong construction, solid waterproofing, and even a few that float…
How to Connect the Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers
Before you can stream your favorite tunes at a backyard gathering, you’ll need to connect your outdoor Bluetooth speakers to a musical source. Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology that can connect electronic devices and share information. You can use the technology to connect to your speakers wirelessly to your smartphone, computer, tablet, smart assistant, and other devices. To connect your Bluetooth speakers with a device, go to Settings and turn on Bluetooth connectivity. Then make sure the speakers and the device can “discover” each other by enabling that mode. Once you’re connected, you can play DJ. Keep in mind, though, that Bluetooth has a limited range of about 33 feet, but works well for small gatherings.
The Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker Overall: JBL Charge 4 – Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Why It Made The Cut: With great sound and presence, strong battery life, and a rugged build, this model is a clear winner for the best outdoor Bluetooth speaker.
– Size: 8.5 L x 3.4 W x 3.5 H inches
– Weight: 2.13 pounds
– Waterproofing: IPX7 waterproof rating and submersible
– Battery: 20 hours, rechargeable
– Great battery life
– Solid sound profile with some squashing toward the lower end and decent bass coverage
– Can be paired with over 100 other JBL speakers for mobile surround sound
– Some high reduction
– Mono speaker with two side bass speakers
– Does not come with a wall power adapter
JBL has been making audio components since the early 1900s, and the company is only getting better at what it does. Today, the company is known for its Bluetooth speakers and makes one of the best wireless speaker makers on the market. I’ve used my JBL Charge 2 for many years. The JBL Charge 4 improves upon the line in many ways. Offering a low-medium sonic profile, this speaker produces warm vocals that feel present. The highs are somewhat muted, but not disturbingly so. With good bass coverage, this speaker won’t drop into deep subwoofer territory, yet it still manages to sound thick and full-bodied. Another cool feature of the JBL is JBLCONNECT, which allows you to wirelessly link the device to over 100 other JBL speakers to create truly huge mobile surround sound.
The ruggedly designed device also features solid waterproofing. Advertised as fully submersible, the speaker should be fully resistant to any splashing or accidental drink spills that might come up. In addition, the 20-hour battery life of the speaker is solid, though in practice it may not last for the full 20 hours at common volumes.
That said, some users are concerned about the device’s mono speaker, and this concern is fair. One mono speaker is positioned slightly off center on the device, while two bass speakers flank the sides. That said, with the device’s small size, the mono speaker isn’t as much of a drawback as it may initially sound. However, if you are looking for a proper stereo speaker, the Ultimate Ears BOOM 3 is a competitor that offers stereo in a similar frame, albeit with slightly lesser sound quality.
Best Budget Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker: Sony SRS-XB13
Why It Made The Cut: With its powerfully sized sound profile, tiny size, and solid charge and build, this is our pick for best budget outdoor Bluetooth speaker.
– Size: 3.43 L x 3.43 W x 4.41 H inches
– Weight: .56 pound
– Waterproofing: IP67 waterproof rating
– Battery: 16 hours
– Good bass
– Decent waterproofing
– Limits accuracy in highs
– Limited volume
Sony has done a great job at cramming surprising functionality into this tiny clip-on speaker. Chargeable with a type-C USB, the device has up to 16-hour battery life. Its bassiness outdoes the size of its frame. While it doesn’t get as loud as larger units, it does have a surprising sonic presence with decent range accuracy. It won’t be as accurate at high frequency notes, but still does a decent job.
At just over half a pound, the Sony SRS-XB13 still has strong build quality. Its waterproof rating is IP67. While you most likely shouldn’t submerge it, the device won’t stop working if you go biking with it clipped onto your handle bars, or if it gets splashed. With really decent specs for a device this size it’s truly a quality buy for well under a hundred dollars.
Best Outdoor Speakers with Bass: Sonos Move
Why It Made The Cut: As the best outdoor speaker with bass, this speaker features superior sound quality and a build that’s meant to stand up to whatever environment you take it into.
– Size: 6.29 W x 9.44 H inches
– Weight: 6.61 pounds
– Waterproofing: IP56
– Battery: 11 hour, rechargeable
– High-fidelity quality
– Wide sound staging without just one “sweet spot” for high frequency
– Automatically adjusts to the acoustic situation you set it in
– Pairs with other Sonos speakers
– Rather than fully powering down, the device “sleeps,” continuing to use energy and depleting its charge length
This premium outdoor Bluetooth speaker embodies what Sonos does best—it delivers excellent quality sound. The Sonos Move offers a very wide soundstage compared to some competing brands. It pairs a downward facing tweeter with a solid mid-woofer for crisp high-spectrum heights and thick bass. This soundstage means that there’s not just one small “sweet spot” where crisp highs come through. Rather, there’s a broader area where sound comes through as crisp and detailed. This speaker can also get loud, and with its situational acoustic awareness and strong bass, this device should have no problem filling an open outdoor space. In addition, this speaker is voice controllable with Alexa and also functions well with the Sonos app. If you’re already a Sonos device owner, the Move will easily pair with other Sonos speakers and receivers in your ecosystem.
One design flaw of the device is that instead of fully powering down, the device enters a “sleep” mode. While this means that your speaker will quickly power up when you’re ready to use it, it also means that it continues to spend battery power while it’s off. With a comparatively short battery charge when compared to other Bluetooth speakers, the Move isn’t as well suited for multi-day excursions into the wilderness. At more than six pounds, this speaker is also heavier than some of the competition. So the device might be more suited for day trips to the pool or family picnics to the park rather than multi-day canoe trips.
Best Party Speakers: JBL Boombox 2
Why It Made The Cut: With 24 hours of battery life per charge, huge sound, great waterproofing and build, and the capacity to pair with other JBL devices, this is our pick for best party speakers.
– Size: 21.97 L x 9.33 W x 12.76 H inches
– Weight: 13.03 pounds
– Waterproofing: IPX7
– Battery: 24 hours, rechargeable
– 24 hours of battery life per charge
– Huge sound
– Pairable with other JBLs for mega-mobile surround-sound
– Charge your phone while you play from it with USB chargers
This 13-pound monster from JBL is a mobile party lab. With huge bass that you can feel from far away, you’ll easily get the crowd moving. Its connection technology allows you to pair it with other JBL Boombox 2s or other JBL devices to bring you truly powerful mobile surround-sound. The device also allows you to pair two phones to the speakers for versatile group DJ-ing. Its 24 hours of battery life means that one charge preps this boombox for two days of use. What’s more, the included power bank allows you to charge your phone directly from the Boombox. For campers or canoers, this is an all-in-one device that provides a powerful weather-resistant system that will also charge your phone by the campfire.
If you’re looking for ultimate power, the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom does beat this JBL out for less money. Running on 229 watts instead of the JBL’s 40, the UE Bluetooth speaker does get a lot louder (and for less money). If pure power is what you’re after then the Ultimate Ears is worth a look. That said, even with the lower wattage, I think the JBL with its excellent battery, far superior waterproofing, and quality sound offers a versatility that’s still the best for outdoor parties. The device does come with a premium price tag. However, for those who want to invest, this is a rugged, waterproofed, party mothership, that can send sound to multiple other JBL devices while playing from two phones at one time.
Best Outdoor Portable Speakers: Bose SoundLink Micro
Why It Made The Cut: With exceptional sound quality and bass for such a tiny speaker, this is the best outdoor portable speakers that really lets you bring the music with you on the move.
– Size: 3.9 L x 1.4 W x 3.9 H inches
– Weight: 0.64 pounds
– Waterproofing: IPX7
– Battery: 6 hours, rechargeable
– Great waterproofing, fully submersible
– Strap attachment
– Light, under one pound
– Great sonic quality for such a small device
– Mono sound on its own
– Pricey for the small size
– Bass isn’t the strongest
The Bose SoundLink Micro is built for action. At less than one pound, this strap-on Bluetooth speaker is meant to be attached to a belt, backpack strap, or handlebar. Perfect for trail runners, mountain bikers, or white water rafters, the IPX7 rating means that you don’t need to worry about sudden rain storms, dips into ponds, or mud spatters. It’s even fully submersible for up to 30 minutes, so you can stay worry free with the music on, wherever the day takes you. While the Bose SoundLink Micro is mono, it can be paired with a second device for stereo sound, and with such a light weight, that’s easy to do. One of these on the front and rear of your kayak won’t weigh you down at all.
Compared to the Sony SRS-XB13, the Bose speaker offers better quality sound and water resistance. That quality will cost you, however. If you’re looking for a comparable, cheaper option, the JBL Clip 4 does give it a run for its money with longer playtime and more bass. But what makes the Bose SoundLink special is its signature Bose EQ, which gives you wide-spectrum fidelity and sounds good without emphasizing a flashy bass punch and instead expressing an accurate and crisp version of the song as it’s meant to sound.
Things To Consider Before Buying Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers
Waterproofing is an important factor to look for in outdoor Bluetooth speakers. Rugged builds that are resistant not only to splashing but also to dust, rain, and accidental (or otherwise) submersion offer you the versatility that you need for music on the go anywhere. Waterproofing ratings are broken into eight standardized categories, which are denoted by IPX and a number from 1 to 8. IPX7 is the highest rating of any speaker on this list and indicates that a device is fully submersible for up to 30 minutes at a depth of up to 1 meter. Lower ratings mean that a device is protected from various pressure water streams from different angles. IPX4 and up are protected from splashing water from any angle. Consider the type and location of the activities you’re planning to gauge the level of water protection you need in your outdoor Bluetooth speaker.
Sound Quality, Bass, and Loudness
Bluetooth speakers come with many EQ profiles and loudness ceilings. Many Bluetooth speakers tend toward mid/low bassiness. Consider if you want to invest in a Bluetooth speaker that puts the emphasis on accurate high-fidelity sound, or something that instead delivers boomy bass and warm mids of frequency wherever you go. Small clip-on style speakers like the Bose SoundLink Micro can’t get near as loud as something like the premium JBL Boombox 2, no matter how much money you throw at them. Large-profile speakers simply physically produce more sound. Consequently, it’s important to consider how much sound you want your device to produce as well as what type of sonic profile you’re looking for before you make a purchase.
Multi-speaker connections aren’t a proprietary feature of any one brand, but sadly most brands will require that you do connect to something proprietary when you do. Multi-device connectivity is an awesome feature. A JBL Boombox 2 can be paired to numerous other JBL devices to create a mobile sonic surround-sound system that functions fluidly as one. However, because most brands require that their products connect only to other products of the same brand, it may be worth choosing a brand “ecosystem” and keeping your purchases within it. Just as an Apple computer won’t AirDrop to a PC, a JBL won’t seamlessly connect to a Bose the way that it will within its own ecosystem. Because of this, it’s worth it to research what brand you want to invest in and continue to do so.
Q: What’s a good wattage for outdoor speakers?
At the lowest range, clip-on devices like the Sony SRS-XB13 use 5 or 10 watts, while the JBL Boombox 2 clocks 40 watts. Other devices like the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom offer far more power, at 229 watts. Devices with high wattage are much more powerful than devices with less wattage. At about 30 watts, the JBL Charge 4 exists in a happy-medium space that has solid presence outdoors at a moderate price point. Low wattage clip-on units often need less wattage as they are meant to stay near your body. They work well for personal sound on the go. As all the outdoor Bluetooth speakers on this list operate with a built-in battery bank, wattage also equates to size and weight. A device can’t magically offer high wattage without the built-in weight of the power supply that delivers it. So in deciding how much wattage you need for your purchase, it’s important to remember that this decision will also factor the size and weight of the device you need.
Q: Which speaker is best for an outdoor party?
The JBL Boombox 2 is the best Bluetooth speaker for an outdoor party with its impressive volume, rumbling bass, connection features to other JBLs, power bank, and the fact that it can be linked to two cell phones simultaneously for group DJing. However, the 36-watt Sonos Move is also an impressive high-fidelity outdoor powerhouse with great bass and especially wide quality sound.
Q: What’s the best Bluetooth speaker brand?
Every Bluetooth speaker on this list offers solid perks and excellent performance. It’s my belief that competition in any market yields the best results, and it’s no different with speakers. That said, JBL does offer extreme value across many products, and the brand is reliably excellent at Bluetooth speakers. However, there’s always another option that does something better, and there’s no JBL Bluetooth speaker that offers the extreme detailed sound of a device like the hard-to-find (in the US) DALI KATCH G2. In the end, choosing the best Bluetooth speaker brand is about choosing the best brand for your preferences.
Q: How much does an outdoor Bluetooth speaker cost?
A good outdoor Bluetooth speaker can cost anywhere from about $50 to just under $1,000. Sometimes sales can bring the price of more budget options down ever further. It’s important to be sure of how much you’re ready to spend before shopping.
Q: How do you dispose of old speakers?
While New York City mandates that manufacturers accept end-of-life returns on some electronic waste for recycling and supplies this handy guide on how to do it, Bluetooth speaker manufacturers aren’t always included in the list of E-waste recycling makers. This means that it can be more difficult to find an environmentally conscious solution when your Bluetooth speaker is at the end of its life. If your device still works but you’re done with it, the best solution is to donate or give away your speaker to someone who needs it, this can be achieved with services like Habitat for Humanity or Craigslist.org. However, when your device is busted there are still options. Look for E-Waste recycling sites in your community. In New York City, the Department of Environmental Conservation supplies a useful database for finding sites and E-Waste recycling in general.
Final Thoughts on the Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers
As a longtime owner of an outdoor Bluetooth speaker, I know these devices offer an incredible amount of functionality. I’ve taken mine up mountains, on boats, and listened to it by campfires. Offering remarkable sound quality that can travel just about anywhere, these speakers revolutionize how we interact with music outdoors. The best speakers offer great protection from the environment; some builds continue to deliver excellent audio quality even while offering full submersion protection. Audiophiles no longer need to skirt Bluetooth with devices like the Sonos Move in play. And the connectivity and power contained in groups of paired high-end speakers like the JBL Boombox 2 offer an exciting new take on mobile surround-sound. I want to know what it feels like to walk through a pine forest with 20 synced JBL Boomboxes playing layered ambient dreamscapes.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.
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