Hands-On: Bluetooth Speakers

If you’re in the market for a portable speaker that you can easily toss in your bag on a daily basis, you’ve got quite a few options. The portable Bluetooth speaker market is blowing up right now, and you can get a solid music-blaster for a reasonable amount of cash. We gathered a bunch of different speakers, tested them all out here at the Cool Material offices, and found out which ones are actually worth your money.



Jawbone Jambox

The Jambox from Jawbone is probably the best-known Bluetooth speaker on the market, and it gets a lot right. It basically set the standard for design – one that others have tried duplicating with little success – and it is still on the smaller side (a plus for portability). The ability to customize settings and sounds with Jawbone’s MyTalk is a nice plus that many others don’t have. On the downside, the bass leaves a lot to be desired, the audio isn’t quite as full as you’d hope, and the volume is just on par with most other speakers. Still, for $129, you could do a lot worse than the stylish Jambox. $129 Amazon Jawbone’s Website




Lowdi

This French offering displayed a nice range of highs and lows that outperformed most others we tested, and, while not perfect, it offered decent bass. So, you could say the sound overall was above average outside of overall volume and when being used as a speakerphone. Our issues mainly reside in the design. It felt cheap. The directions were printed right on the bottom which, while we guess useful, really felt a bit tacky, and the adhesive holding the rubber bumper on was poor at best. $130 Amazon Lowdi’s Website




Native Union SWITCH

The bigger size of SWITCH from Native Union does mean this speaker offers more hours of music on one charge than most others we tested. Of course, this comes at the cost of portability. SWITCH was easily the biggest of the speakers we tested, and while we hoped that would mean it would provide the best sound, that wasn’t the case. The audio came off slightly tinny at times and could never get loud enough for our liking. The nice thing about SWITCH is that it also acts as a portable power bank so you can charge your devices off of it in a pinch, and it was solid as a speakerphone. Still, overall, we were hoping for more from the largest of the speakers. $150 Amazon Native Union’s Website




Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell

The Turtle Shell from Outdoor Tech provides something that no other speaker on this list does, legit outdoor portability. It can be mounted on a bike, golf cart, or other ride with the Turtle Claw (not included) and it has threading to put it on a tripod as well. The bass is pretty good thanks to the hollow bottom, the sound was decently full, and obviously it is pretty sweet looking. For a ride on your fixie, it’s a far better option than duct taping a Jambox to your handlebar. That said, it isn’t perfect. Once again, the volume left a lot to be desired (fine for a ride, but not for filling a good sized space) and it isn’t a great option as a speakerphone. $150 Amazon Outdoor Tech’s Website




Logitech UE

The compact and affordable UE Mobile Boombox from Logitech was a delightful little surprise. Not only was it the cheapest and smallest Bluetooth speaker we tested, but it was also the best. It offers good sound range, respectable bass, and can pump out a bit more oomph than most others. Taking into consideration the price and the fact that it’s super tiny (a good thing when it comes to a portable speaker), you won’t find a better value. $100 Amazon Logitech’s Website




Braven 625s

The Braven 625s is nice, but is it a hundred and eighty dollars nice? From a pure speaker point-of-view, the Logitech UE outperforms it for 80 bucks less. That said, there are a lot of niceties in the rugged looking Bluetooth speaker. First of all, it does offer 16 hours of playtime which just about tops all the speakers on this list. It also, like the Native Union SWITCH, can charge your phone thanks to the built-in power bank. Unlike SWITCH, it also comes with an LED flashlight that it can power via USB. It’s ideal for taking on an adventure or camping trip. Unfortunately, for everyday use, it is just okay. The volume leaves a bit to be desired, and when you really pump it, the audio distorted a bit too much for our liking. If you happen to be looking for a speaker to toss in your camping bag, it’s perfect (or even look at their other BRV-1 model), and the speakerphone was super clear. If you’re looking to plop a speaker in your office, however, there are other options. $180 Amazon Braven’s Website




Jabra Solemate

We like that the Jabra Solemate looks different. We respect that. Its shoe-like design is unique and the tread on the bottom actually holds a 3.5mm cord which is a nice little feature. The sound is fairly crisp and overall just a bit better than most of the speakers tested (probably since it has three front facing speakers). It’s good, not spectacular, but good. $150 Amazon Jabra’s Website