Best Bluetooth speakers to buy in 2014
Sometimes only a full-fledged hi-fi separates system will do. But what about those times when you want straightforward convenience, a system in a smaller room, or even a bit of portability? You can’t take a kit-rack to the park, after all (and you’d need the mother of all mains leads)…
One solution is a wireless Bluetooth speaker. We've rounded-up the best Bluetooth speakers you can buy in 2014, from all our reviews this year and the best of 2013.
Some can replace your existing iPod/iPhone dock system, other mini portable options fit right in your pocket, while some are just bargains if you're on a budget. There's even a Sonos-rivalling multiroom Bluetooth speaker. Crucially, they all wowed our testing team...
Best Bluetooth speaker under £100
Tested at £85 – compare prices
You might not expect an awful lot for just £85, but this Sony speaker delivers far more than its price might suggest. It’s classy-looking, for a start. From the smart carry-handle to the neat arrangement of controls along the top panel, it’s clear Sony has decided to buck the budget convention.
It sounds the part, too. True, you won’t get mega-bass from a unit this small, but neither does the Sony sound tinny or splashy in the treble. It serves up a decent amount of bass for its size, in fact, and doesn’t fall short when it comes to detail or definition either.
The SRS-BTM8 draws power from the mains or four AA batteries, and features NFC (Near-Field Communication) tech alongside Bluetooth. This makes it simple to pair with a compatible device – just tap it on the speaker’s NFC icon and you’re away.
MORE: Sony SRS-BTM8 review
Best Bluetooth speaker under £150
Tested at £100
Our 2013 Wireless Speaker Product of the Year is a no-brainer: it tips similarly priced speakers into a cocked hat. The Minx Go is battery and mains-powered (the lithium-ion cell lasts up to 18 hours), and is superbly built.
The sound is hugely impressive for its size and price. The Minx Go sidesteps the typical small-speaker thinness, instead delivering a lovely rich, warm tone. The bass is balanced expertly too, sitting just so on the line between overdone and not enough.
The Go is a doddle to set up, too. You can even pair up to eight devices at once – which is just as well, given that all your friends will be queuing up to use it.
ALSO CONSIDER: JBL Charge
Best Bluetooth speaker under £200
Tested at £170
A hotly-contested price point, with wireless Bluetooth speakers from Beats, Bose, Creative, JBL and more all competing for top spot but it's the Ultimate Ears Boom that ticks all the right boxes for us.
Attractive, sporting useful extra features such as an Aux in and NFC and crucially delivering the most balanced sound, it's the speaker we'd most readily take home, just pipping the five-star Bose SoundLink Mini (which is still a fine choice).
ALSO CONSIDER: Bose SoundLink Mini
Best Bluetooth multiroom speaker
Tested at £175 – compare prices
The quirky Pure Jongo S3 looks about as far as you can get from traditional hi-fi equipment. Regular kit doesn’t have interchangeable, multicoloured speaker grilles, after all. Nor does it feature an upward-firing subwoofer and four tweeters. Or offer ten hours of portable battery life.
The S3 falls in line with decent traditional kit in performance, though. It’s surprisingly beefy-sounding and does a great job of spreading its sound over even a good-sized room – but, crucially, it doesn’t go for gut-jiggling bass at the expense of a musical performance. Nor does it go loud enough for its character to harden-up unduly. You can even tell the unit which drivers to use to fine-tune the sound depending on surroundings.
You can stream using Bluetooth via the included dongle, which plugs in to the back of the unit. Wi-fi streaming is also on the menu via the free Pure Connect app for iOS and Android. Best of all, you can connect multiple Jongos (there's a Jongo T2) together for a multi-room set-up.
MORE: Pure Jongo S3 review
Best Bluetooth speaker under £300
Tested at £260
Now sitting at a little over half its original £500 asking price, the JBL OnBeat Xtreme is a seriously good buy. It’s solid and well designed, with a decently wide wingspan promising a good spread of sound, and can accommodate older Apple portables via its 30-pin dock.
The OnBeat Xtreme isn’t portable – it doesn’t take batteries (and is a little large for carrying anyway), but don’t let that dissuade you. Why? Because it sounds superb.
There’s plenty of bass on tap – not a huge surprise given the size of the thing, but still impressive from such small drive units – and the midrange and treble are sweetly communicative. It goes neighbour-annoyingly loud, should you be the feudin’ type, and has a good way with dynamics.
Pairing is quick and easy, and although you don’t get the higher-quality aptX version of Bluetooth, wireless performance is still worth writing home about. You can even use the unit to make hands-free phone calls in place of a bluetooth headset.
MORE: JBL OnBeat Xtreme review
Best Bluetooth speaker under £400
Tested at £330
The Geneva Model S Wireless DAB+: hi-fi sound from a wireless speaker. Yes, that’s right. We were blown away by this speaker’s performance when it first graced our testing rooms, and it wowed us again when it came to judging time in our 2013 Awards.
The Model S embodies everything we want to see in a wireless speaker. It’s stunningly subtle and dynamic via Bluetooth or its DAB and FM radio tuners. It digs up a ton of detail even from streamed Spotify tracks via an iPhone 5s. And its sense of rhythm, precision and balance is fantastic. It doesn’t want for bass either: the Geneva Model S’s low frequencies are punchy and weighty, but still agile with it.
We love the design, too. It’s available in glossy black, white or red and features classy touch-sensitive controls on the top panel. The digital clock, meanwhile, glows nicely behind the grille. There’s also a tabletop stand, but this can be detached if you want – pretty much essential if you want to find the snooze button when you’re desperate for eight more minutes’ sleep.
If you want class in both wireless sound and construction, you really can’t go wrong with this speaker.
by Joe Cox