There was a time when the thought of combining electrical speakers and the outdoors, especially in soggy old Britain, would have been as laughable as pairing your morning bacon sandwich with a healthy dollop of homemade custard.
Things, of course, have changed drastically, and while you're not getting portable, hi-fi quality sound outside anytime soon, the standard of models available these days has improved dramatically thanks to brands such as JBL and Ultimate Ears.
Portable speakers have become hugely popular recently, but with that proliferation has come complexity, and it can be hard to know where to start in this crowded corner of the market. Thanks to the hands-on testing in our dedicated listening facilities (and the occasional trip to our local park), you can bet we'll have sniffed out the ideal model for your needs.
How to choose the best outdoor speaker for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
Fully waterproof speakers are a great option and will survive a lengthy dip in your private pool (you lucky thing, you) while dust-proof options can also shrug off sand with the best of us. If you want a speaker for the beach, look for an IP67 rating rather than the waterproof-only IPX7. Check out our IP ratings explainer for the full reasoning behind each of those numbers and what it means for your rugged speaker.
Most portable speakers feature hooks or handles for carrying, plus Bluetooth wireless connectivity, if you want something for a camping holiday or road trip. Some models even offer access to voice assistants, should you need to ask Alexa the current temperature in Florida, or the chances of decent surf this weekend in Cornwall.
Some of these models are great for slinging in a bag, but don't be fooled: there are bigger high-fidelity options too if you want to really level up the sound quality outside. Read on for our pick of the best outdoor speakers, each with a full, in-depth What Hi-Fi? review attached. We'll let you select the best fit for your needs.
In the arena of outdoor speakers, few models come close to the might of the JBL Charge 5.
The Award-winning Charge 5 is even more durable and hardwearing than the four Charges that came before it, and while its predecessor carried an IPX7 rating for handling water submergence to a depth of 1.5m, the IP67-rated Charge 5 builds on that durability by also being fully dustproof.
Thanks in part to its 10W tweeter and racetrack-shaped driver, the Charge 5 is pretty much as good a sound as you can get in a portable Bluetooth speaker design for under £200 ($200, AU$300), although the arrival of the slightly more expensive Charge 5 Wi-Fi (£230 / $230 / AU$330) has muddied the waters somewhat. Still, the improvements the Charge 5 model made over its own predecessor make it an invigorating, cohesive listen, full of punch, body and a snappy sense of rhythmic drive.
Yes, the new Charge 5 Wi-Fi offers a slightly more refined sound as well as more flexible wi-fi-enabled capabilities such as AirPlay 2 and Alexa Multiroom, but the Charge 5 remains a superb portable speaker that offers enjoyable sound in a neat, durable package. Yes, JBL has plenty more Bluetooth speaker options in the Charge 5 Wi-Fi and Flip 6 (below), but the standard Charge 5 remains a surefire winner.
Read the full review: JBL Charge 5
Yes, it's another JBL, but at this rate, what were you expecting? The American audio brand remains king of the pile, and with the company's proclivity for producing such great portable speakers, it's little wonder so many of its products are so well suited to outdoor use.
The Flip 5 was a past What Hi-Fi? Award winner, a trick that JBL has more or less repeated with the five-star sequel (if only losing out the top trophy to its Charge 5 bigger brother). We might have thought we’d be advising JBL to rework the Flip by now – add a few more features, change it up a bit to keep up with the competition – but instead, we're left praising the sonic chops of a proposition that now offers extra durability (IP67 water and dust proofing over the waterproof-only IPX7-rated Flip 5), plus an extra ounce of space within its characteristically zealous and musical presentation.
Yes, it's still 'just' a Bluetooth speaker – but what a great-sounding Bluetooth speaker it is. If you want to boost the sound presentation to your liking, you can now tweak things thanks to a new EQ feature in the app. For a nominal price hike over the launch price of the Flip 5, there’s certainly more detail here, too.
All in all, by far the best small-form Bluetooth speaker you'll find at this price.
Read the full review: JBL Flip 6
If all you want from a decent outdoor speaker is portability and affordability, you really couldn't do much better than the excellent Stormbox Micro 2. A tiny, satchel-friendly Bluetooth speaker that's one of the cheapest options on this list, the Tribit Stormbox Micro 2 is easily one of the best we’ve tested at this meagre price point.
The small-form-factor speaker doesn’t have the 360-degree sound design of many of its rivals like the dinky UE Wonderboom 3, but during our tests we found it is one of the best value options if you’re really on a tight budget.
Building on the success of the original Stormbox Micro and featuring an all but identical woven finish design, the Micro's sequel trumps its predecessor when it comes to delivering enjoyable audio and massively improved battery life. We easily coaxed 12 hours of listening out of a single charge, while an IP67 rating let one of our reviewers use it in the bathroom/shower without any issue or damage. Again, the Stormbox Micro 2's diminutive size and durable design make it well-suited for travelling far beyond the confines of a bathroom or kitchen.
Audio is really strong, too, bigger, punchier and louder than you’d expect from such a small box. Play Juice by Lizzo and the Micro 2 does justice to the song’s upbeat tempo with her vocals vibrantly portrayed. Midrange in particular is dealt with in a much more appealing manner than anything else we’ve seen at this price.
The only issue is that it can start to suffer from distortion at louder volumes, but based on our head-to-head tests, you’ll have to pay more and invest in either a JBL Flip 6 or Wonderboom 3 to get a better speaker. Really impressive stuff.
Read the full review: Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro 2
JBL has practically built its name on rugged, portable hardware capable of surviving anywhere (we imagine) from the bottom of an icy ravine to the top of a snow-capped summit. The JBL Xtreme 3 is no exception with its durable design and is a versatile, talented five-star wireless speaker that’s as happy chilling at home as it is being the life and soul of a sweaty student party. As rugged as the rest of its stablemates, it is IP67 dust and waterproof-certified, making it perfect for getting its (metaphorical) hands dirty in the great outdoors.
You might be forgiven for thinking that, given the bulky construction, the Xtreme 3 might be more preoccupied with the amount of bass it’s producing rather than focusing on musical quality. Let us put your mind at rest: the Xtreme 3 proves to be a careful and considerate performer from the lowest of lows to the highest highs, giving impressive detail, dynamics and a strong sense of timing.
Still, bassheads will be more than satisfied with the healthy low-end clout on offer, but there’s quality as well as quantity on display. The JBL Xtreme 3 gained five stars across the board during our rigorous in-house testing, never appearing out of its depth no matter how complicated the musical arrangement.
Read the full review: JBL Xtreme 3
Ultimate Ears has really made a splash in the Bluetooth speaker market with a number of colourful, fun-sounding and portable models, and the Wonderboom 3 is by no means an exception.
The four-star follow-up to the five-star Wonderboom 2, the third entry in the trilogy still sounds dynamic and detailed, but it's the model's portability and ease of use that make it ideal for outdoor excursions. Battery life is bolstered by an hour to a total of 14, while the Bluetooth range is now up by 10 meters, making the Wonderboom 3 even more suited to when you're not confined to the four walls of your domestic abode. Better still, the UE's IP67 rating should keep dust, dirt and water from ruining the speaker during your muddy bike ride or beach volleyball session.
Sonically, the Wonderboom 3 is an enjoyable, exciting listen. Bass is impressive given how small the speaker is, and the sense of dynamics on display is similarly remarkable. You also get a ‘boost’ button on the underside of the unit that restricts the bass frequencies when pressed, allowing the UE to play louder through the midrange. This in turn makes the sound easier to hear when the unit is used outdoors, rendering it all the more attractive as a speaker to bring with you on a trip.
Sadly, there's no built-in mic or app as is the case for the Wonderboom 2, but even so, the Wonderboom 3 is an eminently portable, great-sounding Bluetooth speaker that won't break the bank.
Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
The Sonos Roam is an ideal option for those looking for an off-roading, hiking, beach-combing, deep-diving speaker with dimensions and a feature set to rival offerings from JBL and Ultimate Ears. Given Sonos’s recent run of superb-sounding products, one that we can drop in our backpack and take on a ramble has been highly anticipated – especially since the Move, the company’s first battery-powered speaker, was more portly than portable in comparison.
Sonically, the Roam is a decent effort, but we can't help feeling things have been flipped around somewhat, with Sonos' diminutive portable speaker swapping out truly detailed sound for a greater emphasis on usability, build quality and durability. That's not an entirely bad thing for an outdoors speaker (and we're admittedly being very harsh), but the Roam's slight lack of crystal clear detail, coupled with some rather average timing and dynamics, means it won't trouble the JBL rivals.
However, it's a nicely portable design with a pleasing, full-bodied sound, and unusually for this type of speaker, it can connect to your home wi-fi for integration within a wider Sonos ecosystem. Let's hope the sequel (whenever it arrives) steps up its game in the sound department.
Read the full review: Sonos Roam
How we choose the best outdoor speakers
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test all of the outdoor, portable and Bluetooth speakers to pass through What Hi-Fi? towers.
What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, listening to one product up against its closest competition to figure out exactly how it differs and what each model does best. We keep class-leading outdoor speakers in our stockrooms so we can compare new products to ones we know and love.
Aside from the raw audio quality of an outdoor speaker (heard both inside and outside our test rooms), we also test and evaluate every aspect of its performance, including battery life, connection quality, ease of use, and versatility.
We are always impartial and do our level best to make sure we're hearing every product at its very best. Whatever your budget, we want you to have the best solution for the money, so we'll experiment with features, test any voice assistant integration and app support, try plenty of different types of music and give the proposition plenty of listening time (and time to run in).
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole too, rather than an individual reviewer, thus eliminating any personal preference. Note that there's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to our verdicts. We are proud to have been delivering honest, unbiased and thorough reviews since 1976 – and we're not about to change that.
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