The 10 Best Bluetooth Speakers Under 100 in 2021

The 10 Best Bluetooth Speakers Under 100 in 2021

Bluetooth speakers are transforming how we listen to music, bringing together great sound and unprecedented portability. However, without being able to test them in person, finding a great speaker under $100 requires due diligence. We’ve gone through the trouble for you, putting together a list of the best Bluetooth speakers we can find for under $100.

Buying Bluetooth Speakers Under 100

While sound is perhaps the most important feature of a Bluetooth speaker, it’s also hard to gauge the sound of a speaker without having it there in front of you. Because of this, you’ll need to pay attention to a few things, including some features that don’t directly affect the speaker’s sound.

Sound Quality Features

When it comes to gauging the audio quality of a Bluetooth speaker, there isn’t a lot in the way of solid information. Because of this, you’ll have to work with what you’ve got – specs that are listed, such as driver and tweeter sizes, the inclusion of passive radiators, equalization, and other proprietary technologies are going to give you the best idea of how a given speaker will perform.

Size

In addition to the inner workings of a speaker, a speaker’s size will also play into how well the speaker sounds. A larger speaker will generally have a more dynamic range than a smaller speaker, due to the way physics work.

Additionally, you’ll want a speaker that’s appropriately proportioned for your intended use. If you plan on sticking a speaker in your pocket, you want to make sure it fits, so something big like the Harbinger RoadTrip 25 wouldn’t be a good choice if you’re looking for something pocket-sized.

Battery Life

One of the beauties of Bluetooth speakers is their portability. With batteries taking the place of wired power sources, you’ll want to keep in mind how many hours each speaker’s battery is rated for under a single charge.

Just so you know though, each manufacturer takes a different approach in gauging the battery life. We’ll get into this more later, but just know that if a speaker is rated for 5 hours of continuous use, it doesn’t mean that those 5 hours are at max volume.

Bluetooth Range

With an internal battery and Bluetooth connectivity, you’re never tethered to a wire. However, since there are many iterations of Bluetooth technology stuffed inside different speakers, the range will vary from speaker to speaker. Make sure you pay attention to the range of each speaker.

Waterproofing

When it comes to waterproofing, it can either be a “nice to have” feature, or an imperative one. If you’re buying a Bluetooth speaker to keep on your bedroom dresser, then waterproofing might not be all that important. But having a waterproof speaker for frequent travel and outdoor use can make it super important.

While most speakers have similar waterproof ratings, we’ve outlined the meanings of the most common ratings below, so you can make a truly informed decision.

Now let’s take a look at the best Bluetooth speakers under 100.

Top 10 Best Bluetooth Speakers Under 100 in 2021

1. Best Overall Bluetooth Speaker: Bose SoundLink Micro Speaker

Bose SoundLink Micro Speaker

Editor’s Rating:

5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

A small speaker with big sound, this thing is durable, waterproof, and can link with multiple Bose speakers.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:Custom-designed transducer and silicone passive radiators
  • Battery Life:Up to 6 hours
  • Range:30 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):3.87 x 3.87 x 1.37"
  • Waterproof:Yes (IPX7)
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you’re looking for a great Bluetooth speaker under 100, you’ll want to consider the Bose SoundLink Micro Speaker.

This little speaker is compact and durable, featuring a silicone rubber housing and tear-resistant strap that makes it great for travel. And because it’s waterproof, you won’t have to worry about a little water ruining your good time.

Despite its small size, it’s quite loud and has an impeccable sound quality for a speaker of its stature, thanks to its silicone passive radiators and custom transducer. As you’d expect from a big name like Bose, this speaker offers a companion app that allows you to tune the speaker to your liking. It also has integrated voice control for seamless pairing

The SoundLink Micro also allows you to link your speaker to another compatible Bose speaker, allowing you to listen to your favorite music in stereo. It’s not quite as impressive as the JBL Flip 4’s connect+ feature, which allows you to connect more than 100 JBL connect+ speakers, but who has 100 Bluetooth speakers lying around anyway? That aside, there are a couple downsides to this speaker.

First, it doesn’t feature an auxiliary input jack. This might not be a big deal if you don’t plan on using it anyway, but having the option to use a direct connection would be nice. The battery life on this speaker is also relatively short, compared to other less expensive speakers like the Anker Soundcore Boost, but it’s forgivable considering its small size.

If you want small size, superior sound quality, and durability, it’s hard to go wrong with the Bose SoundLink Micro.

Pros

  • Small yet durable
  • Tear-resistant strap
  • Can link with other compatible Bose speakers
  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Integrated voice control

Cons

  • No auxiliary input jack
  • Relatively short battery life

2. Best Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker: JBL FLIP 4

JBL FLIP 4

Editor’s Rating:

5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This speaker offers deep rich sound for its size, connectivity with other JBL connect+ speakers, and has an auxiliary input jack.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:Dual external passive radiators
  • Battery Life:Up to 12 hours
  • Range:20 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):2.7 x 6.9 x 2.8"
  • Waterproof:Yes (IPX7)
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you want a great waterproof speaker with all the bells and whistles, the JBL Flip 4 is an excellent choice. With an IPX7 waterproof rating and decent battery life, it makes a great companion at the beach or around the pool. It won’t float like the JBL Lifestyle Clip 3, so you’ll still want to be careful with it around deep bodies of water, but it offers a much fuller sound.

This speaker has a really rich sound and deep bass for its size and price point. It also has a plethora of cool features, like voice control integration, connection of up to 2 devices at once for quick switching, and it even has an auxiliary input jack.

Something that’s really cool about this speaker is that it can connect to over 100 other JBL connect+ speakers. However, the key here is “connect+” – other older JBL connect won’t work with this speaker, so you’ll want to keep this in mind.

The only thing that really isn’t great about this speaker is the lack of track navigation buttons. However, it’s easy to overlook, and coming in at a great price for the versatility and flexibility of this speaker, the JBL Flip 4 is certainly worth thinking about.

Pros

  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Deep bass for its size
  • Capable of connecting up to 2 input devices at once
  • Can connect up to more than 100 JBL connect+ speakers
  • Has an auxiliary input jack

Cons

  • Connect+ not backwards compatible
  • No track navigation buttons

3. Best Budget Bluetooth Speaker: BEM Wireless Range Strum Bluetooth Speaker HL2515

BEM Wireless Range Strum Bluetooth Speaker HL2515

Editor’s Rating:

4.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

Coming at a small cost, this speaker looks and sounds great, and has built-in EQ adjustments.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:Functional hardware EQ adjustments
  • Battery Life:Up to 8 hours
  • Range:40 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):4.00 x 5.50 x 2.20"
  • Waterproof:No
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you’re on a strict budget, but you want a stylish speaker that still sounds great, then check out the BEM Wireless Range Strum Bluetooth Speaker.

This guitar-themed Bluetooth speaker is unique not only in the way it looks, but in its no-frills functionality. It features an aux-in jack and 3 adjustment knobs to control volume, bass, and treble. That means you won’t need an app to control the EQ of this speaker.

Speaking of EQ, this speaker is branded as being tuned for country music, but that simply means it’s got a rich and balanced tone. It also sounds great at full volume, with no distortion, and it comes with a USB A/C adapter, something few other speakers do.

There are a couple caveats with this speaker. While the design has a finished wood appearance, the shell is actually made of plastic. It’s also not waterproof, so you’ll want to keep it dry. Nevertheless, its impressive sound and attractive appearance make it a steal at its low price.

Pros

  • Highly attractive guitar aesthetic
  • Has separate bass and treble adjustment knobs
  • Rich and balanced tone
  • No distortion at full volume
  • Comes with a USB A/C adapter

Cons

  • Made of plastic despite its wood-finish appearance
  • Not waterproof

4. Best Bluetooth Speaker for Open Areas: Anker Soundcore Boost

Anker Soundcore Boost

Editor’s Rating:

4.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This is a solid speaker with plenty of top-tier features at a lower price than bigger brands.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:Titanium drivers and BassUp technology
  • Battery Life:Up to 12 hours
  • Range:65 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):9 x 5 x 3"
  • Waterproof:Yes (IPX7)
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you’re looking for a premium speaker without a premium price tag, you’ll definitely want to consider the Anker Soundcore Boost. This speaker boasts Bluetooth 5 and USB-C charging ports, meaning it’ll stream music quicker and from further away, as well as charging quicker than micro-USB ports. It also comes with a PowerIQ Charge Out USB port, so you can use it to charge your phone.

For a speaker of its size and price, it boasts a large immaculate sound, with a well-balanced range. Thanks to its titanium drivers, it will reach highs up to 40kHz. As for bass, it comes with a BassUp function that boosts the bass, distinguishing this speaker from many others in its size and price range. And if you want to further tune your speaker, the company has a custom EQ app for your phone.

The biggest problems with this speaker are that it does have some distortion at high volumes, and it lacks an aux-in jack. If you want a great-sounding speaker that doesn’t suffer from these same issues, you might want to consider the JBL Flip 4. However, remember it does come in at a higher price, and it doesn’t come with the USB-C or PowerIQ Charge Out USB ports.

Overall, it’s a great speaker at its price. Packed with so many notable features.

Pros

  • Comes with Bluetooth 5.0 technology
  • USB-C charging port for faster charging
  • PowerIQ Charge Out USB port for fast phone charging
  • BassUp technology delivers an extra boost to low frequencies
  • Custom EQ app

Cons

  • No auxiliary input jack
  • Sound distorts at high volumes

5. Best Bluetooth Speaker for Karaoke: Harbinger RoadTrip 25

Harbinger RoadTrip 25

Editor’s Rating:

4.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

It's a large Bluetooth speaker and works great for karaoke or as a mini portable PA system.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:Hi-frequency tweeter, 2-channel mixer, and 2-band EQ
  • Battery Life:Up to 12 hours
  • Range:30 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):11.25 x 20.25 x 14"
  • Waterproof:No
  • Sound sample:n/a

If you’re looking for a large Bluetooth speaker to entertain a small party, you might want to consider the Harbinger RoadTrip 25. This massive speaker is great for entertainment and events where power is unavailable. It can double as a portable PA system, and you can also pair this speaker with another RoadTrip 25 for stereo output.

This speaker is great for karaoke and other musical endeavors. Not only does it feature combo and auxiliary input jacks, but it also comes with a microphone. At its size and price, you might think that the included microphone is a cheap add-on to sweeten the deal, but it’s actually a quality microphone that sounds good and is sturdily built.

The RoadTrip 25 also offers bass and treble adjustments, as well as adjustable mic echo and separate volume adjustments. Altogether, it sounds good and makes for decent basic mixing abilities out of the box. Of course, not all that glitters is gold.

Despite its large size, it actually doesn’t get very loud. Also, as it’s not waterproof, you’ll want to make sure it’s sheltered if you plan to use it outdoors, in case the weather makes a turn for the worst. Nonetheless, it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a cheap all-in-one solution like this at a fair price.

Pros

  • Doubles as a portable PA system
  • Can pair 2 together for dual-speaker stereo
  • Includes mic and aux inputs
  • Comes with a quality microphone
  • Offers bass, treble, mic echo, and separate volume adjustments

Cons

  • Doesn't get very loud for its size
  • Not waterproof

6. Best Bluetooth Speaker for Camping: Altec Lansing LifeJacket Jolt

Altec Lansing LifeJacket Jolt

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This beast of a speaker is insanely rugged and doubles as a versatile power bank, making it great for camping and other outdoor adventures

Quick Specs:
  • Features:High-sensitivity drivers
  • Battery Life:Up to 16 hours
  • Range:100 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):6.5 x 2.43 x 2.25"
  • Waterproof: Yes (IP67)
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you’re planning a weekend trip in the great outdoors, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better speaker than the Altec Lansing LifeJacket Jolt.

This speaker is a great companion for any camping trip. Featuring a rugged IP67 design that’s not only waterproof, but also snow-proof and shockproof, it’s capable of withstanding the elements of the outdoors. It also floats, so if you’re thinking about taking it along for a kayaking or boating trip, you won’t have to worry about losing it if it goes overboard.

The LifeJacket Jolt also features a long range and battery life. Coupled with the Qi wireless charging pad and a USB charge out port, it doubles as a portable power bank, which is great for keeping your phone charged. Additionally, it also has voice assistant integration, as well as multipoint pairing, so you can sync up multiple speakers, making for a great portable stereo system that’s chock full of useful features.

While it’s a great camping companion, there are a few problems with this speaker. Being a speaker meant for the outdoors, it lacks a handle that the Bugani M90 Portable Bluetooth Speaker has, which would make it a bit more convenient to carry or strap to a hiking bag.

The sound this speaker puts out doesn’t quite match its robust design, sounding a bit thin and lacking bass despite its high-sensitivity drivers. It also gives a welcome message that could get annoying after the first couple times you use it, though this is a minor gripe.

If you can look past its lackluster sound and want a tough speaker that’s durable and versatile, then you’ll seriously want to consider getting the LifeJacket Jolt for your next outdoor adventure.

Pros

  • Rugged enough for any outdoor adventure
  • Incredibly long range and battery life
  • Built-in Qi wireless charging pad and USB port
  • Voice assistant integration
  • Multipoint pairing

Cons

  • Lacks a handle
  • Lacks bass
  • Annoying startup sound

7. Best Long-Range Bluetooth Speaker: Bugani M90 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Bugani M90 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This hardy speaker comes equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, has an immensely long range, and a nifty carrying handle.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:Dual 15w stereo drivers and high-precision tweeters
  • Battery Life:Up to 20 hours
  • Range:100 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):10.6 x 6.2 x 3.8"
  • Waterproof:Yes (IPX5)
  • Sound sample:Youtube

Coming at a seriously low price, the Bugani M90 Portable Bluetooth Speaker is jam-packed with features that make it a great choice if you’re looking for something rugged and feature-packed. At its price range, you won’t find too many Bluetooth speakers with the same massive range and battery life, thanks to its utilization of Bluetooth 5.0 technology.

One thing this speaker sports that few others on this list do is a TF card reader, allowing you to play music straight from any 64gb or smaller microSD card. It also features an auxiliary input jack, giving you yet another option for streaming your music.

For a speaker this feature-packed at such a low price, it has a surprisingly good sound with decent bass. And to match the rugged tones this speaker puts out, it’s built rugged, with a metal frame rated to handle 3-foot falls with no problem.

Given its rugged design and long range, it’s also a great speaker for outdoor activities, similar to the Altec Lansing LifeJacket Jolt. While the M90’s waterproofing isn’t quite on par with Altec’s speaker, and it doesn’t have any charge out ports, it does feature a handle and better sound quality.

Speaking of charging, the M90 has a lengthy 4 to 5-hour charge time. The manufacturer also states that you shouldn’t use the speaker while it’s charging, so you’ll want to make sure to charge it when you don’t plan to use it, such as overnight.

Overall, if you don’t have a ton of money to invest in a speaker, but you still want convenient features and a crazy long range, the M90 is certainly a worthwhile consideration.

Pros

  • Bluetooth 5.0 for longer range and battery life
  • TF card reader and auxiliary input jack
  • Sounds great for a speaker its size and price
  • Made with a metal frame (survives 3-foot falls)
  • Has a carrying handle

Cons

  • Waterproofing isn't as good as other speakers
  • Takes 4-5 hours to charge
  • Can't use it while charging

8. Best Small Party Bluetooth Speaker: ELEHOT Bluetooth Speaker

ELEHOT Bluetooth Speaker

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

With a cool light show, good sound, and TWS dual pairing function, it's a great speaker for a small party.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:10w dual precision stereo drivers
  • Battery Life:Up to 16 hours
  • Range:32 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):3.54 x 7.28 x 3.35"
  • Waterproof:No
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you’re hosting a small party with a few friends, and you want a cheap and fun way to bring life to your music, you’ll definitely want to consider the ELEHOT Bluetooth Speaker.

This cool little speaker doesn’t just sound good, but it also looks great. Featuring a colorful front LED display, it offers a light show with 5 different LED modes that bounce along with the rhythm of your music. And if the music stops and the party leaves, this speaker has an auto-power off function, so you won’t have to worry about forgetting to turn it off.

In addition to the 2 10-watt dual precision stereo drivers, it also has a TWS dual pairing function, allowing you to sync another ELEHOT speaker for twice the fun. It also has a TF card reader, an auxiliary input jack, and a built-in FM radio, giving you a ton of options for listening.

Coming in at a low price, it has some issues compared to other speakers we’ve found. For instance, the TF card reader on this speaker only supports cards up to 32gb, whereas the Bugani M90 allows you to use a card twice that size.

Also, while the M90 doesn’t have the greatest waterproof rating, it’s something – the ELEHOT speaker is not waterproof, so you’ll want to keep it away from pool parties. And finally, that auto-power off feature? You can’t disable it, which can be a minor nuisance.

Of course, unlike Bugani’s speaker, the ELEHOT speaker adds a unique vibrancy to your party atmosphere. It also comes in at almost half the price of the M90, meaning you could pick up 2 ELEHOT speakers for almost the same price as one M90, giving you true stereo output for nearly the same price.

All in all, the low price, awesome light show, and 2-year warranty make the ELEHOT speaker a hot choice for your next party.

Pros

  • 5 different colorful LED modes
  • TWS dual pairing function
  • Built-in FM radio
  • TF card reader and auxiliary input
  • 2-year warranty

Cons

  • Card reader only accepts cards up to 32gb
  • Not waterproof
  • Can't disable auto-shutoff

9. Best Bluetooth Speaker for Light Travel: JBL Lifestyle Clip 3

JBL Lifestyle Clip 3

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

It's small and lightweight, waterproof, and has a built-in carabiner clip, making it great for traveling light.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:40 mm driver
  • Battery Life: Up to 10 hours
  • Range:30 feet
  • Size (W x H x D): 3.8 x 5.4 x 1.8"
  • Waterproof:Yes (IPX7)
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you’re going traveling light but still want music, then you might consider the JBL Lifestyle Clip 3. This little speaker is super small and super lightweight, coming in at less than a pound, making it perfect for light travel.

Honestly, this speaker doesn’t sound the greatest compared to other speakers like the Bose SoundLink Micro Speaker, having a high low-frequency response of 120Hz. But for its size and price, it does offer clear and crisp sound. It also has some features other tiny speakers don’t have, such as the built-in carabiner clip and auxiliary input jack.

The carabiner clip allows you to hook it to your belt loops, backpack, purse, or other travel accessories, making it perfect for travel. And because it’s so light and waterproof, it will actually float in water if you manage to accidentally drop it.

Now of course, since it’s such a cheap speaker, it does have some flaws. First, like the JBL Flip 4, it doesn’t have proper track navigation buttons, only allowing you to pause, play, or skip to the next track. However, unlike the JBL Flip 4, it also doesn’t feature Connect+ or similar technologies, meaning you can’t link multiple speakers together.

Still, if you want a low-priced ultra-compact speaker to take with you on a hike through the woods or a trip down the river, the Lifestyle Clip 3 is a great option.

Pros

  • Clear and crisp sound for its size
  • Built-in carabiner clip
  • Floats in water
  • Comes with an auxiliary input jack

Cons

  • High low-end frequency response
  • Track navigation is lackluster
  • Can't connect with other JBL speakers

10. Best Bluetooth Speaker for Your Shower: JBL Go 2 Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

JBL Go 2 Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Editor’s Rating:

3.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

With its low price, form-factor, and IPX7 waterproofing, it's a great choice if you want to listen to music in the shower.

Quick Specs:
  • Features:3w amplifier
  • Battery Life:Up to 5 hours
  • Range:30 feet
  • Size (W x H x D):3.38 x 2.8 x 1.24
  • Waterproof:Yes (IPX7)
  • Sound sample:Youtube

If you like to listen to music in the shower, and you want a speaker that’s small and affordable, the JBL Go 2 Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker is a great choice.

This little guy comes in a variety of different colors and has a flat bottom. This along with the rubberized shell and IPX7 waterproof rating makes it perfect for spaces like a shower shelf, where you have little room to play with.

It also has a built-in noise-canceling speakerphone, so you’ll be able to take calls with it, even in the shower. And in case you’re forgetful, it has an auto-power off function, great for prolonging the short 5-hour battery life. Just keep in mind that you can’t disable the auto-power off function, which is a tad disappointing.

As far as sound, it’s comparable to the JBL Lifestyle Clip 3 – it won’t produce a huge sound and doesn’t get very loud, but it does offer clear audio and sounds good for its price and size. Like the Lifestyle Clip 3, it also doesn’t connect with other JBL speakers, so you won’t be able to set up multiple speakers for a cheap and portable stereo sound.

If you want a cheap dedicated shower speaker, or just a small travel speaker that you can stand upright, then the Go 2 is a good option.

Pros

  • Multiple colors to choose from
  • Has a flat bottom, and rubberized surfaces
  • Built-in noise-canceling speakerphone
  • Auto-power off

Cons

  • Can't connect with other JBL speakers
  • Doesn't get very loud
  • Can't disable auto-shutoff

FAQ

You might see mention of some speakers having “passive radiators” to help drive low frequencies better. In a nutshell, it’s a device that increases the low-frequency output of a speaker by utilizing frequencies lower than the linear response range of the active driver to create those sounds. This essentially results in deeper low-end sounds than a speaker might otherwise have due to its size.

Sure you can! Many modern TVs offer the ability to connect a Bluetooth speaker. If you have a speaker like the BEM Wireless Range Strum Bluetooth Speaker, you can also utilize the speaker’s auxiliary input jack to connect directly to the TV’s sound output connector.

If your Bluetooth speaker doesn’t get loud enough for your liking, you can try playing with the speaker’s placement. Putting it at the same level as your ears while listening can allow you to get more direct audio. You can also utilize acoustics by placing it in a corner or near a wall, to allow the sound to bounce off of walls. Or you might consider picking up a speaker that allows you to pair multiple speakers to a single input, such as the ELEHOT Bluetooth Speaker.

We generally don’t recommend leaving your Bluetooth speaker plugged in all the time, as it can cause damage to the battery. However, if you only use it as a stationary wireless speaker, then it should be fine. Just know that you’re likely to kill the battery, making it useless as a portable speaker.

Quick tip: If you persistently leave a Bluetooth speaker plugged in to a wall outlet, but you don’t want to ruin the battery, you can make use of smart plugs. These will allow you to quickly and easily power the speaker on a schedule or on-demand straight from your phone.

That depends on what you’re doing outside. If you frequently go on walks or hikes, then something like the JBL Lifestyle Clip 3 would be a great choice. For camping, you might consider the Altec Lansing LifeJacket Jolt, or if you just want something for your deck or patio, the JBL FLIP 4 would be perfect.

Technically, Bluetooth speakers are wireless, but you might also see other non-Bluetooth “wireless speakers.” These are typically Wi-Fi speakers, and they utilize a Wi-Fi connection instead of Bluetooth to transmit audio.

The biggest difference between the two is that Wi-Fi speakers can handle more data transmission than Bluetooth, leading to better audio quality. However, many Wi-Fi speakers are also only meant to work on a shared Wi-Fi network, rather than connecting directly to a device like Bluetooth does.


Everything You Need to Know About Bluetooth Speakers Under 100

A blue Bluetooth speaker sitting on a wood platform at the beach

We’ve covered the basic things you should look out for in a Bluetooth speaker, and gone through some of the best we’ve found under $100. Now let’s get into some more in-depth information, like waterproofing and battery life ratings.

A Brief Explanation of Waterproofing Ratings

Waterproof ratings, otherwise known as Ingress Protection (IP) ratings, indicate how well your speaker handles exposure to liquids and solids. This rating is expressed as IP, followed by a 2-digit number. The first digit – from 0 to 6 – signifies protection against solids, while the second digit – from 0 to 8 – signifies protection from liquids. Generally, the higher the second number is, the better the waterproofing capabilities.

Some speakers have a traditional rating, like the Altec Lansing’s LifeJacket Jolt, with an IP67 rating, indicating it’s both dust-proof (6), and can safely be immersed in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes (7). However, many speakers – like the Bose SoundLink Micro Speaker – express their waterproof ratings as IPX7.

So what does X stand for?

As you may have guessed, X is a placeholder for a number, and is used when the manufacturer doesn’t test against a specific type of intrusion. Since liquids are by far the biggest and most common hazard to speakers, most manufacturers test against liquids, but opt not to test against solids.

That means the Bose speaker is submersible in 1 meter of water up to 30 minutes, but it’s technically not rated for protection against dirt, dust, and other solids. But unless you’re playing in the dirt (or camping), you probably won’t need protection against dirt and other solids anyway.

Bluetooth vs. Direct Connection

Bluetooth is a great technology that opens the world up to portable audio systems and wire-free audio setups. But it also has a number of drawbacks that many people overlook. Since we’ve knocked some speakers for not having the ability to allow you to use a direct connection, we’ll cover some differences between the two and why they matter.

Bluetooth

The way that Bluetooth audio streaming works is by transmitting a low-power signal carrying audio data from a transmitter (your phone) to a receiver (the speaker) through the air on the 2.4gHz band. If that number seems familiar, it’s because virtually every Wi-Fi-compatible device – from your computer and router, to your smartphone and IoT gadgets – uses the same frequency band.

Because Bluetooth operates on the same band as those devices (as well as others like your microwave), it’s also subject to interference in congested areas. But that’s not the only thing that can cause interference.

Bluetooth signals also won’t work through water, thanks to the laws of physics. While you may not be planning an underwater pool party anytime soon, you may have noticed that if you stand directly between a Bluetooth speaker and the device it’s connected with, the signal can cut out or drop completely. That’s because humans are at least 60% water.

All of this interference amounts to sound quality degradation and latency. For music streaming, latency might not present itself as much of an issue, but using a Bluetooth speaker to watch a movie or television can cause the audio to appear out of sync with the video.

For both issues, you can remedy this by using a direct connection. But interference aside, there’s also the issue of using devices to stream audio that don’t have Bluetooth connectivity.

This is usually the case in devices like older desktop computers and TVs. While you can buy adapters like USB adapters for your computer or Bluetooth audio transmitters for other older devices,  you’re still left with the latency and interference issues that can arise.

Direct Connection

The way that direct connections work is by transmitting audio data from one device to another through a shielded copper wire. We’ve determined that using a direct connection will result in the best audible experience possible. But direct connections have their own unique disadvantages.

Running on a direct connection means you’ll have to run a wire, not only defeating the purpose of a wireless speaker, but also limiting you to the length of wire you have. Wires can also suffer from signal interference, though it’s less prevalent compared to Bluetooth connections in most cases.

One of the biggest downsides to a direct connection, aside from being tethered to a wire, is that many modern smartphones and other computing devices are starting to do away with their 3.5 mm output jacks. That means if you’ve got a newer smartphone, and you want to send your audio through a wire, you’ll need an adapter for your phone.

Of course, we’re not saying that you should stream audio via a direct connection. Rather, we’re presenting why the option to use a direct connection is important. Also, if you’re having issues with a speaker’s audio quality, consider using a direct connection (if you can) to see if it helps remedy the issue.

A Note About Battery Life Ratings

Many manufacturers list their Bluetooth speakers with a battery life rating that indicates how many hours you can operate a given speaker on a single charge. Given the enormous number of variances between speakers, this makes it much easier for you to conceptualize how long the speaker will operate while being used on a single charge.

However, many manufacturers also list the highest number they can in the description without disclosing the variables they used to make their conclusion. For example, the BEM Wireless Range Strum Bluetooth Speaker listing states a max battery life of 6-8 hours, but in the manual, it states that it lasts at 6 hours at 50% volume. Other speakers, like the Harbinger RoadTrip 25 don’t include any information on battery life at a specified volume.

That means you might not see the same results as promised online. Keep in mind the volume you use your speaker at, as that will play into how long the true battery life of your speaker really is.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that over time, these numbers will change regardless. Between accidental overcharging and prolonged use, the batteries will eventually degrade and perform worse than their initial ratings.

Wrapping Up

No matter if you’re hosting a small party, going camping, or just want to take your music on the go, you can’t go wrong with a good Bluetooth speaker. You know what to look for and you’ve seen a number of great suggestions under $100. Now it’s time to get out there and experience the world with some great tunes along the way.

Team MusicVibe

Whether it be the heady sonatas of a lone violin or the thrashing distortion of an amped-up guitar, we here at MusicVibe have an ear for it. Our team has performed gigs, played in concerts, and spent a lifetime fiddling with soundscapes in their bedrooms. They know a musician is only as good as their gear – and that musicians don’t just need the best gear, but they need the right gear for them. We help beginners find their feet in their first foray into the world of frets and fiddles, and give experts a leg-up in finding that studio-defining kit and most importantly, getting the best out of it. We’re here to help you play out your tune, so enjoy our library of content so you can hit the high notes.