Bluetooth speakers: What to know and which to buy for your budget and space

Plus, learn a bit about Bluetooth's history and origins before you shop.

April 5, 2024, 4:41 AM
Shop the best Bluetooth speakers for every budget
Shop the best Bluetooth speakers for every budget
ABC News Photo Illustration, JBL, Marshall, Ultimate Ears

Bluetooth speakers have changed how we listen to music by allowing us to wirelessly connect to our phones or other listening devices for an endless library of must-hear music at our fingertips 24/7.

With endless options on the market at nearly every price, it can be difficult to choose which Bluetooth speaker best suits your needs. To help you narrow down the search, we did some digging to find out everything from where Bluetooth originated to which under-$30 speaker you can trust to pump out the tunes all day long.

How does Bluetooth work, and where does it come from?

While most folks know what Bluetooth is and have used it themselves, not everyone is familiar with its origins and inner workings.

To take it very far back, Bluetooth is named after the 10th century Danish king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, who is credited with being the first ruler to unite Denmark amid a tumultuous time of warring tribes.

Shop the best Bluetooth speakers for every budget
Shop the best Bluetooth speakers for every budget
ABC News Photo Illustration, JBL, Marshall, Ultimate Ears

Further honoring his legacy is the distinctive symbol for Bluetooth, a combination of the two runes -- Hagall (hail) ᚼ and Bjarkan (birch) ᛒ -- used to represent the king's initials.

So why was he selected to be the historical inspiration for this technology? Much like Gormsson's ability to unite the people of Denmark, Bluetooth technology unites several devices in one network so they can share connectivity and information with each other.

According to the Institute of Physics, Bluetooth devices within that network use ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio waves to talk to communicate with each other. Those waves measure around 2.4 gigahertz or 2.4 billion waves per second!

When using Bluetooth, there is generally a "main unit" such as your phone -- where the signals originate -- and a "peripheral" such as the speakers you'll see below. Once connected, signals are sent from the main unit to the peripheral, and voila -- let the music play!

What are the benefits of Bluetooth?

Bluetooth allows information such as music to be transferred without using wires or the internet, so it makes for a cleaner setup in your home or on the go when you want to do something like listen to your favorite album or playlist by simply pairing your phone and speaker.

Many speakers have the ability to be paired throughout a home as well -- see the Sonos Four Room set suggested below -- making it simple to have premium sound in every room without the hassle of rewiring the whole house.

What's the best Bluetooth speaker overall?

The "best" speaker for you overall will depend on several factors: Where do you want to use the speaker? How loud do you need it to be? What's your budget? How important is the speaker's design to you?

Once you've considered these questions, you'll have a better idea of what your personal "best" speaker looks like. For something lightweight and compact that you're going to take with you camping or on picnics, stick with a speaker like the Marshall Willen or Sony XB 100 below.

If the speaker is mainly for use in your home office or bedroom, something a bit bigger but still easy to move around like the JBL Pulse 5 is great -- bonus points for the great light show.

And of course, you can always select a larger boombox or sound system to infuse your entire home with top-notch audio.

To check out these suggestions and more, keep scrolling.

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Bluetooth speakers under $100

25% off

Marshall Willen Portable Bluetooth Speaker

This truly compact speaker -- it fits in the palm of your hand -- is a powerhouse for sound compared to its size thanks to classic Marshall sound engineering, plus it has the brand's ultra-cool vintage aesthetic on its side. It's perfect for tossing in your bag for a picnic in the park or beach trip, and more than 15 hours of playtime means you won't run out of tunes before the night's over. It's also dust and water resistant, plus it's made from 60% recycled plastic -- great for the eco-conscious consumer.

  • $89.99
  • $119.99
  • Amazon
6% off

Upgraded, Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker with IPX5 Waterproof, Stereo Sound, 24H Playtime, Portable Wireless Speaker

For under $30, you can't beat the deal you'll get with this top-selling Anker speaker. It's sold over 100,000 units on Amazon alone with an average 4.6-star rating. It's waterproof for poolside or outdoor use, and two high-sensitivity drivers help it deliver clear, deep bass sounds with no distortion. It also offers 24 hours of battery life, making it a fantastic budget-friendly option for anyone who wants quality but doesn't need all the bells and whistles.

  • $27.99
  • $29.99
  • Amazon
16% off
Best Buy

Sony - XB100 Compact Bluetooth Speaker - Orange

Sony is one of the most trusted names in sound, so naturally their budget-friendly, compact speakers are up to snuff amid the countless options you'll find while shopping. This is a favorite because despite its powerful sound capabilities, it's small enough to fit in a cup holder, has a handy carrying strap and it comes in four colorways including two bright options that make it hard to lose if you're listening on the beach or in the grass. Reviewers love that it connects so quickly and has a long battery life of up to 16 hours.

  • $49.99
  • $59.99
  • Best Buy
22% off

DEWALT Wearable Bluetooth Speaker

Perfect to gift someone who works, gardens or exercises outdoors, this clip-on speaker from Dewalt lets you play music or take calls without interupting your flow. It's dust and water resistant so sweat, rain and air pollutants pose little threat to its functionality. Reviewers love how lightweight it is -- less than two ounces -- and the ease of use, long battery life and stable connectivity.

  • $54.49
  • $69.99
  • Amazon

Bluetooth speakers under $500

20% off

JBL Pulse 5 - Portable Bluetooth Speaker with Dazzling Lights Original Pro Sound, Black

For smaller spaces such as an apartment, home office or small backyard gathering, the JBL Pulse 5 is one of the best Bluetooth speakers you'll find. It has 12 hours of playback time and signature quality, omnidirectional JBL sound that radiates music from every angle for a full, robust listening experience. Sound quality aside, the built-in light show that pulses and dances with the music is dazzling. It warms the space and moves in tandem with the rhythm, offering a truly hypnotic session every time you link up and throw on your favorite tunes.

  • $199.95
  • $249.95
  • Amazon
20% off

Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Portable Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

While many models are water resistant, this speaker is virtually indestructible and can be submerged in meter-deep water for up to 30 minutes. The outer layer is made from extreme performance fabric similar to that found in protective motorcycles or fire gear, which is to say it can take a real beating. In addition to its tough construction, the 360-degree sound is pristine and clear, and an easy-to-use magic button lets you play, pause, skip and control the music right there on the face of the speaker.

  • $119.29
  • $149.99
  • Amazon
12% off

JBL PartyBox 110 - Portable Party Speaker with Built-in Lights, Powerful Sound and deep bass

Similar to the JBL Pulse 5 we recommend above, this powerful speaker will bring the one-two punch of phenomenal sound and a party-starting light show to life alongside your chosen soundtrack. It has two level of adjustable bass to match the vibe of your favorite tunes, and it's splashproof to avoid damage in case guests get a bit rowdy. There's also a JBL PartyBox app to help you control the machine's functions, allowing you to live out your DJ fantasies right from your phone.

  • $349.95
  • $399.95
  • Amazon

Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetooth Speaker

Bose devotees love the company's ability to capture gorgeous sound quality that lets you immerse yourself in the music, podcast, white noise or whatever else you may listen to. In addition to being safe from water damage, this speaker can float and is resistant to scratches, drops, rust and even UV light. This model is closing in on 30,000 ratings on Amazon for an average 4.7-star review, and buyers repeatedly note loving the sturdiness, sound clarity, and ease of transport.

  • $149
  • Amazon

Bluetooth speakers $500 & up


JBL Authentics 500 - Wireless Home Speaker with Bluetooth, Voice Control, and Dolby Atmos, Multi Room Playback, Built in Alexa and Google Assistant

Starting from the outside with this fresh multi-room speaker from JBL, the sleek yet vintage look is a winner. It has a premium aluminum frame with a synthetic leather-wrapped enclosure, and the attractive Quadrex grille shows impeccable attention to detail. These are made for indoor use and integrate Amazon and Google voice commands simultaneously. And while you can tune to your liking using the EQ controls on the JBL app, this one self-calibrates to optimize your listening experience.

  • $699.95
  • Amazon

Sonos Four Room Set One SL - The Powerful Microphone-Free Speaker for Music and More - Black

Sonos is a leader in full home sound systems for good reason: Their seamless integration from room to room is simple to set up, offers rich, immersive sound quality and -- with this set in particular -- the speakers are copmact enough to work even in tight living spaces. It's also easy to add onto your setup with Sonos soundbars that maximize movie night when combined with these speakers, so consider this an investment in your entertainment future if you plan to fully outfit your home with top-of-the-line audio equipment.

  • $923
  • Amazon