What to Look For in a Budget Bluetooth Speaker in 2022
One of the first factors you’ll want to consider when looking for a Bluetooth speaker, regardless of price, is the size and form factor. If you’re using a speaker in place of a home stereo, you’ll likely want a bigger model than if you’re looking for a portable speaker to carry to the park.
While almost any Bluetooth speaker will be more rugged than a piece of home audio equipment, they’re not all created equal. If you intend to use your speaker outdoors, you’ll want a model that is at least somewhat waterproof. An IP67 or IPX4 rating is perfect for casual use.
That said, if you’re going to be using your speaker outdoors more often than not, you might want to look for an even higher IP rating like IPX7. It’s important to note that these ratings aren’t always reliable, but with reputable brands, you can assume that the rating you see is at least comparable to the performance you can expect.
Battery life is another major consideration for any Bluetooth speaker, big or small, expensive or affordable. If you’re using your speaker mostly plugged in at home, a few hours is all you need. However, if you’re bringing your speaker with you on longer trips, you’ll want as much battery life as you can possibly get.
While the above considerations are what you’ll want to address first, there are a few other factors to keep in mind. The Bluetooth version isn’t that important unless it’s terribly out of date, but most modern Bluetooth speakers ship with at least Bluetooth 5.0. While Bluetooth 5.2 brings some improvements, many speakers aren’t making use of them yet.
You might also want to keep the codecs a speaker uses in mind if you want the best audio quality. Your phone may use a different codec than what the speaker supports, at which point you’re relying on the most basic codecs, which won’t sound as good as they would if you matched them up.
Finally, look at the other features of speakers you’re interested in, as these could help you make a final decision. Do you prefer a Bluetooth speaker with an integrated color LED light, or one with a clip to clip it to your backpack? These small features can end up making a significant difference in how you use a given speaker.
Now, let’s get into the best budget Bluetooth speakers for your needs.
- ✓ Capacitive touch is easy to use
- ✓ Actual stereo sound in a budget Bluetooth speaker
- ✓ IPX4 water resistant
- ✓ Available in plenty of colors
- ✗ Bluetooth 4.0 means just 33-foot range
Whether you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for in a Bluetooth speaker or you just want a great quick recommendation, the DOSS SoundBox Touch is a speaker to look into. It’s affordable, packed with features, and it sounds great.
Unlike some Bluetooth speakers, the SoundBox Touch is fully stereo, pumping out 12 watts per channel. This means you don’t have to worry about certain songs sounding strange on the speaker compared to when you listen to them with headphones.
If you’re curious about the word “touch” in the name, it comes down to the speaker’s controls. Instead of tactile buttons, these are capacitive touch buttons, meaning you don’t need to press them with any force. With the onboard controls, you can skip songs, switch modes, and pause and resume playback.
Despite the low price, the DOSS SoundBox Touch isn’t cheaply built. The enclosure is made from durable plastic, and the entire speaker is IPX4 water-resistant. You can’t submerge this speaker, but you don’t need to worry about it being splashed on occasionally.
As with all Bluetooth speakers, just how much battery life you get depends on how loud you’re listening. On the Amazon page for the DOSS SoundBox Touch, the company says that you can get up to 20 hours of playback time if you keep the volume at 50 percent or lower.
Unlike some other Bluetooth speakers, the DOSS SoundBox Touch also features a built-in microphone. This means that when you’re listening to music and the phone rings, you can take the call with the press of a button. Not everyone needs this feature, but if you’re a fan of speakerphones, it’s definitely useful.
Best Budget Bluetooth Speaker
DOSS Soundbox Touch
If you’re just looking for an easy recommendation, the DOSS SoundBox Touch is hard to beat. It sounds great, has good battery life, and it’s tough enough to handle your day to day.
- ✓ Built-in carabiner clip is always useful
- ✓ IPX7 water resistance lets you immerse the speaker in water
- ✓ 10 hours playback time is nice for the size
- ✗ Bluetooth 4.0 limits range
If you’re not looking for a speaker to use at home and prefer to stay on the move, the JBL Clip 3 is the perfect option for you. As the name implies, this speaker has a built-in carabiner-style clip that lets you attach it to a belt loop, your backpack, or practically anything else.
The JBL Clip 3 isn’t just easy to carry around, either. This speaker is meant to go anywhere with you, so it’s IPX7 water-resistant. If you wanted, JBL says you could submerge this speaker fully in water for up to 30 minutes. Not that you should necessarily do that, but it does mean the Clip 3 will survive dropping into a pool or river just fine.
Onboard controls and a built-in mic mean you don’t have to reach for your phone when you hear a call coming in. The controls let you answer and end calls, but it also lets you adjust the volume, a feature that you won’t always see on Bluetooth speakers, budget or not.
When it comes to battery life, JBL has managed to cram a surprisingly capable battery into this speaker’s small build. On a full charge, you can get up to 10 hours of playback time.
The Clip 3 isn’t the newest speaker in JBL’s Clip line. The newer JBL Clip 4 is more expensive but doesn’t have many reasons to recommend it over the older model. The water resistance is reduced, with just an IP67 rating, and the battery life is the same. While the Clip 4 is overall great in its own right, you might as well save the money in this case and pick up the more rugged Clip 3!
Best Budget Portable Bluetooth Speaker
JBL Clip 3
While the Bluetooth version is a little older, the JBL Clip 3 matches or surpasses many of the features of the JBL Clip 4 while remaining more water resistant and easier on your wallet.
- ✓ Stereo sound with bass-enhancing DSP
- ✓ IPX5-rated casing
- ✓ Range of up to 66 ft. with Bluetooth 5.0
- ✗ Lower wattage may limit max volume
Waterproof Bluetooth speakers are easier to find than ever, but many of them sacrifice stereo or other audio features for water resistance. With the Anker Soundcore, you get water resistance without the audio trade-offs.
It’s clear just looking at the features that Anker is focusing on bass with the Soundcore. First up is the BassUp digital signal processing (DSP) that the speaker uses, then the prominent mention of a bass port on the speaker which also makes for an improved low end.
When it comes to the water resistance, Anker advertises the Soundcore is IPX5 rated. IPX5 might not sound like much more than IPX4, but there’s a worthwhile difference here. An IPX5-rated speaker can withstand jets of water, whereas an IPX4 speaker can only handle limited water exposure. It’s a significant upgrade!
The Anker Soundcore boasts Bluetooth 5.0. One of the main advantages of using this newer Bluetooth version is that the Soundcore has a range of up to 66 feet, rather than around 33 feet with older Bluetooth versions.
On top of stereo sound and the IPX5 water resistance, the Anker Soundcore is also impressive in the battery department. Anker promises 24 hours of playback time, though unlike some other manufacturers, the company doesn’t give a playback volume that number is based on.
Best Budget Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
The Anker Soundcore doesn’t give up sound quality in the quest for water resistance. What you get instead is a great sounding speaker that can also handle more than a few drops of water.
- ✓ LED Audio Fireworks feature is fun
- ✓ 360-degree sound is great for parties
- ✓ IPX7 water resistance makes it great for the pool
- ✗ Small size limits battery life
Many rugged Bluetooth speakers look like they belong on a heavy-duty work site, not an enjoyable weekend in the woods. The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini, on the other hand, combines a rugged build with a nice aesthetic and features you’ll want to use.
The Soundcore Flare Mini features 360-degree sound, driven by a pair of 5-watt neodymium drivers for a total of 10 watts of power. These dual drivers, paired with passive radiators for enhanced low end, make for a surprisingly big-sounding small speaker.
This 360-degree sound makes the speaker great for parties, and the build quality keeps you from having to worry about what could go wrong. The SoundCore Flare Mini is IPX7 rated, which means if this speaker goes flying into the pool, you have up to 30 minutes to recover it without worrying about water damage.
One of the more unique features of the Soundcore Flare Mini is the “Audio Fireworks” feature, an LED ring light at the bottom of the speaker. This will glow and pulse in time with the music, providing a visual element to match your audio.
Don’t worry about this light show wearing out the battery. LEDs don’t use much power, and Anker says the Soundcore Flare Mini can provide up to 12 hours of playback time, depending on the volume.
Best Budget Rugged Bluetooth Speaker
Anker Soundcore Flare Mini
Rugged doesn’t just mean that you can hammer nails with it. The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini is a fun speaker you can take anywhere without worrying if it’s going to survive the night.
- ✓ Easy to carry practically anywhere
- ✓ Great battery life for the size
- ✓ Bluetooth Multipoint lets you pair two speakers for stereo
- ✗ No stereo sound with just one unit
While this model is smaller, it still has many of the features that make its larger sibling great. This model is small enough to carry nearly anywhere, and this also gives you plenty of options when it comes to placing it in your car. The multiway strap also lets you hang the speaker for extra volume.
Sony uses a proprietary Sound Diffusion Processor to expand the sound, even though this isn’t a stereo speaker. However, like the larger model, you can pair two SRS-XB13 speakers together for stereo sound.
While it isn’t as tough as some of the other speakers we’re looking at, the Sony SRS-XB13 will still survive a trip to the beach as long as you take care of it. This speaker is IP67 rated water and dust resistant, so while a splash won’t be a problem, try to keep it away from the water.
As long as you charge the speaker overnight, you shouldn’t worry about running out of battery during the day. Sony claims the SRS-XB13 supports up to 16 hours of battery life, though this will vary depending on how loud you’ve got the volume.
One final reason this makes a great speaker for the car is the built-in mic for the speakerphone, as well as Siri and Google Assistant. This helps you keep your eyes on the road where they should be.
Best Budget Car Bluetooth Speaker
The Sony SRS-XB13 packs big sound into a small package you can perch anywhere in your car, and the built-in speaker lets you take calls and use your phone’s voice assistant hands-free.