Bluetooth speakers

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Connect to your speakers through Bluetooth.

These speakers use Bluetooth to connect to your music-playing device, such as your smartphone or tablet. We tested budget options as well as pricier models, plus consider what to look for when buying.

From our test

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Connecting Bluetooth speakers

Connecting via Bluetooth is simple and doesn’t require any WiFi network support – just pair and go.

While manufacturers usually claim range is limited to about 10m, our testers got ranges in excess of this (30m+), even through obstructions, such as doors or walls. Our testers got the best range when the speaker was placed on a flat surface, such as a table.

Bluetooth connections compresses audio files for transfer, which can affect audio quality, whereas WiFi does not.

Features

Here are some features to consider when choosing Bluetooth speakers.

  • Near Field Communication (NFC) allows you to skip the pairing stage of connecting to a Bluetooth speaker and simply tap your device to the speaker for them to communicate and for your music to start playing via Bluetooth.
  • 3.5mm AUX input – a port that allows any 3.5mm audio cable to be connected directly to the speaker. This “wired” connection uses less power than Bluetooth, but any device will need to be in close proximity to the speaker.
  • Speakerphone support recognises when your mobile phone is getting an incoming call, pauses the music and allows you to receive the call through the speaker, resuming the music once your call is finished.
  • Carry bag or handle makes them easier to carry.
  • Dust or water resistance is useful if you want to use your speaker outdoors. Some of the models tested have an IPX3 or IPX4 rating, which means they can cope with some splashing water, but not immersion.
  • Built-in battery – some wireless speakers don’t have a built-in battery, which means they aren’t portable.
  • Charging USB devices – some speakers with a built-in battery, can also charge a device, such as a phone, through USB. This does require a specific type of USB port, so not all wireless speakers will have this feature.

Bluetooth audio adapters

If you are happy with your current speakers – portable or wired – but you want Bluetooth connectivity, then there is an option. All you have to do is plug a Bluetooth audio adapter into your speakers’ 3.5mm auxiliary input and then connect your Bluetooth device to the audio adapter.

IP ratings

If you plan on taking your devices out and about with you, it’s important they can withstand the elements. Ingress Protection (IP) ratings indicate how resistant a device is to water and solids (dust/dirt).

IP ratings have two numbers. The first relates to solids, such as dust, and has a maximum rating of 6. The second relates to water and goes as high as 8. An X rating means it hasn’t been assessed for that type of protection.

Examples:

  • IP55 and IP65 – Protected from most dust and low-pressure sprayed water
  • IP67 – Dustproof and resistant to water up to a metre in depth
  • IPX7 – Hasn’t been tested on dust particles, but is resistant to water up to a metre in depth.

See here for more on IP ratings and the different levels of protection.

Bose is a Top Brand

The Top Brand award recognises brands that perform consistently well across product testing, reliability and customer satisfaction.

We have awarded the Top Brand award to Bose for sound bars, home theatre systems, wireless speakers and headphones. Bose sound products tested very well and returned exceptional owner satisfaction.

Reliability

Wireless speakers are a reliable product, with only 3% needing repair.

Bose and Sonos owners were most likely to be very satisfied (91% and 90%) and very likely to purchase the brand again (87% and 90%). Owners of less common wireless speakers, those with fewer than 30 models in our survey, were less likely to be very satisfied (64%), very likely to purchase again (63%) or think they got excellent value for money (62%).

For more on wireless speakers reliability, see our survey.

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