Gone are the days of wires dictating where a speaker can be positioned. The miracle of Bluetooth connectivity has made it possible to take music wherever you choose, with great sound quality to boot.

Speakers have also gotten smarter, responding to voice commands, routing phone calls, and becoming essential components in a smart home ecosystem. And if you’re hosting a big bash, a powerful party speaker will add a clubbing vibe to the event.

Before we dive into the vast range of speakers available and their versatile functionality, here are some key points to ponder before taking the plunge.

Making the connection
Most wireless speakers will connect directly to a smart device using Bluetooth, providing portable convenience to go wherever the party is. Bluetooth’s vastly improved range means the sound won’t drop out if you leave a room with a connected smart device in your pocket. Moreover, multiple smart devices can connect to a wireless speaker simultaneously, so budding DJs can go head-to-head with playlists. Some wireless speakers also connect to Wi-Fi, and hybrid models that connect to both can auto-switch to Bluetooth if the network is out of range. Connecting external media players – like a CD player sans Wi-Fi or Bluetooth – will require a speaker with a 3.5mm AUX-In port.

Get smart
Smart speakers connect to the internet and feature voice control, so if you’re up a ladder you can call out to skip a track, adjust the volume, and even make a phone call. Depending on the speaker, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Siri, or a combination, are at your command. Smart speakers also integrate into a smart home ecosystem, and can double as intercoms.

Bose

Where’s the party?
If the wireless speaker is intended for home use, most will be up to the task. However, when taken outdoors, battery longevity and protection from dust and water are key considerations. How well a speaker will weather the elements is flagged using an IP (Ingress Protection) rating, and the higher the rating, the more durable the speaker.

Power up
A flat battery can kill the mood of a get-together, so battery life is a key factor when choosing a wireless speaker. This is particularly important if you favour portability. It’s worth noting that a brand’s touted battery duration is based on moderate use; so if you like it loud and with ample bass, expect it to last for less.

The price is right
A prime consideration determined by what you want from a sound perspective. If the convenience of a portable speaker is key, a lower tiered model will do the job. However, audiophiles who rate sound quality paramount should be prepared to spend a bit more.

PORTABLE BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS

The freedom of mobile music extends to a backyard catch-up, a pool or beach party, or adding beats to a picnic in the park. Wireless speakers combine terrific sound quality with portable convenience. Simple to use and set up, the portable Bluetooth speaker has revolutionised where we listen to music, and become an essential device for the modern household.

 

ENTRY-LEVEL

Bose SoundLink Micro Bluetooth Speaker
This small speaker delivers big sound using a custom-designed transducer and silicone passive radiators.

It also doubles as a convenient speakerphone for calls, with a multi-function button to access Siri and Google voice assistants from a smartphone. The Bose app offers further connectivity – add two additional Micros in Party Mode.

The rugged Micro is conveniently portable with a strong strap to hold it between a bike’s handlebars or hook it to a backpack, and with a high IPX7 rating and silicone seal protecting the internal tech, it’s built to withstand the elements.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 6 hours
IPX rating: 7
Charging: Micro-USB

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

JBL Flip 5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The Flip 5 is a terrific little go-anywhere speaker that’s lightweight and rugged, with a durable fabric and rubber housing and an IPX7 rating for pool parties and the beach. It sounds good, too, with a high output driver and booming bass. 12 hours of battery life provides ample party time and there’s pairing support for two JBL PartyBoost-compatible speakers, or more if you’re throwing a big bash.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 12 hours
IPX rating: 7
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Sony SRS-XB13 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker
This compact, single-driver speaker packs plenty of punch, with a focus on mid-range and an Extra Bass passive radiator to enhance low-end. And there’s the option to connect another XB13 speaker for even bigger sound.
Connectivity includes Google Fast Pair for Android devices and an in-built microphone for hands-free calling sans smartphone.

The XB13 is durable and portable with a carry strap included, an IP67 rating for outdoor use, and up to 16 hours battery life from a single charge.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 16 hours
IP rating: 67
Charging:
USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

 

MID-RANGE

Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetooth Speaker
The lightweight Flex resembles a clutch with a strap that can be looped over a finger or a hook, with PositioniQ tech maintaining sound quality in any position.

Buttons on the top control power, volume, Bluetooth pairing and multi-function. It also has a built-in mic for taking calls.

The Flex‘s sonic backbone is all about the bass – there‘s a real weight to the low-end – and sound is balanced at the higher end of the volume scale. Despite its compact design, it will fill a big room with ease.

Sporting a rubberised coating and IP67 rating, it‘s a robust speaker designed to weather the elements, with a 12-hour battery life.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
IPX rating: 67
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
This cylindrical speaker throws out 360 degrees of spatial sound and features a large woofer for thumping bass, giving you plenty of Boom for buck.

Encased in super tough fabric and boasting an IP67 rating, the Megaboom 3 is virtually indestructible and will even float if accidentally dropped in the pool. Battery life is a massive 20 hours from a single charge.

It’s a colourful character, too – available in Night Black, Ultraviolet Purple, Sunset Red, Seashell Peach and Lagoon Blue – to match every mood and location.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 20 hours
IP rating: 67
Charging: Micro-USB

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Marshall Emberton Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Small in stature but big in sound, the Emberton is covered in durable rubber with a metal speaker grille sporting the distinctive logo. A brass button on the top controls volume and skips tracks, an LED light indicates battery life, and connectivity is via Bluetooth. The Emberton throws out a big and well-balanced soundstage for its size, tuned with a rock slant in mind.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life: 20 hours
IPX rating: 7
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

 

TOP SHELF

Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
The atomic bomb of Bluetooth speakers, the Hyperboom is the ultimate entertainer. It‘s big enough to lead any celebration and, with 24 hours of battery life, will go the distance – and the neighbours will hate it! The 360-degree soundstage is huge, and heavy on the bass, and can be customised using the adjustable EQ. It also has multi-pairing, so different DJs can trade songs on different playlists. There’s an optical connection port and AUX input, plus a USB-A output for charging devices during playback. A speaker for folk looking to take the party wherever they are.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life: 24 hours
IPX rating: 4
Charging: AC adaptor

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Sony SRS-RA3000 360 Wireless Speaker
The RA3000 replicates a live music experience using 360 Reality Audio, beam tweeters for upward audio, and dual passive radiators for deep bass. Or choose an ambient, room-filling soundscape of unobtrusive background music. There is auto sound calibration for wherever you are, and the speaker will auto adjust for consistent volume level.

The suite of seamless connectivity options includes built-in Chromecast for streaming online radio and podcasts from a connected device, voice control using a Google or Alexa supported device, and you can add it to an existing speaker group using the Google Home or Alexa app.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Battery life: N/A
IPX rating: Humidity resistant
Charging: USB

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The Revolve+ II delivers 360-degree sound using a down-facing transducer coupled with an omnidirectional acoustic deflector to distribute music evenly. Dual-passive radiators give bass extra punch. Encased in soft material to absorb shocks and leave no marks, the Revolve+ II is built for the outdoors, with IP55 dust and splash protection and a fabric handle for toting it to your next picnic. It can also be integrated into a home sound ecosystem – a Bose Home speaker and SoundLink speaker can be paired using Bose SimpleSynch. There’s multipairing for two devices and in-built Google Assistant and call taking.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery life: 17 hours
IP rating: 55
Charging: Micro-B USB

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

 

PARTY SPEAKERS

Whether it’s a celebration or just a rowdy get-together, music is the life of a party and a dedicated party speaker will set the mood and have the crowd moving and grooving.

JBL Partybox 1000 Portable Wireless Bluetooth Party Speaker
This 1100W music machine is a sonic tower of power that can be wheeled to wherever you designate the dancefloor and connected via Bluetooth. The Partybox 1000 is as powerful as it looks, boasting two 7-inch mid-frequency drivers, a high-frequency tweeter and a 12-inch subwoofer with a bass boost you can feel – anticipate noise complaints from the neighbours.

Packed with interactive features like a DJ Launchpad that adds drums, keyboard and piano to the mix, plus mic and guitar inputs for a live session, the Partybox 1000 doesn’t just pump out great sound, it will also dazzle with a dynamic, customisable lightshow to accompany the beats and ignite a disco inferno. Playlists can be streamed from devices using Bluetooth or loaded onto a USB drive for plug-in-and-play convenience.

A panel on the top of the speaker is the control centre and, in keeping with the party spirit, an air gesture wristband synchs with the speaker and provides hands-free control of lighting and sound effects with a wave or a clap.
The Partybox isn’t waterproofed, so exercise caution when throwing a pool party and keep it out of direct sunlight.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
IPX rating: No
Charging: AC

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Monster Blaster 3.0 Boom Box Speaker
The boom box, or ghetto blaster, was a ubiquitous bit of audio tech in the 1980s, pumping pure stereo while perched on the shoulders of head-banging youngsters. It has since evolved into the Monster Blaster 3.0 Boom Box – a mighty, portable Bluetooth speaker that packs the boom its name suggests, with dual 60W speakers, two passive radiators and an integrated 60W subwoofer for dynamic power bass. LED volume level indicators add a nice old school touch to the design, and the sound pumps from both sides of the box, so don’t set it flush to a wall.

The Monster Blaster connects via Bluetooth, with NFC (Near Field Communication) pairing when supported devices are in close range. Sound can be tailored using the built-in EQ modes (there is no companion app) that include an environment optimiser for the best possible sound wherever you are.

The battery life is a generous 12 hours per charge and the built-in USB-C port doubles as a power source to charge devices. It also features an AUX input and microphone jack.

The Monster Blaster 3.0 is the perfect party machine for indoors and out – or over the shoulder when on the move.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth, NFC
Battery life: 12 hours
IPX rating: 5
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

SMART SPEAKERS

 

These voice-controlled speakers feature multiple connectivity options to give you music, news, podcasts, weather, reminders and more. They can be integrated into a smart home ecosystem or taken out and about. Many portable Bluetooth speakers now feature smart functionality.

ENTRY-LEVEL

Apple HomePod Mini
Add a HomePod Mini to an Apple HomeKit ecosystem and enjoy 360-degree audio. Yes, this small spherical speaker pumps out extraordinarily weighty sound from its full-range driver and two passive radiators. Pair two together for even bigger audio or create a connected sound system throughout the home by adding multiple pods.

The Mini can also double as a room-to-room intercom system that can be personalised with voice recognition for different family members, with four mics and Siri voice control for hands-free convenience.
There are no physical buttons – simply tap the centre panel for pause/resume play, and volume up/down.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth, AirPlay
Charging: USB-C 20W wall charger

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Google Nest Audio
Listening to your favourite tunes is easier than ever with the Google Nest Audio. This compact smart speaker packs a tweeter, woofer and tuning software for rich, room-filling audio and powerful bass, and adapts to surroundings for optimal listening, from music and podcasts to audiobooks.

The Google ecosystem makes accessing music or curated audio simple. And if you need to check news or weather – or pretty much anything – it’s just a “Hey Google…” away.

The Nest can also function as an intercom, and if you have more than one Google speaker dotted about the home, you can pump music through them all, or have it follow you with a simple voice command.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

MID-RANGE

Sonos Roam Portable Bluetooth Smart Speaker
Roam if you want to and never miss a beat with this ultra-portable smart speaker. The size of a water bottle, the Roam can be easily stashed in a bag or backpack to soundtrack outdoor activities, or added to a smart home ecosystem as a dedicated indoor speaker. Wi-Fi support adds voice assistant convenience via Google or Alexa, and the Roam will automatically switch to a Bluetooth connection when Wi-Fi is out of range. Small in size but big in sound, it delivers exceptional mids and highs and ample bass, and auto-tuning optimises sound quality to suit the environment.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 10 hours
IP rating: 67
Charging: USB-C, Qi wireless

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

 

TOP SHELF

Bose Portable Smart Speaker
Get the best of both worlds in a portable Bluetooth speaker and wireless smart speaker with Bose 360-degree spatial sound and three passive radiators for deep bass. A downward firing transducer and acoustic deflector deliver uniform sound in all directions, which is very loud for a speaker of this size.

Set-up is simple via the Bose app, and Wi-Fi connection to the Alexa and Google ecosystem provides voice control, multi-room functionality, and the option to add additional smart speakers from the Bose family. Chromecast is built-in for access to popular music streaming services, and there’s AirPlay 2 for iOS users.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 5
Battery life: 12 hours
IPX rating:
4
Charging: USB-C, charging cradle (sold separately)

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Sonos Move Portable Smart Speaker
The Sonos Move combines the advantages of a Bluetooth speaker with the connectivity of a smart speaker. Robust and with big full-range sound, versatility is the selling point here. When linked to a Wi-Fi connection the Move has built-in Google Assistant and Alexa for full voice control, while its Bluetooth functionality gives it total portability.

If you can‘t decide whether a Bluetooth or smart speaker is the way to go, the Move covers both bases for you.

At a glance:
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Battery life: 11 hours
IP rating: 56
Charging: Wireless charging base (included)

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Hear here! Your STACK 2022 audio guide – everything you need to know in sound!