Put your hi-fi in the bin. Take an axe to your floorstanders. Snap that vinyl over your knee. It’s newsflash time: portable speakers actually sound good these days.
They’re good enough for 90% of 95% of people’s listening. And yes, that stat is entirely made up.
But the sentiment isn’t. For a lot of listening, portable wireless speakers are well worth having - and you don't even have to spend a fortune to get one that's half decent.
Got £200 to spare? Here are the models you should look at.
UE Wonderboom 2
We dubbed the original Wonderboom a “grapefruit wearing a corset” and when you find such a winning look, why change?
Available in a choice of cheerful colours, each one’s strap and volume buttons come in a contrasting colour to add a little extra zing. Up top there’s a power button that also allows you to control basic playback, with a button either side for pairing over Bluetooth or adding a second speaker to your setup.
The Wonderboom 2’s waterproof outfit has been upgraded to deal with dust as well, which is just as well, because this is a speaker that’s more than happy to hit the road. Its new Outdoor Boost mode puts extra focus on the mid-range and redirects the sound upwards, so it’s not just providing a soundtrack for subterranean insect parties.
It performs best indoors, though, particularly when paired with another Wonderboom 2 for stereo sound, but even playing solo there’s good texture and warmth to the sound, with a new chipset delivering extra bass. It also extends the battery life to 13 hours.
Like a generously poured Tequila Sunrise, the Wonderboom 2 is punchy in both appearance and performance. It’s no wonder this is getting a space in our hold luggage.
We’ll take a Wonderboom 2. On the rocks. Somewhere sunny
JBL Charge 4
Don’t be fooled by the Charge 4’s rugged looks: its pool party appearance belies a truly balanced listening experience, with bass that’s punchy but doesn’t drown out details and a remarkably well-rounded midrange. There’s a surprising amount of clarity at the top end, too.
That said, if you want a speaker to bring the beach vibes, this is the tough cookie to choose. Finished with a durable fabric wrap and capped by beefy rubber, the Charge 4 can take quite the beating. Its distinctive resonating ends are suitably sturdy, while IPX7 waterproofing means a quick dip won’t put an end to your lido playlist.
Its drivers are directional, so you’ll need to find the right spot to get the best out of JBL’s chunky number. Once you do, it’ll keep the tunes coming for a pack-leading 20 hours on a single charge. And here’s the cool bit: if Spotify streaming drains your smartphone, the Charge 4 can give it a boost via USB. Neat.
Shipped in a range of technicolour shades and equipped with Connect+, which lets you pair with up to 100 compatible JBL speakers, the Charge 4 is a bold Bluetooth offering that deserves a place in your beach tote.
Punchy, tough and full of juice. What’s not to love?
Loewe Klang M1
We generally associate high-end German brand Loewe with extremely stylish, extremely expensive TVs, but the Klang M1 is a superbly built Bluetooth speaker with a far more attainable price tag.
Built like a classy compact camera, complete with leather strap, a precision-milled steel casing and elegant buttons to match, there’s also a 3.5mm input for the wired-o-philes and a built-in mic that allows for hands-free calling.
Onboard controls might seem a bit needless with smartphone streaming, but given the amount of time you’ll be cradling this lump of design joy, it makes perfect sense. The M1 is smaller than an iPhone XS in height and just the right side of chunky to fit in a back pocket without the rounded edges drastically misshaping your trousers. At 325g, it’s also remarkably lightweight.
The Klang M1’s two 8W drivers offer a nicely balanced sound that’s more like a traditional radio than a pop speaker, although it does feel constrained, which isn’t surprising given the size. You’ll not find a better-looking, more desirable, more Instagram-worthy travel speaker; just don’t expect it to disturb the couple in the hotel suite next door.
Available in ‘mist grey’, ‘haute red’ or ‘slate blue’, the latest launch from Urbanears is an absolutely gorgeous piece of Swedish minimalist design – one of those products guaranteed to pop up in music videos and swish interior design magazines.
Although not bursting at the seams with features, the Ralis has an impressive 20-hour battery life – and you can also siphon its juice to your phone via USB if your battery needs a boost. It has a lovely fabric carry handle and an IPX2 rating, which means the odd spot of rain won’t harm it but you don’t want to be leaving it out overnight. Bluetooth 5.0 means you can pair two phones simultaneously and add one via aux-in to share DJ duties.
But does it sound any good? The cube houses two identical speakers, in a setup carefully based on a recording technique called Blumlein pairing – the effect of which is to create a wider, more spatial soundstage. It works, making the Ralis an extremely enjoyable listen, although you do have to turn it up to get the best out of it.
A pretty speaker with great battery life, and it sounds superb when cranked up
UE Megaboom 3
If the Wonderboom 2 is a citrus fruit in constricting womenswear, the Megaboom 3 is a Pringles can in a superhero outfit. But with the large volume controls on the front, you can tell they’re members of the same family.
In fact, the Megaboom sports many of the same features as the Wonderboom: an IP67 rating means it can be dunked underwater for 30 minutes and live to tell the tale, it’s now fully dustproof, and there’s a trio of buttons on the top to control playback, turn it on and off, and pair it with Bluetooth devices.
The big difference comes when you start to play music. All that extra speaker space means it can go much, much louder, particularly if you use the app to pair it with some other UE speakers. If you’ve got enough friends (we haven’t) it can form part of a 150-strong speaker line-up. Boom by name, boom by nature.
That’s not to say it can’t control its bass. The Megaboom 3’s soundstage is well-balanced and it’ll easily fill a normal-sized room with punchy 360 sound, even if the mids leave a little to be desired.
Tough, loud and bags of fun. Ultimate Ears’ hot streak continues
Jam Heavy Metal
This speaker sounds like the sort of thing you might see on sale next to an emoji pillow. Most people haven’t heard of Jam Audio and the ‘Heavy Metal’ bit is the naming equivalent of a dad joke, given the speaker is made of aluminium.
Hold back the scorn, though, because this is one of the best portable speakers you can get for £100. It can duel with big names twice the price, and even beat some of them.
The sound quality per pound is superb. Like the best mini rectangle speakers, a dual bass radiator setup gets you serious bass power and enough volume to fill your lounge. Treble is crisp, but without the harshness of a speaker desperately trying to convince your ear it’s super-detailed.
The top £150 speakers have better mid-range detail and texture, which makes vocals sound even more realistic and natural. But the Jam can skip between genres like a pro and is alarmingly refined for the price. If you’re on a strict budget, the Jam Heavy Metal is more-or-less unbeatable right now.
Classy sound and design at a true bargain price
Audio Pro Addon T3
Music purists, listen up: the Audio Pro Addon T3 is one of the best-sounding portable speakers out there. It might look a little koala-like, and its bulk won’t suit everyone (it’s about the size of a hefty lunchbox), but we can’t fault it for dynamism, drive and sheer potency.
This speaker will reach down into the depths of a song’s lower frequencies and bring you earthy, taut basslines with enough punch to turn heads... while vocals hit you with a great sense of space.
The Addon T3 keeps you wanting more – and its 12hr battery life is ready to oblige. If you've got the budget, this is clearly the audiophile choice.
Great sound, low price: what more could you ask for?