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Best budget Bluetooth speakers 2020: big on sound, kind on your wallet

What Hi-Fi? 9/8/2020 Andy Clough
a close up of electronics: Best budget Bluetooth speakers 2020: portable, desktop and multi-room © Provided by What Hi-Fi? Best budget Bluetooth speakers 2020: portable, desktop and multi-room

Best budget Bluetooth speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best budget wireless speakers you can buy in 2020.

Bluetooth speakers have always been a great addition to any music lover's box of tricks, but they've never been more desirable than right now. Perhaps dropping a significant sum on something offering multi-room or Roon-ready smarts, a plethora of inbuilt streaming platforms or daisy-chaining via app support isn't justifiable in 2020. Maybe you just want something cheap and cheerful to provide good-quality musical accompaniment while you're working on the balcony. Maybe the children could use something durable for the beach, or maybe you just want to listen to podcasts in the kitchen while you're cooking. 

So, aside from something that sounds good for the money, what should you look for when shopping for a budget Bluetooth speaker to get you through this most unusual year?

Models here at the more affordable end of the market tend to be rugged and super portable, so look out for a durable design and waterproofing, or at least water resistance (the latter meaning you shouldn't fully submerge your speaker in the drink).

Budget Bluetooth speakers can be small enough to fit in a coat pocket, cheekily designed to fit in your bike's water cage or big enough to fill a room with serious sound, so it's imperative that you also check the dimensions before clicking "buy" (don't worry, we've listed these below.)

Our list has something for everyone – some models even have microphones built in, should the need to take calls or speak to your virtual voice assistant arise. And we've reviewed each one in depth, so you'll know exactly what you're buying. 

Whether you want full-on portability or a speaker to move occasionally from your bedroom to the kitchen, check these out for size: you're sure to find something you – and your current budget – can truly enjoy. 

Ultimate Ears has really made a splash in the Bluetooth speaker market with a number of colourful, fun-sounding and portable models on its books. The latest is the small but mightily impressive Wonderboom 2.

Battery life is 13 hours and a full charge takes just under three. It's waterproof, sandproof, dustproof and is also designed to float, so it should withstand the most lively of pool parties – whenever those resume. Playback is controlled over a Bluetooth connection, but it's surprising to see there's no mic for hands-free calling.

Sonically, the Wonderboom 2 is an exciting listen, with impressive bass given its small dimensions. It packs in plenty of detail and there's a fine sense of attack. It's easily one of the best sounding Bluetooth speakers you can buy for the money.

Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2

It’s hard to imagine a home decor, backpack or personal taste that the Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro couldn’t merge in with happily. It's the size of a stack of drinks coasters, it's IP67 rated, there's a useful rubberised strap across the back of it and you can pair two of them in stereo mode. 

You'll be pleasantly surprised by the bass clout the Tribit is able to deliver. Although a speaker of such dimensions is obviously limited in terms of bass weight, it does remarkably well; close your eyes while listening and you’ll picture a bigger product. 

If your budget maxes out at £50 ($60), the Tribit is a splendid option. Similarly, if you only have a small zip compartment in the top of your backpack for a sonic travel companion, this speaker is worthy of that space. Take note, Ultimate Ears: a little-known brand called Tribit Audio just produced a budget belter of a Bluetooth speaker.

Read the full review: Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro

If you like the idea of a smart assistant combined with a simple music speaker, it’s hard to argue against the Amazon Echo Dot. For not a lot of money, you get a whole load of smart voice functionality and decent sound with this (third generation) model. It works well on its own or can be nicely integrated into myriad other smart home and AV products, bringing voice control and smart features just a command away. Sound quality has improved notably too, making it even easier to recommend.

Read the full review: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation)

For the money, this dinky JBL speaker is an absolute steal. It's waterproof, highly portable and looks adorable – it's like a bar of soap that plays music. And the sound is surprisingly good given its diminutive dimensions, providing an open, three-dimensional listen – though obviously it doesn't pack much bass. Our only real gripe? Battery life. Topping out at a mere five hours, it won't last you a full afternoon of listening, which is something many look for in a Bluetooth speaker. Still, if you can make that sacrifice, it's well worth your consideration.

Read the full review: JBL GO 2

If all you want is a portable Bluetooth speaker that sounds as good as £100 can currently buy, you’ll struggle to better the Flip 5. Truly, JBL’s newest offering sounds great for the price. If you don’t mind the lack of aux-in port or inbuilt microphone (as seen in the Flip 4) or the inability to partner it with older JBL speakers (the PartyBoost function is not backwards compatible with Connect+ enabled speakers, like the JBL Charge 4), it’s an excellent proposition for the money.

It may be low on added extras, but the Flip 5 gets away with it. Once you're actually listening to it, JBL's latest Flip easily betters the competition at the price – even the award-winner. The solid sonic chops JBL has managed to deliver at this level simply cannot be denied.

Read the full review: JBL Flip 5

Everything from the price to the microphone performance has improved in this, the second generation of Amazon's Echo speaker – although if you want better sound quality you'll need to look at the pricier Amazon Echo Plus. Provided you don’t expect more for your money, the Echo 2 remains a solid smart speaker buy. 

Read the full review: Amazon Echo 2

Ultimate Ears has a knack for finding the right combination of sound, design and features in its portable Bluetooth speakers, and it does so again with the waterproof Blast. The Blast’s energetic performance and fun design makes this wireless speaker a joy to use. It’s a carefree, exciting speaker and one that's sure to please crowds (whenever we can, er, congregate again). 

Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Blast

If you're in the market for a stationary wireless speaker that can develop into a multi-room audio system, the T5 is a great place to start. It's a beefed-up version of the Audio Pro T3 - however, unlike the smaller model, the T5 doesn’t have a in-built battery, so this isn’t a speaker to be taking out and about. Assuming you can live with that (and we sort of have to right now), the T5 has the same great character of the T3 – an expressive, well balanced, and full sound – but with more weight in the lower frequencies. You’ll be hard pressed to get something much better without dipping a lot deeper into your bank account.

Read the full review: Audio Pro Addon T5

The JBL Xtreme 2 comes as a pleasant surprise. At first sight, the it might appear a little brash and out of place – an unashamed boombox in an era of reserved smart speakers dressed in grey fabric. However, this bold and aggressive look is matched by some of the sweetest sound you’ll hear from a portable speaker. There's no wi-fi, smart assistant support and multi-room audio, but this speaker sounds much more refined and delicate than it looks. Add in its chunky, rugged build and IPX7 water resistance and you have an ideal Bluetooth speaker for use in the great outdoors.

Read the full review: JBL Xtreme 2

The Bose SoundLink Revolve is a strikingly petite speaker, and we can see it fitting into just about any space in your home. The speaker has a decent heft – it feels more substantial than the similar-sized Google Home, for instance – but it can still be held in the palm of your hand. The unit's cylindrical design is key to delivering its 360-degree sound and it is compact enough to be carried in a backpack. 

An iPX4 water-resistance rating is handy if you're worried about it getting wet, and for such a small speaker, the Bose Revolve delivers a surprisingly big and bold sound. It's come down in price since we first tested it and it’s hard not to admire the Bose Revolve for its range of talents.

Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Revolve

The Charge 3 has been around for a little while now, but it was designed with portability in mind and still fits neatly into the company’s existing speaker range. It’s larger than the petite JBL Flip and JBL Link 20 but not as hefty as the JBL Xtreme (see above). This makes the Charge 3 a good size for flinging in a bag and taking into the garden. This is definitely a speaker that could quite happily cope with an active camping weekend or beach holiday, at some point. 

Given the JBL’s rugged and sturdy build, you won’t be surprised to hear the Charge 3 sounds neither shy nor hesitant. It’s an enthusiastic, powerful sound, highlighted by the passive radiators pulsing vigorously at either end of the speaker. For its price (which dropped significantly when the Charge 3 was superseded by the excellent Charge 4), it remains an excellent buy.

Read the full review: JBL Charge 3

Take a look at Tivoli’s Andiamo wireless speaker from afar and you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a Bang & Olufsen product. This is a lovely little piece of kit, made from lightweight but tough aluminium with leather trimmings, and nicely put together. “Andiamo” means “let’s go” in Italian, just in case you didn't know – so it's meant for travel. At its heart, this is a basic Bluetooth speaker, with no frills or added extras. Control buttons are hidden neatly beneath the tooled leather strap.

It may be relatively small in stature, but the Andiamo is certainly able to pack a sonic punch – and produces a sound way larger than you might have thought. The Tivoli Andiamo manages to pull off the seemingly impossible: it's a beautifully put-together ‘lifestyle’ product, but at the same time it provides a sound that comfortably matches its price. 

Read the full review: Tivoli Andiamo

The Audio Pro A10 is an entirely different design from it siblings such as the Addon T5 featured further up this list. Here we have a fabric-coated cylinder standing just shy of 20cm, resembling more the kind of speaker we’re used to seeing from its rivals, but most importantly, bringing the company’s Award-winning sonic signature sound to a multi-room speaker costing less than £200.

Inside it's different from the A10’s rectangular stablemates too. Audio Pro has packed in a 7.5cm long-throw woofer and bolstered its output with two 11.5cm passive radiators. And there's a BMR, or Balanced Mode Radiator, tweeter. The result is a spread of sound that has to be admired, combined with excellent timing – it snaps along with that same intensity and intelligent organisation we’ve come to expect from Audio Pro. We think the A10's price and more traditional design will bring Audio Pro to a different audience, and we're all for that.

Read the full review: Audio Pro A10


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