Best outdoor speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best outdoor speakers you can buy in 2020.
Whether you genuinely love taking your podcasts into the garden or you’re calmly nudged that way when your nearest and dearest does their online HIIT class, an outdoor Bluetooth speaker is the answer. Perhaps listening to music on your bike with a portable speaker seems safer than wearing headphones, or maybe sticking your favourite playlists on at the picnic curtails a friend’s need to show off the guitar lessons they took via Zoom during lockdown. Whatever necessitates your music al fresco, there are plenty of portable outdoor speakers that aren’t phased by a daily dose of mother nature.
Fully waterproof speakers are a great option and will survive a lengthy dip in your private pool (you lucky thing, you!) while splashproof speakers can shrug off a bit of rain with the best of us. Most portable speakers feature hooks or handles for carrying plus Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Some models even offer access to voice assistants, should you need to ask Alexa how much longer the stew will take to cook, or the chances of rain this weekend.
All of these relatively dinky models are great for slinging in a bag, but don’t be fooled: there are plenty of high-fidelity options if you want to really level up the sound quality outside. Read on for our pick of the best outdoor speakers, each with a full, in-depth What Hi-Fi? review attached. We’ll let you choose your own new favourite.
The Wonderboom 2 cements Ultimate Ears’ reputation for creating cute, brilliant-sounding portable speakers. The 13-hour battery life is enough for any al-fresco extravaganza, while an IP67 rating means it won’t freak out if you drop it in a pool.
The real attraction, however, is the fantastic sound quality – that’s what made it a 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award winner. It’s energetic at any volume and it delivers a thumping whack of bass that belies its size. Given that it costs around £89 (you may even get it cheaper), the Wonderboom 2 is a near-perfect party speaker and ideal for outdoor excursions.
Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
If all you want is a portable outdoorsy Bluetooth speaker that sounds as good as £100 can currently buy, you’ll be hard-pressed 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, (there is a wrist strap that fits comfortably over our hand and makes the Flip 5 feel extra-secure when we’re holding it) but the Flip 5 gets away with it. It can be beaten for battery life, at 12 hours, but once you’re actually listening to it JBL’s latest Flip easily betters the competition at the price – even the award-winner.
Read the full review: JBL Flip 5
You’ll get a whopping 20 hours of playback from this little five-star performer on a full battery – and it doesn’t just come in this colour. The fact that we really like the JBL Charge 4 should come as no surprise to those who read our Charge 3 review (below). JBL has fine-tuned the sound in this latest iteration to please even pickier ears and battery capacity has increased. We can’t reasonably ask for any more at this price. Obviously there’s a limit to the bass floor in a speaker of this size, but the low-end is tasteful – and there’s still plenty of punch.
Read the full review: JBL Charge 4
If there’s a home decor, backpack or personal taste that the Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro can’t merge in with happily, we’ve yet to find it. 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, it’s really rather affordable 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, too. 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’re headed to a ‘glampsite’, Harvest Festival, or any place where charging your phone could hinder your online social presence, it’s well worth packing a JBL Charge. As you might have twigged, it features a gargantuan 6000mAh battery – good for 20 hours playback and capable of charging dying smart devices via USB.
The build quality is as rugged as Ray Mears and an IPX7 rating means its fully waterproof (for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1m). Crank it up and it’s no shrinking violet, with a big, bold sound and energetic bass. It’s not subtle, but you can’t go wrong with this blend of power and performance.
Read the full review: JBL Charge 3
Tivoli knows a thing or two about extracting impressive sound from small boxes. It’s smallest speaker, the Andiamo (Italian for ‘let’s go’) makes up for its lack of frills with its sonic ability, Bang & Olufsen-esque styling and durable aluminium casing.
More importantly it’s a joy to listen to, offering taught bass and articulate, musical sound. Peel back the leather carry handle and you’ll find a simple set of controls: volume up, volume down, power and Bluetooth pairing. One for posh picnics.
Read the full review: Tivoli Andiamo
The JBL Link Portable’s neat connectivity features bring a plethora of streaming options to the table – features rarely seen in the sub-£150 speaker category including AirPlay 2, Chromecast and hi-res support. You also get hands-free Google Assistant, a charger cradle and wireless streaming via wi-fi or Bluetooth.
The Link Portable looks and feels like a premium yet durable product. For a speaker of this size, it has oodles of detail and an expansive mix with everything present, including bass. While there’s no PartyBoost or Connect+ support for daisy-chaining other JBL speakers, the Link Portable makes JBL a serious contender in the category of affordable outdoor wireless speakers.
Read the full review: JBL Link Portable.
Judging by its looks – it’s a modern take on the boombox – you might expect oodles of in-your-face bass and, well, not much else. But don’t be fooled by the “Xtreme” branding: this speaker sounds controlled and grown-up, offering crisp treble and a refined soundstage.
It’s waterproof and adventure-ready thanks to a shoulder strap that attaches via carabiner clips. The battery has a neat trick up its sleeve, too: it doubles as a power bank, charging phones and tablets via USB. There are seemingly hundreds of JBL Bluetooth speakers, but this one hits the sweet spot between performance and portability.
Read the full review: JBL Xtreme 2
Bose’s compact speaker is worth a place in your home – or your garden. It offers 360-degree sound and has a Party Mode, allowing you to hook-up two Revolve speakers to play in stereo. The IPX4 rating means it’s splash-proof, not waterproof, so it’s best suited to picnics rather than pool parties.
The intuitive controls are a dream to use, with a dedicated button to access your smartphone’s voice assistant. Despite it’s diminutive size, the Smartlink Revolve delivers a good punch of bass and impressive, room-filling sound. It could be crisper at the top end, but that’s our only criticism.
Read the full review: Bose Soundlink Revolve
Dali has an excellent track record when it comes to producing weighty, virtuoso speakers (this ‘portable’ model tips the scales at 1.1kg). With a marathon battery life and sublime dynamics, the Katch is aimed at sophisticated soirees rather than pork pie-fuelled picnics.
An EQ button lets you switch between two placement profiles: one for freestanding play, the other for a flat surface. It’s not cheap – but its power and sonic ability are hard to match.
Read the full review: Dali Katch
The GO 2 will appeal to style hounds as it comes in a range of 12 vibrant colours. Despite the ultra-low price tag, it’s rated IPX7 waterproof. Sure, bass levels are limited due to its dimension, but you can still expect decent sound quality with plenty of definition.
It comes with a microUSB charging port and a 3.5mm aux socket, so you don’t have to rely on a Bluetooth connection. The only niggle is the anaemic battery life: two and a half hours of charging returns just five hours of playback. Chances are, the music will die before sundown. If you can overlook that, the GO 2 is charming – and fantastic value for money.
Read the full review: JBL Go 2
If you’re looking to revel in the joys of summer, the saucer-shaped Roll 2 will oblige. It’s bright, fun and – crucially – sounds great. Rated IPX7, it’s waterproof and even comes with a miniature inflatable ring – the UE Floatie – so you can float it in water.
The makers of ultra-portable speakers often dial up the bass to mask a lack of clarity. Thankfully that’s not the case with this model, which sounds lively, detailed and assured. A ‘DJ mode’ means it can be paired with three smartphones so that nobody hogs the playlist.
With a striking design and simple, oversized controls, the Roll 2 is a lovable little speaker with a big heart. It’s becoming harder to get hold of (it was officially discontinued in July 2019), but if you can snap one up, there’s still plenty to celebrate.
Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Roll 2