The Best Portable Speakers 2017 Under $200
As dozens of tiny portable speakers flood the market, many of us are struggling to find a model that delivers crisp sound while staying within our budget. There is a vast array of choices out there, from those of big brands like Bose to cheaper models from brands you may never have heard of. But how do you know which one is the best for you, especially if you don’t have much room available in your budget?
Before we proceed to listing the best portable speakers 2017 under $200, we should briefly describe the selection process we have gone through. We implemented effective head-to-head listening tests that analyzed not only sound clarity, but also how loud these portable speakers can go without a sound meter, and whether they can stream videos without any audio delays.
As you have probably noticed yourself, several models on the market fail at this chapter, as streaming videos and movies results in soundtracks that are slightly out of sync. We have also taken into account other features these portable speakers offered, their battery life, weight and compactness, then we proceeded to listing them based on performance.
Also check out our top picks for the best portable speakers 2017 under $100.
1. Bose SoundLink Mini
The technically-impressive Bose SoundLink Mini is currently the best portable speaker ever produced, and also one of the most affordable of its kind.
This small Bluetooh speaker features a charging dock that makes it ridiculously convenient to carry around with you, and you will certainly appreciate its small-but-shaggy design as well, which means that it’s portable too. Though not as pocketable as a couple of other portable speakers, the compactness of the Bose SoundLink Mini will allow you to fit it in a small pocket of your handbag or backpack with ease.
As you have likely noticed already, the SoundLink Mini does not try to be as skinny as possible. Despite being the smaller brother of the full-size Bose SoundLink, the design and feel of the Mini version is more elegant and modern. The inclusion of the neat charging dock makes it perfect for a very wide range of purposes, from using it as a mini boom box in your garden, kitchen, or any outdoor area to using it to assist you while resting as you have a bath.
Weighing just under 700g, the Bose SoundLink Mini has an excellent build. Both the front and back grilles are coated metal, whilst the top controls are finished with rubber, which gives them a bit of splash-proofing. The speaker is also reasonably flexible, as it allows you to successfully charge the battery without using the dock.
There is also a 3.5mm aux input on the side for devices that don’t have Bluetooth. A microUSB port is included on the bottom of the speaker, which offers another convenient charging alternative, although it’s more commonly used to update firmware.
As for the sound quality of the Bose SoundLink Mini, you will certainly be surprised by the overall performance of this portable speaker. The unit integrates a pair of bass radiators that produce a decent amount of bass for a device this size, providing an excellent bass response that outshines that of other models.
Not surprisingly, the sound comes out punchy and powerful, with two radiators that sit at the opposite sides of the speaker to prevent distortion. You can confidently crank it up to its maximum volume without compromising sound quality.
It’s no doubt that the Bose SoundLink Mini deserves to be on top of our list of best portable speakers 2016 under $200. It’s well-built, well-priced, and delivers an excellent performance at the same time.
2. Fugoo Speakers
Although most of you will likely say it’s bulky, the Fugoo speaker is a one-of-a-kind device that provides great sound quality and a number of features that make it arguably one of the best. The speaker is made up of a mix of soft rubber, polyester-like material, and hardened plastic, but the core inside has a waterproof seal that protects all internal components.
One of the sides comes with a microUSB charging port, whilst the other features power and Bluetooth buttons. The top of the speaker has three buttons, which are basically the “O” we’ve seen in most Fugoo models, surrounded by two volume control keys for added convenience.
Much to your delight, the Fugoo speaker is also dustproof and shockproof, which makes it perfect for traveling. Weighing just over one pound, this portable device is comparably heaver than the Bose’s SoundLink Mini, yet the design is compact enough to make it easy to throw in a backpack and go. The speaker is lightweight enough to fit in your hand comfortably, which is a definite plus for some outdoor parties or gatherings.
In terms of sound quality, the Fugoo speaker comes with six acoustic drivers consisting of two woofers, two tweezers, and two passive radiators. Due to the drivers facing all directions with an 8-degree upward tilt, this portable speaker provides better spatial dispersion to fill larger areas with sound.
The two extra drivers prove especially effective at helping distinguish highs, mids, and lows, ensuring a better overall audio experience. At the same time, the Fugoo speaker performed unexpectedly well for more complex songs like Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain,” which have actually come through much better than initially expected.
Fugoo put together a solid portable speaker that carries very good sound in a small footprint. The device is somehow customizable, which makes it even more versatile and appealing to the buyer. At only $200, the Fugoo speaker is one of the very few of its kind that also come with accessory and mount support, which adds another plus to its overall performance.
3. Bose SoundLink Color
Similar to the SoundLink Mini, the Bose SoundLink Color is a good portable speaker that performs well in many situations, and at only half the price.
Despite a few misgivings, the SoundLink Color is an excellent budget-friendly Bluetooth speaker that comes in a wider range of colors, including mint, blue and red. While this might be apparently a plus if you’re looking for a more customized experience, it’s a shame that Bose has to introduce these fun color options on such an uninspired design that lacks what it needs to be in line with other models in the same price range.
If you look at the Bose SoundLink Color, you will likely be reminded of the 1980s, as compared to the SoundLink Mini’s 1960s-inspired look. The device has a boxy look and a plastic body that might suggest a poorer build quality. The top of the speaker is made from rubberized plastic, featuring rubber bumpers on the side, plus four rubber feet on the bottom, which keeps the unit firmly in place.
So far, the design might be seemingly satisfactory, but it kind of lacks a certain amount of elegance that made the Bose SoundLink Mini stand out. It almost feels like there should be a compartment included on the back of the device for cassette tapes, which obviously defeats the purpose of building a modern-looking speaker.
Bose included a microUSB charging port with the SoundLink Color, which makes charging easy and straightforward. There is also a charging cable in the package, which comes in very handy in the event that you accidentally misplace or break the standard microUSB one. The battery life of the unit is quite impressive, lasting for about eight hours. Our tests have shown that it might last for much shorter if you play music very loud, which will likely require a second or even a third charge if you’re using the SoundLink Color for an outdoor party.
As expected of Bose, the audio performance of the SoundLink Color portable speaker is nothing short of spectacular. The device pumps out clear sound that’s loud enough to fill an entire room, and possibly loud enough to be the mini boom box of your next party. The speaker delivers a lot of bass without distortion even for the tracks with intense sub-bass content. Moreover, the SoundLink color brings richness and depth to songs like Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” which typically sounds too light on most Bluetooth speakers.
4. JBL Flip 2
JBL Flip 2 is a portable bluetooth speaker that comes with great design, versatility, impressive sound, speakerphone abilities, and its nice carrying case that ship with it. The JBL Flip 2 features a flip design that allows you to stand it up both vertically and horizontally, which makes it convenient for lots of situations. Weighing at 0.84 pounds, the speaker is quite lightweight and compact enough to be carried around indoors and outdoors.
As we have already seen in the Bose SoundLink Color, this JBL speaker comes with a microUSB charging port for comfort and ease of use. You only need to plug the cable into a computer or laptop, and the device will start charging right away. However, you shouldn’t have great expectations in regard to battery life, because it won’t last longer than 5-6 hours, or 4 hours if you are playing music loud.
JBL has also included a NFC tap-to-pair technology with the Flip 2 portable speaker, which automatically connects the device to your tablet, smartphone or laptop after you create an initial pairing. Have Bluetooth enabled on your phone, tablet or laptop, turn the speaker on, and the two will automatically pair.
One of the biggest downsides of the JBL Flip 2 is the lack of control keys, as there are no pause/play and skip track forward/back buttons included. While this might not be a notable issue, it will still be a letdown for those times when you need to at least pause your music or videos.
The JBL Flip 2 produces smoother, clearer sound that makes all notes easy to distinguish. The speaker can play slightly louder as compared to the company’s original Flip, but you will notice a bit of distortion if the volume goes above 70 percent. For best results, JBL suggests keeping it at a more modest level, but this will prevent creating that party atmosphere you were initially aiming for. Nevertheless, the bass will probably come out restrained, although the vocals get accentuated since the midrange is pretty forward.
Although JBL Flip 2 does not excel through sound quality or battery life, it still does have more kick than a plenty of other portable speakers on the market. We bet you’ll be both surprised and satisfied with the relatively good performance of the device, which exceeds that of most models in this price range.
5. Ultimate Ears BOOM
If you’re looking for a portable speaker that gives portability a whole new meaning, and still delivers crisp sound, then you might want to consider the Ultimate Ears BOOM – or shortly, the UE BOOM. It doesn’t only offer a flip design that permits standing it in both landscape and portrait mode, but it also has an extremely impressive battery life of 15 hours, plus a very loud audio performance.
There are barely any noticeable differences between the designs of the UE BOOM and JBL Flip 2, as this device is cylindrical and quickly convertible from vertical or horizontal. The speaker has a soft-to-the-touch rubberized finish, and it comes in a variety of colors including blue, pink, red, and moss green. The letdown is that, while darker colors have a tendency to show the oil from your skin, lighter ones will show dirt much faster, which can greatly compromise the neat look of the speaker.
Luckily, a damp cloth can easily wipe off the rubberized surface, which will quickly clean up the device, leaving it spotless. Pay attention to coffee, black tea, and tomato sauce, as they might permanently stain the speaker.
This speaker is water-resistant, which makes it great for using it at shower or during bath time. The design of this portable speaker also includes a hook you can use to clip it to your backpack for added convenience.
If you unscrew the hook, you will find a threaded tripod mount inside, hence providing the necessary support for those moments when stability is of paramount importance. The speaker can be charged via the USB cable included, and one charge equals a battery life of a whopping 15 hours – the most impressive performance we’ve seen so far. Play music at louder volumes, and the battery will slightly drop down to 14.5 hours, which is ridiculously shorter.
Ultimate Ears BOOM comes with its own app, which is available for both Android and Apple devices. The app allows you to tweak the speaker’s treble and bass, and also daisy-chain it to a second UE BOOM if you have it in order to fill a larger space with sound. You may consider using one speaker as a left channel and the other as a right channel to create real stereo separation, if desired. UE says that the speaker has a range of about 50 feet, which might actually break up if you walk off into the yard or patio.
The last aspect to mention about the UE BOOM is its ability to memorize up to eight devices it has been connected to, hence allowing automatic pairing when you turn Bluetooth on. NFC tap-to-pair technology is also included, which automatically pairs the speaker to any Bluetooth-enabled device once an initial connection has been created.
6. Sonos Play: 1
In spite of naming it portable, the Sonos Play: 1 is actually intended to be part of an entire Sonos multi-room system. The design of this device is small enough to fit on a shelf or in your backpack, but hefty enough to put out plenty of sound. Weighing at 4.1 pounds, the Play: 1 certainly isn’t intended to be portable, as it will likely weigh you down if you’re going to carry it for too long. The build is made mostly from gray metal grille that wraps around the body.
There is an Ethernet port included on the back of the device that lets you directly connect it to the Internet.
The speaker features a screw mount for wall and stand mounting, which will be perfect if you have a tripod handy, and want to consistently deliver sound from the same level. Since it’s large enough to incorporate a 3.5-inch woofer and two amplifiers fed by a wall outlet instead of a battery, the Sonos Play: 1 can play music loud enough to fill an entire room, although this is noticeable mostly with low-mids and high frequencies.
Unfortunately, our bass test track has shown that the speaker will make songs like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” lack sub-bass punch, slightly distorting sound at maximum level. On the other hand, jazz sounds just great on the Play: 1, as the sound will come out reach and full, providing excellent clarity that allows distinguishing between instruments.
You probably won’t be able to take the Sonos Play: 1 anywhere with you, but it will still be a solid speaker to consider if you’re aiming for models under $200.
Whenever you are in doubt about the best portable speakers 2017 under $200, be sure to review our list, which includes consistent reviews about all features of the 6 models. If you are looking for the best portable outdoor speakers check out top 10 list here!
Although the minimum you can expect to pay is around $90, going s1lightly above that will actually provide a much better audio experience, as most Bluetooth speakers from above have been designed to offer great range, good (or at least satisfactory) design, plus other features that add convenience.