Choosing a... Bluetooth speaker
Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll need to decide what you want to do with the speaker before you buy. If you don’t plan to take your music outdoors or around the house, look for a wired speaker. These are typically cheaper than speakers with built-in batteries.
If you do want a portable speaker, however, pay particular attention to how much it weighs. Ruggedised models should be able to survive accidental drops, water spills and unexpected rain showers.
Many of the cheapest Bluetooth speakers use the lossy A2DP Bluetooth protocol, which is prone to compressing your music and discarding detail compared with the original recording. It’s hard to tell the difference when listening to pocket-sized speakers, but if you’re looking for a speaker to fill a room, an aptX-compatible device is a better option. This Bluetooth protocol retains more detail than the A2DP profile, although you’ll need to use it with a compatible smartphone in order to get the benefits.
As with any audio product, the number and size of speaker drivers can have a significant impact on the quality of sound you get from a Bluetooth speaker. Typically, the presence of multiple drivers enables the manufacturer to tune each one for specific frequencies, directing high-end sounds towards a tweeter and sending the mid-range frequencies to the main driver. Single-driver speakers with larger driver cones can be just as capable of producing fantastic audio, however.
Most Bluetooth speakers have at least one auxiliary input for a wired 3.5mm audio jack, in case you want to listen to music from a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth.
There are other extra features to look out for, though. Speakers with built-in batteries may have a USB port for charging your smartphone, or a built-in microphone to turn it into a speakerphone when a paired smartphone receives a call. Not all speakers have physical controls; many rely on your paired device’s controls for adjusting the volume or muting playback.