It’s summertime, and that means a number of things, including some of our favorites: hot dogs, fireworks, and outdoor parties. Whether it’s around the pool, at the beach, in the park, or just on the back deck, it’s a great time of year to get together. Of course, one of the main ingredients of any successful gathering is music. The right tunes can elevate a good party to a great one.
We’ve reviewed hundreds of speakers over the years, but only some of them are well-suited for use at outdoor parties. Our editorial team went through the products we’ve reviewed over the past two years, and we’ve come up with the following list of speakers that are great choices for your shindig. They don’t all compete directly with each other. Rather, we’re presenting a wide variety of options, all equipped with Bluetooth and ranging in size as well as price, from $100 to $230. We based our picks on four main criteria: audio quality and volume, resistance to common outdoor issues such as splashes and drops, battery life, and portability.
The speaker that can stand up to the elements better than any other on this list is Braven’s BRV-X Bluetooth Wireless Speaker ($230, Amazon price: $196). It’s the most expensive on the list, but it’s also the only one of the bunch that offers full IPX7 waterproofing. That means it’s been tested to survive immersion in water of up to one meter for up to 30 minutes. In our original review, we described the speaker as “performing with enough sparkle and richness to make songs sound really nice.” The volume level is high, and if needed, you can pair two units together. Combine all that with a 12-hour battery life, and it’s a smart choice, especially around the pool.
Reviewed more than a year ago, there’s still no speaker that compares to G-Project’s G-Boom ($100) in terms of what you get for the price. Generally, that price point is reserved for small, highly portable units. While this one is portable, thanks to a handle, it’s much larger than one might expect. We’ve called it “the ultimate $100 wireless boombox.” It’s heavily ruggedized body is matched by the sound coming from its four-driver setup, producing great music that makes it “the best $100 wireless speaker we’ve tested.” G-Boom is loud enough to more than fill a small room, and sounds great at any volume level. If there’s a downside, it’s the battery, which lasts for a relatively short five to six hours. But we can picture G-Boom blasting away by a beach bonfire.
The sequel to 2012’s Flip, JBL’s Charge ($150, Amazon price: $125) retains the stellar audio, but adds a larger battery that can charge external devices and a more ruggedized design. Not surprisingly, these features come with a jump in price, putting this one in the middle of the list when it comes to cost. Relatively small, Charge will easily fit in a backpack or purse, and its rubberized body will help absorb any shocks along the way. The battery can last for up to 12 hours of play time, and it can also charge an iPhone if you have a Lightning cable handy. As for the audio quality, it’s “wow” level. Not only does it sound really nice, but the volume levels are particularly impressive, especially for the size. Even at 75 percent volume, you might not want to sit right next to it for fear of damaging your hearing.
If you’re looking for big, loud, and bassy, consider Nyne’s Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker ($150, Amazon price: $140). Costing the same price as Charge, it’s significantly larger. We’re talking 6.5 pounds, 13.5” long, and 6.5” tall. That doesn’t mean it’s not portable though; a hidden handle on the backside makes it pretty easy to carry. This is the one to pick if you’re looking to really fill the backyard with music. Well-suited for outdoor use, it gets very loud without sacrificing sound quality. Although the audio is bass-heavy, the mids and highs are still pretty nice. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the battery is rated to last for ten hours of music playback.
Scosche’s boomBottle ($130, Amazon price: $100) offers many of the best elements of the speakers above, although it makes some compromises to squeeze them all in. Shaped like a bottle—it can fit in cup holders or a bike’s water bottle cage—its rubberized body is made to withstand the elements, and while it’s not submersible, it can stand up to splashes. Peak volume is close to that of Charge, although the audio quality isn’t quite as great. It still puts out respectable sound though, and the battery lasts for about six hours. This is the model to choose if you want a little bit of everything, and are willing to make small sacrifices in certain areas to get it.