Portable Bluetooth speakers
The days of blasting music out of a portable boom box are behind us, and while some companies still offer retro stereo wannabes for iPods, the best way to free your music but still keep it in a tight package is with a portable Bluetooth speaker.
Here we've rounded up several wireless Bluetooth speakers for your consideration. They work with all smartphones and tablets meeting the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) spec. These days, that includes nearly all tablets and smartphones, including the iPhone, iPad, and most Android devices.
To be clear, Bluetooth isn't known for its top-notch audio quality. But for most casual listeners, it's good enough -- and the convenience can't be beat. (For better sound, these devices can also play music from a non-Bluetooth device using the 3.5mm line-in port and a direct connection.)
Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II
While the SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II may no longer be in a class by itself, it remains an impressive, well-built product. If you're on the fence about getting one, it's worth noting that Bose offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on the product, so you can try before you're fully committed, which is a good thing considering the speaker is fairly pricey at $300 (or $350 with the leather cover).
Jawbone Big Jambox
The Jawbone Big Jambox doesn't quite measure up to the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile and it carries a premium price tag, but it's an impressively designed product that offers strong performance and speakerphone capabilities.
The Big Jambox, like its smaller linemate, is a great-looking speaker that feels well-built and thoughtfully designed. If you're shopping for a speaker to take outdoors or to fill a house or conference room, the Big Jambox is a worthwhile purchase.
Logitech UE Boombox
The Logitech UE Boombox's eight powerful internal drivers and timeless architecture score top marks for the first product bearing the company's collaborative moniker.
Its sculpted construction, logical simplicity, and booming sound earn this device a solid recommendation for music lovers shopping for an audio solution to use in and out of the home.
Need power for your phone or iPad? The JBL Charge is just the ticket -- its built-in rechargeable battery is specifically designed to juice up your portable devices via USB, even while they're streaming music. It's a nice compromise for those who want a better-sounding portable wireless speaker but don't want to make the jump -- both in terms of size and price -- to something like the Jawbone Big Jambox or Bose SoundLink.
The JBL Flip's decent performance and attractive design make it a worthy Bluetooth speaker contender at $100.
The JBL Flip sounds as good as anything at its price point, and in some cases, slightly better with stronger bass performance. In the end, while the Flip doesn't necessarily stand head and shoulders above the rest of its competitors, it does stand tall and distinguishes itself enough to make it easily recommendable.
Bonus: Best Bluetooth speaker under $50
Philips SoundShooter Wireless
The Philips SoundShooter Wireless has a sharp design and is one of the better-sounding sub-$50 tiny Bluetooth speakers -- and it has speakerphone capabilities to boot.
I'd like to see it at $39.99, but the Philips SoundShooter has an eye-catching design, delivers decent sound for its grenade-like size (it can fill a small room), and has a built-in rechargeable battery that gives you about 8 hours of sound so long as you don't crank the volume the whole time.
This story was updated on April 12, 2013, with updated picks and a new video.