Bluetooth speakers are a good choice for beach lovers and city bike lovers, but there are many speakers outside of these two markets. Whether you want to add something to your dorm, a new home, or an old car with a broken audio system, there is a wireless speaker to meet your needs. In this guide to Bluetooth speakers, we will break down different use cases, important features, and technical terms.
1. What is a Bluetooth Speaker?
The Bluetooth speaker is just a wireless audio peripheral, and its main communication method is outdated, well, Bluetooth. Some Bluetooth speakers can be connected to a Wi-Fi system or through a wire, but the biggest attraction of this type of speaker is its portability.
2. What kind of Bluetooth speaker do you want?
Wireless speakers are a bit more complicated than you see. How you plan to use the speakers is the first step in deciding which speakers to buy. No matter what kind of speakers you buy, pay attention to their battery life. A good rule of thumb is that the larger the speaker, the longer the battery life. But this is not always correct. For example, updating more Bluetooth firmware versions will greatly affect energy efficiency. Compared to a medium-sized Bluetooth 5.1 speaker, a large Bluetooth 4.0 speaker may not last as long as you expect.
1) Waterproof Bluetooth speakers
Technically speaking, no electronic product is completely waterproof. If the time and depth are sufficient, any speaker will fail, but some Bluetooth speakers are more durable than others. Durability is usually indicated by the official intrusion protection (IP) rating. IP ratings are important because they show you that the product in question has passed strict enough standards to guarantee formal dust or water resistance rating. The standard waterproof grade is IPX4, and any product with IPX7 or above can withstand different degrees of immersion. If the rating of the speaker is IP44, it is both dustproof and waterproof.
Waterproof speakers are usually best for outdoor use, but this is not always the case. Many of us like to sing while taking a shower. If this is the case, you must buy a product that has been properly treated. If you are an avid hiker, pool partyer, or beach lover, speakers of this variant should also be on your radar.
2) Portable Bluetooth speakers
Of course, any Bluetooth speaker is portable-this is the key-but some are more portable than others. One of our favorite portable Bluetooth speakers is JBL Clip 3, or anything from the JBL Clip series. This speaker has its own integrated lock, and many city cyclists will clip it around the bag when they get off work. You will find that many portable speakers also have a certain degree of water resistance because the company wants you to use them in unpredictable weather conditions.
The portable Bluetooth speaker can be a bit bigger, just like the cylindrical speaker of the UE BOOM line, which looks similar to the JBL Flip series. This gives you a nice middle-ground loud output, emphasizing bass notes, all in a travel-friendly package. Bluetooth speakers of this size are usually very useful in university dormitories or shared apartments. It is even a good choice to use in a car if your stereo system is splashing.
Portable Bluetooth speakers are a great balance between compact size and serviceable sound quality.
Suppose you don’t want to have the most compact speakers on the market. Portability still plays an important role in products such as Monster Solara. Monster Solara is an outdoor speaker with a built-in handle. If there is no handle, Solara will be a huge effort to lift or even move.
Usually, this kind of Bluetooth speaker is advertised as a smart speaker with a Bluetooth function. Smart Bluetooth speakers are usually only used at home, and you can choose not to connect headphones. Smart speakers are different from simpler Bluetooth speakers. They can be connected to your Wi-Fi network to achieve high-resolution audio playback. Wi-Fi-connected smart speakers provide better audio quality than standalone Bluetooth speakers because it supports lossless playback.
Smart Bluetooth speakers also tend to support hands-free access to specific smart assistants, whether it is Siri, Alexa, or Google assistant. This is useful when you are cooking or doing housework and need to ask or check the weather. Smart speakers are usually the most expensive in this series because it adds all the hardware and software. If you have a smart home, a smart speaker is a good choice, and it’s worth the money.
3) Party Bluetooth speakers
The owner of a backyard barbecue or pool party needs a Bluetooth speaker to power the party. Normally, this may mean that you have purchased multiple identical speakers and synchronized them to stereo or just amplified the output. Although you may never use this feature to its fullest, if you and a few friends have JBL speakers, then this is a good choice.
Whenever you buy a new technology product, in order to meet your needs, you should have a basic understanding of some specifications.
3. What is frequency response?
Frequency response specifications appear on the boxes of almost all audio products, from headphones to speakers, and even microphones. Most of the frequency response range is between 20Hz-20kHz because this range happens to be the upper and lower limits of human hearing sensitivity. The ability of speakers to replicate these frequencies does not ensure accuracy, because like headphones, speakers are tuned differently. Some speakers over-amplify the bass, and some speakers seem to lack bass at all.
In an objectively perfect audio world, all frequency responses appear as flat lines with zero deviation in the frequency range. However, we do not live in a perfect world, and physical limitations limit the speaker’s output. However, a technically inaccurate speaker is not born bad. For most listeners, the opposite is true, because many of us really like amplified bass and treble.
More high-quality speakers for the home include a dedicated woofer to handle the sub-bass.
When considering an independent speaker like today’s problem, you will usually notice some sub-bass attenuation. This means that very low tones will not sound as loud as they should be through their respective speakers. Independent speakers have this problem because relatively small and few drive units cannot push the air hard, fast, and with enough consistency to handle these sub-bass frequencies.
Many companies sell passive bass radiators, which are powered by air pressure in a container (speaker enclosure). This technology is a favorite among portable Bluetooth speaker manufacturers because it is an energy-saving and space-saving method of bass enhancement. Because passive radiators do not have their own dedicated power supply, their volume cannot be as loud as an independent woofer.
4. What is stereo?
You need to buy two Bluetooth speakers and place them far enough to experience stereo. Most music tracks are mixed stereo, which means that different parts of a song (for example, vocals, strings, percussion instruments) pass through the left or right channel. The ability to perceive the difference in hearing on the left and right constitutes stereo. Using a pair of headphones or earplugs is much easier than using a Bluetooth speaker.
You need more than one driver to work, which is hard to find in economical Bluetooth speakers. More importantly, the distance between drivers must be far enough so that your brain can perceive the difference in space. Even if a Bluetooth speaker has two drivers, the actual size of the speaker may be too small to produce true stereo sound.
To solve this problem, many companies provide you with the ability to connect multiple speakers for stereo playback. This means you have to download the company’s respective apps, but this may not appeal to everyone.
5. What is Bluetooth codec?
The Bluetooth codec determines how Bluetooth media is transmitted from the smartphone to the speaker. The high-quality Bluetooth codec supports higher streaming rates, resulting in better audio quality. Not all Bluetooth speakers support the same codec menu, but every Bluetooth speaker supports SBC. The SBC Bluetooth codec is the lowest common denominator of Bluetooth audio, but it has come a long way since its birth. It consumes no power, and almost all Bluetooth source devices are easy to encode.
If you have an Android smartphone, you should choose a speaker that supports aptX to get a high-quality Bluetooth streaming experience. Android does support AAC, but its performance varies from hardware to hardware. However, if iPhone users want to get high-quality Bluetooth audio, the only option is AAC.
6. Other Features You Should Consider?
In addition to technical specifications, you may also need to consider other useful features.
1) Adventurers should pay attention to the long life of the battery
Going out on weekends requires a speaker with longer battery life. Modern speakers usually provide at least 8 hours of playtime on a single charge, but even this is not enough to power your camp at night.
The battery life of a Bluetooth speaker depends on which type of speaker you are using. A good rule of thumb is: the bigger the speaker, the longer the battery life. But this is not always true; you must also take into account certain characteristics that may quickly consume energy. According to our tests, the humble JBL Clip 3 lasts longer than the larger JBL Pulse 3. Pulse 3 is a light show, and its battery must discharge enough energy to generate the air pressure that can move the passive radiator. On the other hand, Clip 3 only needs to worry about driving a 40mm drive. The workload of the two speakers is quite different.
2) In addition to Bluetooth, do you want to connect speakers in other ways?
Bluetooth speakers are all connected to the source device via Bluetooth, but this is not the only audio connection you have available. Some Bluetooth speakers still have an expensive headphone jack, so speakers can be connected to phones with wires. Wi-Fi is used by other smart speakers. The Bluetooth connection method is the best for traveling, as it has both advantages and disadvantages.
3) Are you going to answer the speaker’s call? Make sure you have a microphone
A spokesperson is not the best way to participate in a conference call, but if you have an emergency, it is good to have this option. But surprisingly, only a few Bluetooth speakers are equipped with a microphone system.
4) Software features can add a lot of value to your wireless speakers
Like wireless headsets, a mobile companion application usually supports the function settings of wireless speakers. Most well-known manufacturers have a free mobile app that allows you to update the firmware, which allows you to get advanced features, EQ sound, and connect speakers to other speakers. Some apps have a “find my speaker” function, which can help you determine where the speaker was last used, or make a loud “beep” to notify you if the speaker is nearby.
5) But mobile apps may collect data from you
All of these features are good, some may even be mandatory features you need, but all of them come at a price. If a speaker contains a free application, then this application is likely to collect data from you and send it to a third party. To some extent, most companies seem to like to collect data, but not every company wants to catch you. Some companies really want to use this data to improve their services and products. However, it is important to read the terms of service. If you are using an iPhone, at least investigate privacy leaks such as nutrition labels attached to each App Store application.
This is not to scare you: almost every company allows you to control your data by opting out. In the worst case, the company aggregates all the information, but it is separated from you, the individual. When it comes to deleting data, anyone living in the European Union has a higher chance of success than Americans.