BEST Travel Speakers
Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i
Granted, this heavyweight hunk of sonic splendour isn’t something you’ll travel abroad with – unless you’re on a road trip – but the optional battery pack does make it portable to a degree and perfect for moving around the home, be it indoors or out in the garden.
The handsome looking Pulse Flex 2i is a shade over seven inches tall and five inches wide but it punches way above its weight with a captivatingly crisp, punchy, detailed sound that is very easy on the ears. It also spreads its aural tentacles far and wide, giving the impression you’re listening to a much larger system. If you purchase two units, it’ll produce a proper stereo soundstage.
The Pulse Flex 2i is very well endowed on the connectivity front, too: using the free BluOS Controller app, simply link it to your wi-fi network for fuss-free wireless streaming in any room. The same app provides access to your favourite music services. We mostly used it with Spotify and the excellent hi-res audio portal Tidal, but it will also work with practically every other streaming service on the planet.
If you’re looking for a very decent stand-alone wireless speaker system capable of delivering a full-bodied multi-room experience, then step right this way.
Creative iRoar Go
Blimey, Creative is really on a roll right now. The pocket-sized Muvo 2c has already blown us away with its sound quality, deep bass and excellent list of features. Well here’s a bigger stablemate that impresses us possibly even more. The Bluetooth-equipped iRoar Go’s nearest competitor is probably the slightly smaller Bose Soundlink Mini. But you know what, we think this one is a mite better. It certainly has more features and it’s splash proof, to boot.
Let’s start with the sound. There’s a button on top marked ‘Roar’. We advise you select it because, unlike most spatial settings which sound fake, this one turns a decent enough sounding speaker into a deep, bottom-bellied stonker. Really, the ordinary mode sounds a trifle thin while the Roar mode makes everything sing without sounding like it’s been put through a zillion effects. Bass is plentiful, treble is crisp and clear without ever sounding harsh and it goes loud enough to easily fill a large room. We tried it outdoors and couldn’t believe such a big, bold sound could come from something so small.
We love the extra features, too. Like the Muvo 2c, this one also comes with a slot for a MicroSD card. Put your favourite tunes on the card (MP3 or FLAC), slap it in and you’ll have hundreds if not thousands of songs at your fingertips without the need of a phone. You can even track skip and play songs randomly. Naturally, this speaker is Bluetooth equipped, too, should you prefer to stream your favourite Spotify playlist from a phone of tablet. You can even use it as a public address system and select tracks using the compatible Creative Sound Blaster Connect app.
In the pantheon of travel speakers, this one nails all the criteria: it’s small and light enough for hand baggage (it measures just 54 x 192 x 97mm); it punches way beyond its weight; it comes with a plethora of features and it’s very, very reasonably priced. A Best Buy is assured.
As we’re such huge fans of Soundmatters’ range of diminutive audiophile travel speakers, we just had to get our hands on the US company’s latest addition. And here it is, all 12cm of it. The new Moment is about 12mm shorter than an iPhone 6, 5mm narrower and about 10mm deeper. Let’s just say it’s small enough to tuck into a shirt pocket and take up absolutely no room in a shoulder travel bag. The Bluetooth-only Moment features a carbon-poly acoustic driver and a carbon fibre-infused body and, like its brethren, the superb FoxL and the lower-profile DASH 7, it feels weighty and substantially engineered throughout. An extra bonus comes in the form of a magnetic back so you can stick it to the fridge while whipping up a meal.
Like its aforementioned stablemates, the Moment is optimised for near-field listening. That means it’s best when positioned in front of the listener about one to five feet away. Of course, its soundstage can quite easily fill a room but just don’t expect a ton of bottom end clout because that would be asking for the impossible. That said, this little thing still kicks out a decent level of bass; it's just more pure sounding and less, well, bassy. In fact, when you hear this little speaker for the very first time, your initial response might well be: ‘ooh, that’s a bit thin sounding’.
However, that opinion changes after about 15 minutes of listening to it. Really, once you’ve acclimatised to the smaller sonic stature, you’ll come to really appreciate the Moment's amazing clarity, exceptional tightness and uncoloured tonal range. Acoustic-based and sparsely produced music are this speaker’s best friends. It sings with jazz, folk, country, classical and even subtle electronica like ChillOut. Vocals, too, sound exceptionally lifelike, almost as if the singer’s in the room with you. We tried it out with I Am Kloot’s ‘Sky at Night’ album and it sounded captivating. In fact, the more we played this little speaker, the more addictive it became.
The Moment goes loud, too, and with no evidence of distortion. And because it's quite heavy for its size and its back is rubberised – and magnetised – the bass response increases if placed on resonant surfaces – occasionally to the detriment of the sound but most times enhancing it. Experimentation is the order of the day.
Soundmatters also provides an optional magnetic 'Energizer' charging stand ($49) and we highly recommend adding it to the shopping list (there’s a $30 discount if both items are purchased at the same time). Not only does the stand angle the speaker towards the listener but it somehow adds a little bit more bottom end and a slightly fuller sound. It also prevents desk stuff from rattling about, which can happen if you place the Moment flat on a cluttered desk and wind up the volume. Expect up to seven hours of battery-powered playback on a single three-hour charge.
If you’re in the market for a really small, high-end Bluetooth travel speaker – or just something to accompany your laptop – then we implore you to put this sonic pocket marvel at the top of your shopping list. It’s just so small, portable and easy on the ear. Really, if Bilbo Baggins were an audiophile, this is what he’d choose as his main hi-fi system.
Creative Muvo 2c
For size and price, this palm-sized water-resistant Bluetooth travel mate punches way above its weight. In fact we’d go so far as to say it’s the best value travel speaker we’ve ever heard, and for several reasons. Firstly it sounds surprisingly excellent for the price: treble and mid-range frequencies are spot on and as for the bass… Blimey, this thing kicks out some oomph. Audiophiles will say its huge bass response isn’t natural but truth is you want some decent bottom end in a tiny speaker and this thing is awesome in that respect.
However, that’s just the half of it because, despite its excellent soundstage, diminutive size, low price, robust construction, resistance to water and smart looks, the Muvo 2c also comes with some unique, indeed ingenious, extras. What’s the single biggest hassle with Bluetooth speakers? You need a phone or iPod to hear anything, and one with plenty of hard disc space to accommodate your tunes. Not with this little beauty you don’t because it has, cue drum roll, a built-in audio player that accepts FLAC, WAV, WMA and MP3 formats. Simply load your favourite songs onto a MicroSD card, pop the card into the Muvo’s sealed side port, tap the required rubber button until the LED lamp glows yellow and, voila, all your top songs are played with no need for any other device. It even offers a track-skip function. No Bluetooth connecting, no having to have the phone within range, no extra hard drive space needed and no phone battery depletion. Why aren’t all portable speakers built this way?
There’s more. You can also link two of these speakers together for a wider soundstage, plug it into your laptop via USB and make personal adjustments to its EQ using the Sound Blaster Control Panel, and take calls while you’re lounging in the pool. Expect around six hours of playback on a single charge. Frankly, we’re gobsmacked by this speaker’s sound quality and plethora of features, and all for a shade under £40. Now that’s what we call exceptional value.
Acoustic Energy AEGO BT2
The new BT2 occupies the same large but portable ‘sound brick’ arena as the Riva Turbo X and the slightly smaller B&W T7 and Creative iRoar Go. These are single-unit speakers that, while ultimately too large to take on a flight, are perfect for home and garden use or any holiday trip by car. This one measures 140 x 200 x 100mm.
The home-grown BT2 is superbly crafted from aluminium and it’s so weighty it’s actually quite difficult to get out of the box. This is a good thing because mass equals quality and this speaker screams quality, from the clean aesthetics of its gorgeous aluminium housing to the simple rubberised four-button control panel on top.
If you really want to impress your barbecue guests, take this silver brick into the garden, log on to its low latency Bluetooth 4.2 apt-X system and start the party. The sound quality is hugely impressive, its stereo 2.5-inch drivers and twin bass radiators producing crisp highs and oodles of low-end grunt that perfectly compliment any style of well-produced music.
Given that its output is 40 watts RMS, you can rest assured that it’ll go plenty loud enough to disturb most of the neighbourhood. Amazingly, it’ll also go on thumping for up to an industry-leading 36 hours on a single charge. The built-in USB device charger and microphone for hand-free phoning can be considered a bonus. If you’re in the market for a premium portable Bluetooth speaker that looks fantastic and delivers in spades then give this one a whirl. It's arguably the best sounding portable on this page.
Riva Turbo X
This excellent Bluetooth speaker turned out to be heavier (1.36kgs) and larger than expected so it’s not something you’d pack in your hand luggage for a weekend city break. However, it’s certainly worth taking on a long haul trip, as long as you don’t mind it going into the hold with your main baggage. It goes without saying that the Riva Turbo X is especially well suited to home use, whether placed on a tabletop or sat on the grass in the garden while you absorb a couple of days of summer sun on a single charge of its ample battery. In fact, this speaker's battery has so much capacity it'll even charge your USB devices.
Although still quite large (it measures 230mm x 89mm x 105mm), the Turbo X punches way about its weight. Its top end is exquisitely hi-fi like and there’s oodles of bass coming from its three ADX 60mm proprietary drivers and four ADX custom dual-piston bass radiators. In fact this hugely powerful 45-watt speaker pumps out more bottom end than anything else on this page so consider it if you like your music loud and beefy. And by loud we mean LOUD! If you're after a premium portable speaker for home or occasional travel use then this superb model is undeniably your best bet.
Bowers & Wilkins T7 Wireless
B&W is one of the UK’s most highly respected loudspeaker manufacturers and this is their smallest product. As with the Riva Turbo, we think the T7 is a mite too big to take along for a city break but just about small and light enough for a two- or three-week long-haul stint or a trip in the car.
As you’d expect from a brand like B&W, the T7 is arguably the most hi-fi like speaker in this roundup (the little Foxl and Moment notwithstanding). You could listen to this speaker for hours without ever thinking it’s too bright, too middy or too bassy. Every element of its soundstage is spot on, bass response is tight and extremely tuneful and it goes loud, too, without ever breaking into a sweat.
Our only issue is the blinged-up design of the gold-coloured model we received – it looks a bit tacky and Dubai-like, if you get our meaning (the black version looks far less flashy). If you can accept the overall design then we guarantee you won’t be disappointed by the sound quality because this speaker excels on all fronts and is an absolute joy to listen to. Warmly recommended.
We’ve been waiting for a prestigious speaker manufacturer like KEF to wade into the Bluetooth travel speaker arena and here it is, a chunky, beautifully designed heavyweight contender to take on the likes of Bose’s little Soundlink Mini. The Muo uses a combination of KEF’s popular Uni-Q ‘point source’ driver and a punchy bass radiator coupled with a top-notch digital-to-analogue converter to produce an uncluttered soundstage of exceptional hi-fi quality. The highs sing, the mid range is beautifully balanced and the bass kicks like an ass on steroids.
The system uses Bluetooth aptX technology for added breadth of frequency and poise. The Muo is quite a bit bigger than the Bose Soundlink Mini and much heavier so it’s not a speaker to take along on a weekend fly-away jaunt. But by jingo, it sounds so good, looks so gorgeous, is so well built and feels so smooth in the hand that we wouldn't hesitate in recommending it. A top choice for discerning ears.
Bose has produced a superbly made and reassuringly weighty product that meets all the criteria required of a high quality travel loudspeaker. The Bluetooth-equipped, aluminium-clad Soundlink Mini adopts an elegant, minimalist design approach and impresses the listener with a level of sonic excellence that truly belies its petite 7” x 2.5” dimensions. This very musical speaker develops oodles of rich bottom end, a remarkably silky treble and pleasant midrange without ever breaking into a sweat. It tackles even the most complex recordings with aplomb and its ample soundstage fills a room superbly well. True, the battery only provides around seven hours play time, but that’s more than enough for most situations.
The Bose Soundlink Mini competes very well against the excellent little FoxL (reviewed below). It’s not quite as neutral sounding or as hi-fi-like as the FoxL, but in many ways it’s a more rounded, richer and bigger-sounding speaker. And yet it’s just as portable. Bose equipment rarely fails to impress but their products always seem so overpriced. This one bucks the trend by being both sonically spot on and exceedingly good value for money.
Bose Soundlink Mini
ADX Pulse 4
Need a bit of extra beef on your travels? Try this extremely competent aluminium-clad boogie box from ADX. It’s not in the same sonic league as the Bose Soundlink Mini or KEF Muo but then it is a lot, lot cheaper. The Pulse 4 sports a 2x14watt amp and a pair of 50mm Kevlar drivers capable of blowing the tent away. While not as refined sounding as the KEF or Bose, we’re still mightily impressed by this speaker’s oomphy bottom end and crisp, clear treble.
It’s a handsome looking devil too – we especially like the way you can see the two side-mounted drivers working. Like the KEF, the Pulse 4 is a little too large to pack for a weekend away (190 x 86 x 75mm) but we wouldn’t hesitate taking it on a long hauler. The Pulse 4 comes with Bluetooth Version 4.0, NFC pairing and aptX for high-quality streaming. What’s more, it’ll go on playing for a substantial 20 hours on a full charge. Great value kit.
For our money the bods at House of Marley are currently producing some of the best looking travel speakers on the market. The new Chant Mini is a prime example. This baseball-sized Bluetooth speaker comes dressed in Marley’s proprietary REWIND fabric (30% hemp, 30% organic cotton and 40% recycled plastic bottles) and an attractive bamboo crown. It is a genuinely fine looking speaker which, we’re pleased to say, sounds remarkably good too. It has decent bass response and a top end that isn’t shrill or harsh like other similarly sized travellers.
Yes, it struggles a bit with complex productions, but then that’s often the case with smaller models. Where this speaker really shines is with simple, clear productions at medium volume levels. The Chant Mini is unquestionably one of the better sounding budget speakers we’ve tested and for that reason we recommend it wholeheartedly. The Chant Mini is available in three colour variants: Hemp, Navy and Black. Irie.
House of Marley Chant Mini
Grace Digital EcoRox Speaker
Grace Digital's chunky, rubberised waterproof Bluetooth speaker doesn’t just pack exceptional sonic punch, it also floats on water so you can remain in earshot of the groove while splashing about. The EcoRox connects to any Bluetooth device and even serves as a hands-free speaker should your strokes be interrupted by a phone call. As with most Blutooth devices, you can easily skip tracks and adjust the volume without leaving the water. Right now we can’t think of a better sounding waterside speaker for the money. Oh yes we can! It's the little Creative Muvo 2c, above.
Soundmatters' diminutive FoxL produces a quality of sound that defies belief. The exemplary build smacks of NASA-like quality which is hardly surprising given that it was developed by a former NASA engineer. The FoxL system is based around a pair of high-quality acoustic ‘twoofers’ capable of reproducing extreme high and low frequencies so that music not only sings with a level of clarity and colour that is both appealing and very easy on the ears, it also produces a bottom end that truly impresses. In fact, the bass is so potent it can make the little speaker dance across a polished table; which is why it’s supplied with a little sticky mat to keep it in place.
Device Squad tested the FoxL with a variety of musical genres and even the most complex recordings sounded tight, beefy, uncluttered and extremely well rounded. If you put your head up close to it you’ll be amazed at how beautifully balanced the soundstage is – kind of like a top quality hi-fi, only more gnome like. It even sounds good from behind. Its vocal reproduction, too, is second to none for a speaker of this size. At one stage we used it while editing a video on Final Cut and couldn’t believe how realistically it reproduced spoken dialogue.
The FoxL is just 5.6-inches wide and 2.2-inches tall and is available in three variants. The basic model uses a simple plug-and-play interface and will keep dishing out the beat for up to 12 hours on a single charge. A Bluetooth version with the same battery specs lets you play music via any Bluetooth-equipped mobile device and also serves as an excellent hands-free speaker device. But for our money, the top-of-the-range Bluetooth-enabled Platinum Edition is the one to go for simply because its battery lasts for a whopping 20 hours on a single charge. This model also comes with a top-quality Audio Quest jack-to-jack audio cable for those discerning audiophiles who want the very best sound possible. Warmly recommended.
Soundmatters FoxLV2 Platinum
Cambridge Audio has been producing quality hi-fi components for over 45 years so the company knows a thing or two about audio. Its latest Bluetooth travel speaker is comprised of two sweet-sounding titanium tweeters, a pair of two-inch woofers and a beefy bass radiator that delivers oodles of bottom-end clout. It’s not quite as refined as the smaller Soundlink Mini or FoxL – there’s a little muddiness around some of the lower frequencies – but it reproduces vocals exceptionally well and makes all but the most complex recordings sound big and fruity. Furthermore, it also comes with a USB port for charging other devices.
Cambridge Audio Go
This rugged, silicone-protected, palm-sized travel speaker is just the ticket for a day on the sand. Dust resistant and submersible to a depth of one metre, the Q-PUK features NFC for fast Bluetooth pairing and automatic pause for hands-free conversation. The Q-PUK produces a surprisingly rich, silky sound that goes on playing for up to eight hours on a single USB charge.
Soundmatters’ new Bluetooth-equipped Foxl DASH 7 travel speaker is designed almost specifically for the business traveller. Its svelte dimensions and very low weight make it ideal for slipping into a briefcase or suit pocket, while its low profile (just ¾ of an inch tall) means it won’t obscure the screen when placed in front of a laptop or tablet. It shares many of the same features as the marginally larger FoxL (reviewed below), including hands-free conferencing via the unit’s built-in noise-cancelling microphone and Soundmatters’ unique, patented ‘Bass-Battery’.
Like its physics-defying stablemate, the DASH 7 also produces a level of sonic oomph that far exceeds its diminutive dimensions, though we do think we prefer the more refined sound of the slightly bigger FoxL which, unsurprisingly, delivers more bottom-end clout. Nevertheless, given the slimness of its profile, the DASH 7 still punches above its weight.
Soundmatters FoxL DASH 7
Introduce this small brick-sized, mains-driven subwoofer to Soundmatter’s FoxL (reviewed above) and it’ll be a match made in Heaven. The FoxL, as we’ve discovered, sounds pretty incredible on its own, but bring this equally transportable sub to the party and suddenly you have a high fidelity system loud, big and deep enough to shiver the timbers. Honestly, walk into a room while these two little marvels are on and you’ll hunt high and low for the source of the music, not believing your eyes when they finally alight on two titchy boxes.
The FoxLo also works miracles with the same company’s new DASH 7 speaker, though you have to remember it’s mains-powered only so not something you can use away from a power source. One last word… The FoxLo is a sensitive little beast, so adjust the volume slider carefully or it’ll make a loud, unpleasant popping sound during musical peaks. But set it up right and the result is simply astonishing. It works well with other speakers, too, most notably the Jambox system.
Shaped like a house brick and covered in a wonderfully tactile rubberised coating, this Bluetooth-equipped speaker is an ideal companion for budget-conscious travellers who appreciate good sound quality without the faff of cables. The superbly built Divoom Onbeat-200 is quite a bit bigger than our reference speaker, the FoxL, but still easily small enough to pack into a beach bag.
True, the sound is a mite too bright for our ears, the midrange and bottom end lack some detail and there’s a little boxiness to the overall ambience, but in the main it sounds extremely good for a speaker at this price. Furthermore, its Bluetooth works seamlessly, the simple controls are a doddle to use and it’ll go on punching out the beat for up to eight hours on a single charge.
Geneva Model XS Wireless DAB+
A luxurious wake-up device for the Aston Martin set, this wireless Bluetooth system syncs seamlessly and then goes on to impress with its deep, rich, classy sound. Even the old-fashioned clam-style case feels a million squid. And that's before you've discovered it also comes with an alarm clock and DAB radio. The Geneva Model XS is just the right size for a small bedside table, which means it's likely to be something you'd use every day and not just take on holiday.
Wowee One Pro
The Bluetooth-enabled Wowee One Pro uses a deep, vibrating woofery speaker of sorts and some clever gel technology to turn a flat surface into a sound resonator. Position this box of tricks on the right type of surface and the bass output increases substantially. Don’t wind it up too loud, mind, or the top end will distort. Device Squad tried the Wowee One Pro on several surfaces, including the deck of a yacht. It performed best on glass and, though completely impractical, right in the centre of a bath. Without the water. Natch.
Monster’s Bluetooth micro speaker is often pitched against the FoxL and we can see why: both systems are at the pinnacle of small speaker design. The Monster Clarity HD Micro is a very attractive thing indeed. It also comes with an excellent Bluetooth system that lets you know you’re connected by means of a human voice that suggests there’s a little man inside pressing all the buttons.
In terms of sound quality, various members of the Device Squad were torn between this speaker and the Soundmatters FoxL. Both speakers excel at reproducing music as best as is possible given their modest dimensions. But overall consensus eventually erred towards the FoxL which produced a more balanced and tighter sound. Nevertheless, this fine speaker gives it a very good run for its money.
Monster Clarity HD Micro
For something so incredibly titchy, this natty squash ball-sized mono speaker (just 48mm x 40mm) provides a surprisingly decent sound. It goes acceptably loud without too much distortion and the sound quality, while small in stature, is many times better than any laptop or smartphone speaker. It uses clutter-free Bluetooth connectivity and runs for around five hours on a single USB charge. What’s more, it’s as cheap as chips.