Most Popular Bluetooth Speakers
Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 - Reviews, Prices, Specs and Alternatives
Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3
Speakers range from not being able to handle even a drop of water to being able to be fully submerged in water for several minutes. Do you plan to take your speaker outside? To the beach? To the pool? In the shower? Then you definitely need to verify the level of water resistance before purchasing. You can tell the water resistance by the IP rating—the higher the rating, the more resistant the speaker is to the elements. For reference, the first digit refers to dust protection and the second digit refers to water protection. It reads as: IP68. Anything higher than IP66 will be dust- and splash-proof, meaning it can handle some contact with water, but cannot be fully submerged or soaked.
Bluetooth speakers can be durable, rugged, shockproof, dustproof, armored, splash-proof, water resistant and waterproof - all of which can be overwhelming and confusing. In order for a speaker to be considered “rugged design,” it needs to be built with materials to withstand tough use, including many of the above designations. Some other features to look for are a rubber casing that absorbs the shock of drops, scratchproof material that won’t scuff, and secured interior components that won’t shatter even when the speaker gets a little beat up. If you plan to use your speaker outside, while hiking, biking or climbing, or on a beach/near water, rugged design will help the speaker last longer and stay intact.Hide
Dust is a difficult element to combat, since it accumulates naturally and you have very little control over its ability to clog up your speaker. Dust and electronics just don’t get along very well. A dustproof speaker would last much longer than its counterparts, simply because the internal components would not deteriorate as quickly.Hide
Battery life for Bluetooth speakers is measured in milliampere hours (mAh). Manufacturers will report the battery life of a speaker in the average number of hours it takes to empty from a full charge. Keep in mind this number is based on medium levels of usage. If you play the speaker on full volume, it will drain the battery faster. Some specialty features like using the speaker to charge your phone or casting an LED light show will also drain the battery faster. The manufacturer reported number is just an estimate, and may be slightly different based on your usage.
It’s also important to consider is the type of battery. Rechargeable lithium-ion (LI-ion) batters are ideal, but some speakers only take standard or rechargeable AA/AAA/C/D batteries. You may even find Bluetooth speakers that recharge via solar power—great for outdoor use!
This refers to the speaker’s ability to act as a charging station for your device. In addition to input power (which charges the speaker), some speakers also come with output power, meaning it can charge your device while you’re using it. You can plug your phone into the speaker via USB to charge it. This does drain the speaker’s battery about 50% quicker, but will save your device from dying in a pinch. If you’re using your phone to play music, this can be a life (and battery!) saver!Hide
A speaker’s sound system is described as either mono or stereo. Mono speakers play audio from a single channel, giving the impression that the sound is coming from one direction. Stereo uses two or more independent audio channels, creating the illusion that sounds are coming from different directions. Musica is typically recorded with stereo playback in mind. As speaker technology becomes more sophisticated and more efficient to build, mono is becoming less prominent, as stereo is a more realistic replication of sound and the preferred style. However, you may still find mono sound systems in budget wireless speakers, especially ones that are designed to be small and compact in size.Hide
To understand the inner-workings of a Bluetooth speaker, look first at the number and type of drivers. Drivers are the cones or horn-shaped objects inside the speaker box. The number of drivers tells you how many and what kinds of speakers make up your device. They come in three types: tweeters, midranges (sometimes called mids), and woofers. Tweeters produce high frequency sounds, while woofers produce low frequency sounds, i.e. bass. In general, the more drivers your Bluetooth speaker has, the better it will be at accurately reproducing sound. More drivers also means sound quality won’t suffer at the expense of higher volumes, since the sound is split up amongst focused components.Hide
Having a separate speaker driver dedicated to the lower frequency tones gives your speaker a more robust, rounded out sound. It allows the other drivers to focus on the sounds that they’re best equipped to handle, such as tweeters focusing on high pitch sounds. For the best reproduction of sound, a subwoofer is a must.Hide
Use the speaker breakdown to better understand sound quality based on the makeup of the speaker. Manufacturers will often report additional details on the speaker drivers, such as the shape (cone or dome), material (silk, aluminum, etc.), size, and whether the radiator/subwoofer is passive or active. Here’s what you need to know:
Tweeters: The shape and material of the tweeter changes the type of sound you hear. (For tweeters, size isn’t very important.) Metal tweeters (for example, aluminum) are known for loud, crisp sounds, whereas textiles and soft materials (e.g. silk) produce softer, more natural sounds. As for shape, cone tweeters are the most common, but dome tweeters are preferred. This is because dome tweeters are better at projecting audio and dispersing across a larger area.
Passive/Active Subwoofers: The difference between a passive and active subwoofer isn’t hugely important to Bluetooth speakers, since nearly every Bluetooth speaker has a passive subwoofer, but it’s still important to understand the terminology. An active subwoofer has a built-in amplifier that powers the driver. Passive subwoofers do not. In other types of speakers, such as bookshelf speakers or home theater speakers, this would mean that you would need to purchase a separate amplifier to power your speakers. For Bluetooth speakers, this simply means that there is not a dedicated amp for the subwoofer and that is shares its power with the rest of the components of the speaker. If you do happen to find a Bluetooth speaker with an active subwoofer, this would basically mean that the speaker has a built-in dedicated amp for the subwoofer, allowing it to focus on one action—the bass.
Size: As mentioned, tweeter size is not usually that big of a deal in Bluetooth speakers. The size of other drivers—measured in the diameter of the driver—can be important, if it is reported by the manufacturer. Generally, a bigger sized subwoofer means louder bass. So, if you like powerful bass, that could be a rule of thumb to follow.
Also known as “power handling,” a speaker’s total output power is recorded in wattage. A watt is a measure of electrical power. Thus, higher output means more powerful (or louder) speakers. When determining how loud your speaker needs to be, remember to think about the size of the room/environment/area you will be in. If you need something that plays over background noise, such as a party or a beach, you’ll need more wattage. If you only plan to use it in your living room, bathroom, or shower for casual listening, output power may not be a huge concern for you.Hide
Measured in Hertz (Hz), frequency response range describes how high and low a speaker can play. The larger the range, the better the speaker will be at reproducing the audio being played. As a frame of reference, the human ear can hear 20Hz to 20,000Hz (shortened to 20kHz). Any speaker 50Hz or lower (for the first value) is considered good and won’t need any additional bass—unless you like A LOT of bass, in which case you might want to consider getting an additional subwoofer. A good speaker covers as much of the range of the human ear as possible.
When you’re looking at different frequency response ranges for speakers, take note of the +/- values after, such as +/- 3dB. Since there’s no industry standard for frequency response measurement, speakers with this note are generally more accurate than those that do not have it.Hide
If you plan on using your speaker to make and take calls, it needs to come equipped with a built-in microphone and speakerphone. To make a call, you can use voice-activated dialing or key in the number on your mobile device, and if it’s connected to your Bluetooth speaker, you’ll be able to have the full conversation through it. Generally, to answer an incoming call, you’ll need to press a button on the speaker.
A common complaint of calls on Bluetooth speakers is the quality of the microphone. People on the other end often describe the sound as distant, like it was coming from down a long hallway. Still, it’s a convenient feature to have if you’re listening to music while doing something else, such as cooking, or while working on your computer, so that you can easily handle calls.Hide
In most cases, your Bluetooth speaker will connect to one device at a time and your device will connect to one Bluetooth speaker at a time. Some speakers come equipped with a feature that allows you to connect multiple devices to the speaker. Whichever device is playing music is the one that maintains the connection with the speaker. If you can only connect to one device at a time, and you want to switch from listening to music on your phone to listening on your computer, you have to disconnect your phone, then search and pair your speaker to your computer. It can be tedious. If you plan on using your speaker with multiple different devices (phones, tablets, computers, etc.), it may be worthwhile to have this feature.
As well, if you want to listen to music from your computer and you receive a phone call, and your speaker comes with hands-free calling, you can use it like a speakerphone and continue listening to music after your call is done without having to switch devices. Ultimately, it comes to convenience.Hide
While Bluetooth is a quick and easy way to connect your device to a speaker, at times you may want to use a hardwired connection instead. You would do this through a 3.5mm headphone or auxiliary jack. Connecting via aux cable tends to produce a stronger, higher quality sound than Bluetooth without the issues of signal interruptions—the downside being that your device and the speaker must stay in the same spot. At the same time, using a hardwired connection saves the battery on both your phone and your speaker, so there may be times when this is a great feature to have.Hide
Apart from the controls on the speaker itself, some Bluetooth speakers may come with a remote to turn the speaker on or off, activate Bluetooth scanning, turn volume up or down, or respond to calls.
In addition to a remote, the brand may also have an app that syncs with your speaker. Common features of an app include audio streaming (such as Spotify or Pandora) and controls for multiple speakers (such as playing the same thing on multiple speakers or playing different things on different speakers from one device).Hide
Generally speaking, Bluetooth speakers aren’t usually meant to connect to other Bluetooth speakers unless they come equipped with a hub or transmitter. In those situations, your device connects to the hub or transmitter, which then sends the signal out to the speakers to play sound. If you do not have this setup, and you simply want to connect Bluetooth speakers to create multi-directional sound, you’ll have to select a Bluetooth speaker than supports multiple connections, i.e., the speaker can connect to another speaker while also staying connected to your device. Although this feature is commonplace for Wi-Fi, AirPlay, or other app-enabled speakers, it’s found less often in strictly Bluetooth speakers. This is most likely because connecting too many speakers crowds the Bluetooth signal, causing delays in the audio and reducing the quality of sound.
Connecting multiple speakers is especially helpful when you need to fill a large area with sound, such as a big room or a backyard. If you plan to use a speaker in these situations, you may find yourself wanting the ability to connect multiple speakers. Some brands will allow music playback from multiple speakers within the same brand family (e.g. JBL, via the JBL connect app). On the other hand, it may be more financially efficient to purchase one extra powerful speaker rather than investing in two smaller speakers with this unique feature.Hide
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a new technology that allows you to connect devices by simple tapping them together. To use it, your device (phone, tablet, computer, etc.) and your speaker must have NFC capabilities. All you would have to do is activate NFC and tap your phone near your speaker to connect the Bluetooth.
People have been slow to adopt this method. You may have heard about it in reference to sharing media between phones, such as sending your friend a picture by tapping your phone to theirs. While it’s a neat feature, it’s probably a “nice-to-have” but not a “need-to-have.”Hide
AirPlay is a feature for Apple products that offers another way to connect your devices to Bluetooth speakers. The speaker must come equipped with AirPlay in order for you to connect your Apple device (iPhone, tablet, laptop, etc.) to it. It works by pushing music to your speaker once you’ve connected it to a wireless network. However, it’s restricted to Apple products and Wi-Fi-enabled speakers, so it may not be a great feature for every user.Hide