What to Look for in a Budget Bluetooth Speaker in 2022
One of the first factors you’ll want to consider when looking for a Bluetooth speaker, regardless of price, is size and form factor. If you’re using the speaker instead of a home stereo, you’ll probably want a larger model than if you’re looking for a portable speaker to take to the park.
While almost any Bluetooth speaker will be more robust than a piece of home audio equipment, not all are created equal. If you intend to use the speaker outdoors, you’ll want a model that’s at least somewhat waterproof. The IP67 or IPX4 rating is perfect for occasional use.
That said, if you’ll be using the speaker outdoors more often, you may want to look for an even higher IP rating such as IPX7. It’s important to note that these ratings aren’t always reliable, but with reputable brands, you can assume that the rating you see is at least comparable to the performance you can expect.
Battery life is another important consideration for any Bluetooth speaker, big or small, expensive or affordable. If you use the speaker mostly on at home, a few hours is all you need. However, if you’re taking the speaker with you on long trips, you’ll want as much battery life as you can get.
While the above considerations are what you’ll want to address first, there are a few other factors to keep in mind. The Bluetooth version isn’t that important unless it’s terribly outdated, but most modern Bluetooth speakers ship with at least Bluetooth 5.0. Although Bluetooth 5.2 brings some improvements, many speakers do not yet use them.
You might also want to keep in mind the codecs the speaker is using if you want the best sound quality. Your phone may use a different codec than the speaker supports, at which point you’re relying on the most basic codecs, which won’t sound as good as pairing them.
Finally, take a look at the other speaker features you’re interested in, as they may help you make your final decision. Do you prefer a Bluetooth speaker with an integrated color LED light or one with a backpack clip? These little features can end up making a big difference in how you use a particular speaker.
Now, let’s get into the best budget Bluetooth speakers for your needs.
Best budget Bluetooth speaker overall: DOSS SoundBox Touch
- ✓ Capacitive touch is easy to use
- ✓ True stereo sound in an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker
- ✓ IPX4 waterproof
- ✓ Available in many colors
- ✗ Bluetooth 4.0 means a range of just 33 feet
Whether you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for in a Bluetooth speaker or just want a great quick recommendation, the DOSS SoundBox Touch is a speaker to check out. It’s affordable, packed with features and sounds great.
Unlike some Bluetooth speakers, the SoundBox Touch is fully stereo, pumping out 12 watts per channel. This means you don’t have to worry about certain songs sounding weird on the speaker compared to when you listen to them with headphones.
If you’re wondering about the word “touch” in the name, it’s all about the speaker controls. Instead of tactile buttons, these are capacitive touch buttons, which means you don’t have to press them with any force. With built-in controls, you can skip tracks, change modes, and pause and resume playback.
Despite its low price, the DOSS SoundBox Touch is not cheaply made. The housing is made of durable plastic, and the entire speaker is IPX4 waterproof. You can’t submerge this speaker, but you don’t have to worry about the occasional splash.
As with all Bluetooth speakers, battery life depends on how loud you listen. On the Amazon page for the DOSS SoundBox Touch, the company says you can get up to 20 hours of playback if you keep the volume at 50 percent or lower.
Unlike some other Bluetooth speakers, the DOSS SoundBox Touch also has a built-in microphone. This means that when you’re listening to music and your phone rings, you can pick up the call with the push of a button. Not everyone needs this feature, but if you’re a speakerphone fan, it’s certainly useful.
The best budget Bluetooth speaker
DOSS Soundbox Touch
If you’re just looking for an easy recommendation, it’s hard to beat the DOSS SoundBox Touch. It sounds great, has good battery life and is tough enough to handle every day.
Best cheap portable Bluetooth speaker: JBL Clip 3
- ✓ The built-in carabiner clip is always useful
- ✓ IPX7 water resistance allows you to submerge the speaker in water
- ✓ 10 hours of playback is good for this size
- ✗ Bluetooth 4.0 limits the range
If you’re not looking for a speaker to use at home and prefer to stay on the go, the JBL Clip 3 is the perfect option for you. As the name suggests, this speaker has a built-in carabiner style clip that allows you to attach it to a belt loop, backpack, or practically anything else.
JBL Clip 3 is not only easy to wear. This speaker is meant to go anywhere with you, so it’s IPX7 waterproof. If you want, JBL says you can fully submerge this speaker in water for up to 30 minutes. Not that you have to, but it does mean that the Clip 3 will survive a drop in a pool or river just fine.
Built-in controls and a built-in microphone mean you don’t have to reach for your phone when you hear a call coming in. The controls let you answer and end calls, but they also let you adjust the volume, a feature you won’t always see on Bluetooth speakers, budget or not.
When it comes to battery life, JBL has managed to cram a surprisingly capable battery into this speaker’s small build. With a full charge, you can get up to 10 hours of playback.
The Clip 3 is not the latest speaker in JBL’s Clip line. The newer JBL Clip 4 is more expensive, but there’s not much reason to recommend it over the older model. Water resistance is reduced, with only an IP67 rating, and battery life is the same. Although the Clip 4 is great on its own, in this case you can save money and go for the more robust Clip 3!
Best cheap portable bluetooth speaker
JBL clip 3
Although the Bluetooth version is a little older, the JBL Clip 3 matches or exceeds many of the features of the JBL Clip 4, while being more water resistant and easier on your wallet.
Best Budget Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker: Anker Soundcore
- ✓ Stereo sound with bass-enhancing DSP
- ✓ IPX5 housing
- ✓ Range up to 66 feet with Bluetooth 5.0
- ✗ Lower power may limit the maximum volume
Waterproof Bluetooth speakers are easier to find than ever, but many of them sacrifice stereo or other audio features for water resistance. With Anker Soundcore, you get water resistance without audio compromise.
It’s clear just by looking at the specs that Anker is focusing on bass with Soundcore. First is the BassUp digital signal processing (DSP) that the speaker uses, then a prominent mention of the bass port on the speaker which also makes for improved bass.
When it comes to water resistance, Anker advertises the Soundcore as IPX5. IPX5 may not sound like much more than IPX4, but there is a valuable difference here. An IPX5-rated speaker can withstand jets of water, while an IPX4 speaker can only handle limited exposure to water. That’s a significant upgrade!
Anker Soundcore has Bluetooth 5.0. One of the main benefits of using this newer Bluetooth version is that the Soundcore has a range of up to 66 feet, instead of about 33 feet with the older Bluetooth versions.
In addition to stereo sound and IPX5 water resistance, the Anker Soundcore is also impressive in the battery department. Anker promises 24 hours of playtime, although unlike some other manufacturers, the company doesn’t provide the playback volume on which the number is based.
Anker keeps it simple when it comes to colors, and the black model is complemented by blue and red models.
The best waterproof Bluetooth speaker at affordable prices
Anker Soundcore doesn’t sacrifice sound quality in pursuit of water resistance. Instead, you get a great-sounding speaker that can handle more than a few drops of water.
- ✓ The LED audio fireworks feature is fun
- ✓ 360 degree sound is great for parties
- ✓ IPX7 water resistance makes it great for the pool
- ✗ Small size limits battery life
Many rugged Bluetooth speakers look like they belong in a tough workplace rather than a cozy weekend in the woods. The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini, on the other hand, combines a rugged build with beautiful aesthetics and features you’ll want to use.
The Soundcore Flare Mini features 360-degree sound, powered by a pair of 5-watt neodymium drivers for a total of 10 watts of power. These dual drivers, paired with passive radiators for enhanced low frequencies, make for a surprisingly big-sounding small speaker.
This 360-degree sound makes the speaker great for parties, and the build quality keeps you from worrying about what could go wrong. The SoundCore Flare Mini is IPX7 rated, which means if this speaker falls into the pool, you have up to 30 minutes to retrieve it without worrying about water damage.
One of the more unique features of the Soundcore Flare Mini is the “Audio Fireworks” feature, an LED ring light on the bottom of the speaker. This will light up and pulse in time with the music, providing a visual element to match your sound.
Don’t worry about this light show draining your battery. The LEDs don’t use much power, and Anker says the Soundcore Flare Mini can provide up to 12 hours of playback, depending on volume.
Similar to the basic Soundcore speaker, you get three color options: black, blue and red.
The best, affordable, durable Bluetooth speaker
Anker Soundcore Flare Mini
Robust doesn’t just mean you can drive nails with it. The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini is a fun speaker that you can take anywhere without worrying if it will survive the night.
Best cheap car Bluetooth speaker: Sony SRS-XB13
- ✓ Easy to carry practically anywhere
- ✓ Great battery life for the size
- ✓ Bluetooth Multipoint allows you to pair two speakers for stereo
- ✗ No stereo sound with only one unit
In our list of the best Bluetooth speakers, the Sony SRS-XB33 is our pick for the best Bluetooth car speaker. For our budget pick, why look anywhere other than its little brother, the Sony SRS-XB13?
Although this model is smaller, it still has many of the features that make its bigger brother great. This model is small enough to carry almost anywhere, and that also gives you a lot of options when it comes to placing it in your car. The multi-way bar also allows you to hang the speaker for extra volume.
Sony uses a proprietary sound diffusion processor to expand the sound, although this isn’t a stereo speaker. However, as with the larger model, you can pair two SRS-XB13 speakers together for stereo sound.
While it’s not as heavy as some of the other speakers we’re looking at, the Sony SRS-XB13 will still survive a trip to the beach as long as you take care of it. This speaker has IP67 water and dust resistance, so while splashes won’t be a problem, try to keep it away from water.
As long as you charge the speaker overnight, you shouldn’t have to worry about running out of battery during the day. Sony claims the SRS-XB13 supports up to 16 hours of battery life, although this will vary depending on how loud you get the sound.
The last reason this makes a great car speaker is the built-in speakerphone microphone, as well as Siri and Google Assistant. This helps you keep your eyes on the road where you should be.
The SRS-XB13 doesn’t come in a huge selection of colors, but you do have a few options besides black. These include coral pink, light blue, powder blue and deep red.
Best cheap car bluetooth speaker
The Sony SRS-XB13 packs big sound into a small package that you can fit anywhere in your car, and the built-in speaker lets you take calls and use your phone’s voice assistant hands-free.