Many modern devices such as laptops and tablets, even phones, come with poor audio performance. After all, limits on space make it tricky to include a great sound system.
The easiest way round this is to pick up a Bluetooth speaker, which is the simplest way to boost sound quality if you're not planning on using headphones.
There are countless on the market and while many cost hundreds, not everyone has that much to spend on a speaker. Luckily, there are loads out there that don't cost the earth and still provide a decent amount of boom - and they're not all unknown brands. We've featured Denon and Ultimate Ears (UE) here to name two.
We've set a price limit of around £100 here but many of these Bluetooth speakers come in at under £50 if you have a tight budget. If you are looking for something a little more expensive and premium, head over to our best high-end Bluetooth speakers chart.
Best cheap Bluetooth speakers 2020
1. Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 - Best Overall
Ultimate Ears is one of the Bluetooth speaker brands that keeps smashing it out of the park. The second edition of the Wonderboom might look similar to the original but it has various design and feature upgrades that make it even better.
This is still very much pint-sized and now comes with two-tone fabric and new buttons. Namely, a playback button on the top which means you don't need to fumble around for your phone when you want to pause or skip a track.
Despite being tiny, the Wonderboom 2 has a lot of power and the battery life is even longer than before at 13 hours - that's a 30% improvement. Being small, it's not got the most bass around but that's the nature of this kind of speaker and it's still better than most rivals and its predecessor.
You can pair two speakers together for a proper stereo pair if you like but the new Outdoor Boost mode is more interesting. This uses an equalizer to give you a sound profile more suited to outdoor spaces, where otherwise these speakers can struggle to cope and end up sounding muddy.
There's only really one thing that might put you off the Wonderboom 2 and that's the lack of an aux input.
Read our full Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 review
2. Tronsmart T6 Plus (Upgraded Edition) - Best Features
Tronsmart's T6 Plus (Upgraded Edition) is one of the smartest non-smart budget Bluetooth speakers we've tested.
Not only is this rugged waterproof speaker capable of pumping out room-filling, 360-degree audio from its two 20W drivers, it can also function as a 6600mAh power bank for emergency recharging of your phone or devices, and let you connect to your phone's voice assistant with a tap of its click wheel.
For the money sound quality is outstanding, benefiting from Tronsmart's own SoundPulse algorithm and a dual-passive radiator to deliver balanced and clearly defined audio, with no sign of distortion. And getting audio to the speaker couldn't be easier, with support for microSD, USB flash drives and Bluetooth streaming.
This upgraded model adds NFC connectivity, taking all the hassle out of pairing your smartphone. Battery life is also decent, offering up to 15 hours playback at 50% volume.
Buy two and you can take advantage of wireless stereo pairing.
Read our full Tronsmart T6 Plus (Upgraded Edition) review
3. Creative Muvo Play - Best Value
Even at one of the cheapest prices here, we have little to complain about with the Muvo Play. This pint-size pocket rocket has a lot going for it.
We like the compact design which means the Play is super portable and is even IPX7 waterproof, which isn't a given at this price point - the mesh just takes a while to dry out. It's got easy to use buttons and the 360 design, like many others, means you can pretty much plonk the speaker down anywhere and it will still sound good.
It's got a 3.5mm aux connection but you're better off making use of Bluetooth 5.0 which provides a decent wireless connection. You can also join two Muvo Play speakers together to create a stereo pair if you like.
Creative offers decent punchy sound for not much money here thanks to a pair of full-range drivers and a couple of passive bass radiators. Although the speaker is suited well to a lot of music and podcasts, it does struggle a little bit at the bass end, only able to reach down to 70Hz - when human hearing goes to 20Hz.
That's really the only downside to this otherwise excellent speaker.
Read our full Creative Muvo Play review
4. Tribit Stormbox Micro - Best for Travel
Though the Tribit StormBox Micro comes in at a low price and a small size, it still produces a very admirable sound quality - especially when it comes to bass-levels.
Its portable design means that it can fit in the palm of your hand with ease, and the fixed strap is also handy for attaching it to your bike should you wish. Plus with an IP67 waterproof & dustproof rating, you'll be able to take it out and about in all weathers.
You do however only get a Bluetooth 5.0 connection. The USB-C port is for charging only, and there's no aux port. However, with an eight-hour battery life, a Bluetooth-only connection should suffice for most occasions.
The sound quality is loud enough to fill a room, though if you're hosting a large gathering we'd recommend purchasing two of these to use in stereo mode. Otherwise, this speaker is perfect for those who are on a budget and want a travel-sized speaker that doesn't compromise on crisp audio.
Read our full Tribit StormBox Micro review
5. Denon Envaya Pocket - Best Durability
The Denon Envaya Pocket is an attractive speaker, there’s no doubt about it. It’s only 16.3cm long and weighs a lightweight 390g. That’s backed up by a hardwearing fabric and sturdy polymer, making the Pocket robust enough to take a knock, and the IP67 water resistance means that the music doesn’t have to stop when it starts raining.
The Pocket also offers the ability to make- and receive phone calls via the speaker when connected to a smartphone. Once connected to an iOS device, you’ll be able to summon Siri by holding the phone button. There are other buttons too, namely power, Bluetooth and media controls.
Another cool feature of the speaker is Envaya Link, which allows you to pair up an additional Pocket speaker for stereo playback.
Depending on the volume of playback, the Pocket can last around 10hrs on a single charge. It’s fairly speedy to recharge too, going from 0 to 100 percent battery in around 1hr30, or 2 hours max.
The Pocket boasts a two-speaker setup, which means that the entire range isn’t produced by a single speaker, offering better clarity and an all-around better audio experience when compared to single-speaker speakers.
Overall the speaker sounds incredible, from the low- to the high-end, especially when considering the budget price-tag. It’s more focused on punchy, deep bass but it doesn’t overpower vocals or the treble, and there’s not even a slight hint of distortion.
Read our full Denon Envaya Pocket review
6. Sumvision Psyc Monic - Best Portability
The sleek Sumvision Psyc Monic is powered by two 10W drivers which are housed within the speaker’s all-metal brushed aluminium housing.
The buttons at the top enable you to power on, play/pause and adjust the volume. The volume buttons have + and - markings, but when paired with an iPhone over Bluetooth, they actually work to skip to the previous or next track, which is very confusing at first.
The speaker has no in-built microphone which means it doesn't work as a hands-free speaker for phone calls like others here.
It's reassuringly weighty, but still eminently portable given its 200 x 60 x 60mm dimensions.
The Monic can be connected through Bluetooth 4.0 or an auxiliary 3.5mm jack. There is no NFC to quickly connect your speaker to a smartphone, nor does it use AptX technology to transmit CD-quality music from your source. However, neither of these are deal-breakers.
The speaker offers around six to seven hours of playback, a decent amount of time before having to recharge the 2000mAh battery.
It’s in the sound department that the Monic really excels. It’s able to reproduce all sound frequencies extremely well, especially sub- and mid-bass tones, which are desk-shatteringly good. But despite having a strong presence in the bass department, the mids are relatively unaffected (and that's a good thing).
The powerful drivers mean it's also surprisingly loud, and easily able to fill a normal-sized room.
Read our full Sumvision Psyc Monic review
7. Lava BrightSounds 2 - Best Battery Life
Smart light bulbs, power banks and Bluetooth speakers are all the rage at the moment, so it was only a matter of time before a manufacturer merged the three – say hello to the Lava BrightSounds 2 Bluetooth speaker/power bank/smart light hybrid.
Roughly three quarters of the IPX4-rated rectangular speaker is taken up by the light, housed in plastic. The brightness is adjustable, providing everything from a soft glow to bright white light, although there’s no option to change the colour of the light. The top quarter is a wraparound speaker mesh, available in several colours, which seems to provide fire out sound in every direction.
Four control buttons lie flush up top, along with the status LED and Lava logo. If Bluetooth isn’t for you, the rear of the speaker is where you’ll find ports for auxiliary connections, along with a charging port and a full-size USB port for charging smartphones and other mobile accessories while on-the-go.
With a lithium-ion battery inside, the Lava BrightSounds 2 Bluetooth speaker and smart lamp can offer a whopping 36 hours of music playback, all from a three- to four-hour charge from empty.
Despite the budget price tag, we had the Lava BrightSounds 2’s 5W ultra-wide stereo speaker on full-blast and didn't hear a hint of distortion. It's loud enough to fill a room with sound, and for a budget Bluetooth speaker, audio quality is more than acceptable with decent bass and a clear mid-range, although there’s a slight compromise at the top-end.
Read our full Lava BrightSounds 2 review
8. Tronsmart Force - Best Connectivity
The Tronsmart Force is a Bluetooth speaker built for the outdoors, sporting a robust design with a shockproof grippy rubber surround and a black metal grille on the front and rear. It also boasts IPX7 dust and water resistance, meaning it should survive a dunk in the pool for up to 30 minutes without any lasting damage.
The outdoors-y design doesn’t mean it skimps on smarts though; you can access Siri or Google Assistant, and there’s a number of ways to connect too. Alongside Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC support, the speaker sports a 3.5mm jack for non-Bluetooth devices and a microSD card slot for standalone music playback.
It lasts around 15 hours on a single charge, thanks to the combination of two 3300mAh batteries, and a 3hr charge time via USB-C isn’t too bad either.
The portable speaker features dual passive radiators alongside two 20W drivers for a total output of 40W, and it packs a punch. Those passive radiators work hard to produce well-rounded bass largely free of distortion.
The speaker offers a built-in EQ with three modes; 3D Stereo, Extra Bass and Standard. 3D Stereo widens the soundscape and produces room-filling audio, while Extra Bass does what it says on the tin – provides booming bass, ideal for party situations.
Generally, the Tronsmart Pulse provides deep bass, clear mids and crisp highs, although that crispness is sometimes sacrificed in favour of overpowering bass tones, and the sound starts to distort at max volume. But for the price, you’ll struggle to find something with this much prominence.
Read our full Tronsmart Force review
9. Kitsound Diggit - Best Outdoor Speaker
The Kitsound Diggit combines sleek and lightweight style with impressive sound – as well as an impressive price. Despite being affordable, the Diggit doesn’t skimp out on quality and thoughtful design. It’s portable, offers an IP55 dust and waterproofing, and comes with a removable stake – which is its most prominent feature – that lets you plant it in the ground.
Design aside, the Diggit produces a clear and balanced sound. While the tone goes on the sharper side when the volume is blasted, this doesn't make for an unpleasant listening experience, especially when the music is mostly for ambient purposes. Otherwise, the treble and mid-range come across clearly and vocals sound crisp.
The Diggit is ideal for outdoor gatherings, like barbecues and picnics; though it's versatile enough to be used for indoor shindigs too, like in a dorm or living room. This makes it a particularly good option for students who are on a budget.
The Diggit also allows wireless stereo pairing. Though we haven't tried this for ourselves, this should let you boost the sound by allowing you to play the audio over two Diggit Speakers. Soundkit also offers the more powerful Diggit XL, which allows you to pair over a hundred Diggits to one another.
Read our full KitSound Diggit review
10. Tribit StormBox - Best Value 360 Speaker
The Tribit might not be the best Bluetooth speaker out there if you're looking for a cheap one (now cheaper than when we tested it), but it's got a nice balance across all the things we look for. That's design, build quality, features and sound quality.
For starters, it looks like a lot of rivals with a cylindrical - although slightly squared off. It just comes in black with those large white buttons which are easy to see and use.
There are smaller buttons on the back for things like XBass, which you'll probably just leave on. Put it down on some flat surfaces and you'll get an extra bass boost from the passive radiator pointing downwards.
At this price, is most impressive to see an IPX7 waterproof rating. This means the speaker can be fully submerged and be totally fine making it great for having around a swimming pool with worry.
Other than the passive radiators on the ends, the 360 has two 45mm drives able to throw out 12W each. That's a good amount of power and you can daisy chain a second speaker if you're having a larger party.
Although the bass is good, there are some gaps in the frequency response so the overall sound isn't as full as we'd like.
Read our full Tribit StormBox review
Your buying guide to the best cheap Bluetooth speakers
So, what should you look for when in the market for a portable Bluetooth speaker?
A popular feature that seems to be cropping up in Bluetooth speakers is '360-degree audio'. What is 360-degree audio? Well, it's (usually) a tube-shaped Bluetooth speaker that has drivers facing every direction, opposed to the traditional front-facing speaker, to enable better audio projection and produce 'room-filling audio'.
It's definitely a nice feature to have, and one we actively look out for when buying new speakers. It was once exclusive to high-end speakers, but we've since seen it appear on a number of budget speakers.
What about battery life? While not too long ago the standard battery life for a Bluetooth speaker was around five hours, we've reached a golden age in Bluetooth accessory battery life. With many budget speakers offering upwards of 10-20 hours per charge, we wouldn't recommend buying a speaker that offers anything less.
Also, it's worth keeping an eye out for speakers that double up as portable battery chargers, as it'll probably come in handy when using your smartphone to play music.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
Some Bluetooth speakers also offer Wi-Fi capabilities, so which connection should you opt for? Traditionally, using a Bluetooth connection (5.0 is the latest version) will give you a 10m range, which means that you'll only be able to play music from a speaker in the same room as you - any further and you'll probably experience the audio cutting out.
Some speakers offer a wider range though, so it's worth taking a look at the specifications of the speaker you're interested in.
Wi-Fi has a much wider reach, and could allow you to play music from anywhere in the house. With this being said, the Wi-Fi setup process can be quite stressful and require users to install a specific app on their smartphone in order to do so, whereas Bluetooth setup takes 30 seconds, even less if it supports NFC setup.
Every now and again, you'll come across a Bluetooth speaker that offers a remote. While a remote can be useful in certain environments, especially if the volume of the speaker is controlled independently instead of mirroring the input volume, it's not essential.
This is especially true if you intend to play music from your smartphone via Bluetooth, as you'll already have the media controls you need in your hand.
Water and dust resistance
If you plan to take your Bluetooth speaker to the park or beach with you, it's probably a good idea to find a speaker that has some kind of water/dust/shock resistance.
While it doesn't need an IPX7 rating to be used outside, it's always a good idea to have some kind of protection against spills, rain, and general damage or you'll quickly find yourself buying another!
Bluetooth speakers for students
A Bluetooth speaker is a great purchase at any age, but it's especially popular among students. While sound quality is still important, there are arguably other things you'd look for first when buying one for young people.
A Bluetooth speaker should provide you with multiple days of moderate usage, while it must be durable enough to be thrown in a bag or on the ground without too many issues.
If you're willing to be out in all weathers, also consider a speaker which has some form of IPX rating for water and dust resistance.
Adding NFC will also allow people quickly and seamlessly control the music that's playing, although it could cause some disagreements!
Find out how we test audio.