What to look for in a cheap 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 shape. If you’re using a 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 durable than a piece of home audio equipment, not all are created equal. If you’re going to use the speaker outdoors, you’ll want a model that’s at least somewhat waterproof. The degree of protection IP67 or IPX4 is ideal for everyday use.
That said, if you’ll be using the speaker outdoors more often than not, 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 for 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 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 possible.
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 The Bluetooth version isn’t that important unless it’s terribly outdated, but most modern Bluetooth speakers come with at least Bluetooth 5.0. While Bluetooth 5.2 brings some improvements, many speakers don’t yet take advantage of them.
If you want the best sound quality, you might want to keep in mind the codecs the speaker is using. Your phone may be using a different codec than the speaker supports, and at this point you’re relying on the most basic codecs, which won’t sound as good as when you match them.
Finally, take a look at other speaker features that interest you as they might help you make your final decision. Do you prefer a Bluetooth speaker with an integrated colored LED light or a speaker with a clip to attach to your backpack? These little features can end up making a big difference in how you use the speaker.
Now let’s dive into the best cheap Bluetooth speakers for your needs.
Overall, the best affordable Bluetooth speaker: 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 the speaker you should be looking for. It’s affordable, packed with features and sounds great.
Unlike some Bluetooth speakers, the SoundBox Touch is fully stereo, drawing 12 watts per channel. This means you don’t have to worry about some 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 title, it’s about controlling the speaker. Instead of tactile buttons, these are capacitive touch buttons, which means you don’t have to press them with any force. Use the onboard controls to skip tracks, switch modes, and pause and resume playback.
Despite the low price, the DOSS SoundBox Touch is not built cheaply. The cabinet is made of durable plastic and the entire speaker is IPX4 water resistant. 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 are listening to music and your phone rings, you can answer the call by pressing a button. Not everyone needs this feature, but if you’re a fan of speakerphones, it’s definitely useful.
The best affordable Bluetooth speaker
DOSS Soundbox Touch
If you’re just looking for a simple recommendation, the DOSS SoundBox Touch is hard to beat. It sounds great, has good battery life and is durable enough to handle your everyday life.
Best affordable portable Bluetooth speaker: JBL Clip 3
- ✓ The built-in carabiner always comes in handy
- ✓ IPX7 water resistance allows you to submerge the speaker in water
- ✓ Play time of 10 hours is nice considering the size
- ✗ Bluetooth 4.0 limits range
If you are not looking for a speaker for home use and prefer to stay on the go, the JBL Clip 3 is the perfect choice for you. As the name suggests, this speaker has a built-in carabiner style clip that lets you attach it to your belt loop, backpack, or pretty much anything else.
The JBL Clip 3 is also not easy to carry. Designed to be taken anywhere, this speaker is IPX7 water resistant. If you wanted to, JBL says you could completely submerge this speaker in water for up to 30 minutes. Not that you should necessarily do this, 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 an incoming call. The controls let you take and end calls, but also let you adjust the volume, a feature you’ve won. Budget or not is not always visible on Bluetooth speakers.
When it comes to battery life, JBL has managed to cram a surprisingly capable battery into this speaker’s small design. You can get up to 10 hours of playback on a full charge.
The Clip 3 is not the latest speaker in the JBL Clip line. The newer JBL Clip 4 is more expensive, but there isn’t much reason to recommend it over the older model. The water resistance is reduced, it only has IP67 protection and the battery life is the same. While the Clip 4 is overall great on its own, in this case you can save money and go for the more durable Clip 3!
The best affordable portable Bluetooth speaker
JBL clip 3
While the Bluetooth version is a bit older, the JBL Clip 3 matches or surpasses many of the features of the JBL Clip 4 while remaining more water resistant and saving your wallet.
Best affordable waterproof Bluetooth speaker: Anker Soundcore
- ✓ Stereo sound with bass-enhancing DSP
- ✓ Housing with IPX5 protection
- ✓ 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 sacrifice stereo or other audio features for water resistance. With Anker Soundcore, you get water resistance without compromising on sound.
Just looking at the features, it’s clear that Anker is focusing on bass with the Soundcore. First up is the BassUp digital signal processing (DSP) that the speaker uses, and then a prominent mention of the bass port on the speaker, which also contributes to the enhanced bottom end.
As for water resistance, Anker advertises that the Soundcore is IPX5 rated. IPX5 may not sound like much more than IPX4, but there is a valuable difference. An IPX5-rated speaker can withstand jets of water, while an IPX4-rated speaker can only handle limited exposure to water. It’s a major upgrade!
Anker Soundcore boasts Bluetooth 5.0. One of the main advantages of using this newer version of Bluetooth is that the Soundcore has a range of up to 66 feet, rather than around 33 feet with 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 playback, although unlike some other manufacturers, the company doesn’t state the playback volume on which that figure is based.
Anker is simple in colors, the black model complements the Blue and Red models.
The best affordable waterproof Bluetooth speaker
Anker Soundcore doesn’t sacrifice sound quality in pursuit of water resistance. Instead, you get a great-sounding speaker that can also handle more than a few drops of water.
- ✓ The LED Audio Fireworks feature is fun
- ✓ 360 degree sound is great for parties
- ✓ Thanks to IPX7 water resistance, it is perfect for the pool
- ✗ Small size limits battery life
Many rugged Bluetooth speakers look like they’re meant for hard work, not a cozy weekend in the woods. The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini, on the other hand, combines a sturdy build with nice aesthetics and features you’ll want to use.
The Soundcore Flare Mini offers 360-degree sound powered by a pair of 5-watt neodymium drivers for a total output of 10 watts. Paired with passive radiators for enhanced bass, these dual drivers create a surprisingly big-sounding little speaker.
This 360-degree sound makes the speaker great for parties, and the build quality means you don’t have to worry about anything going wrong. The SoundCore Flare Mini is IPX7 rated, which means if this speaker falls into the pool, you have up to 30 minutes to recover it without worrying about water damage.
One of the more unique features of the Soundcore Flare Mini is the “Audio Fireworks” feature, a circular LED light at 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 rugged Bluetooth speaker
Anker Soundcore Flare Mini
Rugged doesn’t just mean you can hammer nails with it. The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini is a fun speaker that you can take anywhere without worrying about it surviving the night.
Best affordable Bluetooth car speaker: Sony SRS-XB13
- ✓ Easy to carry almost anywhere
- ✓ Great battery life for the size
- ✓ Bluetooth Multipoint allows you to pair two speakers for stereo
- ✗ No stereo sound with only one unit
On our list of the best Bluetooth speakers, the Sony SRS-XB33 was voted the best Bluetooth car speaker. For our budget pick, why look no further than its younger sibling, the Sony SRS-XB13?
Even though this model is smaller, it still has many of the features that make its bigger sibling great. This model is small enough to take just about anywhere, and that also gives you plenty of options when it comes to placement in your car. The multi-way strap also allows you to hang the speaker to increase the volume.
Sony uses a proprietary Sound Diffusion Processor to expand the sound even though it’s not 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-duty as some of the other speakers we’ve looked at, the Sony SRS-XB13 will still survive a trip to the beach if you take care of it. This speaker is water and dust resistant with an IP67 rating, so while splashes won’t be a problem, try to keep it away from water.
As long as you charge the speaker overnight, you don’t have to worry about the battery running out 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 turn the volume.
One last reason it’s a great car speaker is the built-in microphone for hands-free listening, as well as Siri and Google Assistant. This will help keep your eyes on the road where they should be.
The SRS-XB13 doesn’t come in a huge variety of colors, but you have a few options besides black. These include Coral Pink, Light Blue, Powder Blue and Taupe.
The best affordable Bluetooth car speaker
The Sony SRS-XB13 offers big sound in a small package that you can sit anywhere in your car, and the built-in speaker lets you take calls and use your phone’s voice assistant hands-free.