Every memorable party has a good playlist, get-togethers in the outdoors notwithstanding. With a rugged, Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker, you can groove anywhere in the world without having to sacrifice sound quality. When you’re ready to take your tunes outside, here’s what to look for in terms of functionality, durability, and bonus features.
On one end of the spectrum, portable wireless speakers can be as big as a paper towel roll; on the other end, they can be as small as a hockey puck. Typically, the larger the speaker, the louder and deeper the sound. Consider your carrying capacity when you select speaker size and weight. Are you car camping where size doesn’t matter? Or are you hiking to a camp deep in the backcountry where every ounce counts?
Differing components and design characteristics will determine your speaker’s overall audio performance and power.
In general, you’re looking to see how faithfully a speaker reproduces sound—the “frequency response” charts the range of frequencies a speaker is capable of producing. Ideally, you want to seek minimal frequency variations for the smoothest and most accurate sounds. Since speaker components vary widely and human ears hear ranges differently, if you’re highly concerned about quality, give the speaker a test-listen in person, if possible.
If you’re concerned about loudness, check out a speaker’s sensitivity, which is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the sensitivity rating (or decibels), the louder a speaker can get. (An average speaker comes with a sensitivity of around 87 to 88 dB; anything over 90 dB is considered excellent.)
A woofer is the part of the speaker that creates and pushes out the sounds. Consider how many woofers the speaker has, and where they are positioned—if you’re looking for 360-degree sound output, make sure there are multiple woofers and tweeters (smaller versions of woofers) facing in different directions.
Nothing kills a mood like a speaker beeping its out-of-battery tones. The best portable speakers can keep a charge for more than 12 hours. Always making sure your speaker is fully charged before leaving home will set you up for success, and pack charging equipment (solar panels, car adapters, battery packs) if you’ll be out for a long period of time.
Some speakers take battery life a step further and integrate a power bank that allows you to also charge and recharge other small devices (think smartphones providing the music) directly from USB outlets on the speaker itself. The number of device charges as well as volume levels will impact the speaker’s overall battery life and playback time in the field.