Best Speakers of 2021

1. JBL Flip 5

No frills and fantastic sound quality – this is the Best Bluetooth speaker for value.

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 7.4 x 18.1 x 6.9 | Power: 20W | Features: Bluetooth v4.2, PartyBoost for multiple connections to PartBoost enabled JBL speakers, IPX7 rated | Connections: USB-C charger

Reasons to Buy

Solid bass and timingGreat sense of acousticsPartyBoost stereo pairing

Reasons to Avoid

No aux-in or microphoneNot Connect+ compatibleBasic appToday’s Best Deals

₹8,499VIEW AT AMAZON

₹8,499View at Amazon

₹8,499View at AmazonSee all prices (11 found)

A What Hi-Fi? 2020 Awards-winner. If all you want is a portable Bluetooth speaker that sounds as good as you can currently buy for around £100 ($100, AU$119), you’ll be hard-pressed to better the fantastic Flip 5. JBL’s newest offering sounds great for the price and is rugged enough to cope with a day at the pool.

The Flip 5 is waterproof to an IPX7 rating, boasts a 12 hour battery life and has a USB-C charging port, meaning it goes from flat to fully juiced in just 2.5 hours. It’s a pleasure to use and scores highly for portability, with a wrist strap that slips comfortably over our hand. There’s also a PartyBoost button that helps you pair two PartyBoost-enabled speakers to create a stereo pair, or link over 100 PartyBoost-compatible speakers in mono. 

Sound is impressively weighty and agile, with a good punch of bass and a real sense of openness and texture. Assuming you don’t mind the lack of an aux-in port or inbuilt microphone (as seen in the Flip 4), you’ll almost certainly be wowed by this speaker’s sonic chops. A superb performer.

2. Tribit Storm box Micro

A fun and bubbly Bluetooth speaker that’s serious when it comes to sound

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 9.8 x 9.8 x 3.5cm | Power: 9W | Features: water/dustproof, Bluetooth 5.0, stereo-pairing mode | Connections: 3.5 mm stereo

Reasons to Buy

Mature, musical soundSurprisingly weighty bassUSB-C charger

Reasons to Avoid

Short battery lifeToday’s Best Deals

₹3,698VIEW AT AMAZON

It’s hard to imagine a home decor, backpack or personal taste that the Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro couldn’t merge in with happily. It’s the size of a stack of drinks coasters, it’s IP67 rated, there’s a useful rubberised strap across the back of it and you can pair two of them in stereo mode. 

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the bass clout the Tribit is able to deliver. Although a speaker of such dimensions is obviously limited in terms of bass weight, it does remarkably well; close your eyes while listening and you’ll picture a bigger product. 

If your budget maxes out at £50 ($60), the Tribit is a splendid option. Similarly, if you only have a small zip compartment in the top of your backpack for a sonic travel companion, this speaker is worthy of that space. Take note, Ultimate Ears: a little-known brand called Tribit Audio just produced a budget belter of a Bluetooth speaker.

3. JBL Charge 5

Updated specs and subtle tweaks for JBL’s fifth-generation Charge

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 22 x 9.6 x 9.4cm | Power: 30W + 10W tweeter | Features: waterproof, Bluetooth v5.1, power bank, voice assistant integration | Connections: USB-C, USB-A

Reasons to Buy

Clearer and more detailed soundWider soundstageUpdated dustproofing

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this levelToday’s Best DealsCHECK AMAZON

The JBL Charge 5 is even more durable and better sounding than the four Charges before it. Its predecessor carried an IPX7 rating, meaning it could handle being submerged in water to a depth of 1.5m, but the IP67-rated Charge 5 builds on that durability by also being fully dustproof. Want a speaker roughly the dimensions of a bottle of wine that’ll charge your phone and sound great? You’ve found it. 

Thanks in part to a new 10W tweeter and racetrack-shaped driver, the Charge 5 is currently as good a sound as you can get in a portable Bluetooth speaker design for under £200 ($200, AU$300). It boasts marginal improvements, both sonically and aesthetically, over its predecessor, the five-star Charge 4 (below). 

One day JBL may produce a Charge that can be outdone by a new and plucky rival, but rest assured, that has not happened with the rather splendid Charge 5.

4. Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen)

The weightiest and most refined little speaker we’ve heard in a while

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 4.6 x 13.3 x 13.3cm | Power: 2x30W | Features: Alexa inbuilt, water/dustproof IP67, Bluetooth 5.1, stereo-pairing mode | Connections: USB-C

Reasons to Buy

Expansive sound, weighty bassCompetent Alexa integrationStunning build and finish

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this levelToday’s Best Deals

₹25,000VIEW AT AMAZON

Bang & Olufsen isn’t noted for following the herd. In the Danish electronics specialist’s catalogue you’ll find a wheel-shaped wireless speaker, a TV that opens up like a butterfly, and an 8200-watt monolithic speaker comprising 18 drivers. Its output could reasonably be described as “premium” and “innovative” – and the B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) wireless speaker is no exception.

It boasts similar dimensions to a large floury bap, but that’s where any comparisons with baked goods end. The new A1 supports Qualcomm’s latest aptX Adaptive Bluetooth 5.1 codec, and of course, Alexa is built-in. 

It works a treat, too, delivering a pleasingly comfortable yet authoritative performance that you’d be happy listening to all day. Throw in its classy, well made design, easy to use operation and the bonus of Alexa, and you’re looking at a Bluetooth speaker sequel that has very much been worth the wait. 

5. JBL Go 3

JBL’s newest soap-sized speaker sounds good – but the finish and battery life won’t wash with today’s class leaders

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 8.8 x 7.5 x 4.1 | Power: 4W | Features: Water/dustproof IP67, Bluetooth 5.1 | Connections: USB-C

Reasons to Buy

Sensible trebleFuller bassMore volume

Reasons to Avoid

Poor battery lifeNot very durable finishToday’s Best Deals

₹3,299VIEW AT AMAZON

The diminutive, soap on a rope-styled Go 3 features Bluetooth 5.1 instead of 4.1 plus a maximum power output of 4.2W, up from 3W in the Go 2 (listed below). The one specification that hasn’t changed is the Go 3’s stamina. It takes 2.5 hours to charge fully, and you can still only get five hours of playtime from it from a single charge. 

If you can live with this, there’s much to celebrate in the sound department at the level. The extra power and overhauled design have resulted in some solid sonic enhancements, and aesthetically it’s perhaps even cuter than the original. We gave this iteration five stars for sound. Will five hours get you through a day at the beach or a lazy picnic in the park though? Probably best to take a wireless charger. 

6. JBL Charge 4

A fun and bubbly Bluetooth speaker that’s serious when it comes to sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 22 x 9.5 x 9.3 | Power: 30W | Features: waterproof, Bluetooth v4.2, power bank, voice assistant integration | Connections: 3.5 mm stereo

Reasons to Buy

Rugged and water resistantUSB port for chargingGreat sound quality

Reasons to Avoid

Perhaps too subtle for someToday’s Best Deals

₹11,990VIEW AT AMAZON

₹11,990View at Amazon

₹11,999View at AmazonSee all prices (12 found)15 Amazon customer reviews☆☆☆☆☆

The fact that we really like the JBL Charge 4 should come as no surprise to those who read our Charge 3 review. Not only is this one of sweetest-sounding Bluetooth speakers around at this end of the market, it serves up a whopping 20 hours of playback from a single charge. Impressive.

JBL has fine-tuned the sound in this latest iteration to please even pickier ears. Obviously there’s a limit to the bass floor in a speaker of this size, but the low-end is tasteful – and there’s plenty of punch.  

You get a nice array of features for the money, too. The IPX7 water resistance means the Charge 4 can handle being submerged in water to a depth of 1.5m. And unlike the Flip 5 (above), you can also use the Charge 4 to juice up your phone – or any other device that will charge over USB from a 5V supply. 

The Flip 5 (above) is cheaper and lighter, but the Charge 4’s rugged design, excellent battery life and ‘battery sharing’ make it a near-perfect speaker for camping, beach trips and home use.

7. Linn Series 3

One of the best wireless speakers we’ve heard with a premium price tag.

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm):25 x 29.6 x 20.6 | Power: : 2x100W | Features: Wireless integrated Linn DSM player, Exakt digital crossover | Connections: Ethernet, USB, HDMI ARC

Reasons to Buy

Wonderfully articulateLuxury designHDMI ARC for TV connection

Reasons to Avoid

No analogue inputsNo Tidal Masters supportToday’s Best DealsCHECK AMAZON

Let’s address the elephant in the room: the Series 3 is one of the most expensive wireless speakers we have tested. It’s over three times the price of the B&W Formation Wedge. Can such an outlay be justified? Well, yes. 

Linn’s gorgeous design aesthetic and proprietary Exakt technology certainly helps. Linn Exakt aims to reduce phase errors by intentionally delaying higher frequencies so they arrive at your ear at the same time as lower frequencies. It also keeps the music signal’s data in the digital domain for as long as possible to avoid any degradation caused by signal processing. We’ve heard Exakt do its thing in many a Linn product before, and here again it contributes to an absorbing performance packed with stunning midrange clarity and a level of insight that sets it apart from more affordable competitors.

As you’d expect, the Series 3 is packed with premium features and Linn’s well established streaming platform, which offers access to networked servers and high-quality music services Tidal and Qobuz via Linn’s app. You even get an HDMI ARC socket, which allows you to connect the speaker to a TV.

At £3000 ($3850, AU$5800), we can hardly describe the Series 3 as a bargain, but we are utterly convinced of its appeal.

8. Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2

An affordable Bluetooth speaker with a weighty sound and good battery life.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connectivity: Bluetooth | Power: Battery | Battery life: 13hrs | Charge time: 2.6hrs **Dimensions (hwd):** 10.4 x 9.5 x 9.5cm | Weight: 420g

Reasons to Buy

Punchy, entertaining soundHefty bassDecent battery life

Reasons to Avoid

No wi-fi or smart assistant built-inNo mic for hands-free callsToday’s Best Deals₹14,399VIEW AT AMAZON₹17,489View at Amazon437 Amazon customer reviews☆☆☆☆☆

Ultimate Ears has really made a splash in the Bluetooth speaker market with a number of colourful, fun-sounding and portable models. One its most biggest hits? The impressive Wonderboom 2.

It’s waterproof, sandproof, dustproof and is also designed to float, so it should withstand the most lively of pool parties. Battery life is 13 hours and a full charge takes just under three.

Sonically, the Wonderboom 2 is an exciting listen. Bass is impressive bass given its small dimensions and there’s plenty of detail and a fine sense of attack. You also get a ‘boost’ button on the underside of the unit. When pressed, it restricts the bass frequencies, allowing the UE to play louder through the midrange, which in turn makes the sound easier to hear when the unit is used outdoors.

There’s no built-in mic or app, but the Wonderboom 2 is easily one of the best sounding Bluetooth speakers you can buy for the money – and a What Hi-Fi? 2019 Award-winner too, y’know.

9. Dynaudio Music 5

A superb sonic performance from a distinctive speaker.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connectivity: Bluetooth and wi-fi | Power: 250W (mains powered) | Inputs: analogue audio jack, Toslink optical digital audio | Battery life: N/A | Dimensions (hwd): 20 x 66 x 18.5cm : Weight: 5.4kg

Reasons to Buy

Expansive, weighty and accurateGreat for larger roomsTop-notch build

Reasons to Avoid

No AirPlay 2No Spotify ConnectToday’s Best DealsCHECK AMAZON

The Dynaudio Music 5 is the second-largest one-box speaker in the company’s inaugural, four-strong Music series. And love or loathe its angular looks,we can’t help but be won over by how the Dynaudio Music 5 sounds.

It might be a powerful, but the Music 5 has the sonic nous to keeps things refined. While the Award-winning Naim (below) just edges it for both subtlety and a slightly livelier sound, there isn’t much in it – and the Dynaudio Music 5 boasts superiority in other ways. In a larger room, it boasts better weight, scale and authority. Sound is smooth, detail-rich, refined and resoundingly listenable. 

Connectivity is excellent, too, with aptX Bluetooth, wi-fi and AirPlay all present. Open up the Dynaudio app and you’ll discover NoiseAdapt, a feature that helps sound cut through a noisy room – useful during loud parties.  

Assuming you love its distinctive styling, the Dynaudio Music 5 is a sophisticated performer and a superb buy.

10. Audio Pro Addon C3

Portability, multi-room skills and excellent sound quality in an impressive package.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connectivity: Bluetooth and wi-fi | Power: Battery | Inputs: 3.5mm | Battery life: 15hrs | Dimensions (hwd): 11.5 x 21.5 x 13.5cm | Weight: 2.45kg

Reasons to Buy

Mature, refined soundImpressive timingTight, textured bass

Reasons to Avoid

Control app could be slickerToday’s Best DealsCHECK AMAZON

The Audio Pro Addon C3 isn’t just the best Bluetooth speaker at this price, it’s a stylish, wi-fi connected, multi-room capable centrepiece – plus it’s a What Hi-Fi? 2019 and 2020 Award winner. 

Sound is focused yet open and airy, meaning you can fill a decent sized room with immersive, weighty sound. It has an fantastic sense of refinement for such a small speaker, not to mention a rear-firing bass reflex port that delivers plenty of low-end grunt.

This model won’t charge your smartphone but it does feature an ethernet port, giving you the option to hardwire it to your home network. The battery serves up around 15 hours playback (less if you crank the volume up to the max).

The C3 supports streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and Apple Music, and while there’s no built-in voice assistant, you can control the speaker via the Alexa app.

If you’re after something more rugged and portable, we’d suggest rivals such as the Ultimate Ears Megaboom or JBL Xtreme. But as a sensational-sounding multi-room proposition, this speaker gives Sonos a serious run for its money.

11. Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation

Just a few tweaks make for a superb second version of this premium Bluetooth speaker.

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 21 x 22 x 21 | Power: : 300W | Features: Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Roon Ready, Hi-res up to 24-bit/384kHz, remote control | Connections: 3.5mm aux, USB, optical S/PDIF, Ethernet

Reasons to Buy

Open, detailed and expressiveLoads of streaming optionsMulti-room ready

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this priceToday’s Best Deals₹128,000VIEW AT AMAZON

At What Hi-Fi?, we know full well the value of revisions. Yet still, it was quite the surprise when first we heard about one made by Naim, with its second generation of the Mu-so Qb wireless speaker. The previous iteration was great, earning five stars when it was first reviewed. This version, however, is even better. 

You can now choose between an Olive, Terracotta or Peacock grille alongside the standard black, but the best tweaks Naim has made go far deeper. Remove whatever colour grille you’ve gone for and you’ll be rewarded with upgraded and optimised midrange and bass drive units, all powered by a total of 300W of amplification.

You won’t be short of streaming options, thanks to Chromecast Built-in and Apple AirPlay 2 alongside Bluetooth for streaming from a device, as well as Spotify Connect, Roon Ready, internet radio and Tidal.  You’ll also be able to access files up to 32-bit/384kHz anywhere on your home network via the updated Naim app 

With punchy bass and sparkling and rich tones across the frequencies, we had no hesitation in awarding the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation our 2020 What Hi-Fi? Award for the best home wireless speaker over £500 – for the second year running.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *