July 11, 2014

Review: Top four wireless speakers

If you’ve been looking for a portable wireless speaker you’ve probably noticed it’s a crowded space. We’re cutting through the noise to offer four of our favorite portable wireless speakers.

If you’ve been looking for a portable wireless speaker you’ve probably noticed it’s a crowded space. With such a stream of wireless audio options spilling into the market, deciding on which gadget to go with can be difficult. We’re cutting through the noise to offer four of our favorite portable wireless speakers.

Before jumping into specifics, notice that each of these have several features in common. All four can wirelessly stream audio over Bluetooth and also have a 3.5mm jack. They all have built-in mics that make them capable speaker phones, have rechargeable batteries that are juiced via microUSB ports, and come in a variety of colors. Most importantly, each one sounds great given their price and size.

Logitech UE Boom: $179.89 at Verizon Wireless The sleek and sonorous Logitech UE Boom is the best sounding speaker in our roundup, and it should be since the Boom is the largest of the four measuring 7.2-inches long by 2.5-inches in diameter and weighing 1.2 pounds. Covering nearly 360 degrees, the sound from the Boom is rich for its size. No portable speaker will give you sub-bass rumble, but the Boom’s performance is powerful and full from mid-lows through the treble range. The Boom also allows finer increments at low volume than the others.

It’s large buttons are well-marked and easiest to find. When you simultaneously press the volume up and down buttons a voice tells you the Boom’s remaining charge. The UE Boom also outlasts the others in the endurance category offering up to 15 hours of playback.

Near Field Communication technology allows pairing by just touching the speaker with an NFC-enabled device.

You can also connect a second Boom via the UE BOOM app to set the two speakers to play as a stereo pair or to double the sound.

JBL Flip 2: $99.95 at JBL The excellent sounding JBL Flip 2 doesn’t trail the dynamics of the more expensive by much. The sound is still good enough for large rooms.

Without it’s carrying case, the Flip 2 is slightly more compact than the Boom measuring 6.3 inches by 2.4 inches and weighing in at 12.3 ounces. If you can live with five hours of playback rather than the 15 hours from the Boom, the Flip 2’s $80 advantage makes it a serious contender. The Flip 2 is also designed to cast a 360-degree sound-stage, but lacks the finer volume increments of the Boom at lower levels.

The Flip 2 stands at slant vertically, but it can be placed horizontally. It can also pair via NFC

Logitech UE Mini Boom: $89.99 at Verizon Wireless The Mini Boom is a good sound little speaker, but its compact form just doesn’t offer the punch or the multidirectional sound of the Boom or Flip 2. Its boxy shape might fit better in some spaces though. It measures 4.4-inches wide, 2.3-inches tall, 2.6-inches deep and weighs 10.6 ounces.

It offers a respectable 10 hours of play time, and can be connected with another speaker like the Boom.

JBL Clip: $49.99 at JBL The most portable and the only pocketable speaker of the roundup, the JBL Clip measures 4.2 inches by 3.2-inches by 1.6 inches, and weighs just 5.6 ounces. Given its size, the Clip delivers impressive and well-controlled, balanced, distortion free sound except at it’s loudest volumes.

The Clip resembles a puck with carabiner that can hook to a loop on clothing, a bag or even a shower curtain ring. There is a built-in audio cable that stows beneath.

Around the center is a rubberized band along with buttons for power, Bluetooth, play and call, and volume. The buttons are marked, but lack any tactility whatsoever which makes them difficult to find in low light.

The built-in rechargeable battery provides up to 5 hours listening.

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