The best cheap Bluetooth speakers in 2022 | ZDNet

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Looking to set the mood while you cook, chill, or host a party? Bluetooth speakers can fill your space with vibrant sound. And best of all, they don’t have to break the budget.

There are many fantastic options available for under $50. Our guide helps you find some of the best on the market today.


Anker Soundcore Flare Mini Bluetooth Speaker



Best overall performance


Amazon

This Anker speaker will be the life of your party. Its neodymium drivers encapsulate your room with 360-degree sound. Meanwhile, the Dual IIR passive radiators, multi-band DRC, and BassUp Technology provide exceptional sound quality. And with 10W of overall power, it achieves remarkable performance.

Along with the sound, it looks fantastic. It has an LED halo that adds another dynamic to your gatherings. The lights move based on the rhythm of the music, and with eight LED lights and five lighting modes, you can customize its appearance to match your ambience through the Soundcore mobile app. It provides an added element to enhance dinner parties, gatherings with friends, and more. 

The speaker also touts longevity. Its Li-ion battery nets you up to 12 hours of operating time on a full charge, making it perfect for extended gatherings. And for parties involving the weather or pool, its waterproof body will suit your needs. It can withstand sprinkles, the occasional splashing, and underwater immersion for up to 30 minutes. 

Overall, this speaker achieves rich sound and pulsates with lights. 


Pros:

  • You receive up to 12 hours of use on a single charge. 

  • The speaker features 360-degree sound thanks to the neodymium drivers.

  • It features LED lighting that moves with the rhythm of the beat.

  • The speaker’s waterproof body allows for absorption for up to 30 minutes.

  • Up to 100-foot range with no obstructions. With some, the maximum distance is 30 feet. 

Cons:



Amazon Echo Dot 4th Generation



Best for smart home integration


screenshot-2022-01-04-144343-2.png

Amazon

If you want an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker that fits within your smart home ecosystem, then the Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen could be a wise choice for you. Its compact design means you can tuck it away with ease. And it is portable in that you can take it outside or when you travel.

Moreover, you can stream your favorite music from Apple, Amazon, Sirius, and Spotify. You can also listen to bestsellers or podcasts with an Audible subscription.

In addition to playing your favorite audiobooks, music, and podcasts, you can use voice commands to lower or raise music volume, change the channel, or access Alexa. Alexa can tell you a joke, the outdoor temperature, or play sleep sounds if you need to unwind after a hectic day.

The device even has a security component. Use the Alexa app to set up Guard Plus (a paid subscription required). After doing so, it can alert you if your smoke detector goes off or if it hears someone breaking the glass to enter your home.

This version is also scalable, meaning you can connect it to other Echo Dots in other areas of your home. Then, you can make a voice command that reverberates to other rooms in your home having them. It’s a fun way to announce events at a larger party.

Best of all, installation is convenient. Plug the device into an outlet, install the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet, and connect to the internet. All told, this speaker offers many features for an affordable price. 


Pros:

  • Use the voice command feature to play music, access the news, or check the weather.

  • It is among one of the most affordable options.

  • The speaker pairs with other smart home features like thermostats, cameras, lights, and locks to make controlling many functions of your home more convenient. 

  • The blue light on the bottom provides a unique design element.

  • Compact design makes storing and portability convenient. 

  • It offers device connectivity by way of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. 

Cons:



Sony SRS-XB12 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker



Best for portability and richer sound quality


screenshot-2022-01-04-145110-2.png

Amazon

Sony is a brand synonymous with exceptional-sounding speakers. And the XB12 continues this legacy. The speaker comes with a passive radiator to deliver extra bass, enhancing your favorite tunes and giving your gatherings a pulse. The speaker is also scalable in that you can add another unit to create a fuller, richer sound. 

Arguably the speaker’s best feature is its portability. Its compact design and wireless connectivity make it the perfect companion for trips to the beach, picnics, or if you need musical motivation on your bike rides. It also comes with a strap for ultimate convenience.

Sony also designed this speaker to withstand some of the elements. The speaker consists of a dust-proof design, allowing you to take it on biking and hiking excursions. It also is waterproof to a point. Sony notes that all ports must be closed, and the speaker can only survive sprays of water, not immersion. 

And the battery life is stellar. You can listen to music for up to 16 hours on a single charge. Altogether, this Sony speaker delivers many enticing features.


Pros: 

  • It features enhanced bass thanks to the passive radiator.

  • Play music for up to 16 hours. 

  • Its compact design makes this speaker the perfect traveling companion.

  • It can withstand dust and sprays of water. 

Cons:


How did we choose these products?

When searching for the best cheap Bluetooth speakers, we took many factors like price into account. We also examined performance. For this, we looked at all the features offered. For example, the Amazon Echo Dot might not have had the best sound of all the models available, but it offered many features other speakers did not possess. 

Moreover, we also considered features like a waterproof body, its battery life, and its range. That way, if you wanted an audio companion when at the pool or on other outdoor adventures, you had options. 

Customers’ experiences also proved of paramount importance. Was the speaker easy to set up? How were the sound quality and other features? We scoured reviews to help you find reputable options. 

From there, we ranked some of the top choices in categories like best overall, best for smart home functionality, and best value. That way, you can narrow your search based on your preferences.

Which one is right for you?


Anker Soundcore Flare Mini Bluetooth Speaker

: Best for overall sound quality

Anker earned its reputation for delivering exceptional sound quality. This Bluetooth speaker is one of the few to achieve encompassing sound thanks to its neodymium drivers. And with LED lighting, you can create the perfect mood for your gathering. The speaker has a battery life of up to 12 hours and offers a spectacular range of up to 100 feet with no obstructions. Ultimately, if you want the pinnacle of sound quality at a lower price, this speaker is a wise choice for you.


Amazon Echo Dot 4th Generation

: Best for smart home enthusiasts

The Amazon Echo Dot is a speaker that achieves much more than just streaming music. Granted, it does that well. You can also listen to your favorite tunes, podcasts, or audiobooks. 

The speaker can also be your assistant. You can use voice commands to adjust volume, check the weather, even have Alexa tell you a joke. The speaker works with many Internet of Things devices, allowing you control over many of your home’s functions remotely, including adjusting temperature, locking doors, or turning off lights. And, with premium features like Guard Plus, your speaker can detect break-ins or fire alarms. Overall, this model packs the most functionality, making it an intriguing choice for smart home enthusiasts.


Sony SRS-XB12 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker

: Best for portability

The Sony SRS-XB12 is among the most portable Bluetooth speakers. It features a compact design, wireless connectivity, and a carrying strap. It is also dust and water-resistant, giving you the chance to transport it on the trails, to the beach, or on picnics with ease. And when you listen to your music, the passive radiator provides an extra kick of bass. Moreover, the battery life is exceptional. You can receive up to 16 hours on a single charge. For its portability, sound quality, and long battery life, the Sony SRS-XB12 is the perfect addition for those looking to add a little more vibe to their sound.

How does a Bluetooth speaker work?

After enabling Bluetooth on your phone or tablet, your speaker can take in the digital data from your transmitting device through a fixed frequency (2.4GHz). From here, your speaker has a chip called the digital to analog converter. As its name implies, it can take the digital signals received from your phone and convert them to analog. Next, the speaker’s amplifier strengthens these audio signals by drawing power from the speaker’s power source, whether from a battery or auxiliary plug-in. It kicks these signals through the speaker’s drivers to emit sound. 

How do I set up a Bluetooth speaker?

Set up is easy to do. How it works is you use your smartphone or tablet to access the speaker. To do so, fully charge the speaker first. Next, go to your smartphone or tablet’s settings, find Bluetooth, then turn it on. Doing this will allow it to find other devices you can pair with it. Keep in mind that it might take a few minutes to do. After an initial scan, it will discover all available devices near you. Select the name of your speaker to connect to it. Once connected, you can open a music app and start playing music. 

Alternatively, with other speakers, it is much easier to set up. The Amazon Echo Dot is the perfect example of this. With it, you plug it in, download the Amazon Alexa app, and make sure your device’s Bluetooth is on. Follow the rest of the setup instructions, and you’re good to go. 

How do I fix poor sound quality or delays in streaming?

If you notice delays in playing media, poor sound quality, or a dropped signal, there are ways to rectify this. First, position your smartphone or tablet closer to the speaker. The closer your speaker is to your streaming device, the better signal it receives. You also consider keeping your speaker clear of any obstructions. Doing so maximizes its range when pairing it to a source. Pay close attention to your speaker’s technical specifications, as they will tell you how far away you can place your speaker from your device. 

You can also strengthen your signal by disabling Wi-Fi on your phone and keep it further away from other Bluetooth-enabled devices. By keeping these considerations in mind, you receive better sound quality and fewer disruptions. 

How do Bluetooth and Wi-Fi work differently?

Wi-Fi uses an internet connection to serve as a wireless hub for all connected devices. Meanwhile, Bluetooth can connect enabled components wirelessly through radio waves. While you’ll need the internet on your phone or tablet to stream audio to your speaker, your speaker does not require an internet connection. 

Are there alternatives worth considering?

There are many decent Bluetooth speakers for under $50. Below is a look at some alternatives and reasons they were not among the best:

This speaker is stylish, compact, and ready to tag along on your adventure. It features a convenient carrying strap and wireless Bluetooth streaming. With its IP67 classification, it is dustproof and waterproof, giving you the option of taking it on your outdoor expeditions. The one drawback about this unit is its limited battery life of five hours. Compared to other options making the best lists, it is a dramatic step back in operating time. That aside, it is a stylish speaker packing decent sound and exceptional portability. 


  • AmazonBasics Portable Outdoor Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

This speaker’s strength is in its versatility. It has a signal range of up to 33 feet, and its 5W of power ensures a surprising amount of kick in its sound. The speaker also has a waterproof exterior, allowing the occasional splash at pool parties or taking it to the beach. And with an overall weight of 10.6oz, it’s an easy speaker to tote on your adventures. The common drawback customers experience is its limited sound volume.



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