Everyone has seen the media blitz sent our way from Bose and Jawbone over their “amazing” bluetooth speaker offerings, but aside from paying for the name there isn’t anything really setting them apart from any other bluetooth speaker in the crowded marketplace.
I decided to look at the market most of us would want to shop in, the sub $50 space to see if high quality sound and features could be found in a price anyone could afford. The great folks at Amazon thought it was a great idea and let me pick five speakers that fit my criteria and I put them to the test! Unfortunately, one of the speakers that is part of this roundup went out of stock and is listed as having an unknown return date in the two weeks I spent evaluating them. That being said, here we go!
The speakers were tested in two different environments: my home office ( and really all over the house), and the food pantry that I volunteer at which you have seen mentioned in other posts here at Fat Boy Heaven, which resembles a small grocery store with metal shelving and large freezers and coolers.
Anker® Classic Portable Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker (Black) - A7908
When this little speaker arrived I had some mixed thoughts. I am a huge believer in Anker’s hardware, having used their battery packs and charging accessories for a while, but this is a pretty small speaker. Measuring about 3 inches square and sitting around 2.5 inches tall I was not prepared for the amount or quality of sound emanating from this thing when I turned it on. The driver points up rather than forward, which lends itself well to sitting on a desk or shelf without needing to worry about what you set next to it or in front of it limiting the sound. Anker only claims 20 hours of battery life on Amazon, but at around 50-65% power my speaker ran a full 40 hours. This is the only bluetooth 4.0 LE speaker in the field, and as a result the battery life is far and away beyond even the manufacturers expectations. Room filling sound, remarkable battery life, great design, and less than $50…..who needs a big name plate again?
Philips SB5200B/37 Bluetooth Wireless Portable Speaker (Black)
Phillips is the biggest name in this collection, and the SB5200 normally retails for $80 but was on sale when I was making my selections so I snuck it in. It is the largest of the offerings in the roundup, and had a few things setting it apart but it really didn’t set itself above the pack. The most notable addition at this level is that rather than only relying on USB for charging the Philliips speaker has a speed charging option with a 110v power adapter as well. As far as sound quality it was the equal of the other offerings, really only setting itself far above one competitor. Battery life was about par, running at full volume for just under eight hours. Volume is key here. This thing can crank out the jams! With speakers as in most things size does indeed matter, and the Phillips volume makes it really the only speaker in this story I would say is capable and ready for outdoor use.
Photive CYREN Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Orange)
The Cyren will look very familiar to many of you, it is almost identical in size and design to the Mini Jambox from Jawbone. Fortunately it has two other things going for it: it sells for 1/3 the price, and it sounds 100% as good as the product it can so easy be mistaken for. When this speaker first arrived I was blown away by how much it resembled the more popular offering. This is an amazing speaker at any price, but a must buy at its current price at Amazon. Battery life was on par with the other bluetooth 3.0 speakers I tested, coming in right around 8 hours on a charge. Bottom line, if you were looking at the Jambox mini with your holiday money, buy 3 of these instead. You won’t be sorry.
Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker Kingtop Bluetooth 4.0 NFC Speaker with Swan Design
This was the most unique of the speakers I tested this week. The ultra-modern design I’m sure is going to be off putting to some, but it really put out very high quality sound. Battery life came in around 12 hours at 75% power, not the top of the bunch but certainly not the worst. This really is the type of speaker that most people are going to leave plugged in on a desk or nightstand rather than taking on the go anyway, so battery life isn’t going to be as critical to most. If you are looking for a lot of bass this speaker will not be pleasing to your ear, but for most other music, and for any audio books or podcasts it will be perfect. This can sit in any office and not even look like a speaker to 90% of your visitors. Unfortunately, this is the speaker that I mentioned as no longer being offered in the opening of this article. I’m not quite sure why it was pulled from market, but from the looks of things all of Kington’s speakers are out of stock with no return date known.
Aukey Bluetooth Speaker Portable Wireless Mobile Mini Speaker
The final speaker in the roundup is the Aukey, a nice little speaker for the price. It has decent range and volume, although it distorted much easier than the other speakers in this article. The sound quality really surprised me given the price point. No, you aren’t going to get bone shaking bass. No, you won’t get room filling surround sound, or even stereo separation. You will get workman like sound quality at a price that will let you throw one in your gear bag and another one in every room of your house without breaking the bank.
In the end, it came down to which speaker I would be most likely to throw into my gear bag every day. The best mix of sound quality, form factor, and battery life was the Anker for me, although the Cygen is sticking around as well. The Phillips promptly was snatched by Fatboy at Large Jimmie for an addition to his shooting bag since its rugged design and volume will serve him well while shooting outdoors. The others I won't hesitate giving as gifts, as all of them really are decent speakers.