Wireless and robust for the holidays!

Whether on a trip to a ski slope or the beach, a battery-powered, sturdy speaker is perfect for the journey.

Travel speakers are becoming increasingly popular. Many have realized how sad it is that everyone sits with their mobile phones and listens to music on their own, when you can just as well as enjoy the music as a group. But there’s also no room to lug around some huge beast during your holiday. Instead, one looks for small battery-powered speakers that can easily be placed in a carry-on luggage for a trip abroad, in a tote bag for a trip to the countryside, or in a backpack for a ski trip. The speakers must also be able to handle being dropped in the snow, or getting splashed with water from a pool.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Last year, we tested luxury speakers at a higher price point. For that you get slightly bigger speakers with decent volume and a pounding bass rendition. However, they often take up more space in your luggage. This year we went the other way. We have looked for smaller, more convenient speakers that can easily fit inside a coat pocket. We have also tried to find speakers that can handle coming along on a trip and being used every day. And we’ve set the price limit down to half the amount, so everyone is able to afford music for a holiday.

Party atmosphere and assistants

Two trends are evident among this year’s candidates. The first is that you can connect several speakers together. Either two speakers so you can get adequate stereo sound which gives a real boost indoors when they are placed near a wall. Or a so-called party mode where multiple speakers play in sync, either to spread the music throughout several rooms when you’re inside, or to get the music to cover a larger area when you’re outside. Unfortunately, the volume from a pocket speaker does not reach far if it is a big party.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

The other trend is that they have a microphone. This feature has previously allowed speakers to be used as speakerphones. This is convenient if you don’t want to hold your mobile phone or if you want to host a conference call. But now it’s also used to talk with voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. Even if your mobile phone is packed away, you can press a button and ask about the weather, or make a web search to see who’s right when there is a disagreement during a party game.

 

Products in this test
Sober, but afraid of water

Touring XS is better suited indoors than by the pool, especially as it is also a bit low-key.

We previously tested both Geneva Touring L and Touring S, where the letters indicate size. Now is their little brother’s turn, a speaker that falls into the travel category. Besides the size, the features are different. The larger models also have radio, while the XS must make do with only Bluetooth. The design hails back to the travel radios of the past. The imitation leather can be obtained in red, cognac, white or black. Very sober, but not particularly practical in this context.

Touring XS adorns the room with a leather covering in nice colours.

Somewhat surprisingly, Touring is the only test participant that is not protected from wind and weather. In other words, the speaker is better suited for a hotel room or a balcony, rather than the beach. It’s extremely easy to use. The speaker has a volume knob that also turns it on and off. That’s all. No voice assistants, stereo connections, playback controls, or apps. There is a wireless extension for the music on a mobile phone. That’s all.

It shares many of the problems with the Touring S regarding sound, but they are pronounced. Firstly, the bass is very modest, despite a passive driver on the back. It also sounds like it was latched on at the end, and it doesn’t interact with the rest of the range. Second, the amount of volume is limited and if you try to push it to max, the audio image begins to break up. However, the mid-range is warm and rich, with a clarity that is perfect for acoustic pieces and voices.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

If you are looking for a sporty speaker that you can take along on an adventurous trip, it is best to look elsewhere. It is not particularly robust, and can neither withstand dirt nor water. Geneva Touring XS is a sober mobile table speaker that is better suited for the balcony or the desk. Also, there are no features other than playing your music wirelessly. It doesn’t play particularly loud, and the bass has problems. However, it works good for podcasts and more low-key music.

 

Updated and well-sounding

A former best buy has corrected all the errors and is now best in its class.

Two years ago we tested the Envaya Mini in a similar test of travel speakers, and we concluded that it was the best buy. Here comes the sequel, confusingly enough with the same name. So it is important to keep track of the product designation. One of the shortcomings of this was the water protection, but it is now upgraded to waterproof. This cannot be seen by the pretty cloth-like chassis, but by the rubber-coated sides, making sure that water does not leak in through the buttons.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Albeit large, the buttons are poorly marked, making them a little difficult to locate. If you have two Envaya of the same model, you can pair them together as a stereo pair by simply pressing two buttons. Unfortunately, there is no app for such features or for customising the sound. The microphone allows you to use it as a speakerphone, as well as for voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. Although this is not mentioned any further.

The previous model already sounded really good, and Denon has now gone a step further. When you try acoustic live music, you get a wonderful sense of presence, and even a bit of stereo perspective. Jazz music has fine clarity and separation. Pop music sounds compelling with an appropriate bass rendition. Of course, there is no deep bass in this size, but it cuts more than pushing the speaker to the physically impossible.

All inputs are hidden, and the neat fabric goes all the way around.

 

Conclusion

Denon follows up last year’s best buy with an updated model with the same name. Keep track of the model designation. The few complaints we had back then have now been improved. The water protection is upgraded to waterproof. Despite this, it has a finer cloth-like chassis. It can also play at a higher volume without affecting the sound. But above all, it sounds exceptionally good, and handles everything from electronic dance music to acoustic live concerts.

 

Long lasting armoured speaker

Stryde is a sturdy speaker packed with features, but the sound isn’t great.

The American brand Braven recently launched the Active series. Besides Stryde, there is also an omnidirectional 360 and a big brother XL. Stryde is a relatively large and heavy speaker, which might better fit in your luggage than in your handbag. It feels extremely sturdy and can withstand both dust and water. Its battery is decent and lasts long, and you can also charge your phone with it. However, it must be recharged with the accompanying charger.

Stryde can charge the mobile phone, but requires a special charger.

 

The large buttons on top make it easy to use the speaker with wet hands or gloves, if you don’t want to pick up the phone. With the mobile phone app, you can use a variety of settings, and even find a lost speaker or turn it off. Naturally, audio profiles such as acoustic music, rock and extra bass are also available. Thanks to the microphone, you can use voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.

Stryde has large passive subwoofers on the side, which assures loud and heavy sound. It really thrives with rock music, which becomes very compelling. However, if you play electronic music with deep bass, it becomes too excessive. It is so forceful that it simply creates resonance in the speaker. With more complex or finely tuned music, you quickly notice that there is no presence and clarity in the sound. To a certain extent you can correct this with the EQ.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

Braven’s Stryde speaker is made for active people, and this is noticeable in both appearance and features. It is a decent device that can withstand dust and water, and does not initially look breakable. The large battery lasts long and can even supply power to a mobile phone. The app is packed with smart features and the speaker is easy to use. Unfortunately, the sound is just as coarse as its appearance. It can handle rock music, but has problems with other genres.

 

Convenient and easy to use

Very easy to use and bring along to the beach, but you have to compromise on sound.

We previously tested the Bose Soundlink Mini II, which is a fantastic travel speaker. However, the Micro is a better speaker for the beach, as it is both waterproof and has a better price. It also feels very sturdy and well-built. The rubber strap on the back also makes it easy to attach to a backpack, a bicycle handlebar or a beach umbrella. It’s easy to install using the Bose Connect app, which finds the speaker and keeps the software up-to-date.

Rubber strap is convenient for attaching the speaker to a handbag or a bicycle handlebar.

 

The app can also be used for connecting Micro together with other compatible Bose speakers such as Soundlink Revolve or Soundlink Color II. They can either be run in stereo pair or in party mode. However, at present, you cannot adjust the sound if you have your own preferences. Thanks to the built-in microphone, it can both be used as a speakerphone and to provide voice commands to Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant.

Oddly enough, the sound is far from the same class as the Mini. While the Mini plays clean and dynamic with an excellent bass, Micro sounds completely different. Obviously, with such a small speaker, you cannot obtain particularly deep bass, but even regularly deep bass sounds uncontrolled. However, Micro also lacks the clarity and separation of the instruments that Mini has. Water resistance has clearly resulted in Bose having to compromise. It sounds acceptable, but does not reach the same level as the best ones in the test.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

Soundlink Micro is Bose’s more robust and cheaper alternative to the excellent Mini II. Thanks to a smart rubber strap, it’s easy to attach to your backpack and bring along during the summer holidays. It’s easy to install and use, thanks to the app, voice status and voice commands for the mobile phone. However, the sound is not as impressive as in the Mini, and is not at the same level as the top competitors in this price range. It is a compromise you might be able to live with.

 

Powerful and it floats

Barricade XL is a party speaker with adequate bass, which floats if it falls into the water.

Skullcandy has previously been known for their colourful headphones. Just over a year ago, they launched a speaker series called Barricade, where the XL naturally is the largest. It is also the largest and heaviest speaker in the test, so if you want a very portable speaker, you should perhaps go down a size. It features a rubberised exterior and speaker grills in metal, so it feels really sturdy. Not only is it waterproof, it actually floats too!

Barricade XL is not only waterproof, it also floats!

 

Large buttons at the top control the playback, and along the edges you find a few, smaller, more obscure buttons. They appear to be used for connecting two Barricades together for party mode as well as to switch between two Bluetooth sources. Behind a hatch, there is not only an Aux input and charging port, but also a USB port for charging a mobile phone. A microphone is available for phone calls but unfortunately not for voice assistants. However, status messages are provided with a voice from the speaker.

Barricade is a very bass heavy speaker. This is of course an advantage for outdoor parties where the bass otherwise easily disappears. And it certainly makes pop, rock and electronic music more refined. But when it gets the table to vibrate, it’s a little too excessive. And if you turn up the volume, there is resonance in the chassis. It is not a good choice for more refined music. Not only because of the bass, but also because it sounds a bit two-dimensional and enclosed.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

Barricade XL is no dumb choice if you are looking for a speaker that can be heard at a beach party and has a bass that gets the dance going. Especially since it not only withstands water, but actually floats, in case it falls down from the edge of a pier. You can also connect two speakers for even greater audio. If the battery on your mobile phone dies, it can be recharged from the speaker. On the other hand, it’s a bit cumbersome to bring along on a trip, and the sound is not refined enough for slower music.

 

A musical hand grenade

Wonderboom takes care of the party at the beach, in the shower and at the pool party.

Ultimate Ears has performed well in many of our previous tests. For example, the UE Megaboom was test winner at last year’s test of more expensive travel speakers. We have also tested Wonderboom separately, but how does it perform compared to the competition? We like the rounded format and the string that fits on the soap shelf in the shower. It can handle it because it is well protected against the elements. Since last year, several new colour options along with two fun patterns have appeared.

Naturally, you can get Wonderboom in a colour or pattern that suits you.

 

The control is simple with large, clear buttons. A button is also used to connect two Wonderbooms, but no stereo sound is given. Unfortunately, the Boom app isn’t supported, so you can’t use it to hook up a bunch of speakers. Logitech claims it’s easier. We think it’s sad. It lacks a microphone, so you can’t use it for phone calls, or to get voice assistants. However, it promises a range of 30 metres, which is good.

The most important is how it sounds, and Wonderboom provides just as much fun as the look suggests. It plays louder than you might think, and delivers deep bass. But that’s not the only thing that impresses us. You also gets a clean mid range with a clear and well-defined sound. Moreover, the treble is clear, without harsh edges. Thanks to the omnidirectional sound, it’s well suited for a group of friends at the beach with everyone hearing the music equally good.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Conclusion

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom is an excellent, small Bluetooth speaker with many qualities and few issues. It has a neat design, is waterproof, plays both loudly and deeply, and has a great price. The only thing it really lacks is the ability to hook up in a stereo combination. Aside from that it’s a fantastic, well-sounding, little speaker, that you can bring along wherever it is needed. It is built to take a beating, and continues to play even if it’s pouring.

 

Difficult and boring

Getting the right sound is tricky, and unfortunately the disadvantages also outweigh the advantages.

Philips speakers are part of the Everplay series, where they focus on a strong Bluetooth connection and smart charging. In this case, they promise a Bluetooth range of up to 30 metres. And you can quickly charge the speaker if you have a QuickCharge charger, which is not included by the way. We also like the smart carrying strap that doubles as a USB cord for charging. The speaker is relatively robust, but doesn’t feel as expensive or well-built as certain others.

Why are the buttons on the short side when it has to lay down?

All the buttons are placed on the one short side, which is a bit impractical. It’s almost like you have to lift the loudspeaker up so you can have a closer look and determine what the buttons do. By pressing the power button, a battery meter lights up. The speaker has a microphone so it can be used for calls. Unfortunately it does not support voice assistants. There is also no app for adding features, controlling the speaker, or customising the sound rendition.

What’s frustrating about Everplay BT9700 is that the sound changes character depending on the volume. At low volume, it sounds flat and careful. If you go up to half, it is brought to life, and at 75%, it sounds the best. If you go higher, you lose control again. This considerably limits the enjoyment you can get from it. In its best moments, it sounds lively and engaging. In other situations, it lacks bass, while in the next song you feel that the treble is a little harsh. This is a tricky rascal.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

What makes the Philips Everplay BT7900 stand out is that you always have a charging cord with you and that it is quick to charge with the correct adapter. However, the appearance is quite dull and it is not as robust as the test winners. It functions as a speakerphone, but doesn’t support voice assistants, and there is no app. The most disappointing, however, is that it is difficult to find an audio volume that suits all situations and at the same time sounds good. There are better options out there.

 

A practical beauty

Libratone Too is easy to carry, nice to show off, and it sounds very good.

Libratone has previously produced portable speakers, such as the excellent Zipp Mini. However, that one was not particularly robust, and was best suited for home use. Libratone has now released real travel speakers. The slightly more expensive One is in book size, while Too is the size of a small feeding bottle. If your backpack has a pocket for a water bottle, it fits perfectly there. However, it cannot handle being submerged in water, and can only cope with a few raindrops. The rubber handle makes it easy to hang it up.

Nice loop for hanging up speakers, but the touch control is impractical.

Like Libratone’s other speakers, Too has a touch control for volume and playback. It is well suited for home use, but outside it’s too easy to accidentally touch it, and it doesn’t react at all when you have wet fingers. The app is better. You can connect several loudspeakers for a larger audio, play Internet radio, run Spotify or Tidal. Also, it has EQ settings for many different types of music.

Too is an omni-directional speaker, which makes it less suitable for individual listening, and is better suited for being placed on the middle of a picnic blanket. It delivers an engaging sound that makes most people want to tap with the beat. Bass rendition is surprisingly good and handles most electronic dance music, even though it cuts off the deepest bass. If there is something to complain about it would be that it lacks a little dynamism when you increase the volume, and it lacks a sense of presence in live concerts.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

Libratone Too is a nice device that is significantly better suited for outdoor use than the otherwise notable Zipp speakers. However, it can only withstand water spray, not a bath. The format is designed to be put in the water bottle pocket of a backpack. The app makes it easy to control the speaker, pairing two speakers or sculpting the sound to your preference. It has a rhythmic bass rendition and an immersive sound suited for most outdoor activities.

 

Bass heavy party speakers

Perhaps Flip means that this bass heavy party speaker is giving the competitors the finger?

When we previously tested JBL’s travel speakers, we confined ourselves to the Charge models, for example, the excellent JBL Charge 3. Flip lacks the large battery and the ability to recharge mobile phones, but on the other hand it is more affordable. The heavy-duty rubber housing reveals that it is a waterproof speaker, and it also protects against impact. The speaker is placed on the side and lays naturally so that the speaker driver points diagonally upwards to target the listener. A carrying strap makes it easy to carry and hang up.

Using the app, you can connect up to 100 (!) speakers in party mode.

 

The app allows you to either pair the speaker with another Flip, or set it in party mode where you can connect up to 100 (!) JBL Connect-compatible speakers. In the app, you can also choose whether the Play button should control the music or activate the voice assistant. The buttons are somewhat hidden, and there isn’t an option for jumping between tracks. Unfortunately, the app can’t be used for fine-tuning the sound.

This is clearly a party speaker in pocket-size. The two passive subwoofers in the ends work hard to squeeze out the pounding sound you never thought was possible in this size class. It is almost as if you feel the bass in Silent Shout with The Knife. The level of volume is also clearly above the norm. This is obviously not a speaker for everyone. Details of the music disappear easily, and it lacks clarity and separation when there are many instruments that play simultaneously.

 

(Photo: Manufacturer)

 

Conclusion

If you want to have a party at the pool without breaking your budget, JBL Flip is an excellent option. It has a versatile format with a well thought out design that can withstand impact and go swimming. If the entire camp site has compatible speakers you can set it on party mode with up to 100 synchronised speakers. For its small size, it has a surprising amount of volume and bass rendition. However, it is less suitable if you want to lie on a deck chair and listen to Mozart.

 

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