Household Wednesday: Best Portable Speakers

best portable speakersThis is another entry in our very occasional feature on household items — see our previous discussions on the best sheets, best towels, indispensable kitchen items, and more.  

Ladies, what are your favorite portable speakers — whether for use at your office, around your home, or in the great outdoors? I’ve been on the hunt for a while now and thought I’d pose the question to the group. I recently bought a very affordable one that was recommended by the usual place I go to for these things, The Wirecutter. Not only was the sound horrible, though (and I am not an audiophile), but my toddler managed to break it within about two weeks. (The Amazon Echo is our default kitchen speaker, but it requires an outlet. I’m not sure I feel strongly enough about Alexa to get Amazon’s more portable version, the Tap.) After my “my cheap speaker sounded lousy and then broke” experience, I’m open to spending more on one but am hesitant because I feel like I ought to have a greater plan in mind. One of my friends did this — he and his wife bought a Sonos speaker pretty much every year for their big holiday present to themselves; after a few years they had a multi-room system. (Do note that Sonos speakers require WiFi, so if you hope to use them on a picnic or some such, you may be out of luck.)

So let’s hear it, ladies — which are your favorite portable speakers? Are they part of a greater home system or plan, or did you buy yours for some other reason (like the super-cute and affordable Kate Spade polka-dot speaker, pictured)? (This should be a separate post entirely, I suppose, but does anyone have strong opinions on their headphones or earphones? I just bought my husband these Bose earphones for Fathers’ Day.)

Pictured above, clockwise: SoundLink® Mini II Bluetooth® Speaker / UE BOOM 2 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker / kate spade new york ‘le pavillion’ Bluetooth® speaker

Further reading:   

  • Best Portable Mini Bluetooth Speakers [CNET]
  • The Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2016 [PCMag]
  • Amazon Echo vs. Amazon Tap [NerdWallet]
  • 5 Best Wireless Speakers Under $300 [ConsumerReports]

Psst: our favorite podcasts for working women, and my favorite songs, for no reason whatsoever. 


  1. I am fashion illiterate and need your help please! Does this outfit work? Links to pieces to follow this post.

    V neck Ann Taylor sheath dress
    Tan Ann Taylor 3 quarter length sleeve jacket
    Black pumps
    Simple gold earrings and necklace

    It’s for somewhat of an informational interview. I usually don’t wear tan because I’m blonde with pretty fair skin but I do have a decent tan going right now. Will this look okay??

  2. Yay Kat! My father got the BEST portable speaker’s that are BLUETOOTH, b/c they are abel to connect with Dad’s IPAD, and also his iphone. They are speaker’s he got from the Apple store, and are kind of like Dr. Dre’s speaker’s. I recomend them highly. YAY!!!

  3. I have the Amazon Tap. If you are looking for a portable speaker with a few smart functions, it is great. Good sound/battery life/etc.

    In fact, I like it so much I now want the regular Echo where I don’t have to press the button to give an audible command.

  4. This is random, but I got my husband the iPhone “powerless egg” speaker from amazon as a stocking stuffer and it’s surprisingly good for a $10 piece of rubber/plastic. He has a ton of music on his phone, and the speaker is easy to prop the phone in and makes a real difference in volume.

  5. Sydney Bristow :

    I just bought Bose noise cancelling headphones based on the Wirecutter’s recommendation (and Amazon reviews). I hope they didn’t steer me wrong!

    • Which ones did you get? I have the qc 25’s and LOVE them, although I’m wondering about returning for the new bluetooth qc 35’s.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I got the QC 25. I didn’t care so much about the Bluetooth. Glad to hear you love them!

        • Anonymous :

          I’ve only used the over-ear QC25 model on longhaul flights when the airline hands them out, but I have the qc20 in-ear buds. I really love the improved sound quality when noise-cancelling is on and they do help with random distracting noises, but I find they’re almost worse for tuning out voices–it’s like they filter out all the noise in the background in a way that I now hear voices even clearer. I wanted them to tune out my loud coworkers and people on planes who think their convo needs to be broadcast to the entire plane, so I’m a bit disappointed in that regard.

      • Wildkitten :

        I have both and I find the bluetooth really annoying. It’s hard to connect, and when the battery dies it turns itunes on and off so it just randomly starts blasting Rihanna. I assume part of the problem is user error, but I’m tech savvy enough that if I commit user error I blame the technology anyway.

    • Vacation all I ever wanted... :

      I bought a pair of QC 25’s as a new job present to myself last month. I’ve taken several flights with them, domestic and more recently international and one thing is clear: it’s love. I have heard there are some cheaper brands that offer a comparable product for cheaper, but I couldn’t be more happy with my Bose.

    • Anonymous :

      Be careful with the plug – my company got these as a gift recently and two of us broke the plugs off within the first couple of days of use. Mine broke when it got bumped in the plane’s arm as I sat back down (never an issue with cheap headphones).

      • Wildkitten :

        You can buy off brand replacement plug parts at Amazon. (My non-wild-kitten made a toy out of my cords more than one time.)

      • Sydney Bristow :

        Good to know. Thanks!

  6. Emily Wall :

    The UE Boom 2 is amazing! Good battery life, you can use it while it charges, super durable with my 2 toddlers, great sound. It uses bluetooth, so we’ve even brought it on picnics for some background music. It comes in a ton of cool color combos.

    • Second this. We love the UE Boom. As a bonus, it can also serve as a Bluetooth speaker for your phone, so we often use for family phone calls with grandparents as it picks up more than just the phone.

    • ManagementConsultant :

      Third the UE Boom. I carry it around the house with me and it’s fantastic for both listening to music and for using it as a speakerphone. I take all my conference calls with it when I’m working from home – no issues with audio quality and it’s nice and loud, too.

  7. Never too many shoes :

    I have the Bose mini for home and the slightly cheaper Bose that comes in the plastic case (comes in different colours) for my office. They are both excellent in terms of sound quality and battery life.

  8. Greensleeves :

    Third! My kids gave me a UE Boom for Christmas. It sounds great and I’m surprised by how often we use it. I hadn’t thought of using it as a speaker for a phone call, but that’s a great idea!

  9. I have that Bose speaker pictured and we LOOOOOVE it. We keep it in our kitchen and use it for parties, music while cleaning, etc. and it has lasted us 2 years now. Great sound and easy to use.

  10. Bewitched :

    I have the mini Jambox which cost about $80 on sale and it’s fantastic sound quality. You can link more than one together for dual speaker sound. It’s cute and small and you can throw it in your purse.

  11. My portable speaker is the shape of a unicorn and it’s magical and I don’t care that I’m an adult.

    • Wildkitten :

      That sounds amazing. Do you have a link? (For others, not me, don’t worry personal finance enthusiasts.)

      • Whoa. Defensive much?

        • Anonymous :

          I took that as partially tongue-in-cheek, but also not totally unwarranted given how many commenters do actually obsessively follow the posts of regulars and use something they said days or months ago against them. It wasn’t that long ago that someone talked about buying an item after a previous financial advice request, and people jumped all over her.

        • Anonymous :

          Eh, commenters jump on WK every time she even suggests she might spend a dollar, so I understand the preemptive parenthetical.

        • anonymous :

          oh shut it, what pointless snark. she’s making a meta reference to this s*te. and she gets a pass for the week she’s had.

      • Anonymous :

        But wait, you shouldn’t be spending money on others either if you have any debt or less than 60 years of savings in the bank as well as a reserve of gold buried under your mattress, right?

      • Wildkitten :

        I had a uniquely terrible week so I am on a portable unicorn speaker spending fast, but everyone else should be getting one of these joy sparking speakers, that’s all. (This is not sarcasm. The speaker sounds amazing).

      • Anonymous :

        You had over 30 people telling you they were thinking of you or offering to help and this is your thank you? Your rudeness is just too much sometimes. The readers of this site have made it clear they really care about you. Just because someone said you shouldn’t buy a $500 purse doesn’t mean they are out to get you.

        • Wildkitten :

          I am sorry. I was trying to be pre-emptive that I am not spending my funds on “wants” at this time. I am not ready to think straight for myself yet. Right now if I shower and feed my furries I am giving myself a gold star. Forgive me for now, please. If you find me rude next week, that’s just me.


      It is magical and I love it. The sound is shockingly good too.

  12. Wildkitten :

    I was given time before I leave (keep working, wrap stuff up) and will be paid after I leave (“kept on the payroll”) and my office is letting me choose how to explain why I am leaving. But I will not have a new job before I leave. Wth am I supposed to be telling my colleagues as I pack up my office and forward my assignments?!

    • anonymous :

      Do you know why you were fired? Sorry to hear about this, but things will improve

    • I can’t remember if you are in a big firm or a small firm. My former medium sized firm had a history of churning and burning associates. Emails were always going out to say they “left to pursue other opportunities.” If you don’t want them to know the real reason you can send out an email saying you are leaving to pursue other opportunities and that you are wrapping up cases so no new assignments, etc. For networking purposes you could say something like “not a good fit, looking to get into ____.”

      Or you can just say they are a bunch of sexist jerks and you are filing a human rights complaint. Make sure the paid after you leave stuff doesn’t come with a release unless you want it to. If it does come with a release, negotiate for more and try to get job placement as part of it.

      • Wildkitten :

        Thank you. This is perfect. I am not yet in the mental space to have these rational thoughts so I need y’alls help. So much appreciated.

        • PS: the sexist jerk stuff was tongue in cheek. You should talk to an employment lawyer before making any statements about a case you might bring if there is one.

          • Wildkitten :

            I’ve spoken to some folks, I could take action but I think it’s best *for me* to just take the severance and move on. I appreciate your clarification though – my brain is still mushy.

    • Anonymous :

      for colleagues, how about “The position wasn’t a good fit and to avoid the same situation elsewhere, I’m fortune that I’m able to take some time to consider my options.”

      If asked why it wasn’t a good fit – say something about organizational structure/opportunities for growth or if you’ve only been there a short time – that the position was not developing as you’d been lead to believe during the interview process?

  13. Anonymous :

    I have the Oontz Curve bluetooth speaker. I only bought it to amplify the pitiful max volume on my iPad (2nd gen?) and it works perfectly for that. It probably wouldn’t win any sound quality awards for listening to symphonies, but I have no complaints about the quality when listening to dialogue. Bonsues: It was only $25, it’s easy to pair and switch between devices, and the battery life is very long (I’ve had it 2.5 years and have charged it less than 5 times–that’s a lot of Netflix marathons!). Only complaint is that I wish there were separate volume buttons instead of volume adjustment being a press-hold on the back and next play buttons–sometimes I can’t be as precise as I want with the volume because I’m trying to make sure I don’t let up too soon and have it start fast forwarding.

  14. Anonymous :

    I posted above – I have the Bose QC 25’s for headphones. If I need earbuds, I use one of the multiple pairs of Apple ones I have laying around. For home, I have one of the little Amazon basics portable speakers that I move in to my bathroom or kitchen if needed. Totally fills my need. If I didn’t live in a studio, maybe I’d have more than one.

  15. How Many Speakers are Too Many :

    I currently use my phone as a clock/alarm but I found a Bluetooth alarm clock with a digital clock. I think this would be really great for by my bedside but I’m also debating getting a small Bluetooth speaker with batteries for the rest of my place. It’s a two-bedroom. Or is that too much speaker for 1 person?


  16. I use one of those fancy family heirloom cut glass bowls that I otherwise don’t have a daily use for. It amplifies sound pretty well and looks nice too.

    • How do you do this? I have a few of those around.

      • Just lay the phone inside it. Done. I try to always put it on a hard surface too (no tablecloth, not on the footstool, etc.).

  17. I really like this feature. We bought this one for home and it was fantastic until it died a year later. Still worth it for the price:

    We have this one next to the computer and use it to play music and in lieu of computer speakers:

    • If all you really want is a portable speaker to improve sound, I’ve found the round Rokono ones on Amazon to do that for a very reasonable price. They plug into the headphone jack on computer/pad/other device, and really do improve sound quality.

  18. Styling help please! I bought the mint-green asymetrical hem pencil skirt that was featured either here or on CapHillStyle a month or so ago and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what to pair it with. It is a very light mint color, so I am struggling with whether a dark top works. I have a few blush colored items that I think look nice, but is that too Easter egg? For instance, mint skirt, white tank/top, light blush blazer?


    • Ooooh, I love navy with mint. That would be cute.

    • I bought it, too, and I love it! Since it’s summer so far I have gone light and worn it with both white tops and a blue Oxford shirt. If your office allows, I think it would look great with a chambray shirt as well. It would probably look nice with grey too, if you already have suiting separates or like the grey blazer Kat posted today.

  19. First Year Anon :

    Navy, grey, white/cream, tan, camel!

  20. I have the UE Megaboom and LOVELOVELOVE it. I have music playing pretty much whenever I’m at home, and I also take it to BBQs, on vacation, to the pool, to the beach, etc. It’s waterproof, super rugged, and throws sound wonderfully, even outdoors. Great battery life as well. Can’t recommend it enough.

  21. anonypotamus :

    I have the Magicbox II (about $25 or $30 on amazon IIRC) and it’s been great. Great sound/volume (though granted, I’m no audiophile), great battery life, good range, small size, and great price. I’ve had mine about a year now and use it several times a week and it’s held up admirably.

  22. DH loves his Jambox. Kids like their Beats Pills.

  23. The UE Roll has a lot going for it: it’s water-resistant and you can hang it.

  24. Kindle Reader :

    We have the Sonos system – got it for DH’s 40th birthday – and we LOVE it. Amazing sound and so nice to be able to just pick up my phone and pick a song and have it play. Can’t recommend highly enough!

  25. I have a JBL Charge and it’s great. Has both bluetooth and aux capability, and is really portable and tiny. Also doubles as a charger.

  26. SteelCityMagnolia :

    As far as headphones are concerned, I spent a ton of years in radio and my Aiwa headphones were the best ones I ever used. Our PD once got us a deal on some really pricey name-brand headphones that were crap – sound-wise and durability-wise. Only thing is, I’ve only ever used the wired headphones (we didn’t have wireless capabilities in the studio.) I still use my wired Aiwa’s with my iPhone and mp3 player. I don’t know if they make wireless headphones or not, but if they do, I’d recommend them based on the sound quality and durability of the headphones I’ve used for years. ANother plus — mine were super-affordable, too. I can’t remember what I paid for them for sure, but I do know I didn’t spend more than $50 for them.

    Thank you all for the speaker recommendations — I was looking for some kind of speakers for my mp3 player for work. I have a bit of research to do, it appears, but I have a lot of good leads here!

  27. I’m also on the hunt for a speaker but I will say that I have a Sonos and I hate it–would not buy another one. It only works through their software so you have to have wifi enabled, download their apps and run everything through their program. It has a lot of drm restrictions, so it won’t play older songs bought from iTunes, free Spotify, or any visual media (i.e., I often hook my laptop up to desktop speakers to watch Netflix, but that’s a no go for Sonos).

    It’s also totally separate interface so if you’re in the middle of a great playlist on your phone, you cant just switch over to the speakers, you have to open the app, find the playlist through their mirror of your library, and queue it up again. The phone control is nice, but the limitations on how you can use it are a total deal breaker for me.

  28. I love my little speaker!