If you’re taking your music on the go with a portable speaker, then you need it to last – and there are a growing number of quality, well-protected outdoor speakers on the market now, including models from high-end audio brands better known for their indoor kit.
With leading manufacturers including Bang & Olufsen and Sonos joining the likes of JBL in making battery-powered, wireless speakers, you can get yourself a device that’s protected against the elements and that’s going to broadcast your music in high fidelity, whether you’re on the beach, the campsite, or your patio.
Besides the audio quality of your portable speaker, there are a number of key specs to look out for as well, not least battery life – you want a device that’s going to be able to live away from a mains connection for as long as possible, otherwise your outdoor party might be drawn to a premature close.
There’s also waterproofing and dust-proofing to consider: if you’re going to be using your speaker near the pool or out on a windy, rainy mountain hike then make sure the hardware you’re buying is designed to survive the conditions.
Connections to portable speakers are typically done via Bluetooth from your phone or laptop, but other standards (including Apple AirPlay) are sometimes supported too. So let’s see what’s out there.
WHAT’S ON TEST…
1 Sonos Roam
Not much bigger than a can of pop, the Roam takes Sonos’ famous high-fidelity wireless music expertise and transfers it to the great outdoors. It’s waterproof, lasts up to 10 hours on a charge, and supports multiple wireless protocols. At home it integrates with your wired Sonos system. ₹15,900, sonos.com
Drivers 2 (tweeter, mid-woofer)
CPU Quad Core A-53
Memory 1GB SDRAM, 4GB NV
Battery life Up to 10 hours
Connectivity USB-C, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay 2
Voice assistant Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
Dimensions 168x62 x60mm
2 B&O Beosound Explore
One glance at the Beosound Explore from B&O tells you this is a portable speaker built to survive the elements. Its compact size and ridged exterior mean it’s easy to carry around and can look after itself, and comes with a strap and carabiner. What’s more, it can go for an impressive 27 hours between battery charges. ₹16,900, bang-olufsen.com
Drivers 2 x 1.8-inch full range
Frequency range 5622,700Hz
Battery life Up to 27 hours
Connectivity USB-C, Bluetooth 5.2
3 JBL Charge 5
The JBL Charge 5 is rugged, versatile and capable of pumping out tunes at a serious volume, despite its diminutive dimensions. Up to 20 hours of audio on the go is possible between battery charges, while the speaker also does double duty as a phone charger itself. The JBL Charge 5 is fully waterproof and available in a variety of cool colours. ₹16,900, jbl.com
Drivers 2 (dome tweeter, bass)
Frequency range 6520,000Hz
Battery life Up to 20 hours
Connectivity USB-C, Bluetooth 5.1
Dimensions 223x96.5 x94mm
A mini sound machine you can take on all kinds of adventures
The Sonos Roam is the first Sonos Bluetooth speaker that’s made for tucking in a pocket or tossing in a backpack for hitting the road. With dust and waterproofing, plus a generally robust frame that will help it survive drops and bumps, can the class of Sonos help it come out on top?
When it comes to what it can do, the Sonos Roam is like a shrunk-down Sonos Move, but it actually has even more smarts going on. Not only is this a Bluetooth speaker, but it’s also a Wi-Fi multi-room speaker and a smart speaker, using Alexa or Google Assistant (your choice). It also features Sonos’ Auto TruePlay feature, so it’s always listening to and adjusting the audio to compensate for any distortions from its placement.
The Sonos Roam’s triangular design is meant to make it easy to grab and hold securely (which it does). The two ends are rubberised, and though they don’t look or feel like a chunky impact absorber, they make it much more drop-proof than anything else Sonos makes.
The Roam is IP67 rated for waterproofing, which means it can survive a dunk in water up to 1m for up to half an hour. You can drop it in the pool or it can get sprayed without issue as long as you retrieve it quickly, and the water tests we’ve given it were all survived without issue. It’s also dustproof enough to be a good beach companion.
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