Five new portable speakers to rock out at the beach or the pool
These speakers are rugged, loud and small enough to be taken anywhere. They can also be linked to more speakers for some serious party sounds
Summer’s here and its time to hit the pool or head over to the beach for some respite from the heat. Here are five newly released portable speakers that are designed to pump up the fun factor.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom
The Wonderboom is the latest in the Ultimate Ears (UE) line-up that is rated at IPX7 for up to 30 minutes of immersion in one metre of water. The size of a large coffee mug, the rugged speaker is fronted by the same tough mesh-like material as the others in the family, and a soft rubber finish along its top and bottom that renders it pretty much indestructible. Indeed, UE says it is drop-proof from up to 1.5 metres.
Though some may complain about a less than stellar mid-range, there is no question that the speaker was loud enough. Unlike the smaller UE Roll speaker, the Wonderboom doesn’t come with an inflatable float. It is naturally buoyant if you prefer your music to follow you around the pool, while an integrated fabric hook lets you hang it from a pool chair as you work on your tan.
On the downside, there is no 3.5mm input on the Wonderboom, Bluetooth wireless is the only means for music playback. You can pair two Wonderboom speakers together to augment the sound, though it won’t pair with other products in the family. UE claims the battery will last up to 10 hours at 75 per cent volume.
JBL Flip 4
Despite not being a brand traditionally associated with high quality portable speakers, JBL has worked hard to perfect its technology. The latest Flip 4 delivers IPX7 water protection in a compact form you can hold with one hand. The rugged device is sheathed in rubber, with the micro-USB charging socket and 3.5mm port protected by a heavy rubber cover. In addition, a removeable loop offers the option of hanging it off a deck chair.
The most affordable in this line-up, the Flip 4 delivers powerful music playback with deeper bass than most portable speakers in its class. Although it suffers slightly in terms of clarity, there is no question that it is loud. Moreover, it can be hypnotic to watch the uncovered passive radiators on both ends vibrating with the volume is pumped up.
We didn’t try it, but a JBL Connect button pairs the speaker with a second one in stereo mode, or as many as 100 speakers for a mega party. You can even take calls from the speaker, which comes with noise and echo-cancelling technology to function as a speakerphone.
Bose SoundLink Revolve+
The SoundLink Revolve+ is the latest portable speaker from Bose. Designed for genuine 360-degree music playback, the Revolve comes in two sizes: the smaller version known simply as the Revolve and the larger Revolve+. For pool parties, we recommend the latter for its bigger sound and superior battery life of 16 hours. Although you won’t want to dunk it into the pool, the Revolve+ is fine with some moisture or spillage.
Downward firing drivers and dual passive radiators offer the punchy low-end performance you would expect from a Bose product. And it is easily among the loudest of the line-up, and manages to do so without sacrificing quality. Holding down the multifunction button also lets you access voice input for Siri and Google Now.
The fabric handle on the top is a nice touch, however, you’ll want to be careful not to bump the beautiful extruded metal chassis or scratch it. To be fair, a healthy dose of rubber-like material on the top and bottom offers some protection against being knocked over or from skidding off the pool table. A micro-USB charger is included, though the standard USB chargers we tried worked just fine. Of course, you may want to purchase the official dock that lets you charge the Revolve without having to fumble with cumbersome cables.
Beoplay A2 Active
This is the improved version of the original A2, ditching the old DC power plug in favour of a modern USB Type-C, and gaining resistance to water and dust. The slim chassis makes it easier to pack than cylindrical speakers such as Revolve or Flip, while strategically positioned drivers ensure that music can be heard from two directions.
Looks aside, the A2 Active delivers Bang & Olufsen’s signature clarity and crisp highs with aplomb. The plastic grills vibrate strongly at higher volumes, although the finely tuned speakers stay in place. A unique DJ capability lets up to eight people connect simultaneously through Bluetooth and jump in with the tunes of their choice for non-stop music playback.
The hardy canvas strap is interchangeable and the speaker comes with two straps. The lack of a charging adapter in the box is not a problem, as the smart charging system in the A2 Active will adapt to match the capacity of the USB charger used, charging in less than three hours at the fastest. The Beoplay gives you up to 24 hours of playback at moderate listening level.
Remember the X-mini speakers thatpopularised the concept of portable wireless speakers? Well, they’re back with a new range of portable wireless speakers, including the 60-cm tall X-mini Infiniti – the largest in the line-up. Although this portable speaker that doesn’t offer any water- resistance, it is loud enough that you can put it well away from the water and still feel it’s right next to you.
The Infiniti has a good heft thanks to a metal chassis, which no doubt helps deliver a deep bass. It delivers 360-degree sound with its omni-directional design and four speakers and a subwoofer for 100 watts of loud, expansive music playback. Basic controls allow you to adjust the volume, pause, or enable a sound processing mode that expands the sound further. And if one isn’t enough, you can pair two wirelessly.
We particularly liked the fact that it is rated for four hours of untethered music at its loudest volume, and the built-in soft-glow light is a nice touch and means you won’t be bumping into it as the sun sets. Charging is done through an included USB Type-C cable, though you will have to use your own USB charger. We do wish there was a strap or handle to lug this along, but if you are already bringing along some chairs, mats, food and icebox, its absence probably won’t be missed.