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Rating portable speakers (february)
The popularity rating of portable speakers is based on comprehensive statistics on the interest shown by the Internet audience
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Portable Speakers: specifications, types
Sources and media
— Bluetooth. Wireless technology for transmitting sound from mobile phones, tablets, etc. Allows you to connect the device wirelessly at a short distance from the signal source. Bluetooth quality and general features vary by version:
Bluetooth4. Each version brings improvements over the previous one. So in version 4.0, three standards were actually combined: traditional Bluetooth, a high-speed channel and an energy-saving mode for small amounts of data. This allowed us to optimize channel usage and battery consumption. In version 4.1. noise immunity has been improved when working near 4G LTE modules. And version 4.2 introduced mostly general speed and security improvements.
Bluetooth 5.0. One of the most important innovations of the Bluetooth 5.0 standard was the expansion of the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) mode: if necessary, the device can increase the range by reducing the speed, or speed up transmission by reducing the range. In addition, a number of improvements have been introduced regarding the simultaneous operation of several connected devices.
— Bluetooth 5.1. A significant upgrade of version 5.1 was the ability to accurately position the transmitter (receiver) of the signal. If previous versions could only determine the distance, then version 5.1 is able to determine the direction. Thus, navigation beg...an to function better and more accurately, which improved the work with the smart home system, searching for connected devices, etc. In addition to this, the improvements again touched on saving energy consumption and simultaneously working with several connected devices.
— Bluetooth 5.2. The next, after 5.1, is the Bluetooth 5th generation update. The main innovations in this version are a number of security improvements, additional power optimization in LE mode, and a new audio signal format for synchronized parallel playback on multiple devices.
— Bluetooth 5.3Bluetooth v 5.3 wireless protocol was introduced at the dawn of 2022. Of the innovations, it accelerated the process of negotiating the communication channel between the controller and the device, implemented the function of quickly switching between the state of operation in a small duty cycle and high-speed mode, improved the throughput and stability of the connection by reducing susceptibility to interference. In case of unexpected interference in the Low Energy mode of operation, the procedure for selecting a communication channel for switching is now accelerated. There are no fundamental innovations in protocol 5.3, however, a number of qualitative improvements are seen in it.
—Mini-Jack (3.5 mm). Standard Aux input for connecting speakers to an audio source such as a laptop or smartphone.
— USB. The presence of a USB connector allows you to connect a USB flash drive, mobile phones, MP3 players and other similar peripherals to portable acoustics. Accordingly, such models have a built-in player and allow you to use connected gadgets exclusively as a drive.
— Card reader. Like the USB described above, this item implies the presence of a built-in player in acoustics. And the card reader also allows you to use memory cards as a drive on which songs will be recorded.
— FM receiver. A built-in tuner that allows the speaker system to work as a full-fledged FM radio receiver — this is the range that is popular among music radio stations (in particular, due to the ability to broadcast sound in stereo).
— Mono. The simplest type of acoustics is a single-channel audio system equipped with one speaker. Of course, there is no question of any volume of sound.
— Stereo. Acoustic system equipped with two speakers responsible for the left and right channels. Allows you to create a minimal illusion of "surround" sound by simulating the displacement of the sound source in the space in front of the listener.
— 2.1. A system of two stereo speakers that create a minimal illusion of "surround" sound, and a subwoofer that provides powerful and rich sound at low and ultra-low frequencies.
A band is a certain part of the frequency range reproduced by the acoustic system. In single-way acoustics, only universal speakers are used that are responsible for the entire operating range. The presence of several bands means the use of specialized speakers, “sharpened” for certain frequencies: for example, in two-way speakers, separate high-frequency “tweeters” are most often provided, and in three-way speakers, frequencies are divided into low, medium and high.
For different frequencies, the optimal speaker design will also be different; thus, the multi-band design allows to achieve better sound quality. On the other hand, single-way speakers are lighter, more compact and less expensive.
Speaker system resistance to alternating current. Impedance matters primarily when connected to an external amplifier: if the impedance of the speaker system is less than that of the amplifier, distortion in sound is possible, if it is greater, the acoustics may sound quieter than we would like.
The phase inverter is a tube installed in the column housing and having an outlet to the surrounding space. The length of the tube is chosen so that a signal comes out of the outlet, inverted in phase relative to the signal from the front of the diffuser. This enhances the sound pressure and improves the sound of the speakers.
The presence of a passive radiator in the design of the speaker system.
Such an emitter is a speaker cone that does not have its own coil and magnet — in other words, it does not produce sound itself, but only vibrates from the sound of other speakers. Like the phase inverter (see above), this part is intended to improve sound pressure and sound depth, especially at low frequencies; at the same time, the advantage of a passive radiator is the absence of a tube, due to which the design is simpler and more compact than with a phase inverter.
The total power of all channels of the speaker system. The higher the power, the larger the room in which the audio system can be used, however, more powerful portable speakers usually have larger dimensions and weight.
The range of audio frequencies reproduced by the audio system. The wider the range, the richer the sound, the more details the speakers can convey, especially in the low and high frequencies. At the same time, we note that the average human ear is able to hear sounds in the range of about 16 – 20,000 Hz, and it makes no sense to provide a wider range in speakers — a person simply will not hear it. Also note that a wide frequency range alone does not guarantee good sound quality.
Initially, sound transmission via Bluetooth provides a rather strong signal compression, which can greatly spoil the impression when listening to music. To eliminate this shortcoming, various technologies are used (the most popular of which is the aptX codec). Of course, to use any of the technologies, it must be supported not only by acoustics, but also by the Bluetooth device with which it is used.
— aptX. A Bluetooth codec designed to greatly improve the quality of Bluetooth audio. According to the creators, it allows you to achieve quality comparable to Audio CD (16-bit/44.1kHz). The benefits of aptX are most noticeable when listening to high-quality content, but even on regular MP3 it can provide a noticeable improvement in sound.
aptX HD. This codec is a further development and improvement of the original aptX technology, which allows you to transmit sound in even higher quality — Hi-Res (24-bit / 48kHz). According to the creators, this standard allows you to achieve signal quality that is superior to AudioCD, and sound purity comparable to wired communication. The latter is often questioned, but it can be argued that, in general, aptX HD provides very high sound quality. On the other hand, all the advantages of this technology become noticeable only on Hi-Res audio — with a quality of 24-bit / 48kHz or higher; otherwise, the quality is limited not so much by the characteristics of the connection as by the properties...of the source files.
aptX Low Latency. A specific variation of the aptX described above, designed not so much to improve sound quality, but to reduce delays in signal transmission. Such delays inevitably occur when working via Bluetooth; they are not critical for listening to music, however, when watching videos or playing games, there may be a noticeable out of sync between the image and sound. The aptX LL codec eliminates this phenomenon by reducing latency to 32ms, a difference that is imperceptible to human perception (although it is still too high for serious tasks like studio work with sound).
— AAC. A codec used primarily in Apple portable technology to improve Bluetooth audio. In this sense, it is similar to aptX (see relevant paragraphs), but noticeably inferior to it in terms of capabilities: if the sound of aptX is compared with Audio CD, then AAC is at the level of a medium-quality MP3 file. However, this is quite enough for listening to the same MP3s, the difference becomes noticeable only on more advanced formats.
— LDAC. Sony proprietary Bluetooth codec. In terms of bandwidth and potential sound quality, it surpasses even aptX HD, providing performance at the Hi-Res level of 24-bit / 96kHz sound; there is even an opinion that this is the maximum quality that it makes sense to provide in wireless headphones — further improvement will simply be imperceptible to the human ear.
— Speakerphone. The ability to use portable acoustics as a hands-free system for a mobile phone. In this mode, the acoustics are connected to the device via Bluetooth, and the voice of the subscriber at the other end of the line is output not to the phone speaker, but through the speakers of the acoustic system. This is often more comfortable than holding the phone to your ear; in addition, the speakerphone is useful if several people need to participate in a conversation.
— NFC. NFC is a short-range wireless communication technology (about 10 cm). It allows for many uses, but in portable acoustics it is usually used as an addition to Bluetooth, which makes it easier to set up a connection. For example, a smartphone with an NFC module can simply be brought to a speaker with the same function — and both devices will automatically recognize each other, while the user will only have to confirm the connection.
— Multipoint. A technology used in Bluetooth models that allows the speaker to connect to multiple devices at the same time. Thanks to this, you can, for example, listen to music from a laptop, and when a call is received on a mobile phone, switch the acoustics to a conversation. This technology has its own characteristics for different manufacturers, and therefore, if the multipoint function is critical for you, you should separately clarify the details of its operation in the selected mod...el.
— Synchronization of speakers. The model supports the ability to synchronize the operation of several speakers connected to one signal source. This solution allows you to realize truly stereo sound, improve the quality and power of sound reproduction, as well as expand the stereo panorama. The only thing is that both speakers must support the appropriate connection type. Different brands may have their own speaker interconnection technologies (JBL Connect, JBL PartyBoost, Sony Party Chain), or maybe a universal TWS.
— Vibrocolumn. A kind of portable acoustics that uses external objects as a sound emitter — tables, window panes, etc. In simple words: in order for such a column to sound, it must be fixed on another object. However not all of them require fixing on an external object — some practically do not differ from ordinary portable acoustics, and the “vibration” function is provided as an additional option in them.
— Light effects. Such effects can be different — from the simplest set of light bulbs flashing at a constant frequency to advanced colour and music systems that produce multi-coloured patterns in time with the music being played. Anyway, this function carries more entertainment meaning and does not affect the sound of the device.
— Mini-Jack output (3.5 mm). A connector designed to output an audio signal from a speaker system to another device — for example, a stationary audio system with a mini-Jack (3.5 mm) line input. Note that the signal level at this output is low, and it is impossible to connect passive acoustics directly to it — you need to use an amplifier.
— For headphones (miniJack 3.5 mm). A specialized headphone output, made in the 3.5 mm mini-Jack format — this is the standard used by the vast majority of modern "ears". Headphones can come in handy in a situation where loud sounds are undesirable (for example, in a living room at a later time) — or vice versa, in noisy environments where the sound from the speakers is simply not heard.
— Hours. A traditional clock is a device for displaying time. They are not a "vital" function for portable acoustics, but in some cases it is faster to look at the time on the speaker's dial than to look for another clock.
— Alarm clock. Classic alarm clock — a sound signal at a user-defined time, which can be used both for getting up and for other purposes. Must be combined with a watch (see above). The specificity of alarm clocks in portable acoustics is that they allow you to use a certain song or even a radio station as a signal.
- LCD display. Such a screen makes device management more intuitive: it can display the operating mode, equalizer settings, battery level, etc.
- Remote control. Portable sound system can be equipped with wireless remotes operating in the IR range. The advantages of such equipment are obvious: the system can be controlled from a distance, without the need to approach it every time.
- Handle / strap. The presence of a handle or strap makes wearing the speaker more comfortable. So the handle is used mainly in large stereo speakers and makes them look like boomboxes ( radio tape recorders) of yesteryear. The strap can be used both for large speakers and for miniature ones, which allows you to hang them on your hand, on elements of a backpack, etc.
- Flashlight. Such a function most likely will not replace a high-end specialized flashlight. The power of the built-in flashlight is usually enough to illuminate at least a distance of 2 - 3 meters, and models with a bike mount (see above) can even play the role of a headlight (although, again, they are inferior to specialized bicycle lights).
— Carabiner A latch-like device that allows you to attach the speaker to items of clothing, backpack straps, etc.
- Sucker. Such a device makes it possible to securely fix the column on a flat surface and easily remove it from there. Suction cups are often equipped with waterproof models that can even be used in bathtubs and showers.
- Bike mount. A special device designed to fix the column on a bicycle - usually on the handlebars, at the user's fingertips. Such models are often complemented by a speakerphone function that allows you to talk on the phone without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
- Battery powered. Powered by replaceable elements (in the form of batteries or accumulators), usually AA or AAA. This option makes the speakers more autonomous - and, unlike the built-in battery, sockets are not required for such models, the main thing is to have a supply of fresh batteries on hand. At the same time, the batteries themselves are usually not included in the kit, they must be purchased separately; at the same time, the capacity of disposable batteries may turn out to be different (usually it depends on the price category), and elements in the form of batteries are expensive.
Theoretically, a higher capacity allows to achieve greater battery life, but in fact, the operating time also depends on the power consumption of acoustics — and it can be very different, depending on the characteristics and design features. So this parameter is secondary, and when choosing it is worth paying attention not so much to the battery capacity, but to the directly claimed operating time (see below).
Operating time of a portable audio system without connecting to an external power source (network or USB port, depending on the capabilities). Note that manufacturers tend to indicate battery life in their specifications under optimal conditions for energy saving: at low volume, without using additional functions, etc. Therefore, in fact, this indicator may be noticeably lower than the claimed one, and speakers with a long operating time will not sound at full volume for the specified hours.
The time it takes to charge a fully discharged device to 100% charge.
USB charging port
The presence of a standard connector for charging.
- microUSB. One of the miniature versions of the USB connector, still popular in portable gadgets, despite the emergence of a more advanced USB-C. It has relatively modest capabilities (in particular, it is inferior to USB-C in terms of the maximum possible charging power), but this moment is rarely critical. At the same time, there are a great many cables and chargers for microUSB.
— USB-C. A relatively new type of USB connector, actively gaining momentum. Like microUSB, it is small in size, but has a more convenient reversible design and advanced features, such as the ability to transmit higher power, which has a positive effect on charging time.
Power bank function
Ability to work portable acoustics in power bank mode. This mode is only found in models with their own batteries (see "Power type"): it allows you to use this battery to power a smartphone or other external gadget. Thus, acoustics can play the role of an additional external battery, which is important in situations where it is not possible to charge a portable device in time.
Note that Power Bank speakers may only be compatible with certain phone models; this point should be clarified before buying.
Wireless charging gadgets
The ability of the column to work in Power Bank mode (see the relevant paragraph) without using a cable. The gadget is charged wirelessly by placing the necessary device on the charging area.
The presence in the design of the acoustics of a protected housing that prevents dust and moisture from entering the sensitive electronic filling. The specific degree of such protection in different models may be different — some speakers are able to endure even complete immersion under water ( waterproof), others are designed only for exposure to moderate rain. Therefore, the specifics of the protected case should be clarified separately according to the manufacturer's official data. However, anyway, such speakers will be more resistant to bad weather and better suited for outdoor use than those that do not have dust and moisture protection; therefore, if you are choosing acoustics for outdoor trips, it makes sense to pay attention to models with this function.
Some models with this feature are officially IP certified. The IP index includes two digits — for example, IP54. The first digit indicates the degree of protection against dust, the second — from moisture; the higher the number, the higher the corresponding degree of protection, detailed data can be found in special sources.
All kinds of portable audio devices for playing music from famous power tool brands. First of all, such models have good protection, because. Their main application is construction. They are also often supplemented with a good radio tuner and increased power.
The main material used in the construction of the hull.
— Plastic. Inexpensive and at the same time very convenient material for portable acoustics. Plastic easily accepts a variety of colours and complex shapes; the latter not only gives space to designers, creating speakers of unusual design, but also allows you to apply various tricks to improve sound quality. In addition, this material is not afraid of moisture. It is believed that the strength of plastic is not very high, but this disadvantage is easily compensated by the large thickness of the material or the use of special impact-resistant grades. Therefore, plastic is found in all categories of speakers, from low-cost to high-end and from "home" to extreme, designed for an active lifestyle and frequent outdoor use.
— Metal. The metal gives the speakers a solid and expensive appearance, and on the practical side, this material is remarkable primarily for its high strength. At the same time, it is much more expensive than plastic — also due to the fact that manufacturers have to use shock-absorbing inserts and other tricks to avoid an unpleasant "metallic" coloration of the sound; and the mentioned strength is most often not critical. Therefore, metal cases are much less common than plastic cases, mainly in rather expensive portable acoustics.
— Silicone. Relatively soft and elastic material,...not afraid of moisture. Suitable for creating dust, moisture and shock-proof speakers; in addition, it is convenient for models with suction cups (see above) — the part of the body that has the appropriate shape can play the role of a suction cup directly. At the same time, silicone has no other noticeable advantages over plastic, so its use is limited to specific models of portable acoustics.
— Rubber. For a number of reasons, rubber is considered well suited for models with dust and moisture protection, almost all speakers made of this material are protected. In addition, due to the softness of the rubber provides good shockproof properties.
— Wood. Wood is considered the optimal material for speaker cabinets in terms of acoustics. However, the specificity of portable speakers is such that this moment is not decisive in this case, and the main advantage of wooden cases over others (primarily plastic ones) is their aesthetic appearance, with characteristic colours and patterns. In addition, many consider wood a more pleasant to the touch and “natural” material. But this option does not have any special practical advantages, despite the fact that it is quite expensive. As a result, portable speakers with wooden cases are rare — they are mostly designer models created based on the original design.
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