With a bit of smart shopping you can pay about half price on top Bluetooth speaker brands such as JBL, Ultimate Ears, and some lesser-knowns that we think sound lovely.
We’ve reviewed hundreds of speakers over the years, and while we appreciate the incremental improvements of recent models, we also love to point out where and when you can get the cheaper, previous versions or under-selling colors for quite a bit less.
The Bluetooth speaker market is a chaotic war — there are hundreds of models, and lots of them are excellent. If you’re just looking for our top (somewhat pricier) picks, you can check out our favorite ultra-portable travel speaker as well as what we think is the best largest, loudest Bluetooth speaker for mainly home use. If you’re willing to spend a bit more you can’t go wrong with those two favorites.
But if you’re a true cheapskate, read on.
- Strategies for Cheap Bluetooth Speaker Shopping
- 1. Best Choices: The Cheapest New-Model Speakers We’d Recommend
- 2. Usually Nearly as Good: Previous Versions / Generations of Bluetooth Speakers from a Few Years Ago
- 3. Are Used, Renewed, or Refurbished Bluetooth Speakers Worth It?
- So the Best Cheap Speaker for You Is…
Update History of This Article
Strategies for Cheap Bluetooth Speaker Shopping
We link to the cheapest vendors that we can find at the time of writing (mainly Amazon at the moment) and always to the manufacturer’s official version of the speakers.
Pricing tends to fluctuate over time and even by color — sometimes widely. While we give an idea of pricing, and we always link to the lowest-priced color of a speaker at the time of our writing, another color of your chosen speaker might be cheaper by the time you see this.
So don’t take the prices that show up here or on your first click to Amazon or other vendors as the last word — you may find cheaper pricing by selecting different color options in the product listing we link to on Amazon.
1. Best Choices: The Cheapest New-Model Speakers We’d Recommend
If you just want something portable that sounds good, these are the speakers we’d recommend for those on a budget.
Favorite Tiny, Cheap Bluetooth Speaker for Under $50
Want to pay about double that for a speaker that sounds not much better but has a more widely known brand name? The Bose Soundlink Micro (more on that here) is the fancy-pants version. A great speaker, but we don’t think it’s worth spending that much more. You can also check prices at Bose and Best Buy.
Favorite Tall-Beer-Can-Sized Speaker for Under $100
Those who wish to save a few bucks more may check out our comparison review of the previous JBL Flip 4 with this Flip 5. But so far we haven’t seen the Flip 4 available at that much of a comparative discount and personally, we’d definitely go for the Flip 5 with it’s improved bass. (Also check prices at: JBL, Best Buy.)
The speakers from other designers that are similar to the JBL Flip 5 in size and sound profile, but that cost a whole heck of a lot more, are the Bose Revolve and Revolve+ (reviewed here) and the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 (compared here).
2. Usually Nearly as Good: Previous Versions / Generations of Bluetooth Speakers from a Few Years Ago
While manufacturers tend to update Bluetooth speaker models and offer new ones every year, the changes are typically small. From year to year on the same model, you can often expect:
- Battery life increases of around 10-20%
- Better bluetooth range (although this was rarely a problem to begin with)
- Some minor changes in its sound (usually for the better); sometimes more volume
The fact is, for most uses, you’d probably not notice a difference between a top-rated 1-3-year-old model and its newest iteration, especially if you’re not comparing them side-by-side in listening tests, like we snooty speaker reviewers do.
Below we’re listing the best previous-model, outdated speakers that we’re seeing available at quite-worthwhile discounts on Amazon or other vendors as of this article’s last update date. But things change. We do our best.
- The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom (1, original version) is a squatter, shorter cylinder than the Flip 5 above, making it super portable. The original Wonderboom offers quite strong bass and even 360-degree delivery to its surroundings in a nearly indestructible package. The bass got better in a direct comparison of the original to the successor Wonderboom 2, but just by a bit. The original Wonderboom has a 10-hour battery and impressive two-year warranty, and is still available at last check new from Amazon at quite a discount. You can also check prices at Ultimate Ears and Best Buy.
- Ultimate Ears Megaboom (1, original) is available at a sharp discount at last check, and would be our top choice for cheap speaker right now if you want to carry something a bit larger, with more powerful and present bass, and that goes loud enough to really animate an outdoor gathering. We compared this original Megaboom to its successor Megaboom 3 (there was no Megaboom 2) and found that there was improvement in the clarity, depth of the bass, and top loudness—but really not by a whole lot. Given the price we’re seeing right now, we’d opt for the original. (Also check prices at: Ultimate Ears and Best Buy.)
- JBL Xtreme. It was lauded by critics as a gorgeous-sounding outdoor speaker that could really kick out sound over a wide area, or rattle your home furnishing with deep bass. It’s got a carrying strap and can charge your phone from the speaker’s battery. It’s IPX4 splash resistant and has a 15-hour battery. Its successors JBL Xtreme 2 and Xtreme 3 go just as loud and have slightly improved the bass end, but cost more than double at last check.
We have done other comparisons of previous model speakers we liked with the new models. As of this writing, there were not particularly good deals to be had, but if JBL is your flavor you could check for yourself in our comparison of the JBL Charge 3 and Charge 4, as well as the JBL Boombox vs. Boombox 2. Or just browse our many comparison reviews.
3. Are Used, Renewed, or Refurbished Bluetooth Speakers Worth It?
Not for our dime. We wouldn’t risk buying a any sort of used or renewed portable Bluetooth speaker for one simple reason: the battery.
While good used bookshelf speakers are generally an excellent purchase, the risk with portable bluetooth speakers is that you don’t know how much abuse the battery has already suffered (cycles of use, temperature swings). Also, if bluetooth speakers are working well and sound good, people tend to hang on to them, since as we noted above there’s not much difference with the latest models.
All that said, you can find some used speakers offered for cheap enough that they’re worth the risk. You can browse all usd Bluetooth speakers on Amazon and maybe you’ll find a deal that you’re willing to take the risk on. And who knows, you may well end up with a speaker whose battery will last for years. Or if the battery does give out, you can always keep it plugged in 24/7 and use it as a dedicated bathroom or kitchen speaker, for example.
The other risk recently is mislabeled or knockoff speakers on Amazon in particular. We quite carefully link only to the manufacturer’s official versions for new (current or previous model) speakers, but have no way of verifying what you’ll get if you try for used speakers; for those, unfortunately Amazon and other major platforms are not doing a good job with keeping out the fakes.
So the Best Cheap Speaker for You Is…
Small, medium, or large? This is what we’d get ourselves at the moment at each particular size/price category, if we were looking to spend as little as possible. I love listening to music and a bit of park dancing with any of them.
We continuously update articles based on the corrections, additions, tales of woe or triumph, etc. from our lovely readers and occasional internet crackpots. We obviously publish only respectful, relevant commentary.
Shame you didn’t put the Tribit Maxsound and Tribit Stormbox in there with all the JBL and Wonderboom stuff. These are more of a comparison as the Tribit Micro.