Update: All of these models are now replaced by much newer, better options from the respective manufacturers. Head to our review of the best portable travel speaker for the latest recommendations from Ultimate Ears (formerly UE), JBL, and Bose.
We’ve analyzed everything said by consumer organizations, tech sites, and audiophile bloggers for the three greatest portable Bluetooth speakers out there. These three speakers are all about the size and shape of a tall beer can, and can deliver powerful, balanced, detailed audio for inside use or out in wet, noisy environments like the beach.
Our exhaustive meta-review of all Bluetooth speakers has the UE Boom 2 as our top pick for most uses, but both the Bose Soundlink Revolve and the JBL Flip 4 are also high on the list, and each offers trade-offs that could make one or the other better for some people. So in this article we’ll take a look at their contrasts.
- Top Reviewed Cylindrical Bluetooth Speakers for Outdoor Use: Quick Take
- The JBL Flip 4: A Good Portable Outdoor Speaker — and Quite Cheap
- The UE Boom 2: Our Favorite Combination: Excellent Sound, Volume, and Durability for a Decent Price
- The Bose Soundlink Revolve: Premium Sound (and Price), Not as Outdoorsy
- Wrap-Up: And the Best Speaker For You Is...
Update history of this article
Updated Aug. 11: Recommendations updated based on more critics now saying UE offers better bass and performance at high volumes. Updated April 14, 2019 with a better photo.
Top Reviewed Cylindrical Bluetooth Speakers for Outdoor Use: Quick Take
Further on we’ll go into the details of which reviewers felt what about these speakers, but here’s a quick overview of the advantages of each speaker.
JBL Flip 4
• Portable: 2.76 in. diameter, 6.9 in. tall (7.0 x 17.5 cm)
• Light (1.14 lbs / .515 kg)
• Good sound quality — Detailed across all frequencies, decent bass, some distortion at highest volumes
• Pair two or more units for stereo sound or just to further amplify with the JBL Connect app (Android / iOS)
• Fully waterproof (rated IPX7)
• 12-hour battery
• Other: Speakerphone, 3.5 mm aux input, some complaints that it bounces about when placed upright on a flat surface
• Price: This is a recent release and prices may eventually drop — try these links for the latest pricing at Amazon, BestBuy, JBL.
UE Boom 2
• Portable: 2.5 in. diameter, 7 in. tall (6.4 x 17.8 cm.)
• Light: 1.2 lbs / 0.54 kg
• Excellent sound quality: reviewers across the board noted powerful-but-balanced bass and overall clarity and evenness across all ranges, and loved its 360-degree output
• Louder: One of the loudest among its peers
• Pair two or more units for stereo sound or just to further amplify with the UE Boom app (Android / iOS)
• Fully waterproof (rated IPX7)
• Ultra-durable: Many report that it survives drops well
• 15-hour (replaceable) battery
• Other: Speakerphone, 3.5mm aux input, tap the speaker to skip songs, carabiner hook & tripod mount, can use voice command to start music
• Price: There have been wild price swings for this speaker and pricing can vary a lot according to the color you select; check the latest at Amazon, BestBuy
Bose Soundlink Revolve
• Portable: 6 in. (15.2 cm.) tall, 3.25 in. (8.2 cm.) in diameter
• A wee bit heavier: 1.5 lbs. (0.66 kg.)
• Excellent sound quality: Critics found it delivered flawless 360-degree sound and warm even mids and treble, not as much bass as the UE Boom 2 and “struggled” at higher volumes
• Louder: One of the loudest among its peers
• Pair two or more units for stereo sound or just to further amplify with the Bose Connect app (Android / iOS)
• Splashproof: Rated IPX4
• 12-hour battery
• Other: Speakerphone, 3.5 mm aux input, tripod mount, connects to computers via USB, Google Assistant and Siri integration
• Price: $199 (recently released, prices for Bose products tend to be stable) — check pricing at Amazon, BestBuy
The JBL Flip 4: A Good Portable Outdoor Speaker — and Quite CheapJBL Flip 4 is an excellent cheaper speaker; reviewers across the board complimented its ability to deliver crisp details and convincing bass from such a small unit. It can fully project sound through a room and while it isn’t as loud as the other two, it delivers plenty of oomph for a small outdoor gathering. Reviewers feel that it sounds significantly better than its predecessor, the JBL Flip 3, and particularly liked how it handled spoken voices.
That said, when compared it side-to-side with the Bose Soundlink Revolve and the UE Boom 2, the JBL Flip 4 just doesn’t sound quite as good. For some tastes, the treble is a bit over-emphasized, and the bass can only go so low. The advantage is that it’s much cheaper, though we think most listeners will slightly prefer the sound of our other budget suggestions: the Logitech X300 (the best-sounding cheap bluetooth speaker) or the UE Roll 2 (if waterproofing is important).
The JBL Flip 4’s speakerphone feature works well and voices both ways sound a bit better when compared to the same feature on an iPhone. It’s fully IPX7 waterproof, which means that it’s durable enough to be dunked and come out fine.
The UE Boom 2: Our Favorite Combination: Excellent Sound, Volume, and Durability for a Decent PriceUE Boom 2 listed as our top pick for portable bluetooth speaker; we think it has the best balance of sound, price, and features that will please people across the board.
Reviews of the sound quality for the UE Boom 2 consistently put it at or very close to the top of the pack. It has been cited for delivering great bass, and for even, crisp performance across the middle and high end. It’s a bit better suited than the JBL Flip 4 for outside use due to its ability to get quite loud and especially thanks to its 360-degree sound output. The Bose Soundlink Revolve slightly beats it for a completely even 360-degree soundstage, however.
Several critics felt that the UE offers more powerful, convincing bass than the Bose, and in general were happier with how the UE Boom 2 performed at the loudest volumes.
Like the JBL Flip 4, the UE Boom 2 is completely waterproof and can even be dunked underwater without any problem. The UE Boom 2 is well-built and marketed to be able to withstand drops; adventurous users report that it tends to actually survive such abuse just fine.
Another factor that will help this speaker last over the long haul is that its battery can be replaced by Logitech for $49 by calling their support line. All speakers’ internal batteries will eventually stop holding their charge after a couple of years; having the option of battery replacement better protects your investment.
Like Bose and JBL, UE offers an app that lets you pair together multiple units and create full stereo, or you can just double up the sound to further amplify the party.
We’ve previously compared the UE Boom 2 to its squatter, bassier sister the Wonderboom, and to the cheaper disk UE Roll 2, and finally to its heavier larger cousin the UE Megaboom. But the UE Boom 2 remains our overall favorite from UE’s Logitech.
The Bose Soundlink Revolve: Premium Sound (and Price), Not as OutdoorsyBose Soundlink Revolve is the most premium of these three speakers; it costs a bit more, but reviewers generally feel that it’s one of the better-sounding speakers of its class. They praise its detail and warmth in the mid and high ends, and its rich bass (though they generally feel that UE’s bass performance is better). It’s not going to sound quite as good as a wireless home system like the Sonos, but it’s close, and a good alternative if you want something more portable.
The Bose Soundlink Revolve’s great, even 360-degree sound was generally found to be even slightly better than that of the UE Boom 2; it’s designed to be taken out and placed it in the middle of the party. It’s worth noting, however, that for the price of a single Revolve you are now nearly able to get two UE Boom 2’s, which could form a stereo pair and and much bigger, more convincing sound than a single speaker.
Unlike the Boom 2, you’ll need to take a bit of care with the Revolve; it’s only splash-resistant (not waterproof) and not built to survive as much abuse in terms of drops and dirt. It’s also heavier than the Boom 2, so perhaps not something you’re as likely to slip into a purse or a backpack just in case you want to launch a dance party.
Bose Soundlink Revolve+.
Wrap-Up: And the Best Speaker For You Is…
These are three great speakers, but eventually, one must make choices…
|Speaker||Weight (oz.)||Width (in.)||Height (in.)||Waterproof||Pricing|
|JBL Flip 4||18.2||6.9||2.7||Yes (IPX7)|
|UE Boom 2||19.2||2.5||7||Yes (IPX7)|
|Bose Soundlink Revolve||23.4||3.2||6||Water resistant (IPX4)|
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.
Tengo duda entre el Bose revolve PLUS y el UE Boom 2 pero la comparativa es entre el UE Bom 2 y el Bose Revolve me podía ayudar.
Buen trabajo. Gracias.
Gracias por leer. El Revolve + es mucho más grande así que no muy comparable… mejor comparar el Revolve+ con el Megaboom 3, sobre el que sí hemos escrito, si lo pones en el buscador.
Tengo duda entre el Bose revolve PLUS y el UE Boom 2 pero la comparativa es entre el UE Bom 2 y el Bose Revolve me podía ayudar. Gracias
Glad you enjoyed it! Check out our coverage of the Logitech x300 here. In brief, yes it’s a great budget speaker. We’ll consider having links open in new tabs too — not sure though since some also find that annoying. Thanks for reading!
I just purchased the Bose Revolve and I am slightly disappointed, the bass is too strong for my taste and there is no eq in the app. Kind of wish I would have decided for Boom 2 or maybe Blast (just wondering, what is the sound comparison between the two) …
Hi, we did a comparison of the UE Boom 2 and Megaboom as well as the UE MegaBoom and MegaBlast. I hope one of these better meets your needs!
Really good comparison
Thanks for reading!