We’re big music lovers around here, cherishing the travel memories songs create, and appreciating any device that helps us make them.
You won’t find speakers on every packing list — they’re an extra weight and cost not everyone wants to deal with. For those serious about their travel soundtrack, though, there are hundreds of models to choose from, with some big differences between them.
After a rugged version for outdoor use? One with enough battery life to get you through even the longest dorm-room party? A cheap and cheerful option that doesn’t sound terrible? Something else entirely? We’ve got you covered.
Check out our recommendations for the best travel speakers of 2016.
Best Outdoor Travel Speaker: Braven BRV-1
The outdoors isn’t kind to electronics. Between exposure to the elements and the rugged nature of outdoorsy trips, the risk of devices getting damaged, wet, dropped or covered in grime isn’t small.
This isn’t a reason to merely whistle your favourite tunes on your camping or hiking trip, however. Braven’s BRV-1 has your back. Fully waterproofed, it’ll keep its cool come hell or (especially) high water, being able to resist rainfall, water jets and splashes while delivering three watts of audio output per channel.
Its built-in 1400mAh battery will last for a solid 12 hours, and can even charge your phone if needed. It’s also compact and reasonably lightweight at 12.2 ounces, and at under $70, gives good bang for your buck.
Best Everlasting Travel Speaker: Minirig Portable Speaker
In terms of battery life, nothing comes closer to the Minirig: it lasts for well over 30 hours. So if you are planning on hosting your very own Full Moon Party at some point during your trip, this is the speaker for you.
Not only is it unbeatable in its never-ending stamina, but the Minirig also delivers phenomenal sound even though a single speaker. Its 3-inch driver and amp belt out solid lower tones, and the volume is good, too – enough to fill up a dorm room, provided your roommates are cool with it.
And if you find out the hard way they aren’t, not all is lost. The Minirig is sturdy enough to sustain being thrown from a top bunk (though I wouldn’t recommend you try this more than twice… just in case).
Caveats? It takes between five and eight hours to charge – that’s the price for quality battery life. It’s also reasonably expensive, going for around $190.
Best Budget Travel Speaker: Trendwoo Pocket
For an affordable option that doesn’t compromise sound quality, go for the Trendwoo Pocket. This thin sliver of a speaker fits in a pocket, is sleek yet sturdy and, at under $25, is one of the best-value travel speakers out there.
Unlike most of the competition, the size and price of the Trendwoo Pocket doesn’t mean terrible sound and worse battery life. The dual 5W speaker pumps out rich tones and decent bass, and you’ll get up to eight hours of playback before having to find a power socket.
Designed to be taken outdoors, the Trendwoo Pocket is waterproofed and durable. Just make sure, in the event water gets inside the device, you let it dry out completely before using it again). At 8.3 ounces, it’s easy to justify bringing on any sort of trip, indoor, outdoor or mixture of the two.
Best Sounding Travel Speaker: Marshall Kilburn
At first glance the Marshall Kilburn is downright sexy, with its vinyl cover and retro feel. It works both with Bluetooth and through a 3.5mm auxiliary input for wired devices. It also has a more than decent battery life, with Marshall saying that it can last up to 20 hours.
Some features present in other speakers aren’t found on the Kilburn, such as water resistance or speakerphone. If you want those, you’re going to need to look elsewhere. The Kilburn is all about the sound, with a nice balance of lower and higher tones in default mode.
It also has far more flexibility than the competition, thanks to separate knobs for volume, bass and treble. Speaking of volume, Marshall stays true to its hard-rocking brand. It’s loud, going all the way up to 94 decibels.
The downside to this otherwise outstanding speaker is it’s not the easiest to carry. At 6.6 pounds, it’s one of the heaviest travel speakers on the market.
It’s too hefty for backpacking or camping trips, but if you’re on a road trip or moving somewhere for an extended period, then definitely consider it. The extra weight is a minor annoyance given the fantastic sound quality.
The Kilburn goes for a touch under $300.
Best “Go-Anywhere” Travel Speaker: JBL Clip+
When handing out awards for travel speakers, JBL’s Clip+ is a serious contender in the “easiest to carry” category. They hardly come smaller than this: about the size of a hockey puck, the Clip+ tips the scales at just a little over 10 ounces.
The name is no marketing tool, either. The speaker includes an integrated carabiner that attaches to your backpack or belt, making it one of the easiest models to bring on a backpacking or hiking trip.
Despite what its size might suggest, this Bluetooth speaker is surprisingly powerful. Clip+ built upon its predecessor’s impressive output, and gives a crisper treble and fuller bass sound than the earlier model.
It pairs easily with iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth, or can be plugged in via a cable to preserve battery. That’s something you may want to do — the speaker’s small size limits battery life to five hours, which is the only real downside for this device.
If you don’t need a speaker that will last all day, the Clip+ is a great, easily-transportable choice — and at around $30, it won’t break the bank.
All images via manufacturers. Main image via Braven.