We Listened to the Best Travel Speakers — Here’s the One We’d Take

We’ve tried out oodles of portable Bluetooth speakers over the years and we update this article every few months as new options come out.
I’ve been travelling the world for a decade and a half, and no matter how much I whittle down my luggage to the bare essentials, I always have room for a small speaker. I love to follow my podcasts, to share and discover music with people from all over the world, and to improvise occasional mini-dance party in my Airbnb. My phone’s speaker just doesn’t cut it.

It’s pretty vital to travel with good sound.

We’ve tried out dozens of different Bluetooth speakers for this site, and we also continue to read all speaker reviews from top consumer test organizations, tech sites, and bloggers around the world. It’s not easy to pick just one travel Bluetooth speaker from the heap, but if we had to do it, here’s the current winner we’d take on any trip.

The Best Travel Speaker

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is our favorite road speaker.

Pros: An even mix of punchy, dynamic sound in a small, nearly indestructible waterproof cylinder; the overall best portable replacement for a full speaker system

Cons: While we think the Boom 3 is the best speaker for its size and price, there are also cheaper options and smaller, lighter options out there (though they have less loudness and bass)

Check Prices At Your Country’s Amazon

Update History of This Article

Our first Bluetooth speaker article was published in 2015. It has since been updated every few months with additions, changed recommendations, and new products, and also had a few major overhauls. On April 14, 2017, we started logging these changes here; we added the UE Wonderboom to the recommended cheaper speakers. On May 3, 2017 we made a few changes and added the Etekcity RoverBeats T3. On May 8, 2017 we added the CRDC Life. On May June 2, 2017 we added a discussion of the JBL Flip 4 and made a few other updates. On June 21, 2017 we updated the discussion of the CRDC Life. On August 11, 2017, we updated the information on the Fugoo and Bose Soundlink Revolve speakers. On August 15-16, 2017, we removed speakers that were no longer available, updated the descriptions of our main pick, added some great alternate recommendations that have been recently released. We also rewrote the dumb parts. On Nov. 2, 2017, we added the AOSM speaker. On Nov. 3, we added the Bose Soundlink Micro. On Nov. 7, 2017, we added the supercheap tiniest speaker. On July 18-20, 2017, we did a major overhaul of the whole article with some updated recommendations concerning new speakers and eliminating those that are no longer available. On July 22. 2018: removed the no-longer-available the AOSM Portable TWS Bluetooth speaker, CRDC Life and Etekcity RoverBeats T3. Complete overhaul with updated recommendations on October 23, 2018. April 8, 2018: Updated with more opinions on the sound of the Boom 3 and better photos. Updated on Oct. 1, 2020 with a much better cheap pick. Added the JBL Flip 5 on Nov. 5, 2020. Updated with some minor changes to cheaper picks on July 21, 2022. Updated to remove older speakers and fix links on May 2, 2023.

Why the UE Boom 3 Is Our Favorite Travel Speaker (And Why Others Think So Too)

We’ll discuss its main road-worthy features first, then its sound — including a meta-take on critics views of this versus other portable speakers.

We tested the waterproofing of the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 in a bathtub. No problems found. Let’s be honest; there’s really no reason to have it in the tub with you, but it is nice to know that it’s plenty well built to take any road abuse.

Features of the UE Boom 3: Rugged, Ready to Travel

This is not a feature-rich speaker, but it does include everything we find essential for use anywhere.

Waterproof, dustproof, drop-proof

No you’re not actually going to listen to your speaker underwater. But with the Ultimate Ears Boom 3, you could. The IP67 waterproof rating means that the unit is rated to be immersed under a meter of water for up to 30 minutes with no damage. This is a specific and meaningful claim (with legal implications) under the conditions of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s standards.

In our test it sounds fine in the bathtub, but really, just put it next to your bath, shower, or pool. We do like knowing that we can easily wash it when needed, and that the odd splash of water won’t hurt it, but the 7 rating in waterproofing (meaning it can be submerged) is a bit overkill.

The 6 in the rating also means that it is “dustproof” and meets the standards for keeping dust out of the unit — an extra level of protection that is rare in such speakers, even those that are rated as waterproof.

The “drop-proofing” is a vaguer claim from Ultimate Ears that meets no specific standards, but the company claims that the Boom 3 passed various drop and durability tests. We were not so interested in testing this particular claim, but clumsier Amazon reviewers report that they’ve dropped it with no problems or even scratches. (The same was reported with its predecessor UE Boom 2.) And prior to picking up a Boom 3, I myself was using, dropping, and bumping an (ancient-model, long discontinued) UE Mini speaker from the same manufacturer for many, many years and to this day it plays perfectly. The battery still works great too.

 Convenient Charging and a 15-hour Battery for Long Parties Away from a Power Source

This is not the longest battery life for a quality small travel speaker (the Fugoo Tough described below goes for 40 hours) but the Boom 3 has more battery time than most reasonable people will ever need. (We also recommend carrying a backup battery for our devices when on the road, which could be used to charge your speaker in a pinch.) The Boom 3 lasts for 15 hours of constant use. In the real world, I used it without charging for a two-week trip that included several spurts of use in (3-4-hour) car trips, and use in hotel rooms, showers, little improvised dance parties, and more with more battery to spare at the end.

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3’s USB-A to USB-B cable plugs into any standard USB charger, such as one of the ports on the travel adapter and USB charger that we recommend, shown here.
The Boom 3’s provided USB cable is long enough to be useful for reaching to plug it in behind furniture or in odd places in a hotel for charging. It’s sturdy enough to hold up over time on the road.

It’s also convenient that this speaker charges via a standard mini USB-B port, so it’s easy to borrow a charger from someone’s phone if you haven’t brought the Boom 3’s (included) cable and plug with you.

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 can be charged with any standard micro USB-B cable, like what most cell phones charged with up until a few years ago, and what plenty of smaller devices still use to charge.

The other power option is an optional charging dock, which we think is a very lovely way to display and listen to your Boom 3 at home. You simply plop the speaker down on this stand and it starts charging. Super convenient, though it’s also a bit overpriced.

Hang Loop

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 in my masculine though hardly enormous hand (to give an idea of size). It’s a 2.9 inch diameter speaker that’s 7.2 inches tall. I carry it in a drinks sleeve in my pack, and the drinks slot when I’m using it in a car.

If you’ve seen our commentary on toiletry kits, you know that we’re obsessed with the utility of being able to hang things while travelling, and staying in cramped quarters.

You can use a carabiner to attach your Ultimate Ears Boom 3’s hang loop to a backpack, a fence, a chair, a towel hook when you’re the shower… this is a very small but incredibly convenient feature. At least I think so; I always seem to run out of space to set stuff out on when I’m staying in weird corners of the world.

The Boom 3’s Dedicated Apps: Equalizer, Pair Multiple Speakers, and More

You can use the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 without installing any special apps as a simple Bluetooth-connected speaker. But you’ll want the relevant Android or iOS app for your phone as they add quite a bit of functionality.

  • The “block party” features allows three people to share/fight for DJ-rights to the speaker.
  • You can remotely turn the speaker on and off, which turns out to be quite convenient for making sure you save battery when the speaker is a bit further than you’d like to reach, or for turning it on to find it by sound if misplaced.
  • Customize the EQ to your taste.
  • Use the speaker as a musical alarm.
  • Connect multiple Boom 3 speakers for bigger sound. You can also connect 150+ Ultimate Ears Boom, Boom 2, Megaboom, and Megaboom 3 and have them all blasting music from your little old phone.

Portable Size and Weight

The Boom 3 can be carried in the water bottle pocket of your pack or daypack, and is shown here in the daypack of the Osprey Meridian 60.

The Boom 3 is a very packable 2.9-in. (7.3 cm.) diameter cylinder and is 7.2 in. (18.4 cm.) tall. It weighs 1.34 lbs. (608 g.).

Want to travel even lighter? We totally understand. In that case opt instead for the Bose Soundlink Micro described below.

The Feature It Lacks: The Boom 3 Is Not a Smart Speaker, So Talk to Your Phone Instead

If you want a speaker you can chat with (ask about the weather, news, control a smart home), you can see our comparison with the Ultimate Ears Blast. But note that we wouldn’t really bother recommending any smart speaker, at least in terms of travel, as all smart speakers currently only work when connected to WiFi.

We also think that smart speakers are a bit gimmicky and not all that useful; if you want an assistant we’d go instead for a (much more useful, nearly essential) screen on a unit like the Echo Show or Google Home Hub for your home, and get a separate durable speaker for the road.

How the UE Boom 3 Sounds

Our top-pick travel speaker Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is, as you may suspect, the third in a series. The previous UE Boom and UE Boom 2  were both revolutionary hits with reviewers when released with tech press, audiophiles, and international consumer and testing organizations. These were the first speakers to really do 360-degree audio and they packed an incredible punch for their small size.

The competition has caught up, definitely, and plenty of other portable Bluetooth speakers sound wonderful. But the Boom 3 has improved over the Boom 2 too. Thus far the critics have been heaping praise on the new portable party guy from Ultimate Ears, saying that its sound has a bit better performance at top volumes. Since speaker tastes are subjective, our meta-take is always to look for an overall consensus in this way rather than taking just our ears or any other one critic’s tastes as gospel.

And overall the experts think that the Boom 3 sounds fantastic. Its 2-inch drivers and 2×4-inch passive radiators punch out powerful sound and relatively deep bass for such a small unit with little risk of distortion. It’s an impressive feat of engineering and it doesn’t — like certain competitors, hike up the bass end to try to cover sloppy performance. The sound is balanced and rich, clear and sweet in the mids, and often described as “punchy” or “dynamic”.

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 pictured in action, filling a 400-square-foot living room and dining room area with plenty of sound. It was still a bit too much at top volume, in fact, and we had to turn it down.

Of the many Bluetooth speakers that I’ve personally listened to, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is the best sounding of its size, and certainly has the most convincing bass — not quite as deep and pleasing as high-end home bookshelf speakers, but it’s getting well close, which to my mind is fantastic for someone who is rarely in my living room enough to enjoy those.

The speaker goes quite loud (up to 90 dBA) and doesn’t have issues with distortion or odd mix effects when it gets up to its limits. Pushed to the max it was uncomfortably loud in a large interior living room/dining area, and could certainly serve as the sound system for a house party if needed.

Also crucial for good sound in practical outdoor settings or larger rooms is the UE Boom 3’s 360-degree output. No matter which side of the speaker you’re on, it sounds the same. The speaker is designed to be placed in the center of the action, and be equally enjoyable from any side. This means you can take a party to go and place the speaker in the center of the action, and it will sound great to everyone.

Downsides of the UE Boom 3 (But Not Enough to Hold Us Back)

  • There is always a trade-off between a speaker’s size and its ability to deliver convincing bass and volume, so of course some larger Bluetooth speakers do sound better especially on the bass end. In this article we focus on portable units and compare the Boom 3’s sound to them; we separately cover the bigger, less portable Bluetooth speakers here. The Boom 3 is to most ears the best-sounding speaker with the features and the size that a traveller wants, but you might also compare it to the Megaboom 3 if you’re willing to carry about twice the weight.
  • It’s a bit expensive. You can certainly spend less and still have a great-sounding and robustly durable travel speaker (see below).

Buying Options for the UE Boom 3 and Scoring the Best Prices

In addition to the Amazon box at right, you can check Best Buy, although we haven’t thus far seen better prices there. Some retailers (especially Amazon) do sometimes have different prices depending on the color you buy, so you may want to click around to different colors if you’re flexible and see what each costs.

We wouldn’t recommend buying a used Boom 3 —or any other battery-containing electronic device — as there is no telling how many cycles the battery has already been through at the time of purchase. You may end up having to replace the battery too soon (though our experience with Ultimate Ears batteries has generally been quite good).

An (Unnecessary?) Accessory for the UE Boom 3: Carrying Cases

The Boom 3 is an incredibly rugged speaker and we don’t think it really needs a case (we do travel with our cables neatly stored and protected in aSkooba Cable Stable however).

But we hear that lots of our readers do buy cases anyway. While we have no idea what’s best, here’s the top three with our obviously savvy and stylish readership. The cases do also provide a nice way to organize and protect the charging cable and keep it alongside the speaker.

Other Top Travel Bluetooth Speaker Options

Depending on your audio preferences and travel style, the following speakers may be more suitable for your voyages.

The Bose Soundlink Mini II is a good choice for the audiophile who wants a tiny Bluetooth speaker for mainly inside use on the road (hotel rooms, etc.), and doesn’t need the waterproofing or klutz-proofing of our main pick.

The Mini II sounds just as great as its beloved predecessor (the Soundlink Mini), according to a number of reviewers and consumer organizations; they call the Mini II the top option for “booming bass in as small a form factor as possible” and say instruments and vocals in the mid-range have “space to breathe” and impressive warmth. It can “competently handle the full spectrum of use.”

You can’t pair two of them together for stereo, unlike our main pick. The Bose Soundlink Mini II measures 7.1 x 2.3 x 2 inches (18 x 5.8 x 5.1 cm). The major drawback is that it’s a heavy little guy (1.5 pounds/.68 kg) and not as rugged and suitable for rough travel as our main pick. Its battery life has been tested at 8-10 hours.

The Most Ruggedness and Battery  Life in a Quality Travel Bluetooth Speaker: Fugoo Tough

TheFugoo Tough is designed to withstand snow, mud, shocks, and submersion underwater. It has an IP67 rating just like our main pick and a removable jacket that suggests it’s going into war — It’s not going to have any issues with being dropped, bumped, or kicked around.

It’s also the speaker we’d recommend with the most battery life: 40 hours.

Overall it doesn’t get near as many accolades for sound as our main pick, but it’s not too bad either.  Several reviewers quite like how it handles music, while another faults it for lack of bass and volume.

Fugoo sells basically the same speaker in Sport, Style S, and Fugoo Style versions, but the Tough version is the only one that might make sense for some travellers as it is the most indestructible of the lot, and that’s what Fugoo has going for it in comparison to other options. We have done a full analysis of the differences between these Fugoo speakers. And we have a more complete comparison of the Fugoo, UE, and Bose lines of speakers.

Want a Better Bass for Your Travels, and Willing to Carry a Heftier Speaker?

We’re all about travelling light so we’ve focused this article on speakers that are about the size and weight of the UE Boom 3.

If you think you can carry more, you’ll also be able to get more volume and better sound — this is a basic law of speaker tech.

Our rugged, larger travel speaker recommendation is theUltimate Ears Megaboom 3. In our direct comparison of the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 we note that they’re almost identical in terms of design but the Megaboom 3 offers a bit more soundstage and performs better on the bass end. It goes deeper, and its lows on bass-heavy tracks are more full and convincing.

At about half the size and weight of our main pick, the Bose has introduced a clippable, pocketable marvel that still somehow manages to deliver signature Bose evenness and clarity, and even enough loudness to fill a room or work for outdoor listening.

The Bose Soundlink Micro measures 3.87 inches (9.8 cm) square and is 1.37 inches (3.5 cm) thick; it weighs 0.64 pounds (.29 kg), making it one of the lightest speakers we’ve ever recommended. It’s fully IPX7 waterproof and has a very durable rubberized chassis.

The tech critics and audiophiles who have reviewed it tend to agree that its clarity is great and there is even somewhat of a soundstage and a solid bass end; it’s widely held to be the best-sounding small speaker of its size.

The main complaint it gets is its price; this costs more than most such tiny speakers. And the battery life of six hours may deter some (though if you’re carrying your own spare USB battery in your pack you don’t have to worry).

Overall, if you’re someone who is into extremely light packing and you need your tunes on the go, this is the speaker to go for.

See also our comparison of the Micro with the Bose Soundlink Color II.

Cheaper Portable Bluetooth Speakers

Our top pick is louder and sounds a bit better than the options in this section; we think it’s worth it as we travel constantly.

But there are other, cheaper options that are similarly lovely if you don’t need that extra oomph, or want to spend a bit less.

A Great-Sounding, Ultra-Small and Cheap Travel Speaker: The Tribit Stormbox Micro 2

My top-choice travel speakers are the Tribit Stormbox Micro and Ultimate Ears Boom 3 attached side-by-side to an Osprey daypack. The original Stormbox Micro is pictured here; the Stormbox Micro 2 is the same size and shape.

The Tribit Stormbox Micro 2 is half the price of the Bose Soundlink Micro above, and to some sounds even better. I personally have loved listening to most music on it, as it really excels in delivering a full, well-rounded impression of the mid-range that you’d normally get from a much larger speaker.

It’s also significantly cheaper and more portable than my top-choice Boom 3. While it can’t come anywhere near delivering the powerful bass and immersiveness of my top travel speaker pick, if I were just slightly less snobby about sound, or if I needed to lighten my load, I’d happily carry the Stormbox Micro 2.

It charges via USB-C (how modern), so you can use it with the same USB-C travel charger that you likely already use for your phone and perhaps laptop and other devices. The new version adds to that the ability to charge a phone or other device off of the speaker’s battery—a lifesaver after a long flight.

Add to that Bluetooth 5.0 and full IP67 waterproofing, and it’s hard to find any objection.

Other Options (But Not Our Top Picks)

The Bose Soundlink Color II is the small-to-mid-sized Bluetooth speaker to get if you want a decent soundstage and the smooth mids and trebles that the Bose universe tends to provide.

The Color II not as loud, and doesn’t kick out as much powerful bass as some of the other options, but the critics and consumer organizations report that holds it own and is excellent for filling a room with clean, detailed sound. We offer a full comparison of the Soundlink Color II with the other Bose speakers.

The Color II is directional, meaning that it sounds best when you’re right in front of it, and it’s spash-resistant (but not waterproof) and has a rubberized body so is expected to survive drops well. Overall, that makes it a nice-enough speaker to travel with, but the UE Boom 3 seems like a better deal to us.

The Bose Soundlink Color II measures 2.2 x 5.0 x 5.2 inches (5.6 x 12.7 x 13.2 cm) and weighs 1.2 pounds (.544 kg).

Generally Well-Liked: The JBL Flip 6

We think that the JBL Flip 6 is a good speaker and a slight improvement on the JBL Flip 5 (see this review for full thoughts). It could be a decent in-between-priced pick if your budget falls between our main pick and the cheaper pick above.

Other Speakers that We Considered

The AYL Portable Mini Capsule Speaker System is not actually a bluetooth speaker, but connects via a mini cable. It’s really small and really cheap, and considering that sounds decent according to some. If you have a modern smartphone or tablet, though, your sound may already be better directly from that.

We completed a comparative meta-review of the differences between the Bose Soundlink Revolve II and Bose Soundlink Revolve + II, which we think are both quite fine Bluetooth speakers but perhaps not what we’d want to take on the road, as they’re not as waterproof and dustproof.

As of this writing there are a couple of reviews out there of the Oontz Angle 3, but no serious comparisons to other speakers by anyone who is an expert in audio. This speaker is quite popular on Amazon, and most reviewers there seem to be enjoying their purchase as a functional and loud-enough option for “rocking out in the shower” or listening to audio books. We can’t recommend this over the other cheap options (above) until we see more written about it or try it out ourselves, but it may be another good option at the lowest price point.

The Rise MiniBoom speaker would be an ideal travel companion if it sounded a bit better.

The Rise MiniBoom Wireless Speaker is a tiny, palm-sized and well-built speaker that would be a great road companion if it sounded better. Unfortunately, I found the sound at high volumes to be so harsh and unpleasant that I didn’t even want to use it for listening to podcasts — the sound from my Pixel phone itself was actually more even and listenable. If you lower the volume and listen to music, there is a bit more body and presence than a cell phone’s own speaker, but unsurprisingly not the clarity of the larger speakers we review here, and the sound is muffled. I wanted to love this speaker for its small footprint and obvious convenience as a minimalist travel accessory, but unfortunately the sound quality for me is overall not worth adding to one’s bag (or even pocket).

The SOL Republic Deck was pretty well-liked by some reviewers, though they weren’t in completely in love with it or anything. It is long and thin, and its price has dropped significantly, so it could now be considered a decent cheap option, but still not as good as our other cheap picks above.

Several SoundBot Bluetooth speakers get decent if unexceptional ratings over at Amazon; we have not tried them out ourselves nor encountered serious reviews or testing of any of these at this point, however.

Wrap-Up: And the Best Speaker for YOUR Travels Is…

With Ultimate Ears speakers especially, it’s very worth clicking over to Amazon and checking out prices for various colors, as they vary widely at times.

UE Boom 3
Dynamic, convincing bass, great clarity, smooth 360-degree delivery, goes super loud, rugged, and small enough to be thrown into any backpack or suitcase; can pair two of them simultaneously for bigger sound
Tribit Stormbox Micro 2
Far cheaper and much more portable but still offering excellent volume and a full, relatively immersive experience