Whether you’re stuck in a hotel room and chained to your laptop or needing some quality tunes before heading out somewhere exotic, some decent travel speakers make a big difference.
Almost universally bad until recently, there have been some significant improvements to the genre of late that now see some standout products that really impress.
Most travel speakers have built-in batteries, some can be used via Bluetooth with smartphones and tablets while others are two-piece affairs more suited to laptops. What they all have in common is a sub-£200 price and some kind of portability.
So here are our best portable speakers (all prices correct at the time of writing)…
X-mini II Capsule Speaker – £18
For the best in pop-up pop music
It may sell for less than half the price, but this pop-up speaker goes way beyond the Wowee One on all counts.
Lasting 11 hours when away from a USB port, the X-mini II Capsule Speaker concertinas out to reveal an SD card slot and a 3.5mm jack to attach to a phone, from which it delivers sound quality that is genuinely unbelievable.
You won’t confuse this 60g gadget with a ‘proper’ hi-fi, but it’s way ahead of a laptop or phone’s built-in speakers.
iLuv Boom Cubes – £20
Small in stature, but can produce a big sound
We’re impressed with the design of these lovable little cubes; they sound a lot bigger than they look, and their price is reasonable.
Unlike most of the options here, the iLuv Boom Cubes are a two-part stereo system and resemble satellite speakers found in a compact home cinema package. Attaching to a laptop or desktop computer via either USB or 3.5mm jack, there’s less boom than the name suggests. But the spacious, detailed and balanced stereo sound created makes these excellent value.
PluggedIn Hot Pick – Puro Tube
Stylish and compact with a powerful sound
Our hot pick is this small & ultra sexy Tube Loudspeaker from Italian tech manufacturer Puro.
Lightweight & complete with an internal battery that boasts up to 6 hours of playback, this is the perfect ‘on-the-go’ speaker for any occassion.
The speaker comes with a handy retractable 3.5mm jack to connect to any audio device, a USB cable for charging & a smart carry bag for that added Italian style.
Unfortunantly, the Puro Tube is not availiable for sale in the UK yet but you can still get hold of one via the company’s website below.
Gear4 StreetParty 4 – £44.99
A portable hard-hitter despite its ultra-slim design
Just 16mm deep and with a dock connector that folds up to create a completely flat, packable profile, the Gear4 StreetParty 4 is all about the look, right?
Actually, no – when unfurled and propped up on its own stand, this speaker impresses. Charging an iPod or iPhone, too, Gear4 has here produced the best pound-for-pound portable speaker around.
Wowee One – £37
Turn your desktop into a speaker
The key thing to remember here is the tiny size of this gadget.
It’s not going to blow you away in terms of audio quality, and whether it’s much of an improvement over a pricey smartphone is questionable. But there’s no doubting that the Wowee One, which has a gel-like plastic undercarriage that acts as a conduit between the speaker and a surface to enable the latter to resonate with low frequency sound, is easy to travel with.
The Wowee One is a decent portable speaker that enables you to enjoy your MP3 player anywhere there’s a solid table top.
Cycling Speaker MB-S100 – £40
On yer bike: this SD card-powered speaker is in disguise
Sometimes the countryside can be so boring.
Jazzing up those long rural rides with this speaker disguised as a water bottle might seem an outrageous novelty – and it is – but the quality of sound from MP3 and WMA files is actually rather good.
Easy to store if you’re out and about, whether on a bike frame or in a rucksack’s side pocket, the microSD card-equipped Cycling Speaker MB-S100 adds both impressive bass and a crisp, clear FM radio.
The drawback for cyclists is, of course, the jettisoning of an actual water bottle to make room.
Sound Science QSB – £109
Top quality for laptops that beat most desktop speakers
Ideal for those either working away or wanting something substantial, this 30W two-cube system is heavy duty and highly accomplished.
Relatively easy to travel with thanks to a tight-fitting zip-up pouch, these cubes are linked, with one attaching to a laptop or PC via USB for both power and music. Sound quality is excellent, with a wide soundstage, plenty of detail and enough bass to make even a movie convince.
If you have a laptop full of films and time to kill in a lonely hotel room, the Sound Science QSB is a wise investment.
Jawbone Jambox – £160
Pocket-sized speaker also acts as a hands-free kit
Its small size and cute design aren’t the only reasons to call on this highly portable gadget.
Pairing with a phone via Bluetooth – both automatically and immediately, too – the Jawbone Jambox fades out its streaming of music when a phone call comes in. There’s a microphone, too, so you don’t even have to pick up the phone.
The Jambox is at its best when supplying low-key but detailed sonics for up to five hours on a single charge.
Geneva Sound System Model XS – £180
Swiss style and super sonics
There’s something awesome about the Geneva Sound System Model XS; it’s actually attached to the leather-topped metal case it comes with, with the foldout finish creating a clever clamshell look.
With an FM radio, a couple of alarms and a built-in five hour battery, the Model XS has touch-sensitive buttons and a subtle red LED-lit display behind the speaker grille.
And – best of all – it has Bluetooth connectivity that produces stereo sound from a smartphone that’s more detailed and balanced than some mini hi-fi speakers.
Bose SoundLink – £260
This little music streamer packs a punch
A wireless unit pairing an included USB dongle/transmitter that plugs into a separate PC or Mac – up to 60ft away – and syncs with iTunes, the Bose SoundLink comes with a rechargeable battery.
Bose’s Waveguide technology creates some impressive bass, and sound quality is great. However, Windows users might be put off by the iTunes angle, and without a screen it can be tricky to navigate music stored on a computer.
Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 – £599
AirPlay & Danish design on this high-end slice of style
If a portable wireless option is the star turn on this luxury item, the presence of Apple AirPlay will make it a must-have in certain social circles.
The leather strap, hand-assembled aluminium casing and retro design that echoes the brand’s transistor radios from the 1960s are the highlights, but AirPlay connectivity really sets the tone.