Waterproof and rugged used to mean one thing: your gadget looked like it belonged in a Jeep commercial. But times have changed, and so has the durability of materials. That means that Jacques Cousteau-worthy gadgets no longer look as though they were designed for underwater usage, and Bluetooth speakers are no exception.
The crème of the latest crop of waterproof models don’t necessarily look the rugged part, but looks are far from everything. Many of these models are rated IP7, which means they can handle more than just splashes, smashes, snow and sand — they can be submerged in water 3.3 feet deep for up to 30 minutes. That’s not bad for speakers that might look as nice on your bookshelf as they do on the edge of the hot tub.
Skullcandy Barricade XL
The XL is the largest and loudest in Skullcandy’s Barricade line. Its 10-hour battery life and full-spectrum sound make it a great portable companion, and its IPX7 waterproof rating and extreme ruggedness mean a little campground mud won’t kill the tunes.
JBL Clip 2
The Clip 2 comes with something similar to a hiking carabiner, allowing you to easily attach the clip to your backpack or a pant belt loop. It has a IPX7 waterproof rating and 8 hours of playtime. Plus, it’s extremely portable and affordable.
UE Boom 2
This pill-shaped 360-degree speaker is the most stylish of the bunch and comes in a broad selection of colors. Most importantly, its iOS and Android app allows two UE Boom units to work as separate stereo speakers. They’re better suited for an outdoor summer BBQ than for a full-on rugged adventure.
Along with its 12-hour battery life, the 1.5-pound Braven is protected to up to 1 meter underwater and has a shockproof rubber exterior, meaning you can let it roll down a cliff into a lagoon and it won’t be worse for wear. Separate indoor and outdoor modes make the most out of the speaker’s volume to fill big areas, and a strap connection lets you hang it from a tree, kayak or backpack. And if you buy two they can be paired to work as left and right stereo speakers.
This super-sized version of the first-gen UE Boom is fully waterproof. The IP7 rating means it’s dust-, water- and impact-proof. The sound is about as good as it gets for a speaker of this size, offering broad dynamic range and full bass. Like the UE Boom 2, the device can be paired with a second UE Megaboom to create an even bigger stereo sound via its iOS- and Android-compatible app. The app also serves as an equalizer and lets you turn the speaker on remotely via smart device. Other improvements include: battery life, at about 20 hours, and Bluetooth range; you can wander off up to 100 feet with your smart device without losing your connection to the speaker. Though certainly possible, the UE Megaboom isn’t ideal to carry around with you everywhere, as it weighs about 1.9 pounds.
The Aqua floats. With an IP7 rating, it can be splashed and even submerged up to 3.3 feet. It isn’t designed to play underwater, however, and once water does get into the speakers, it cuts back on some of the sound output. The Aqua can also can be positioned upright on its side, like a traditional speaker, making it worthy shower companion.
Skullcandy Air Raid
The Skullcandy Air Raid looks vaguely like a 1940s military radio. Its solid silicone boot covering makes it drop-, dust- and water-resistant (rated IP5). It comes in a variety of traditional colorways like black and army green along with more outré designs, like the forest-themed “Realtree” and the two-toned “Hot Blue.” One other key traditional touch: a toggle power switch, which will handily prevent the Air Raid from being turned on accidentally if it’s rolling around in your bag. Overall, though, the sound doesn’t offer the warmth you’d get from pricier speakers, but we haven’t heard much better at this size, price and level of durability.
This speaker has the ability to play for 40 hours at 50 percent volume, making it ideal for a weekend trip. It’s snow-, mud-, shock- and waterproof and a speaker strap (sold separately) allows you to strap it to a tree — just to let everyone know you aren’t joking around about the Fugees. Complete with six symmetrically placed drivers, producing sound from all four sides of the speaker, and Siri/Google Now integration, this speaker is one of the best on the market and is also available with more fashionable (but less tough) exteriors.
Outdoor Technology Big Turtle Shell 2.0
The Big Turtle Shell is one of the biggest, loudest speaker on the list. At over two pounds and almost a foot in length, it’s double and triple the size of these other speakers — which means it isn’t designed to blast its 110 decibels on a hike or kayaking trip, but rather at an outdoor party or large campground shindig. The speaker lasts for 16 hours of playing time and features simple navigation buttons. Because of its size, it can recharge your iPhone four times over and, when placed on its side, can go from 360-degree room-filling sound to directional blasting. If its $200 price tag scares you, opt for its smaller (and newer) brother, the Turtle Shell 2.0 ($80).
Polk Audio Boom Swimmer
Good design doesn’t have to be humorless, as this waterproof speaker, which looks like a tadpole-cum-sperm, attests. (It is the “Swimmer” after all.) With an IP7 rating, the Swimmer can be submerged up to 3.3 feet for up to 30 minutes. The flexible tail makes it easy to attach to anything, from a shower spigot to a bike handlebar to a computer monitor. The tail also screws off, revealing USB charging and audio line-in inputs, and can be replaced with the included suction cup for attaching the speaker to walls or tables. Speaking of which, the sound this speaker emits won’t fill a room, but you’ll hear surprising clarity and warmth on vocals and bass, even if many of the mid-range instruments can get lost.
Fugoo Sport XL
For parties, bigger is always better. Almost the size of a small boom box, the Fugoo XL delivers loud audio with great bass. It has an IP67 rating, meaning it is waterproof to 3.3 feet, but it’s also sand- and snow-proof (provided you keep all the inputs closed behind their covers). The Sport XL’s eight separate drivers deliver 24 watts of sound from the sides of the unit, making for an all-directional experience that provides a similar sound no matter which side of the Fugoo you’re on. All this comes for up to 40 hours on a single charge.
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