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 cream 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.
Bose SoundLink Revolve and Revolve+
New to 2017, the SoundLink Revolve and Revolve+ are Bose’s first fullly 360-degree speakers. Each are IPX4 rated (splash-proof) and boast excellent audio with sizable bass. If you pay the extra $100 for the Revolve+, you’re paying for a slightly louder, more powerful speaker. Plus it comes with a handle.
Sony’s biggest and most powerful Bluetooth speaker is designed for those who want bass — big bass — but what gets it on this list is its splash-resistant body; it’s rated IPX51. Also, you can stand it straight up or rest horizontally. Plus, for party goers, it has LED lights pulsating around its perimeter to the rhythm of the music, which you can tweak via app.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Along with its 12-hour battery life, the 1.5-pound Braven is protected to up to one 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 a 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.
This speaker has the ability to play for 40 hours at 50 percent volume, making it ideal for a weekend trip. Its 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.
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