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Summer, sun and five Bluetooth speakers

Livia Gamper
18.08.2022
Translation: Veronica Bielawski

There are many Bluetooth speakers out there, and on hot summer days, you can hear them all over Switzerland. I compared five current models to get a better lay of the land.

Summer in Switzerland seems to go hand in hand with blasting questionable music from Bluetooth speakers. But without testing different devices, it’s difficult to find the right one. So, I went ahead and ordered five portable speakers. Here’s the comparison.

Disclaimer: this comparison isn’t meant for audiophiles. We’re only looking at Bluetooth speakers with the intent of simply playing music outdoors.

Choosing the speakers and test criteria

For my test, I got five current Bluetooth speakers in the 100 to 160-franc range. They’re all portable, available from different brands and available for delivery at the time of writing. Here are the models I tested:

  • JBL Charge 5
  • UE Boom 3
  • Huawei Sound Joy
  • Teufel Rockster Go
  • Sony SRS-XE200

I evaluated them according to the following criteria: sound, battery, weight, portability, protection class and connectivity options.

Based on these criteria, I awarded each speaker anywhere from one to five points. To make things clearer, I’ve represented the points visually with musical notes, one being the worst grade, five the best. How I grade the sound is based on my own subjective opinion. The remaining points are awarded based on the official specs.

Here we go!

JBL Charge 5 🎵 🎵 🎵 🎵

Alongside the speaker from Sony, JBL’s Charge 5 is the largest model in this ranking. It’s difficult to carry in just one hand and doesn’t include a carrying strap. In return, it has a rich sound, a fair bit of bass and can double as a power bank. The Charge 5 can’t be used for making calls or as a voice assistant; it doesn’t have a microphone installed. The final score for this speaker: four out of five points.

  • Sound: Rich, rather cool sound, quite a bit of bass, clear treble – I like it, but the bass is sometimes overpowering.
  • Battery: 20 hours, 7,500 mAh, 4-hour charging time, power bank function (via USB port).
  • Weight and portability: 960 grammes, no carrying handle and no loop, can be difficult to grip with one hand.
  • Protection class: IP67 – protected against temporary submersion and dustproof.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1, no aux-in, can be connected to additional compatible speakers, no microphone for voice assistant or calling.

UE Boom 3 🎵 🎵 🎵 🎵

This classic gets a point deduction for its outdated micro-USB port. Even its dedicated docking station relies on the ancient standard. However, the Boom 3 sounds clear and rather warm. Compared to the other speakers, I feel the maximum volume is very loud indeed. The speaker is easy to carry in one hand and can be attached to a backpack using a carabiner. I give it four out of five points, too.

  • Sound: Clear, rather warm sound, nice treble, normal bass, high volume – I really like the sound.
  • Battery: 15 hours, 3,200 mAh, about 2.5 hours charging time.
  • Weight and portability: 600 grammes, carabiner can be attached, easy to carry in one hand.
  • Protection class: IP67 – protected against temporary submersion and dustproof.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1, no aux-in, can be connected to additional compatible speakers, built-in microphone for voice assistant or calling.

Huawei Sound Joy 🎵 🎵 🎵 🎵 🎵

Huawei’s Sound Joy was launched at the beginning of this year. With that, this model is one of the newest available – and the cheapest in this comparison. To my ears, this speaker’s sound is on the cool side. The mids and trebles sound clear, the bass sounds full and balanced for the size of the speaker. It also has a gimmicky little feature built in: the ring at the top lights up in time with the music. The Sound Joy is easy to carry in one hand. With that, I’ve really nothing to complain about and the speaker gets full points.

  • Sound: Balanced, rather cool sound, clear highs and mids, normal bass – I like it, but it’s nothing special.
  • Battery: 26 hours, 8,800 mAh, fast charging function (Charging for 10 minutes gives you one hour of runtime).
  • Weight and portability: 680 grammes, carabiner can be attached, easy to carry in one hand.
  • Protection class: IP67 – protected against temporary submersion and dustproof.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, no aux-in, can be connected to additional compatible speakers, built-in microphone for voice assistant or calling.

Teufel Rockster Go 🎵 🎵 🎵

The Rockster Go from the German manufacturer Teufel also continues to rely on the outdated micro USB. Other than that, this speaker stands out with its design – it looks like a mini version of the whoppers you’d see in a concert hall. The sound comes across as warm and full to me, though the vocals do seem a bit muffled at times. I definitely wouldn’t use it to listen to podcasts. Furthermore, the Rockster Go is the only speaker in this comparison that doesn’t have app connectivity, which means you can’t tweak any settings or play around with the equaliser. That’s another point down for this speaker, for a total of three out of five points.

  • Sound: Warm and full, but voices can sound muffled, pronounced bass – I like the warm sound, the muffled singing not so much.
  • Battery: 12 hours, micro USB.
  • Weight and portability: Approximately 700 grammes, taut carrying strap at the back.
  • Protection class: IPX7 – protected against temporary submersion.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, aux-in port, can be connected to additional compatible speakers, built-in microphone for voice assistant or calling.

Sony SRS-XE200 🎵 🎵 🎵 🎵

Released in July, the SRS-XE200 is the newest speaker in this comparison. It’s also one of the two largest models – it’s barely possible to carry in one hand, but it does come with a handy carrying strap. I notice slight irregularities in its omnidirectional sound. Otherwise, the sound is rather cool, the trebles clear and as usual for Sony, the speaker is quite heavy on the bass. With that, I give this speaker four out of five points – the fluctuations in its omnidirectional sound resulted in the point deduction.

  • Sound: Full and rather cool, slight fluctuations in the omnidirectional sound, rather bass heavy – I do like the sound in general, but depending on the position of the speaker it sounds slightly different.
  • Battery: 16 hours, 10 minutes charging for 70 minutes playback, 2,900 mAh.
  • Weight and portability: Approximately 800 grammes, carrying strap included.
  • Protection class: IP67 – protected against temporary submersion and dustproof.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, LDAC, aux-in, built-in microphone for voice assistant or calling.

Verdict

In this – admittedly rather superficial – comparison, Huawei’s Sound Joy speaker wins because it has the best price-performance ratio. It’s the cheapest speaker in this test, is easy to carry, and the light-up elements are a nice feature (though that is a question of taste).

The Teufel Rockster Go doesn’t have a mobile app. On the one hand, this is a reason to pass on it; on the other, the simplicity may actually be what you’re looking for. The JBL Charge 5 can’t be attached to your backpack and isn’t easy to grip with one hand, but it does pack a mean punch and can even act as a power bank. The UE Boom 3 can be attached to your backpack with an additional carabiner, but you’re stuck charging it via micro USB.

Out of the speakers in this comparison, I personally am the biggest fan of the Teufel Rockster Go in terms of design. But here, too, the micro-USB port ruins the vibe. The fact that two of these five modern, well-selling speakers are still equipped with the outdated standard is disappointing.

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Testing devices and gadgets is my thing. Some experiments lead to interesting insights, others to demolished phones. I’m hooked on series and can’t imagine life without Netflix. In summer, you’ll find me soaking up the sun by the lake or at a music festival.


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