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The best all-around value in a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker today is the UE Megaboom. Although there are lots of less-expensive models, most that truly approach the Megaboom's performance cost about the same, and none that we've seen can offer its mix of sound quality, features and ruggedness. We narrowed down 50-some Bluetooth speakers to 13 water-resistant finalists and tested each with the Wirecutter AV team and a deep swimming pool. The $300 Megaboom is pricey, but if you have other budgetary or functional needs, we have a few other picks as well.
Who should buy a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker?
Water-resistant Bluetooth speakers are intended for outdoor or indoor use. This might seem like a feature everybody would want, but it can come with a price: Most water-resistant Bluetooth speakers don't sound as good as the best conventional portable Bluetooth speakers, which we tested in our Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker guide.
In general, portable Bluetooth speakers are a great buy for people who own smartphones and tablets. The rechargeable battery lets you take them anywhere, and water resistance expands your options even further, especially near beaches and pools.
What features do you need?
Most people just want a Bluetooth speaker that sounds pretty good, is reasonably portable and is water-resistant. To determine ideal water resistance, we drew the line in selecting speakers with an ingress protection (IP) code rating of 4, which means they can survive a splash or a rainstorm, but we also considered speakers up to an IP rating of 7, allowing them to be fully submerged in 1 meter of water. Additional features on certain models will appeal to some buyers: First is speakerphone function, which will let you take calls from a smartphone connected through Bluetooth. Second is pairing, which lets you link two of the same models of speaker wirelessly for stereo sound or monophonic sound in two rooms. For portable use, battery life is a major consideration.
How we tested
We looked at reviews at leading electronics websites such as CNET and Digital Trends to narrow down a list of contenders. Additionally, we surveyed Wirecutter readers to learn what features and price points were important to them. We narrowed our list of models to 50, and from there, we evaluated them and narrowed the finalists to 13 models for our tests.
We tested the speakers in two rounds. First, we set up six larger models on a table across the pool from our seating area. This allowed us to hear which ones had the sonic muscle to cover a large area with sound. In the second round, we set up seven smaller models on a table about 8 feet from our seating area; with these models, all you can reasonably expect is that they'll produce enough sound for a couple of people sitting on chaise lounges, or around a park bench or beach towel. The panelists were Wirecutter A/V editor Geoff Morrison and Wirecutter headphone editor Lauren Dragan. After their blind tests, we discussed which models delivered the best blend of performance and features for the price.
To test water resistance, we poured water on the models we tested, tossed the floatable models in Geoff Morrison's pool, and dunked all of the ones rated as submersible fully under the water for several minutes to make sure they kept playing.
The UE Megaboom sounds really good, plays loudly and has long battery life. At $300, the Megaboom is pricey, but it delivers a lot for your money.
The rugged design is IPX7-rated, which means it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. It's about the size of a 22-ounce beer bottle, so it fits pretty easily in a beach bag. There's a speakerphone function, and UE claims a 100-foot range for the Bluetooth connection. Its app lets you pair two Megabooms for stereo sound or for sound in two adjacent rooms. It has a big, clear, full, loud sound (but at full blast it can distort voices a little). The battery is rated for 20 hours of playback time, though in our tests it lasted up to 30 hours.
Our top pick is a larger version of the UE Boom, which was our previous favorite. They share a similar sound: The UE Boom is fuller, clearer and more robust than most Bluetooth speakers can muster. The Boom doesn't play as loudly as the Megaboom, though, and it's not as waterproof. It will survive a splash, but not a full dunk in water. If you want something more affordable and/or more portable, the Boom ($180 on Amazon) is a great choice.
A great budget pick
If $300 or even $180 is too much for you, we recommend the Divoom Voombox Ongo. It offers shorter battery life than our main pick: Its estimated battery life is eight hours, though in our tests it got 12.5 hours at full volume (playing Steely Dan's "Aja" on repeat). Although it makes music sound natural, it has no bass to speak of, and it's nowhere as loud as our main pick. But it retails for around $60, which makes it a great deal. The Ongo has a speakerphone function and an IPX4 water-resistance rating, meaning it'll survive some splashes and a rainstorm, but not being fully submerged. The overall combination of sound, portability and price make it an incredibly great buy.
Wrapping it up
If you're looking for powerful sound, combined with features and water-resistance, we think the UE Megaboom is the speaker to get. If you would like to learn more about our testing process and other speaker finalists we tested, please visit the full version of this guide.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation, please go to TheWirecutter.com. The Wirecutter’s extensive research and testing is supported by a small commission from the purchases made by its readers.Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times