High Quality Indoor Bluetooth Speaker
Five years after the launch of the smart speaker and a decade after the Bluetooth speaker’s debut, many people still aren’t sure what the difference is or why they would want either one. Once they get a demo of what these devices can do, however, there’s a good chance they will want one. But which one? Both have advantages and disadvantages. The right choice depends on what you desire in entertainment, convenience, and portability.
A Bluetooth speaker, such as the UE Wonderboom 2 or Tribit XSound Go, simply plays whatever sound is coming from your phone, tablet, computer, or other portable audio device. For example, once you pair your phone with the Bluetooth speaker, whatever you play on the phone, in whatever app, will come through the speaker instead. No additional app is required. Basically, the speaker works like part of your phone and plays any sound your phone makes, including ringtones and notifications. Most Bluetooth speakers are small, portable, and battery powered, but larger and louder tabletop models are also available. Many have a microphone so that they can function as a speakerphone.
The UE Wonderboom 3 is the all-around best portable Bluetooth speaker because it sounds good and looks cool, and it’s the most rugged model we’ve tested.
Klipsch’s The One II Bluetooth speaker is a great way to get full, satisfying sound in the home with no need for complicated setup or special apps.
A microphone-enabled smart speaker, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home Mini, has a built-in, Internet-connected computer of its own, so it needs no help from other audio devices. That means you don’t have to pair it with an external source such as a smartphone (though smart speakers do require setup through an app), but you still have to add it to your home Wi-Fi network so that it can go out and find audio sources for you. At your whim and vocal command, a smart speaker can access music streaming services, Internet radio, podcasts, and other news and information sources. It can also convey your commands to smart-home devices such as lights, smart plugs, thermostats, and locks. Many smart speakers also include Bluetooth support, but few are battery-powered to take on the go.
Amazon’s line of Echo smart speakers are the best option for bringing Alexa into your home. We’ve got picks for nearly any setup and situation.
The Sonos One is an Amazon Echo in a great Sonos speaker, but still a work in progress for Alexa, Google Assistant, AirPlay, and everything else.
Because smart speakers and Bluetooth speakers are available in many cheap but competent variants, you can always buy both. We recommend that you spend more on the type of speaker that’s more important to you and then go with a good budget model for the other type.
If a smart speaker holds more appeal overall but you occasionally need something for travel, consider a great-sounding speaker such as the Sonos One (which can work with either Alexa or Google Assistant) or the new Amazon Echo Studio, plus a tiny, inexpensive, portable Bluetooth speaker such as the Tribit XSound Go.
If you want a high-quality but portable speaker, get something like the JBL Xtreme 2 Bluetooth speaker. It sounds great both indoors and out, and you can easily tack on an Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini when you’re using it at home. Both are fully functional smart speakers, and although their hockey-puck shape precludes playing them loud, both can beam a Bluetooth signal into your Bluetooth speaker, effectively turning it into a smart speaker.
Whichever way you resolve the Bluetooth speaker versus smart speaker question, you’re sure to get a lot of enjoyment out of your new speaker. You’ll be able to bring music into more rooms of your home, as well as to share your music with others instead of listening to headphones or using your phone’s tiny speaker.
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