- How to choose a portable speaker: what to look for
- Main selection criteria
- Top Producers
How to choose a portable speaker: what to look for
The key criteria when choosing a portable speaker are:
- Connection standard (wireless, wired, reading external drives);
- Battery capacity and type of built-in batteries;
- Number of speakers and other acoustic characteristics;
- Additional functionality.
- The manufacturer is also important.
Main selection criteria
There are three types of portable speaker connection to a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device:
- Wired (via line input);
- Wireless via Bluetooth;
- Wireless via AirPlay.
In addition, some speakers also support the connection of external drives – memory cards, USB flash drives, even hard drives with low power consumption or separate power supply.
line input has maximum compatibility. Portable speakers equipped with such a connector can work with almost any multimedia device that has a headphone output – a portable player, radio, mobile phone, smartphone, tablet, etc. In addition, this connection standard requires less battery consumption – both the column itself and the device connected to it.
The disadvantage of the line-in is that it requires a wired connection, so putting the speaker aside and going with the device connected to it “for a walk” will not work.
Bluetooth connection – the most common communication standard used in portable speakers. Implies a wireless connection using the appropriate protocol.
A wireless connection has many advantages over a wired one. Firstly, you can not carry an AUX cable with you. Secondly, you can leave the speaker in any one place, and take the smartphone connected with you with you – in the open air, Bluetooth 4.1 has a range of about 40-50 meters. And finally, when turned on, the column automatically connects to the smartphone, as it remembers the data for authentication.
The disadvantage is the low autonomy of devices connected via Bluetooth. Both smartphones and the column are discharged quickly enough – in about a few hours. However, this time is sufficient for most cases.
When choosing such a speaker, you should first of all pay attention to the Bluetooth standard used. The higher it is, the better. Bluetooth 4.1 provides better autonomy and greater range than 4.0. However, the current standards of this wireless protocol must be supported by both the phone and the portable speaker. If any of them uses Bluetooth 4.0, the transmission will be carried out according to this standard.
Additionally, Bluetooth speakers can be equipped with an NFC module. With this technology, the pairing of the speaker and the phone will happen very quickly – literally with one touch. The function is quite useful, but whether it is worth overpaying for it is a separate question. After all, pairing in most cases occurs once during the entire operation of the column.
AirPlay connection is another wireless communication standard. Only it does not use Bluetooth, but Wi-Fi. The high data transfer rate theoretically allows you to play Hi-Fi music on the speakers. In practice, the quality of the speaker in the vast majority of cases is not high enough to hear the entire sound stage of music in such a bitrate.
The disadvantage of such speakers is obvious – they, in fact, cannot be taken out of the apartment. When using “in the field”, you will have to raise a local Wi-Fi network on another smartphone.
Speakers connected via MicroUSB or Lightning, similarly to devices with a line input, save smartphone battery power and their own built-in battery. However, they must be wired to the mobile device.
Speakers equipped with SD and USB connectors can play music from memory cards and flash drives, respectively. This allows you to use them even without connecting to a smartphone. The function is convenient, but only if the appropriate storage media are available.
Speakers with FM radio, as the name implies, can play public radio stations. There is not much practical use for this function, but at least such devices will not let you get bored with a dead smartphone and missing external drives with music.
Battery capacity and type of installed batteries
Portable speakers can be powered by AA, AAA, or even D size batteries; and built-in batteries, most often lithium-ion.
Installed batteries are most often used in budget portable speakers. The battery life of the device directly depends on the quality of these batteries and averages several hours. In most cases, built-in batteries cannot be recharged, and therefore, after “landing”, they are simply replaced with new ones – which increases the cost of using the speaker. But, going on a trip, you can grab a few spare batteries with you.
Speakers with a built-in battery are more practical. With a discharged battery, the device can simply be connected to a computer, power supply, power bank or car adapter for recharging. There is only one “but” – during charging, the vast majority of portable speakers simply do not work.
The battery life of portable speakers with a built-in battery directly depends on the capacity of the latter. It can be indicated both in milliamp-hours (however, manufacturers rarely indicate the exact value of this parameter), or directly in hours of battery life. The last option is more appropriate.
However, if the battery capacity is indicated in milliamp-hours, it is worth remembering that the higher it is, the longer the portable speaker will work. It is desirable that it be more than 2000 mAh.
There are two acoustic parameters that you should pay attention to when buying a portable speaker – the number of speakers (sound configuration) and the total power of the device.
Number of speakers defines the sound stage. So, for portable speakers with mono, it will in any case be flat (even if some frequencies prevail), and with stereo it will be surround. There are three types of sound configurations:
- Mono. A single speaker is used, producing a flat sound. Nevertheless, this configuration is sufficient for most cases – unless, of course, the performers added a couple of effects to the song, which can only be distinguished on stereo channels;
- Stereo. Two speakers are used to produce surround sound. A universal solution for fans of a wide sound stage and various effects;
- 2.1. Two speakers are complemented by a subwoofer that produces deep and rich bass. Unfortunately, speakers with this sound configuration quickly drain the built-in battery. But the width of the stage and the overall quality of the audio will please even the hardened music lover.
For most cases, a portable mono or stereo speaker will suffice.
Speaker power determines the maximum volume. The larger it is, the louder the music will play, respectively. However, this parameter is not very objective, so you should pay attention to it only in the second turn.
In addition, speakers with high power drain the battery more and therefore have a short battery life.
It is worth noting that budget models of portable speakers with high-power speakers can greatly distort the sound – there will be a “growl” or other unpleasant factors like unnecessary reverberation.
Among the additional features of portable speakers are:
- Attachment or carabiner allows you to place the speaker on the wall, belt, belt, etc. This makes the device more convenient to use. Speakers with a handle are also suitable for carrying.
- Work as a power bank found only in speakers that are equipped with a built-in battery. They are able to recharge the smartphone in a critical situation. Of course, after this operation, the battery life of the column will decrease.
- Dust and water protection are the most important features for those who want to take a portable speaker with them on picnics or on country trips. Or at least the bathroom. The level of protection against moisture and dust is indicated by the IP certificate. The higher the two-digit number after this symbol, the more reliably the device resists the action of aggressive external factors. The vast majority of rugged portable speakers are IP66 certified. Such a device is completely impermeable to dust and withstands short-term contact with water. But speakers with a degree of protection IP68 can even be “drowned” for a short time.
- Link mode combines two speakers into one “stereo system”. The feature is quite useful, but one stereo device usually costs less than two mono ones.
- Built-in equalizer allows you to fine-tune the sound quality to individual preferences. It can be either a band (you can set the intensity of individual sets of frequencies), or equipped with presets (separate parameter packages for each genre). The presence of a built-in equalizer can compensate for the shortcomings or increase the advantages of the sound stage of a portable speaker.
However, in the absence of an equalizer built into the speaker, you can use the one installed on your smartphone, player or other sound source.
The best portable speaker manufacturers are:
- JBL. The largest portable wireless speakers, which is known for the widest range and very good quality of its products. For example, it pioneered the market for fully waterproof devices;
- Sony. They produce portable speakers for lovers of tangible bass. The acoustics use proprietary magnets and high-quality electronics, including integrated sound cards and virtual amplifiers, for the most pleasant sound;
- Harman/Kardon, Bose, Marshall are top manufacturers producing high-end acoustics. Accordingly, portable speakers by their authorship provide a rich, bright and clear sound without an overabundance of any of the frequencies (unless the performer intended this, of course). The main drawback is a very high price, an average of 200-300 dollars;
- Xiaomi. Budget market leader. It produces cheap, but not very lousy wireless speakers. An ideal choice for use with branded smartphones, since the MIUI equalizer often contains loudness presets for certain branded accessories.
- You can also highlight the Beats company, which produces very popular portable speakers. But they have an important drawback – a very high and always overpriced. In addition, high-quality sound is provided by literally one and only model – Pill 2.
- Manufacturers in the ultra-budget segment, such as Sven, Defender or 3Q, are surprisingly “unstable”. Sometimes they release both high-quality speakers and outright nonsense. Therefore, before buying a speaker from one of these companies, you should meticulously study the reviews.
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