This round up of the best JBL speakers proves just how good JBL is when it comes to delivering top sound for listening to your favorite music on the go. All the speakers here feature waterproof designs built to survive a sudden rain shower, as well as some splashing by the hot tub and even the occasional dunk in the pool.
Naturally, we’ve tested these mini sound-blasters for audio performance, battery life, and durability. One thing we know for certain is that these speakers will grant you peace of mind against potential moisture damage.
Read below for all the best JBL speakers to see which is best suited to your activities.
Best JBL speakers you can buy right now
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The Flip 6 is the latest incarnation of this popular portable Bluetooth speaker series. This next-gen version introduces a new cosmetic design with a large JBL motif embedded in the woven cloth grille that wraps around the cylindrical speaker, meaning there’s no doubt about who made this speaker. Also, the carry strap is now a seamless loop rather than a bootlace with a fancy knot fastening the two ends together.
The easy-to-carry design delivers a sound that belies its size, and with better-than-average bass. There's and app to tinker with EQ controls, and the PartyBoost tab enables it to be paired with another JBL speaker to either mirror the sound, or assign speakers as a left/right stereo pair. JBL says you can pair up to 100 of its speakers in PartyBoost mode. The price has increased to $129 (the Flip 5 was $119), but this is still a great value portable Bluetooth speaker with strong performance.
Read the full JBL Flip 6 review.
At fewer than 4 inches wide, the only thing smaller than the JBL Go 3 might be its price, which will cause plenty of rivals to break a sweat. And despite the small investment, your return is IP67-rated waterproofing. That means the Go 3 will survive full submersion in shallow water for half an hour; full dust-proofing is part of the package as well.
Battery life looks poor at 5 hours, but in our testing we could stretch this out to more than 10 hours if we didn't go too crazy with the volume. As such, there are better alternatives if you need to fill a large space, but as a personal, portable speaker, the Go 3 is very likable indeed.
Read our full JBL Go 3 review.
The JBL Charge 5 makes only a few changes to the Charge 4's formula, but thanks to the newer model's improved sound output and even greater ruggedness, it's a deserving member of the best Bluetooth speakers club. Its IP67 rating, signaling high dust resistance and full waterproofing, is about as good as you'll get on a portable Bluetooth speaker. This is also one of our best outdoor speakers we've tested.
JBL's app isn't as advanced as some we've experienced, but the Charge 5 can show off a few tricks of its own. Chief among them is being able to act as a power bank for phones and tablets. Running out of juice when you're streaming music in the yard or at a park? Just plug that device into the Charge 5 and the speaker will give you a top-up.
Read our full JBL Charge 5 review.
Although the Clip 2 has been discontinued and superseded by Clip 3 and Clip 4 versions, this carry-anywhere Bluetooth speaker is still available through online retailers including Amazon (opens in new tab).
The JBL Clip 2 packed strong audio performance during our tests, highlighted by impressive treble, midrange and bass. That great sound comes in a compact and sturdy design built with portability in mind. The attachable carabiner installed at the top makes the speaker simple to carry around by easily clipping onto any item: backpack, bike handle, carry-on bag…you name it.
The waterproof exterior (IPX7) of the Clip 2 is another major hallmark that offers peace of mind when tossing the speaker into the pool or cycling with it through the park during a surprise rainstorm.
This device can even connect and sync sound with two other Clip 2 speakers for a bigger sound, which you may need as the Clip 2 doesn't go very loud. (The newer Clip 4 claims a higher power output, which suggests they should go a little louder.) Being an older model means no app support, but that isn’t necessarily a big hindrance.
Read our full JBL Clip 2 review.
The JBL Pulse 5 is an attention-grabbing Bluetooth speaker that straddles the company's portable speakers and 'fun' party speakers lineups. It's larger than the model it replaces, and the Pulse 5 introduces a branding refresh with a bigger JBL motif and Bluetooth connectivity has been upgraded to 5.3.
While we wouldn't describe the JBL Pulse 5's sound quality as among the best we've heard from a Bluetooth speaker at this size, it did improve outdoors. As such, we could easily see this speaker as a useful companion on a family picnic or BBQ where something eye-catching is required to distract the kids. It could also be a useful addition to a kid's bedroom — although the battery might not be up to the job of running through the night if you're thinking of using it as a comfort light.
Read our full JBL Pulse 5 review.
How to choose the best JBL speaker for your outdoor activity
Water resistance: You should consider the degree of waterproofing you’ll think you’ll need, which means understanding IP ratings. As you’ll have seen, these are given in the “IPXX” format, where the first number represents protection against solids and the second against liquids. Higher numbers mean better protection, so an IPX7 device can survive full submersion in up to 1 meter of fresh water for up to 30 minutes, whereas IPX6 can endure strong water jets but not full submersion.
Anything above IPX4 will be at least splash-proof, so that’s fine if you just want peace of mind that unexpected rain won’t ruin your speaker. For a bathroom or pool party speaker, we’d suggest at least IPX6 and ideally IPX7 protection.
Pricing considerations: Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best Bluetooth speakers. Although there are always exceptions, big-name brands will always command a bit extra, but generally speaking, the less you spend on a Bluetooth speaker the greater the chance that sound and features will be compromised. Going for a budget option isn't always the best choice, as any money you save on your purchase won't do you much good if you're constantly needing to recharge your audio gear, or the sound quality is poor.
As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now many of our favorite models can be found with significant discounts from online retailers, meaning you can bag a bargain for even less. Bookmark our best tech deals page to keep on top of the lowest prices.
How we test the best JBL speakers
Each JBL speaker must meet basic requirements during our testing to be considered for this list. We spend several hours listening to music, and toting around every speaker to make sure it sounds great across all music genres, and withstands minor bumps or splashes.
Naturally, we’ll also test waterproofing in practical settings. While we don’t set out to intentionally destroy each speaker, we’ll hold them under running water, splash them, leave them in a shower or (where appropriate) submerge them in water to ensure they’re as tough as they say they are.
We also test battery life, exhausting each speaker’s battery after a full charge to see how long it can last under realistic conditions. Most people want to know how much play time they can expect when their speaker comes along on a day trip.
Once testing is completed, we rate the best Bluetooth speakers based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Products that hit nearly every mark are awarded an Editor's Choice badge.
Find out how we test for more information on our reviewing procedures.
More from Tom's Guide
- Find out how the best JBL speakers rank compared to the best Bluetooth speakers
- Also check out the best waterproof speakers and the best outdoor speakers
- Check out the new Sonos Era 100 and Sonos Era 300 smart speakers
- Got a bit more to spend on a home music system? Find out which one-box music system blows everything else away