I test portable speakers for a living — these are my 3 favorites of 2023

Sonos Move 2
(Image credit: Future)

As Tom's Guide's audio editor, I have been lucky enough to get hands-on with some of the best Bluetooth speakers in 2023. From Sonos' all-new Era series and Sonos Move 2 to the Ultimate Ears Epicboom and Sony's weird-but-awesome HT-AX7 portable home theater speaker system, 2023 has definitely been a busy year for portable speakers.

Obviously, not every model has hit the mark in the last 12 months, but I've been so impressed by some of the portable speakers that I've seen that I wanted to share my speaker highlights with you. All the models listed here are portable Bluetooth speakers, allowing owners to stream music, podcasts or movie soundtracks from nearby devices like phones, tablets and laptops via the latest wireless tech. 

As portable speaker systems, all have decent battery life (although some are better than others). More importantly (for me at least) is that each of my recommendations delivers a great listening experience with top sound quality both indoors and out. 

Read on to discover which portable speakers stood out in 2023.        

Best portable speaker overall

1. Sonos Move 2

Sonos Move 2

I've been using the Sonos Move 2 in my home office since it launched in September 2023, and the $449 / £449 / AU$799 refreshed smart speaker has become my favorite speaker in the company's 2023 revamped lineup. 

Don't misunderstand me, I'm still enjoying the new Era 100 that replaced the Sonos One earlier this year, and I've been blown away listening to the Sonos Era 300 while trying out the best Apple Music spatial audio tracks. But the Move 2 has been a powerful addition to my Sonos ecosystem and has brought sound to rooms and areas without a dedicated speaker around my home.

I love the fact that I can simply lift the Move from its charging cradle by the finger insert at the back of the speaker, carrying it around the house or out to the garden (whenever the U.K. weather allows). Although it's IP56 rated for water and dust protection, which means it's durable enough to withstand the occasional splash or shower, it would be a shame to let the elements spoil the Move 2's smart finish that comes in black, white and a new olive colorway.

The Sonos Move 2's big, dynamic sound impresses me the most, with great vocal clarity even when the speaker is turned up to a high level.

The Sonos Move 2 has all the connectivity smarts that come with integrating any Sonos speaker. When you’re home, you can control the Sonos Move as you would any other in its ecosystem via the sophisticated Sonos S2 control app. Then, when you’re away from your network, Bluetooth picks up where you left off. 

Sonos Move 2 lasts up to 24 hours. The charging base gives it a dedicated spot to sit and recharge at home and battery life is displayed under the system tab on the Sonos S2 control app.

Ultimately, it's the Sonos Move 2's big, dynamic sound that impresses me the most. Despite being a larger cabinet, the Move's frequency balance matches the Sonos Era 100 with top-notch performance across the board and great vocal clarity even when the speaker is turned up to a high level. There's plenty of rhythmic depth and more midrange clarity than you'd expect from a portable speaker.

At least some of that is thanks to Auto Trueplay, which makes spatial adjustments automatically. Outdoors the speaker managed to make up for lack of reflection points and produce a balanced sound with plenty of energy.

The price may seem high when compared to the Sonos Era 100 which offers all the same functionality, but without the go-anywhere versatility.

Best portable speaker for bass

2. Devialet Mania

Devialet Mania on a half moon side table

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It came as a surprise when high-end maker Devialet announced that it was launching a portable Bluetooth speaker, but the compact Mania defied expectation and ranks as one of the best I've heard. This luxury portable speaker defies belief in terms of its big, musical sound output from such compact dimensions. 

It being a product from Devialet though, it's priced higher than most Bluetooth speakers at $900 / £690 / AU$1,400, so you're going to need pretty deep pockets. That said, the Devialet Mania is no ordinary portable speaker, and the eye-catching ball-shaped cabinet achieves spacious stereo sound from all directions thanks to proprietary ASC (Active Stereo Calibration) that uses four microphones and real-time adaptive technology to adjust the sound output to fit the surroundings. 

Bass output defies belief for such a small speaker, and trying the Mania out in different rooms and positions around my home gave consistently impressive results.

The Mania sits at just 6.6 inches tall and weighs around 5 pounds, which will add a significant amount to any travel bag. Although it's IPX4-rated (meaning it's splash and moisture resistant), this is not the kind of portable speaker I'd personally look to carry into the bathroom or outside to the garden, although I am assured that this is exactly the Mania's intended purpose, and the sturdy handle aids easy transportation.

Despite the small speaker dimensions, I've been impressed by the sphere of sound around the orb that projects soundwaves outwards. Bass output defies belief for such a small speaker, and trying the Mania out in different rooms and positions around my home gave consistently impressive results. I tended to prefer the speaker placed on a shelf at ear height, but it is impressively effective in all kinds of situations including outdoors in free space.

Battery life isn't the strongest and runs to just 10 hours, which is significantly lower than the Sonos and Sony models listed here. As such, it doesn't rank among the best portable Bluetooth speakers we've seen, but I consider it a small sacrifice for the big sound that's achieved from its compact dimensions.

Best portable speaker for movie sound

3. Sony HT-AX7

Listing image of Sony HT-AX7 speaker system placed on a table outside

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Sony HT-AX7 speaker system is easily the most unusual I've seen this year. In fact, when I first set eyes on the $499 / £499 portable theater system at the Sony Europe demo held in the U.K. over the summer, I thought it looked more like a soundbar design still in development.

It's not a traditional soundbar though, but it does create an immersive sphere of sound with music, podcasts or movie soundtracks from nearby devices like phones, tablets and laptops. As a portable Bluetooth stereo speaker system it's good for around 30 hours of use before needing a recharge. There are two detachable speakers on top of the main speaker that can be placed anywhere for a room-filling sound. 

Both inside and out, the Sony HT-AX7 is an effective way to boost the sound from portable display devices around the home.

The HT-AX7 is unlike any of the best Bluetooth speakers I've seen, and creates immersive sound from its unconventional form. Essentially a Bluetooth stereo speaker systems, there's no Sony 360 Reality Audio or Dolby Atmos content support, but Sony says the 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology creates multiple phantom speakers at the front, rear, and overhead.

From what I experienced during the two main demos with several long excerpts of movie, music and sports content, the sound was very effective indeed. Both inside and out, it's an effective way to boost the sound from other portable display devices around the home while sat on an indoor or outdoor sofa. 

Although not a multi-channel or Dolby Atmos supported system, the immersive experience and placement of effects derived from stereo sound was very effective indeed. I can easily see it being useful to boost sound from one of the best portable projectors I've tried for outdoor movies.

Full disclosure, I've yet to try it out at home for my Tom's Guide review, but as one of the more memorable tech demos I've attended in the past year, this looks like being a promising Bluetooth speaker solution to boost sound quality from handheld devices in 2024. Lastly, it's important to add that the HT-AX7 felt more successful when viewing on screen content rather than music listening, but nevertheless it looks like a worthy portable speaker solution for gamers and movie fans at the price.

More from Tom's Guide

Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

After 2.5 years as Tom's Guide's audio editor, Lee has joined the passionate audio experts at audiograde.uk where he writes about luxury audio and Hi-Fi. As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.

  • 69Stang
    Lee I to am very passionate about audiophile both car and home, Bluetooth speakers I believe your miss the boat on this 1 Klipsch has 100 dollar speakers that will blow your favorite Sonos out of the water money should always be in with your debate and 3, 4, 500 dollar Bluetooth speakers is a joke, I am a self taught audiophilist and know headunits, amplifiers and speakers inside out since 1981 I have built countless home and car systems like the 1 in my Boss 302 Mustang I hope this is not a pay you to give poor information to the consumer situation but I will challenge dollar for dollar sound quality any day I'm in for a good debate on stereos anytime. PS McIntosh is 1 of the best bang for the buck for and home amp. Period.