Another year, and another range of speakers released by a slew of manufacturers. But there's a difference this year: namely, the extensive line up of bluetooth speakers. While true audiophiles will probably shriek in horror at the mere mention of wireless speakers (wires, after all, do deliver better performance, even if you can't spot it), for most consumers, these wireless speakers – particularly bluetooth speakers – are more than good enough to replace the old, cumbersome, wired lot. Add to that the ubiquity of iPhones and iPod Touches, and you can see the appeal in bluetooth speakers: they are easy to use, affordable, compact, and deliver a decent overall performance without any of the nasty bits (read: wires, hefty power bricks, etc.).
So, which are the best Bluetoot speakers for 2011?
If I had to pick out one set of speakers that stand out for their versitility, I would probably choose the Creative D100 and its elder sibling, the D200. These two speakers do everything right for me: deliver a good performance, aren't too expensive (I say this after burning thousands of dollars on various speaker sets), and look good. But for the sake of this article, I will list out the four best Bluetooth speakers in 2011:
1. Creative D100 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
As I've mentioned above, this speaker set does a lot of things right: good looks (it comes in five different colors, though I prefer the default black), delivers a more than adequate performance, is small and easy to carry, works on AA batteries, and won't burn a hole in your wallet.
But it isn't a perfect speaker. Not by a long stretch (for that, I would probably look at Klipsch or Bose). The low end lacks a bit of punch, and if you turn up the volume, there is distortion. I assume, however, that you won't be using the Creative D100 to power your next house party. For every other purpose, this is a great, dependable speaker.
Pros: compact design, affordable, aesthetically pleasing, strong overall performance.
Cons: Bass sounds a bit weak; distortions at high volume
2. Monster ClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker
With this speaker, there was love at first sight. How can you not fall for this tiny package bursting with features and power? It is no bigger than an iPhone in length, and yet, can set the house on fire with its sound. I've seen speakers that weight 10 lbs that don't perform as good.
Compact design notwithstanding, the Monster ClarityHD is a very well rounded speaker that works seamlessly with any Bluetooth device. Your iPhone or iPodTouch will recognize it instantly and stream all music through it. The audio quality is amazing for such a small speaker – clear, strong mid and high tones, little distortion, even at high volumes. If you listen to music largely through your smartphone (Android/iPhone/Blackberry) or iPod Touch, this speaker is the perfect choice.
Pros: Extremely compact design, clear, strong playback, decent range.
Cons: As with all small speakers, lacks strong low tones. Volume output is somewhat low.
3. Altec Lansing inMotion Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker
Finally, a speaker that dispels the myth that Bluetooth speakers are only good for casual users. It costs a pretty penny, but turn it on, and you will get crystal clear sound with amazing bass (thanks to SRS TruBass technology) that will blow your socks off. It looks classy, is just an inch thick, and even includes an in-built microphone to act as a speakerphone.
Being a modern Bluetooth device, the Altec Lansing inMotion is a breeze to setup. You can go from opening the package to streaming music through your iPhone in as little as 60 seconds. The performance is, quite frankly, mindblowing. It delivers sound that can compete with a $400 Bose system, and for all practical purposes, it is more than adequate for some heavy use, both in the house and beyond.
The only downside that I can think of (which has made me rank it here at no.3) is the price. At $199.99, it costs as much as a new Netbook computer. But if you care about quality, you will love the Altec Lansing Soundblade.
Pros: Excellent audio quality, aesthetically pleasing, just an inch thick, strong bass and clear high tones. Probably the best Bluetooth speaker around.
4. SuperTooth Disco Bluetooth Speaker
It looks like a brick, is almost a footlong, and doesn't quite have the pedigree of an Altec Lansing behind it. But turn it on, and the SuperTooth Disco can give even a $300 Klipsch speaker a run for its money. The audio is surprisingly clear with strong volume output. Pairing it with a Bluetooth device is a matter of seconds, and it has a great Bluetooth range to boot.
On the downside, the large size makes it a bit difficult to carry around. While the Monster ClarityHD can be dropped into a handbag, the SuperTooth Disco does lack a bit of teeth in the portability department. But if you want to use it primarily indoors, you will be very happy with the performance.
Pros: Strong performance, good Bluetooth range
Cons: Big and unwieldy design