JBL Link 20
With loads of wireless speakers to choose from, here are our top picks this back-to-school season.
Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured in this gallery.
First up, JBL's portable Link 20 may not have Alexa, but it can be controlled with your voice using Google Assistant. It's small but will fill a small dorm room with sound.
Bose Soundlink Micro
While Bose's SoundLink Micro is a tad pricey for a micro Bluetooth speaker, you'll be hard pressed to find a speaker this small that provides as much bass and volume as this one.
The Sonos One is the first Sonos speaker to have Amazon's Alexa voice assistant built into it, which makes it act just like Amazon Echo speaker -- only it sounds better. This is a Wi-Fi speaker, and sometime in 2018 it will also add Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2 support through a software upgrade.
As with earlier Sonos speakers, you can add other Sonos speakers to create a multiroom audio system or a stereo pair.
Bose SoundLink Revolve
Bose's latest SoundLink Bluetooth speakers, the Revolve and Revolve Plus, have a new cylindrical design and 360-degree sound output.
Bose SoundLink Revolve Plus
Bose's larger Revolve Plus gives you sound that's a little bigger with more bass -- and it has an integrated handle. It's pricey but a great compact speaker.
Tribit XSound Go
If you're looking for an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker, the Tribit XSound Go is a fantastic value.
Amazon Echo Show
Amazon's Echo Show offers improved sound over the original Echo and has a built-in screen that allows you to watch video and make video calls to friends.
Apple's HomePod is a little overpriced but it's arguably the best sounding smart speaker for its size and will improve with time as more features are added.
JBL Link 300
JBL's Link 300 is one of the best sounding voice-enabled Wi-Fi speakers for the money -- and can be controlled with your voice using Google Assistant.
JBL Flip 4
JBL's Flip 4 is fully waterproof and a little bigger than than the JBL 3. That extra size -- and a new set of drivers inside -- makes a significant difference in sound quality. The speaker also has better battery life than its predecessor.
JBL Xtreme 2
JBL next-generation jumbo Bluetooth speaker offers improved sound and full waterproofing. It'll fill up a dorm with big sound your neighbors may not appreciate and also plays well outside (it comes with a carrying strap for easy transport).
This Ultimate Ears waterproof Bluetooth speaker is shorter and squatter than its popular UE Boom 2 speaker. Given its price, the UE Wonderboom is near the top of the class for sound quality.
UE Boom 2
The UE Boom 2 is a compact, durable wireless Bluetooth speaker that plays louder than the original Boom and sounds a little better. It's stain-resistant, shock-resistant and now fully waterproof. Battery life is a strong 15 hours, and it can be paired with a second UE speaker for stereo sound.
JBL Clip 3
JBL's Clip speakers have long been among our favorite micro Bluetooth speakers, and the Clip 3, which comes in seven color options, is also a winner.
If you want to save some money, you can pick up the older Clip 2. It doesn't sound quite as good (the Clip 3 plays a little louder and has more bass), but the Clip is still a good little speaker and costs $20 less.
If you're looking for a tiny speaker that can output a reasonable amount of sound, Sony's SRS-XB10 fits the bill nicely.
Bose SoundLink Color II
If your priority is sound quality, you're better off with the more expensive Revolve. But if you value portability and don't want to spend the extra money, the SoundLink Color II, which features improved sound over the original, is a solid choice.
While not everybody will love its design, most grads should be impressed with the sound it puts out, particularly in smaller rooms.
UE's Alexa-enabled smart speaker doesn't have as much bass as its bigger sibling, the Megablast, but it's more compact and costs less.
UE's fully waterproof Megablast is arguably the best-sounding portable Alexa-enabled smart speaker. Perfect for post-graduation parties by the pool.
Bose SoundTouch 10
Bose's SoundTouch 10 is the smallest and least expensive Wi-Fi speaker in the company's line of DIY wireless multiroom audio systems, all of which added Bluetooth to their features list in late 2015.
The Bose SoundTouch 10 is a compact Wi-Fi speaker that plays much bigger sound than its size would indicate, and it offers convenient features such as Bluetooth and shortcut buttons.
Amazon Echo (2nd generation)
The new, slightly shorter, second-generation model is way less expensive than the $180 original. And a three-pack of the new version comes with a $50 discount.
The updated Echo features improved audio quality with a dedicated woofer and tweeter and Dolby sound. It comes in a variety of interchangeable fabrics and finishes such as cloth, wood and so forth.
B&O Play Beoplay A1
All credit to B&O Play for creating a Bluetooth speaker that doesn't look like anything out there already. The new dome-shaped Beoplay A1 is not only the smallest wireless speaker from the Danish company, but also its most affordable.
With a sleek look courtesy of well-known Danish furniture designer Cecilie Manz, the aluminum-clad A1 delivers relatively high-quality sound for its compact size, has excellent battery life and works well as a speakerphone.
Sonos Play:5 (2015)
The second-generation Sonos Play:5 is a sleek, well-designed Wi-Fi speaker that delivers rich sound for its size, as well as strong bass. It offers the full Sonos wireless experience, controllable from iPhone, iPad and Android apps.
The speaker is compatible with nearly every key music service, including Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon and Apple Music. It comes in two colors -- white and black -- and can be placed either horizontally or vertically.
Google Home Max
The Google Home Max is currently the largest Google Home speaker -- and the best sounding.
JBL Pulse 3
With the third generation of its Pulse speaker, JBL has once again improved the integrated LED light show, making this flashy Bluetooth speaker a standout product in a crowded market. The Pulse 3 delivers strong sound for its size and you program the light show via a free app for iOS and Android.
Amazon Echo Plus
The Echo Plus looks and acts like the original Echo -- but it's had a major smart-home brain implant and a boost in sound quality. In addition to the Alexa functionality you get in every Echo device, the Echo Plus features an integrated smart-home hub that serves as the conduit between the cloud and all of your smart locks and lights; it comes bundled with a free Philips smart lightbulb.
Before, you needed a separate hub from SmartThings, Wink, or another third party to control the smart-home devices made by companies such as Philips Hue, GE and Kwikset. Now, the Echo Plus, with its built-in ZigBee antenna, will sense, set up and connect these devices automatically.
Google Home Mini
If you're looking for the Google version of Amazon's Echo Dot, the Google Home Mini is just that. Like the Dot, it may not sound great, but it's got lots of smarts and Google Assistant.
Amazon Echo Spot
The Echo Spot is Amazon's mashup of the deluxe Show and the entry-level Dot. It combines the Dot's hockey-puck aesthetic and low-power output to the Show's video capabilities, while meeting at about the halfway point on price. Its front-facing camera can be used to make video calls, which can be initiated through the touchscreen or Alexa, and capture intermittent photos or a live feed of video.
UE Megaboom Bluetooth speaker
While away from home, you can untether your speaker system with the UE Megaboom Bluetooth speaker. It's a tiny waterproof unit that gets IPX7 certification for extra toughness from the elements.
The original Google Home smart speaker was Google's answer to the Amazon Echo, with its own voice-activated Google Assistant. Like the Echo, it's improved over time.
UE Roll 2
The waterproof UE Roll 2 plays 15 percent louder than the original Roll, has a longer wireless range of up to 30 meters (about 98 feet), and it ships with a UE Floatie, so you can take it into the pool with you right out of the box. Certain colors of this speaker often go on sale, particularly now that the newer UE Wonderboom has been released.
B&O Play by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P2
Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay P2 may not be cheap but it is the least expensive model in the company's Bluetooth speaker lineup -- it's also the smallest and lightest. Aside from its swanky design (it really is a great-looking micro speaker) it delivers a good amount of bass and volume for its compact size.
V-Moda's Remix is a compact, premium Bluetooth speaker that also has a built-in headphone amp. Billed as "the world's first 3D-printed custom speaker," all six sides of the Remix can be personalized with optional accessories.
Oontz Angle 3 Plus
The Oontz Angle 3 Plus is pretty no-frills, but it is one of the best sounding inexpensive Bluetooth speakers out there.
Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo Dot won a CNET Editors' Choice Award. How could it not? It's just as smart as the Echo, but it costs half as much. And, unlike the Echo, you can use it with whatever speakers you want. That's terrific news both for audiophiles and for people who just want an inexpensive way to give the gift of Alexa.
Now in battery-powered form within the portable Amazon Tap, Amazon's digital assistant Alexa is as good as ever. You can play music, command your smart home or add something to your to-do list, all with your voice.
Anker SoundCore 2
We like the sound of the step up SoundCore Boost better, but the SoundCore 2 costs about half the price and delivers decent Bluetooth sound and battery life for its modest price.
JBL Charge 3
The JBL Charge 3 is a well-designed, fully waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker. It has good battery life and doubles as an external charger for your portable devices. It also has built-in speakerphone capabilities, and plays loudly with strong bass for its size and price class.
Bose SoundTouch 30
Bose's SoundTouch 30 is a direct competitor to the Sonos Play:5 and features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming. It can be linked with Bose's other SoundTouch speakers to create a multiroom system.
B&O Play Beolit 17
If you want to give your student a little something extra special as far as a Bluetooth speaker goes, there's B&O Play's Beolit 17, which offers bigger sound than a lot of these smaller Bluetooth speakers listed. The only downside is its price.