New for 2017, 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 in side -- makes a significant difference in sound quality. The speaker also has a better battery life than its predecessor.
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 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.
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.
If your priority is sound quality, you're better off with the more expensive SoundLink Mini II, which also has a more upscale metallic design. 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, the majority of people should be impressed with the sound it puts out, particularly in smaller rooms.
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 very compact size, has excellent battery life and works well as a speakerphone.
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.
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.
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.
The new 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. It looks cool, but note that we haven't reviewed it yet, and it's not shipping until December 19.
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.
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.
The affordable Fluance Fi50 delivers high-quality sound from a retro-style Bluetooth speaker. It's solidly built with a medium-density-fiberboard cabinet.
The two-way driver design features a tweeter mounted in the center of a 5-inch woofer. Equipped with a 40-watt amplifier, it plays loudly without distorting, and has a USB charging port and an integrated LED with touch controls.
The compact Raumfeld One S is even better than its modest "bathroom and kitchen" ambitions might suggest with better sound quality than its competitors. It's one of the best entry-level Wi-Fi speakers available, and its water resistance makes it a great choice for bathrooms, kitchens or anywhere else you want to listen to music.
Sony LF-S50G Wireless Speaker with Google Assistant
If you think you're looking at Apple's upcoming HomePod speaker, you're not. This is actually Sony's new voice-controlled smart speaker, the LF-S50G, which has Google Assistant built-in, not Siri, and costs less than Apple's smart speaker.
Like the HomePod, the LF-S50G comes in two colors, works on your Wi-Fi network and has to be plugged into a power outlet to be used -- there's no battery option. It also has Bluetooth so you can pair an audio device directly to it if you want. Note that we haven't reviewed this model yet -- but it looks promising.
Available in two colors, Carbon and Pearl, the Bose SoundLink Mini II offered some nice upgrades over the original SoundLink Mini. The price on this speaker has come down a little as Bose has released the all-new SoundLink Revolve and Revolve+.
The Amazon Echo Dot won our Editors' Choice Award last year. 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 don't care about sound quality and just want a cheaper way to bring Alexa into their homes.
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.
The JBL Charge 3 is a well-designed, fully waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker that features 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.
B&O Play by Bang & Olufsen 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.
Wireless multiroom systems have exploded onto the market in the last 18 months, but the Denon HEOS 1 is the first to offer something completely different: a rugged build and decent audio quality in an affordable package. Its HEOS app is also easy to use.
Adding the HEOS Go package gives you more flexibility, including battery power, splashproofing and Bluetooth.
If you want to give your grad 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 in the gift guide. The only downside is its price.