Speaker of the Year shortlist
Everybody needs a speaker, so we've picked five of those we've tested over the last 12 months to help you narrow down your choice. From portable budget buys to premium tower speakers, this is our speaker shortlist of 2019.
Anker's Soundcore Flare is a wireless, waterproof speaker whose key features include relatively rich sound, a ‘soundstage’ mode and its ‘beat-driven light show’. That’s basically a multi-colour ring of light at the bottom of the cylinder that can be programmed, via a smartphone app, between a calming single-colour glow and a technicolour flash dance. It’s a nice touch, albeit a novelty.
There’s a good chance you’re looking at this simply because you want a reasonably priced and compact external speaker for your phone. If that is the case, this is a little unit whose build quality, portability, battery life, ease of use and surprisingly punchy sound make it easy to recommend. It’s true that other speakers of a similar size - like the Bose SoundLink - offer more punchy sound per square inch, while systems like the Sonos One are more feature-rich, with their smart internet connectivity. However, both are also significantly more expensive.
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Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Soundcore Flare Wireless Speaker by Anker, Waterproof Party Speaker with 360° Sound, Enhanced Bass & Ambient LED Light, IP67 Dustproof & Waterproof and 12-hour Battery Life
Cambridge Audio YOYO (S)
The YOYO (S), which stands for small, is a compact, wool-covered speaker from British brand Cambridge Audio. While the bass isn't the best we've heard, there's a lot less distortion than there is in smaller speakers simply because the YOYO's larger drivers can deal with high volume better. If you want a speaker that'll soundtrack a BBQ outside with the noise of chatter and kids to contend with, this is a good pick.
Overall, the YOYO (S) delivers a melodious, well-balanced sound. We also like the fabric-clad look of the Cambridge Audio YOYO (S), which is one of the main reasons you'd pay for this speaker over the many, many other mid-range, plain black speaker offerings on the market. If you're looking for a more stylish option, this fits the bill well. It isn't quite as small as other 'portable' speakers, which means you get more features packed in, but if you're looking for a light speaker to chuck in a rucksack for a day out - this isn't it.
Tribit XSound Go
Among the many portable Bluetooth speakers available, the Tribit makes a good case for itself. Yes, it could be louder and some of the mid-tones get a little lost - there's not too much depth to the sound - but we're being very critical here of what is a very good value speaker. A full charge of the lithium-ion battery lasts around 24 hours according to Tribit, although that depends on how you're using it. Sit it out in direct sun and turn it up loud and you can expect that to drop.
It feels a good quality product for the money and produces impressive all-round sound for a reasonably cheap unit. The design is no great shakes, but it feels solid and durable. And the fact it's waterproof is a big plus.
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As the name suggests, the Lenco BTL-450 is a Bluetooth tower speaker. It also offers pulse LED lighting, with eight colours and three lighting modes. The hi-fi speaker features customisable bass and treble (to an extent) with the capability to play music via Bluetooth, USB connection, 3.5mm aux cable or SD card.
The Lenco BTL-450 is a very decent budget speaker, despite the name being a bit rubbish. It's mains powered so you're kind of restricted to where you keep it, but its small footprint means it takes up very little space and it's loud (and bright) enough to fill a room with sound. While there are possibly better value-for-money options, like the high-quality Yamaha NSF51 floorstanding speaker - which is £200, there isn't anything as fun as the Lenco tower speaker for this price.
Studio19 London Solo E500X-EQ
This freestanding speaker is described by its makers as a 'precision-engineered entertainment system' and, with its sleek and minimalist design, it's very easy on the eye. Less obtrusive than many speakers, the beauty of its design is that it's rechargeable. Thanks to an 8800mAh battery, the Solo E500X lasts up to eight hours, making it ideal if you want a speaker somewhere where there's no power source.
The speaker is about 50cm high and weighs 3.5kg, with an LED light built into the base, which gives the illusion that the speaker is almost floating, while the top houses the control buttons and graphic equaliser sliders. If you want a more expansive TV or gaming experience, then this is worth looking into. However, if you want Amazon Alexa compatibility, you'd be better looking into a pair of Sonos.
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