These models may be petite, but they perform in a big way in our labs. Tests by Consumer Reports.
Bose SoundLink Color II
Who should buy it: An active music lover looking for a speaker that can tag along.
What’s to like: While it lacks fancy features, such as LED lighting and sound effects, found on other wireless speakers, the SoundLink Color II performs where it really matters. Not only is it cool and colorful and easy to use but it also provides sound quality that compares favorably with that of larger and pricier speakers.
What’s not to like: The IPX-4 certification makes the SoundLink Color II splashproof rather than fully water-resistant like, say, the similarly priced JBL Flip 4. (Consumer Reports doesn’t test speaker manufacturers’ water-resistance claims.) Quick Take60 Best buy
Bose SoundLink Micro
Who should buy it: A podcast-loving fan of itsy-bitsy speakers.
What’s to like: The tiny SoundLink Micro is cute, hyper-portable, and comes with a strap that allows you to lash it to a bicycle, backpack, or stroller. Bose claims that it’s water-resistant, too, so it’s a good choice for wet-and-wild action.
What’s not to like: If the Micro’s palm-sized profile isn’t super-important to you, the Bose SoundLink Color II offers much better sound quality for not much more money, albeit in a package that’s less water-resistant. The Micro works best if you’re close to the speaker and listening to spoken word content or background music. Quick Take47
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
Who it’s for: A listener looking for music by the handful.
What’s to like: The Wonderboom is short and squat, and fits nicely in your hand. Its sound quality is on a par with most portable models. The bass could be stronger and the midrange, which isn’t particularly rich, has a trace of an echo. Our testers found the model to be easy to use with large buttons and a user-friendly Bluetooth pairing mode. It also has an IPX67 rating, which means it’s water- and dust-resistant, according to UE.
What’s not to like: The Wonderboom 2 is a solid performer, but consider how you’re going to use it before you buy it. Among the truly portable models that you’d listen to on the go, it’s relatively large and has a small mesh loop at the top in lieu of a strap or handle. And if you’re going to mostly place the Wonderboom 2 on a picnic table or a beach blanket, there are slightly larger models, like the Sony SRS XB-23 or the JBL Flip 5, that offer better performance for nearly the same money. Quick Take46
JBL Clip 4
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a cheap, cheerful companion for a hike or a bike ride.
What’s to like: This tiny speaker fits easily into your palm and features a carabiner that can clip on to a backpack or beach bag. JBL claims an IP67 rating, which means the speaker is both water-resistant and dustproof. Our testers found the Clip 4 to be easy to pair, and the prominent controls make it easy to adjust the volume.
What’s not to like: Sonically, our testers reported the Clip 4 to be somewhat challenged. The highs are a little sizzly, the midrange is a bit nasal, and there’s not much bass to speak of. The performance falls well short of the similarly sized but significantly more expensive Bose SoundLink Micro. Quick Take40
Best Small Smart Speakers
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation)
Who it’s for: A smart speaker newbie looking for an inexpensive way to see if it really makes sense to add a digital assistant to one’s home.
What’s to like: Despite the small size and low price, the Dot offers the same smart speaker functionality as its far more expensive brethren. The Dot can also serve as an inexpensive way to introduce smart speaker functionality throughout your home in an Alexa-based multiroom system. You can even pair an Echo to a Bluetooth speaker you already own to give it smart speaker functionality.
What’s not to like: The sound quality of the 4th gen Dot isn’t great but it’s better than the older versions, which recalled interactions with a bad telephone connection. The Dot doesn’t deliver great volume except in a very small room, so it’s fine for listening to podcasts. But if you’re going to play music (and you’re not too tight on space), you might consider the better-sounding full-sized Echo. Quick Take53
Apple HomePod Mini
Who it’s for: Someone who’s deeply immersed in the Apple world and doesn’t mind paying a bit of an Apple tax for a $100 speaker that sounds more like a $50 option.
What’s to like: The Mini is a solid option for controlling Apple HomeKit smart home products and services such as Apple Music. The Mini now allows voice control of other music services, including Pandora and iHeart Radio, and can even integrate with Apple CarPlay in your vehicle, permitting you to ask for driving directions while making coffee in the morning, then send the chosen route to your car before leaving.
What’s not to like: In terms of sound quality, our testers found that the Apple HomePod Mini rates significantly lower than the similarly priced Echo or Google Nest Audio. In fact, the somewhat congested sound rates closer to that of the much cheaper Echo Dot, albeit with a fuller bass. Like the Dot, the HomePod Mini is okay for podcasts or background music in a small room, but not great for playing your favorite tunes. And unlike those Echo and Nest devices, the HomePod Mini can’t be paired via Bluetooth with a better-sounding wireless speaker. Quick Take50
Price: $99.00 – $109.00.