It has been over a year and a half now since we published a review of 13 portable Bluetooth speakers that could be used in mobile ministry. With many new products on the market I tested 13 new models and want to share the updated results and recommendations with you. You may want to reread the original review to get some background on the place of external speakers in mobile ministry as well as insight into testing foci and parameters. A detailed spreadsheet giving specs and findings for all the models tested can be found here.
Divoom BlueTune Bean ($25)
With a size and shape that can be easily slipped in and out of your jeans pocket this speaker amazes with a rich, powerful volume far beyond its size or cost. The rubberized covering gives some sense of assurance when you drop it but, that said, it is not marketed as being particularly ruggedized or water resistant. Two years on, this remains my personal favorite pocket speaker. Two weaknesses of this model are a relatively short battery life (6 hours) and the shortest range Bluetooth reception in the test (45.5 feet).
Tie- Ecoxgear Ecorox ($65)
It wasn't the loudest. It didn't have the longest lasting battery. It wasn't the smallest or lightest. But, it did quite well in each of those areas AND it was the one and only truly waterproof model (did I mention that it even floats) and is wonderfully ruggedized. For those reasons the Ecorox is my recommendation for a great portable speaker for mobile ministry
Tie- EasyACC Olive ($22)
Just like the Ecorox, the Olive wasn't a stand out in any of the mainstay areas- volume/sound quality, battery life, or size but it did pretty well in each of them. The stand out areas for the EasyACC Olive, though, were its amazing price tag and ability to perform as a standalone audio media player, playing media off of thumb drives and and SD and microSD memory cards. My concern with this device is that its plastic construction and openings in its body mean that it is not a top choice in terms of long-term durability.
JBL Charge ($105)
My smartphone decibel meter refused to register high enough to give me an accurate reading for the Charge- it was just that powerful! A nice bonus feature with the Charge is that it can function as a battery charger, sharing juice from its 12 hour battery life. This is definitely a speaker that you're going to need to put in a pack or purse as it is not likely to be able to fit into even a jacket pocket. The Charge comes with a really nice neoprene case but I suppose you should probably expect that plus more when you're paying over $100 for a speaker!
Best Pocket Speaker/Standalone Media Player
EasyACC P6697 ($20)
This appears to be the Sharkk Bluetooth speaker I reviewed previously but rebranded by another company. I still highly recommend the speaker for someone looking for a relatively pocketable speaker that is able to play media all on its own.
Thoughts on other models tested:
Ultimate Ears MINI BOOM
This is an updated model of our top pick choice from 2013. I really like this speaker for the combination of great volume/quality (second only to the JBL Charge) with smaller size/weight. This is a good model for the audio purist who has significant restrictions on pack size. At $80-100, it's not exactly cheap, it doesn't have any ruggedization/weatherproofing and it doesn't function as a standalone media player.
Divoom Voombox Travel
A bit larger and heavier than the Divoom Bluetune Bean the Voombox Travel is marketed as being ruggedized and water resistant. I had high hopes after good experiences with other Divoom products but I was quite disappointed when a rubber O-Ring fell off the device upon opening the packaging. This made me question the weatherproofing and that, combined with the fact that the smaller BlueTune Bean had the same volume in testing, led to me recommending the BlueTune Bean over the Voombox Travel.
Divoom Voombox Ongo
Very similar in dimensions and qualities to the Ecoxgear Ecorox the Voombox Ongo fell short of the Ecorox in video playback volume, waterproofing (weatherproof only), and cost ($15 more than the Ecorox)
Outdoor Tech OT1800 Turtle Shell 2.0
While this speaker has a nifty design it fell short in far too many areas for being one of the more expensive models tested. An area of significant failure was getting one of the lowest video playback volume scores (even though its music playback score was reasonable).
Panasonic SC-NT10-D TOUGH
With good ruggedization and weatherproofing as well as a relatively small pack size the Panasonic came with high hopes. Unfortunately, though, playback volume for both music and video was at the bottom of the pack- models nearly a third its size and half its cost blew it out of the water.
Perhaps in previous times the Jabra Solemate would have been a standout performer but not in today's market. The Solemate advertises "Hi Definition Dolby Sound" but I found the volume to be just so-so, especially considering it was the 2nd largest and 2nd heaviest model in the test.