Waterproof bluetooth speakers have improved massively in sound quality and can now offer decent levels of quality, some even matching bigger speaker systems
Although an early adopter of them, I used to think waterproof Bluetooth speakers were a bit of fun, a bit of a niche, something to take to the beach now and then. But after seeing such portable speakers used to telling effect while testing some high end new yachts over the last couple of years, I’ve changed my tune (sorry, no more puns).
When you think about it, placing your sound source exactly where you want it makes so much more sense than hard wiring in speakers all over a yacht. No holes needed in your bulkheads or cockpit benches, no long wiring runs, no danger of upsetting the compass. Quite apart from taking the wiring complexity and maintenance out of the equation, crew can choose their own music in different cabins – allowing others peace and quiet.
The technology of these compact speakers has improved so rapidly over recent years, as has the style of the overall package.
Many portable bluetooth speakers can look a bit gimmicky, as they are colourful and quirky and designed for beach/outdoors. But if you want something to have an air of quality that your yacht deserves, here is a good option plus some alternatives.
Best waterproof Bluetooth speakers
Best for sound quality
Reasons to buy: Iconic look | Great sound at a good price
Reasons to avoid: Basic functionality
Legendary rock amplifier manufacturer Marshall had a renaissance in 2010 and unveiled the first of its lifestyle range – I know because I was soon drawn into buying its headphones.
Yes, the branding appeals, but as does the renowned quality of its speakers and construction.
I have cranked the Marshall Middleton waterproof speaker up and played with the tone in comparison to other bluetooth speakers and to our wired-in Sonos One and the sound is better than any of the former and as good if not better than the Sonos. It’s earthy, powerful and punchy, like it should be. Think favourite music playlists rather than calming podcasts. And it’s true 360º sound as it uses the company’s own multi-directional sound technology to play through quad speakers.
And like Jim Marshall’s original speakers which he pioneered at rock concerts in the 1960s and 1970s and were made famous by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Who, you can stack them with other Middleton speakers (albeit in a much more portable and practical fashion)!
Bose Portable Smart Speaker
Best for: more refined audio
Reasons to buy: Brilliant sound | Cast capable
Reasons to avoid: Large size
While the Swedish sound specialist’s P5 model is more comparable to the typical portable speakers here, this larger new Pro 15 unit offers a useful, refined, high performance and rain-resistant alternative which allows you to save playlists and radio stations. It could suit those looking for textured sound from multi-cabin speakers as it has AirPlay 2 and Google Cast compatibility.
Garmin Fusion StereoActive
Best for: Watersports
Reasons to buy: Floats | Durable | Great waterproofing
Reasons to avoid: Not the best sound quality
The sound quality may not be up there with the Marshall, but is built by marine specialists so is durable, very waterproof and it floats. In fact it’s even designed with a base to attach it to a paddleboard and buttons you can operate with a paddle.
Best for: Portability
Reasons to buy: Lightweight | Good waterproofing | Great sound for the size
Reasons to avoid: Bigger speakers offer better sound quality
“This is the speaker I take out on the water with me when I go paddle boarding,” writes Toby Heppell. “Given its small size, the sound performance is top-notch (as you’d expect from Sony). It won’t survive a very, very deep plunge (IP67 rated) but with the included lanyard it’s perfectly fine strapped to the front of my board.
“It has to be said that this is not the biggest speaker in the world and so it’s never going to deliver the same volume as larger waterproof speaker options, however, even at full volume this produces very little distortion and for its size the bass is really very impressive indeed. Tonally it is at its best when it is placed on a solid surface where the bass is much improved. But even strapped to the front of my paddle board (via the handy included lanyard) it does a good job.”
Reasons to buy: Can connect to other speakers | Good waterproofing
Reasons to avoid: Rleatively poor battery life
Sonos’ first portable speaker has IP67 water resistance and boasts many of the features which makes its in-house systems so popular. The ability to connect via Wifi as well as Bluetooth for example means your favourite track may not be interrupted by a phone call!
The Roam’s multi-room functionality means it can connect up with other speakers in a system and it retains the voice control and Trueplay tech to auto adjust equaliser settings. Battery life is its wekaness at only 10 hours.
JBL Charge 5
Reasons to buy: Great sound for the cost | Great battery life
Reasons to avoid: No equaliser controls
JBL is the leading name in rugged and portable speakers for the beach. It makes funky looking designs and this is a popular, no frills, IPX-7 waterproof rated model. It won a What Hi-Fi 2022 award, which found “as good a sound as you can get in a portable Bluetooth speaker design for under £200”. Like the Middleton, it features 20 hours plus playback time, but does not have equaliser controls.