If you're shopping for a speaker on a tight budget, it can feel like you have to make a lot of sacrifices in terms of performance. However, speakers have increasingly improved their features while keeping prices fairly low. Although they tend to have a simple design and small size, many affordable speakers are still able to deliver clear vocals. Some speakers even have companion apps that offer additional controls and features, built-in voice assistants, and Bluetooth connectivity for more portability.
We've tested over 30 speakers, and below are our recommendations for the best cheap speakers.
The Amazon Echo Dot Gen 4 is the best cheap speaker that we've tested. It comes with the Alexa voice assistant built-in, which is a helpful addition to your home. It can also hear you easily even if you're far away or in a noisy room, and it has a mute mic button in case you want it to stop listening.
Although its sound profile is somewhat boomy, it has a well-balanced mid-range that can accurately reproduce vocals and lead instruments. It also has a remarkable companion app that offers bass and treble adjustments, so you can tweak the sound to your liking. Through the app, this speaker also has Party Room and Multi-Room features, which let you pair multiple units together for a louder sound or across multiple rooms.
Unfortunately, it has to be plugged in to be used, so it's not very portable. It also can't get very loud, and there are some compression artifacts present at max volume. However, this small cheap speaker can be a suitable addition to your home if you're looking for a solid voice assistant.
If you prefer Google Assistant over Alexa, consider the Google Nest Mini. While it doesn't get as loud as the Amazon Echo Dot Gen 4, and its mic struggles to separate your voice from ambient noise around you, it has Google Assistant built-in. It also has a mic-mute button if you don't want the voice assistant to always be listening to you. It supports Google Chromecast as well, which is nice if you like to wirelessly stream audio from your smartphone to the speaker. Thanks to its well-balanced mid-range, it can reproduce vocal-centric content like podcasts clearly and accurately. Even though it lacks low-bass, its Google Home companion app offers bass and treble adjustments so you can tweak its sound to your liking.
Check out the Amazon model if you're looking for something with Alexa voice assistant built-in and a better-balanced sound profile right out-of-the-box. However, try the Google speaker if you like to stream your audio via Chromecast or if you want to use Google Assistant.
The best cheap Bluetooth speaker that we've tested is the JBL GO 3. It's very portable, thanks to its built-in carrying loop, which you can use to attach it to your bag while you're out and about. It also has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, though we don't currently test for this.
It has a fairly balanced mid-range, so it can accurately reproduce vocals and lead instruments. While it can't get very loud, there aren't a lot of compression artifacts present at max volume, so its audio production remains clean and pure. Fortunately, its latency with iOS and Android devices is quite low, making it suitable for watching videos, though some apps may compensate for latency differently.
Unfortunately, like many small speakers, it struggles to produce low-bass, and it doesn't have an EQ to help you adjust its sound. Its battery life is also short, lasting five hours on a single charge. Fortunately, it saves power by turning off automatically after 20 minutes without audio. If you're looking for a simple, portable option, this is a suitable choice.
The best budget speaker that we've tested is the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2. If your budget is a bit more flexible, this colorful option is well suited to most uses. While it isn't compatible with voice assistants, it's portable and has a remarkable battery performance, lasting almost thirteen hours on a single charge.
It has well-balanced mid and treble ranges, so vocals and lead instruments sound clear and present. Like many small speakers, it struggles to produce low-bass, but it has an outdoor mode that's advertised to increase bass production. Thanks to its 360-design, it has an outstanding soundstage that's perceived as wide and natural-sounding. It also has a fantastic build quality, and it's rated IP67 for dust and water resistance, though we don't currently test for this.
However, it has high latency with both iOS and Android devices, so it's not well suited for watching videos. That said, some apps compensate differently for this, so individual results may vary. It also doesn't get very loud, but thankfully there isn't much compression present at max volume. If you're looking for a portable speaker with a well-balanced sound, this is a solid option.
If you like to really tweak and customize your speaker's sound profile, consider the Sony SRS-XB23. While it doesn't get as loud as the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2 and its battery life isn't as long-lasting, it has a companion app with a graphic EQ built-in. Since it has a cylindrical, 360-degree design, it has a wide and large soundstage. It has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, although we don't currently test for this. It also has voice assistant support via your smartphone and has low audio latency on both iOS and Android devices.
Go for the Ultimate Ears if you're looking for a speaker with a balanced sound-profile right out-of-box. However, if you like to take your time in crafting a sound profile to your liking, the Sony is worth checking out.
Feb 16, 2021: Confirmed that the recommended products are available and the best recommendations for our users.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap speakers for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper speaker wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no speakers that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you'd like to do the work of choosing yourself, here's the list of all our speaker reviews under $100. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no speaker is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.