Battery performance is an important factor to consider when buying a speaker. Depending on your needs, you may want a speaker that can last a long time, letting you use it outside for long listening sessions. You may also want a speaker with a power-saving feature, powering off after some time without audio playing. This helps conserve the speaker's battery, and you don't need to remember to turn the speaker off yourself.
Some speakers don't have a battery, especially those designed for home use. Instead, they have a wired design, so they have to be plugged in to be used. However, speakers that are versatile or designed for outdoor use will likely have a battery. We test four different aspects of a speaker's battery performance: battery life, charging time, power-saving features, and the charging port type. These factors can help you find a speaker that's best suited to your needs.
A speaker's battery performance matters if you like using your speaker without plugging it in. You may want to listen to music outdoors or just around the house while placing the speaker on the table, far from an outlet. Some speakers don't have a battery, so they need to be plugged in to be used; this limits their portability. That said, many speakers have a built-in battery, which lets you use them on the go. Depending on how you like to use your speaker, you may have a different requirement for your speaker's battery performance. If you like taking your speaker outside for long periods, you may want a speaker with long battery life. If you don't want to worry about remembering to turn off your speaker when you're not using it, you may want a speaker with a power-saving feature. Overall, battery performance is an important factor for many users, especially if you like to use your speaker outside.
To test a speaker's battery performance, we look at four factors: battery life, charge time, power-saving features, and charging port. Battery life is the largest factor in a speaker's overall battery score since users want to use their speaker for long listening sessions without having to plug it in. A speaker's charge time and the presence of a power-saving feature factor in less to the overall battery score, as these aren't as important to users. A speaker's charging port variety doesn't factor into its battery score since it doesn't meaningfully affect the user experience.
It's important to note that we only perform these tests on battery-powered speakers. Some speakers, like the Amazon Echo Gen 4, don't have a battery, so they need to be plugged in to be used. For battery-powered speakers, these tests can give you helpful information about the speaker's battery performance. Below, we go into more detail about these four tests.
A speaker's battery life is the largest factor in its overall battery performance. If you like using your speaker outside or even just around the house, it's nice not to worry about it running out of charge too quickly. This is especially important if you're on-the-go, since you may not have access to an outlet.
To test a speaker's battery life, we fully charge it and update its latest firmware, if available. We then play an audio track on a loop set to a sound pressure level of 80 dB at one meter away. This is a fairly loud listening volume, so a speaker may last longer if it's playing music more quietly. We measure how long it takes for the speaker to run out of charge while playing the audio track, which gives us its battery life. We consider a good value to be nine hours, which should be enough for long listening sessions outside. However, some speakers can last far longer, like the JBL Boombox 2, which offers almost 24 hours of continuous playback.
If a speaker's advertised battery life is very different from its battery life in our tests, we may test it again to confirm our results. For example, the Bose Portable Smart Speaker is advertised as having a twelve-hour battery life, but in both our tests it only lasted around five hours. Conversely, the Pohopa EF-B210G is advertised as having a fifteen-hour battery life, but it lasted over 60 hours in each of our tests.
It's important to note that a speaker's battery life may vary depending on usage. If you use it at max volume, your speaker will likely run out of charge more quickly than it did in our tests. Conversely, if you play audio quietly, it may last longer than it did in our tests. Also, rechargeable batteries tend to degrade over time, so your speaker's battery life may slowly decrease.
A speaker's charge time is important when you want to charge your speaker before taking it with you on the go. It's useful if a speaker can charge quickly, so you don't have to wait too long before using it. To test a speaker's charge time, we let the battery fully empty in the battery life test then plug it in using its provided charging cable. We record how long it takes for the speaker's battery to become full. Some speakers, like the Sony SRS-XB12, have a light that indicates when the battery is full, while others have an audio indicator for the battery's charge level. A few speakers, like the Sonos Move, only indicate the battery status using their companion app.
We consider <2 hours to be a good charging time for speakers. The Anker Soundcore Flare 2 takes just two hours to fully charge from an empty battery, which is good. Most speakers that we've tested take longer than two hours to fully charge, though if you allow enough time to charge your speaker before taking it with you outside, there shouldn't be an issue.
Power-saving features are useful since they conserve a speaker's battery, letting you use it for a longer period before having to charge it. Most speakers that have a power-saving feature automatically turn off after fifteen minutes with no audio playing, but some, like the JBL GO 3, turn off after 20 minutes without audio input. We only test a speaker's power-saving feature if it's advertised to have one, and we only test to confirm the presence of its advertised feature. To test this, we turn on the speaker, connect a phone, and don't play any audio. We check back on the speaker in fifteen minutes, and if it's turned off or entered into its advertised power-saving mode, this confirms the presence of a power-saving feature.
If a speaker doesn't have a power-saving feature, you'll have to remember to turn it off manually. If the speaker remains on for an extended period, it can drain the battery. Fortunately, most speakers with a built-in battery come with a power-saving feature.
Battery-powered speakers come with different types of charging ports. Out of the speakers we've tested, these include AC, DC, lightning, Micro-USB, and USB-C, but you may encounter different types of charging ports in other models. We test this by checking the speaker's physical charging port and identifying which type it is. In our tests, USB-C to USB-A and AC cables are the most common varieties of charging cables, pictured below.
A speaker's charging port variety may be important to you if you have extra charging cables at home and want to be able to replace your speaker's charging cable if it gets lost. That said, battery-powered speakers generally come with their respective charging cable, so as long as you don't lose it, there shouldn't be an issue.
Overall, a speaker's battery performance is important if you like using your speaker outdoors or in different places around the house. If you don't want to worry about charging your speaker too often, you may want one with long battery life. If you like to conserve your speaker's battery worry-free, you may want a speaker that automatically shuts off after some time without audio playing. While a speaker's battery performance may be important to some users more than others, it's worth considering when you're looking for a speaker that best suits your needs.