There’s a case to be made for a $55,000 amplifier made from imported Italian marble.
We know because we once made it.
But the world of audiophilia has never offered greater value than it does right now, as evidenced by our list of the 13 best speakers for under $100.
Are these rigs a substitute for your dedicated, hi-fi home-audio system? No. Instead, think of them as a more portable, less complex and decidedly cheaper way to access your favorite songs.
Sounds good to us.
For (improved) Alexa: Amazon Echo Dot
We got to test this one in advance, and the soon-to-be-released third generation of Amazon’s voice-controlled speaker is a definite improvement in both sound and looks. Available in multiple colors (charcoal, heather gray, sandstone) with a new fabric design, the Dot is now 70% louder. Preorders start now, shipping Oct. 11. ($49.99)
For Google Assistant: Google Home Mini
Now that the Dot’s caught up with Google on looks, hopefully the next gen of the Home Mini will improve its lackluster sound. Still, the current model is a quietly good-looking device — the charcoal and chalk speakers are nicely muted, and the coral adds a nice pop of color to your nightstand or workspace. If your smart home architecture leans away from Siri or Alexa, this is your jam. ($49)
For ridiculous savings: Anker Soundcore 2
Anker’s got discounts on their audio gear going almost every week. The specs here are solid: 24 hours on a single charge, an IPX5 protection rating (you can listen outdoors in the rain or by the pool) and a lot of bass. The best number, though, is the price: Currently, these are 24% off. ($29.99-$31.99).
For your computer: Logitech z533
Not Bluetooth enabled, but you can connect up to three devices via 3.5mm and RCA inputs for this three-piece, 120W speaker set, which includes a front-facing subwoofer (expect some deep bass) and an integrated control pad. ($99)
For soundbars: VIZIO SB362AnF6
Finding a slim, good-looking and big-sounding sound bar for under a Benjamin is damn near impossible. However, Vizio’s well-reviewed new unit features two internal subwoofers and four deep bass modules; it’ll certainly boost your flatscreen fare, and can easily double as your room’s primary Bluetooth speaker. ($98)
For hotel-room vibes: Sony Portable AM/FM Alarm Clock
It may look like something you’d wake up to at a Holiday Inn Express, but there are a few advantages to this slightly clunky speaker. A portable, cordless Bluetooth speaker, this Sony features a whopping 32 hours of music on a single charge, an AM/FM radio and an old-school digital alarm clock (though, oddly, no snooze). Dad’ll love it. (Currently $59.99, down from $149.99)
For the eco-conscious: Reveal
Besides the nice bamboo design, Reveal’s speaker is also solar powered and charges your mobile devices. ($69.99)
For rugged adventures: Aquaphonics AQ9
Take this waterproof, floatable speaker on your more rugged adventures with the included clip-on carabiner. It’s sealed from dirt, dust and snow, and it’ll rock out for 16 hours on a charge. ($54.95)
For elegance on the job: Harman Kardon Esquire Mini Speaker
Super thin, this is a good-looking speaker you can throw or hide in any bag or large coat pocket. Plus, it doubles as a dual-microphone phone conferencing system, with echo- and noise-cancellation. ($69.98)
For tailgating: Scosche BoomBottle MM
Waterproof, dustproof, fits into a cup holder or water bottle cage and plays 12 hours of music per charge. Fairly typical ... except the BoomBottle MM has both a built-in bottle opener and magnetic mounts at both ends, so you can dock your smartphone on top and then click the entire device onto any metal surface (car top, cooler, etc.) without worrying that it'll roll away. Usually over 100 bucks, you can find these for a lot cheaper (and new) on eBay. ($85.94)
For the artistically inclined: Divoom Timebox
While not that powerful, this square 5W speaker features a LED display to create your own pixel art (via an app). Plus, it works as a white-noise machine, alarm clock, FM radio, temperature sensor and social-media notifier.
For making connections: JBL Flip 4
Our office fave, you can actually connect more than 100 of these waterproof, voice-assistant speakers (or any JBLs with Connect+ technology) to form ... well, one hell of a big party playlist.
For rough seas: Ultimate Ears ROLL 2
The Wirecutter’s favorite portable speaker for sound and toughness, the waterproof ROLL 2 also features a stretchy, marine-grade bungee so you can strap the speaker to pretty much whatever you want. Also features a huge 100-foot range ... and it floats. Instantly makes kayaking a thing we’d almost like to do.