The marketeers would have you buy portable speakers for the beach, a picnic in the park or for entertaining friends in your garden while you burn some burgers. But they really come into their own on work trips and holidays.
Whether you're stuck in a hotel room and chained to your laptop or you want some quality tunes before heading out somewhere exotic, some decent travel speakers make a big impact.
Almost universally bad until recently, there have been some significant improvements to the genre of late that now see some standout products that really impress.
Most travel speakers have built-in batteries and can be used to stream music wirelessly from smartphones and tablets over Bluetooth, but some have added extras such as speakerphone functions or a built-in smartphone recharger for emergencies. What they all have in common is wireless portability, at least for a few hours.
So here are our best portable speakers, ordered by market price at the time of writing.
Marley Chant - £50/US$60/AU$100
This eco-speaker is a hippy hero
More stylish than the iLuv MobiOut or KitSound Hive, the Marley Chant is very portable. It's not heavy, at 410g (14.5oz), and clips to a bag or backpack using a carabiner. The bamboo surround and canvas bag - made from reclaimed hemp, no less - is great to look at, though before you head off into the sunset there are a few things you should know.
It recharges using a micro USB cable, and though there's a 3.5mm jack and cable for hooking up any non-Bluetooth source, this circular speaker's canvas lid doesn't keep out of the way of the zenith-facing speaker. The speaker's position is the main problem, with stereo drifting away from you, leaving vocals muffled and volume low. Still, if you're after a personal speaker, there are few better looking options than the Chant.
KitSound Hive - £60 (around US$90/AU$100)
Honeycomb-covered speaker leaves us a-buzz
Available from Mobile Fun, the KitSound Hive is simplicity itself. The standout feature is undoubtedly its 10-hour built-in battery that recharges via a micro USB cable, which you may already have if you own an Android phone or other device that uses this universal connection.
Weighing in at 375g (13.2oz) and including a 3.5mm cable for attaching anything un-Bluetooth to its aux in port, the Hive lets out a shrill bleep when switched on, but quickly pairs with a phone using Bluetooth. Its 5W speakers don't exactly pump out the music, but it gets to reasonably high volumes and doesn't distort. Vocals can sound thin but there's a lot more low-end than we expected for the money.
iLuv MobiOut iSP 233 - £70/US$120/AU$130
Jump Start refuels the batteries
Still at a reasonably low price, the iLuv MobiOut goes one better than the KitSound Hive. We love the small 350g (12.3oz) waterproof design that looks easy to pack, and the micro USB charging port means fewer cables to carry on trips. Jump Start is the clincher; attach a smartphone's charging cable to the MobiOut's rear USB 2.0 slot and it will charge up to around 85-90%.
Since it plays music - or acts as a speakerphone - for around nine hours, Jump Start is a workable feature, though music over Bluetooth isn't as impressive. Great as a speaker for a bathroom or hotel room, it's not loud or expansive enough for a party, or for use outside, which kind of plays down Jump Start as a must-have feature, too. It also includes an aux input.
SuperTooth Disco 2 - £70/US$85 (around AU$115)
Standup speaker with audio superiority
The follow-up to SuperTooth's original Disco Bluetooth speaker goes six hours before it needs a charge, with its 16W power taking music into the loud territory - providing there's not too much background noise. But bass is lacking, as you might expect when you consider that the Disco 2 is only just over 180mm (7.1 inches) tall. Still, it's one of the best sounding at its price-point, far better than the smaller Marley Chant for audio, and also edging out the higher priced Jabra Solemate.